Could you tell us a little about yourself and what got you into studying Japanese? What are your goals?
My name is Kylie. I’m half-Japanese but I grew up solely speaking English. I wanted to learn Japanese so I could communicate with my family in Japan. Most of my Japanese family can’t speak English well. My goal is to be able to competently communicate with my family through speaking, reading, and writing.
Your mom is Japanese and your dad is American, how has that impacted how or what you learn?
English has always been spoken in my household. This meant that, unlike most Asian households, I never became proficient in Japanese growing up.
I always need to actively request my mom speak to me in Japanese, which she often declined due to my dad’s lack of Japanese proficiency. It’s very frustrating. However, my knowledge of culture is very extensive. We still practice many Japanese traditions, such as New Years osoba, おかえり (okaeri) /ただいま (tadaima), and the such.
What language resources did you start off with?
I began learning Japanese strictly through my mother. She taught me how to say “what is this in Japanese?” in Japanese, so I would constantly ask her that question.
I also began casually picking up Japanese words and phrases through anime.
It was in elementary school that I delved into the world of anime and manga. I began with Fruits Basket and moved to Soul Eater, Fullmetal Alchemist, Ouran High School Host Club, and more. At first I watched them in both sub and dub, and began to pick up several easy phrases, such as 誕生日おめでとう (tanjoubi omedetou / happy birthday).
I made several friends with similar interests, one of whom is my best friend and dear “sister” of about 5 years now. It’s amazing what anime and manga can bring to your life!
When I entered middle school, I began to explore Japanese music, using anime opening and closing songs as a starting point. I discovered the wondrous world of Japanese idols: Love Live, Uta no Prince-sama, B-Project, and Tsukino Productions among others.
I fell in love with singing in Japanese, and I downloaded a karaoke app to practice, even setting up my own Love Live cover group on it. Singing in Japanese was, and still is, fun – despite my complete lack of understanding of the lyrics.
What language resources have you enjoyed using the most and why?
When I was first learning hiragana, I used Japanese rhythm games that came with a story. Such as 夢色キャスト (Yumeiro Cast), ドリフェス (Dream Fes), and ラブライブ (Love Live).
I preferred the games that would come with voiced story portions. So I could hear how the characters were pronounced. But games such as ツキパラ (Tsukino Paradise), BPro, and うたプリシャニライ, do not voice over the story lines. Which was very frustrating when I was first learning to read.
In general, I love playing rhythm games, so I was able to play them while also practicing my hiragana.
It was very slow progress at first, but after a lot of practice, I came to be able to read hiragana and katakana consistently. I still play many of the games to this day, using them to learn kanji. Learning this way allowed me to internalize the characters without having to come up with little tricks to remember each one.
You’re using Japanese audio dramas right now to learn. What kind of things are you learning?
I mainly use Japanese audio dramas, specifically Otome CDs. These have been great for my listening comprehension because my mother refuses to speak to me consistently in Japanese.
I started listening to them about a year ago. Since then, I’ve found that my listening comprehension ability has skyrocketed.
I’m able to differentiate words from each other, even if I cannot understand them. I’m also able to usually tell the difference between verbs, nouns, adjectives, and other grammatical aspects, despite my lack of understanding.
By listening to the same CD over and over, I pick up phrases that I can use easily. Such as そこに座って (soko ni suwatte / sit there).
Through listening to a variety of CDs, I have learned to differentiate between the different levels of politeness used in speech. For example, if the situation in the CD is that of senpai/kohai or student/teacher, the difference in formality is very distinct, allowing me to learn when types of verbs are used, even if I cannot understand the meaning of the verb itself.
Ultimately, learning through CDs is best through repetition and recognition of patterns, as Japanese is a very consistent language.
How are you using audio dramas to study?
I listen to CDs in two different times. The first is when I am reading or studying.
I will put on a CD or a Japanese roleplay audio from YouTube and listen to it in the background.
At times like these, I don’t use my full concentration; rather, I let my brain subconsciously register the voice while I work. Though this is not very efficient learning within itself, over time, it adds up and definitely contributed to my overall familiarity with the Japanese language. How it’s spoken, and my ability to differentiate between words and their types.
The second instance is right before I go to bed. This is when I put my entire effort into listening, resulting in the most efficient learning. I concentrate to see how much I can understand and try to pick up patterns.
I am only familiar with otome CDs, of which there are two types: R18 and non-R18.
R18 CDs always include some sort of エッチ (ecchi / adult) scene. The lines in R18 CDs, however, are usually spoken more slowly, which was incredibly helpful when I first started listening.
In general, lines in the CDs are spoken with a precision and deliberateness only achieved by the abilities of the voice actors. This helps a lot when trying to differentiate words and phrases. I’ve now started delving into Japanese YouTube situation audios. I’ve noticed that due to the unprofessional nature of their uploaders, the lines have a more natural, slurred quality. This has helped me test the limits of my listening comprehension, and I’ve found that I can still pick out words despite this hinderance.
All the listening for the past year paid off!
You said you noticed a difference in your listening, anything specific?
At first I only listened because I liked the guys’ voices. But eventually I came to realize that my Japanese vocabulary was expanding faster than ever before.
Sometimes I would hear the same phrases repeated in different CDs, such as こうふんすぎて (koufun sugite / too excited ) or キスして (kisu shite / kiss me). Being curious and wanting to learn Japanese, I would look them up and then remember them due to their frequent usage.
This meant that my vocabulary was biased towards phrases used mainly in romantic scenarios. But my Japanese knowledge was nonetheless growing, and that made me very excited. Soon I began to realize that I could tell apart different types of words, like verbs from nouns from adjectives, as well as the differing formality of verbs.
I began to try and tempt my mom into speaking Japanese with me (she continually made fun of my エッチ vocabulary). Sometimes it would work – like the time we were going grocery shopping together and I convinced her to only talk to me in Japanese – but most of the time it wouldn’t.
I did, however, realize that I was able to understand her much more than before, as my ears were trained to Japanese from listening to it so often.
I continue, to this day, to make use of CDs (and Japanese YouTube and ASMR videos as well) to learn Japanese. It forces the Japanese language on me even when I live in an area with basically zero Japanese exposure.
Continued practice allows me to keep my knowledge fresh and recallable, enough so that I giggle with my mom at the dinner table when I say things like やめられないよ and my dad only blinks in confusion.
Where can people get audio dramas from?
You can buy CDs off of Japanese websites like CD Japan or Stella Worth, or through Animate International. Some are even available on Amazon.
For those unwilling to purchase them, as they can get quite expensive at $20-30 per hour length CD. YouTube and Soundcloud have a large base of uploaded CDs. You can search for オーディオドラマ CD
The Hylia also has a lot of audio dramas based on anime.
Which audio dramas do you recommend and why?
If you are interested in otome CDs, there are many different scenarios, ranging from adorable first dates to stay-at-home husbands.
I’d recommend browsing until you find one that you enjoy, then listen to it repeatedly to get the most out of it. 😊