Fluent Japanese from Anime and Manga Summary

Book Summary: Fluent Japanese From Anime and Manga by Eric Bodnar

The Book in Three Sentences

As its title suggests, the idea of this book is to learn Japanese by watching anime with no subtitles. That is the first step to becoming fluent in the language. Additional steps include reading manga, studying kanji, and learning grammar.

Fluent Japanese From Anime and Manga Summary

Chapter 1: What Exactly Is This Book?

Learning Japanese by watching anime seems impossible. That’s only true if you watch anime with subtitles. The situation changes as soon as you turn them off. This is the first step toward learning the language. The idea is to use different sources (mainly anime, but also manga, dramas, movies, videos, music, and visual novels) to learn vocabulary, phrases, grammar, and kanji.

Traditional language courses can be dull and expensive. More than anything, learning a second language is a skill. You can get fluent in Japanese with 45 to 90-minute sessions. This requires the habit of reading, watching, and listening to native Japanese material daily. You don’t need that much time to hold a basic conversational level of fluency, though it doesn’t hurt either.

The approach the author uses involves watching an episode of anime with no subtitles, reading a few pages of manga, watching a drama, reading articles, or playing video games. The idea is to listen carefully, look up words, and create your own exercises around those words or phrases. Soon, you’ll have a firm grasp on high-frequency words which unlocks even more parts of the language for you. To avoid sounding like an anime character, learn the differences between casual and formal Japanese forms.

Chapter 2: Learn From Anime Day One

Any serious Japanese learner should turn off English subtitles. The difference is that by removing subtitles, you stop consuming in order to start learning. Pay close attention to high-frequency words. You can start doing this with a series you’ve watched before, but remember that the idea is to catch the gist and you can always read a summary to find what you missed. Don’t look up anything until the episode is over and watch the episode only once.

Most online dictionaries support romaji (Japanese written in the Latin-roman alphabet). Create exercises for each new word so that you have concrete goals and you can motivate yourself knowing that you’re learning a lot.

Chapter 3: Kanji and Grammar Are Easy

Feel free to use a high-quality textbook to guide you (only one). One of the most important things you can do is create and maintain a daily habit of language learning.

Japanese has three writing systems: hiragana, katakana, and Kanji (romaji isn’t technically Japanese). There are 92 kana characters, but over 2,000 kanji characters. You can use mnemonics to remember these characters. Most anime and manga characters use casual language. When you talk to people you don’t know, older people, or people in higher positions of power, you must use polite language.

Most Japanese learners ignore the Japanese pitch accent. To lose the foreign accent, you must study it. Spoken Japanese alternates between low and high pitch sounds. Every Japanese word has high and low pitch sounds. Every word has a change in pitch between the first and second phonetic sounds, also called moras. If the first mora starts high, the next will be low and vice-versa.

Your textbook shouldn’t take most of your study time. Understand the gist of what you’re trying to learn and stop using the book. Don’t focus on a single activity and ignore all the others. Have variety in your daily routine. Do something until you get bored.

Chapter 4: How to Make It Stick

Looking up new words, grammar structures, and Kanji isn’t enough. The most effective way to retain knowledge is by using spaced repetition. One way of studying is using flashcards. The author suggests production, cloze, listening, and shadowing exercises and then creating decks of flashcards using a piece of software called Anki around those exercises.

  • Production: you’re given a word in English and you have to say the equivalent word in Japanese. Don’t strain yourself, you either recall the word in less than five minutes or you don’t. This lets you recall a word and practice both pitch accent and pronunciation at the same time.
  • Cloze: you’re presented with a phrase that’s missing a piece. You have to guess the missing piece according to context.
  • Listening: listen to one sentence, phrase, or word at a time.
  • Shadowing: this exercise is optional. The idea is to repeat what you’re hearing to sound as close to the recording as possible. Talk on top of the recording as it’s playing. You can shadow with no text (this is called blind shadowing), shadow with the English translation, or shadow with the transcription in the foreign language. You do this to get used to saying the sounds of the language you’re trying to learn.

Chapter 5: 10,000 Pages of Manga

Read Japanese every day. Reading Japanese helps you turn gibberish into something you understand. Although slow and difficult, start reading Japanese as soon as possible.

Intensive reading involves looking up every word and grammar structure. You should do it for 20-40 minutes. Extensive reading involves reading for pleasure and for longer, relying on context to understand. Manga is perfect for reading: it’s entertaining and it’s easy to see how much progress you’ve made, the story is connected, you’ll become more invested in the story and characters, and it’s a light read. Set a measurable goal, such as reading 10,0000 pages in a year or two. Look up new words and structures that come up often. Learn as much as you can and move on when you can no longer focus. Do it once, don’t rewatch or reread anything, When it comes to kanji, context is king. Make sure you practice exercises that are appropriate for your level.

Chapter 6: Consistency, Routine, and Habit

The closing chapter is a call to action. To be good at Japanese, you have to make it part of your daily life. Schedule learning Japanese so that it gets done. Commit to a daily routine.

Here are some ideas:

  • Start as early as possible, you need 45 to 90 minutes of daily practice.
  • Do 20 exercises per day.
  • Ignore distractions early during the day.
  • Read and listen using extensive and intensive varieties.
  • Take a manga whenever you go. Download a few episodes of your favorite manga and take them on the go too.
  • Play games in Japanese. Pokemon is great, and so are Mario RPG, Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy. Favor games you’ve played before.
  • Don’t use a dictionary for everything.
  • Watch shows in Japanese and pay attention to high-frequency words.
  • Get in contact with native speakers and use the language.
  • Keep track of everything you’ve experienced in Japanese.

Further Reading

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