The good thing about physically being in Japan is the availability of Japanese media and entertainment. While living in a Japanese environment may help improve your Japanese, watching Japanese television programmes and listening to Japanese radio really aid to your language learning.
The programmes on free-to-air channels can be interesting and slightly educational. Depending on what you watch, you can learn about cultures from all over the world; find out where to get good food in Japan; listen in on the latest Japanese celebrity gossip and Japanese variety humour; know the latest fashion, language and music trends rocking Japan; and even learn English, Korean, French, Italian and Spanish—all in Japanese with Japanese subtitles (some programmes may not have the subtitle feature).
I find these programmes interesting and educational as I understand close to 98% of what’s being said. The graphics, onscreen captions or Japanese subtitles are also helpful for understanding. However, for others, it may be difficult at first. Don’t worry! The constant exposure to Japanese is the key to learning it. Let the TV ramble on as you do the household chores or check your email. You should be able to get some of it after a while. And when you do, you can mute the sound and just watch and read. It would improve your reading skills too! I normally turn on the television in the morning as I’m preparing for my day. I can check the current time, weather and news. Even disaster updates show up at the top of the screen.
Time, weather, temperature and disaster updates on TV. Photo by shrompy.
There are also other programmes like dramas, animations (anime
), traditional Japanese music and theatre, and sometimes Japanese-dubbed foreign films. Watching a few minutes of Harry Potter in Japanese was interesting. I would have preferred the option of having dual or triple sound (like those available in my home country) but that function doesn’t seem to be available in Japan.
While Japanese is a language that also borrows words from English, French, Mandarin and a few others, people on television may only say a few of those words (or a sentence or two if you are lucky) during a programme. This is understandable as programmes are geared towards and filmed for a Japanese audience. So it’s almost 98% certain that you will only hear Japanese on television unless it’s a popular overseas drama (like re-runs of Da Chang Geum, a Korean drama) or a language-learning show. If you want to improve your Japanese, the television seems to be the 24/7 wonder tool to help you.
Photo : Henry Burrows on Flickr
For those who do not have the luxury of owning a television, some television programmes may be available online. Online videos have the advantage of having a pause and rewind feature which is useful when you didn’t catch what someone just said; however, not all programmes are available, and commercials are usually not included. I personally find commercial jingles an interesting way of learning Japanese. And of course, if you have a record feature with your television/recording equipment, by all means record, play, pause, and rewind. It’s helpful to hear a sentence a few times over and over, for listening, understanding and pronunciation. Here are some television sites which list their TV guides (programme list for the week) and online programmes:
- Ø (zero 0) Television (Nippon TV) guide: http://www.ntv.co.jp/program/
English site: http://www.ntv.co.jp/english/
- Fuji TV guide: http://www.fujitv.co.jp/animation/index.html (navigate using the bars at the top: Drama, Variety/Music, News, Sports, Anime/Kids, Mini-shows, Movies)
English site: http://www.fujitv.co.jp/en/
- NHK TV guide: http://www2.nhk.or.jp/hensei/program/index.cgi?area=001&f=top
Live TV: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/live/
NHK TV programs: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/tv/genre/ (navigate using the menu on the left-side)
- TV Tokyo guide: http://www.tv-tokyo.co.jp/index/timetable/ (navigate using grey buttons at the top: News, Educational/Documentary, Anime, Travel/Gourmet, Information/Variety, Drama/Movies, Sports, Music, Mini-shows)
English site: http://www.tv-tokyo.co.jp.e.ck.hp.transer.com/kaisha/
Even Japanese radio can be heard online if you don’t have a real radio set. I only discovered Japanese radio channels while turning on the radio at random as I prepared for work in an empty room. Much to the amazement of the people who walk past, I laughed along with the jokes and sang along to the songs that the Japanese DJ said and played.
I listened to Nack5 on Thursdays and Fridays. It’s an interesting channel which plays a wide mix of songs, from the Hair Spray musical (English), to Korean pop songs, to Japanese oldies and even the latest Japanese rock and pop songs. The DJ also slips in English phrases and sentences now and then. Here are a couple of links to Japanese radio:
Nack 5 screenshot. Photo by shrompy.
Have fun with Japanese TV and radio! (: