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Learning Japanese from media

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Learning the Japanese language from Japanese media can be a great and motivational way to study the language. This article organizes information useful in that pursuit.




The language found in Japanese media can differ greatly from what one would encounter in real life Japan, particularly in its excessive crudeness. Individuals may exchange words and expressions frequently that seem innocuous and elicit innocuous responses, but are fighting words to a Japanese person.

The following are some words that are best avoided entirely until you are proficient and well in-tune to the subtle situations where they may be appropriate.

  • おのれ -- Highly aggressive "you".
  • てめえ -- Highly aggressive "you".
  • おまえ -- Highly aggressive "you".
  • きさま -- Highly aggressive "you". You can see what will happen by using おまえ and きさま at a public place.
  • 俺【おれ】-- Boastful word for "I". Used historically by the samurai to impress upon others their own greatness. It is used infrequently in modern day Japan and is almost always rude. See this.
  • [one's own name]さま -- Using the honorific さま after one's own name isn't a part of real Japanese, but may occur in some forms of media.
  • しとけ (しておけ) -- See a relevant forum thread.
  • やがる -- Expresses disdain for the clause preceding it. See Tae Kim on the word.
  • あなた -- is a type of aggressive "You" but in some ways is forgiven by most native japanese because its a word that most non-native speakers learn to address another person first, but typically they want you to use their last names when addressing them if they havent given you permission to call them by something else. Incidently あなた is also used as a term of enderment from wife to husband so calling a man あなた could cause some serious problems if your not careful.

A search in the discussion forums on a particular word may yield more information.

In general when writing and speaking the Japanese language, try to favor the forms you learned in your grammar books over what you encounter in the media.

Outdated language

Sometimes a particular media takes place in historical times such as feudal Japan, or the 1980s. In either case, bear in mind that antiquated language may be in use, and that current events and pop culture likely influenced its creation.

Non-Japanese media translated to Japanese

Like what you may find in ALC (which is powered by Eijiro (英辞朗)), non-Japanese media may contain material that is not literally translated, but is actually translated based on situational context. Due to the immense cultural differences between Japan and most of the world, this would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to put out a translation that is as literal as possible without being unnatural. In that case, treat the Japanese translated material as if it were of Japanese origin, and apply strategies for watching anime.

Particular media

Additional reading

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