Can I Learn Japanese by Watching Anime?

Can I Learn Japanese by Watching Anime?Can I Learn Japanese by Watching Anime?

Learning an Asian language is always difficult for a native English speaker because of the different roots of the language. Also, the characters, symbols, grammar, and everything else is so very unique in Asian languages that it becomes a challenging task to grasp it properly.

However, there are a few exceptions like Indonesian which has similarities to the English language and can be easy to learn for native English speakers. But, the majority of these languages are hard to learn and that too for obvious reasons.

So, when it comes to learning Japanese, the task becomes stiffer, especially, when you consider that Japanese is one of the hardest languages to learn for any native English speaker. However, there is a way in which a native English speaker finds exposure to the Japanese language.

We’re talking about watching anime or reading manga. The fans of Japanese anime are scattered all over the world and people are more interested to learn Japanese after watching these absorbing anime episodes. But, now, there is one question that will pop-up in your mind.

You can learn some Japanese from watching anime up to a beginner’s level as you will learn some words, phrases and basic grammar. However, you will not be able to comprehend at a conversational level or be able to read.

In this article, we’ll expand deeper into whether you can learn Japanese by watching anime or not.

Why You Shouldn’t Rely on Anime

Watching anime is a wonderful way of getting exposure to the Japanese language. When you first watch an anime series in Japanese, you will be intrigued by what the characters are saying. So, that curiosity to understand what your favourite anime character is actually saying will push you to learn Japanese.

However, that being said, many people make the mistake of relying heavily on anime to learn Japanese. Also, they think that they know Japanese because they understand what the characters are saying. But, the fact of the matter is, you cannot learn Japanese just by watching anime.

Japanese language is a complex one and you need to put in the time and hard work to grasp it. You have to understand the Japanese culture and the contexts on which the words are spoken in order to grasp the language. No anime program will provide you with such exposure.

Just like any other language, you need to interact with native speakers. That will give you a real insight into the language you are wanting to learn and the lives of the people who speak it. That is why anime can be great for entertainment or learning a few Japanese words.

What You Won’t Learn from Anime

Speaking a language and writing it are two totally different things. When you are learning a language by hearing it, you are relying on the sounds. Also, for a native English speaker, the muscles of your mouth are set to pronounce words in a certain way.

Now, when you are delving into an Asian language, you have to pronounce the words differently. This makes learning the language that much harder. Now, with anime, you will be listening to the words and interpret their meaning according to the situations which is not a bad thing.

However, you are not getting any knowledge of the written Japanese language which is far more complex. First of all, there are 3 different writing systems in Japanese and it will sound crazy to a native English speaker because we only rely on 26 letters in our alphabet.

Also, there is furigana which helps you to pronounce the words properly. Let’s take a look at these four fundamental things from the Japanese language.


There are over 7000 Kanji characters in the Japanese language. These characters are incorporated from Chinese Hanzhi style of writing. Each of these characters has a dual meaning and used to convey noun, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs.


It is basically a phonetic writing style of the Japanese language. All the writings with Hiragana are based on sound and that being said, you can write anything with it. However, as there is no space in the Japanese language, you will not understand anything written in Hiragana solely unless you include Kanji style.


This writing style is used to represent the words that are borrowed from foreign countries. Also, Katakana is used to give emphasis to words like the way italics are used for emphasis in English. Basically, it is a more masculine form of the Japanese writing style.


It is primarily words that are written in either Katakana or Hiragana. The main function of Furigana is to give you information about pronouncing the words correctly.

Why Anime is Good for Learning a Few Words and Phrases

Learning Japanese completely by watching anime-only is not possible. However, that does not mean you cannot learn anything by watching anime. There are some Japanese words and phrases that you will get to know by watching anime which is a good head start for your journey of learning Japanese.

Here are some of the words and phrases that you can learn from watching anime;

しかたない or しょうがない (Shikatanai): Can’t be helped

This phrase is basically used in a negative sense and for something which is out of your control. For example, if you have to call off a tour because of the poor weather condition, then this phrase is appropriate for that situation.

りょうかい (Ryoukai): Roger!

Japanese use this term to tell someone ordering that they have understood the need. So, you can use this phrase with your friends and family and surprise them with a bit of Japanese influence on your speech.

ちがう (Chigau): Not right or the wrong way

If you are speaking to a native Japanese speaker in Japanese and he or she says this phrase, then you should know that something is not right. Also, it is possible that you are speaking the wrong way.

がんばって (Ganabatte): All the best!

When you start watching anime in Japanese, you will hear this phrase quite often. It means to give your best or all the best wishes for your endeavour. You will also hear this phrase in various sports events in Japan.

What type of Japanese does Anime Use?

There is no strict Japanese language style that anime uses. You will find multiple styles of Japanese in an anime program. However, one thing is common in most of the anime programs and that is the characters generally use informal Japanese.

A majority of anime programs has characters speaking in a Kansai dialect. Because of this, it becomes difficult to learn Japanese through anime only.

Is There an Anime that Teaches Japanese?

If you want to learn Japanese, then Anime can be a good tool to utilize initially. There are many anime series that will help you to grasp the Japanese language and help you to understand it. Here are some of the anime series you can watch to help you understand Japanese;


This is a comedy anime show in which a group of girls do unusual things that turn out to be very funny and amazing. It is a nice way to kick-off your Japanese leaning endeavour.


The story of this anime show revolves around the bartender named Sasakura Ryuu. He makes wonderful wine and solves the problems of others. This drama will be wonderful to watch from your Japanese learning perspective as well.

Persona 4 The Animation

This crime thriller will be entertaining to watch for the audience of all ages. Furthermore, the dialogues of this anime show are very simple and easy to understand.

Shirokuma Café

This show is about a polar bear that opens his cafeteria by quitting his day job. The story will attract the younger audience but it is a great way to start your Japanese leaning as the language of the show is very easy.

Why Reading Manga is a Good Tool to Learn Japanese

Manga can also be a wonderful tool for your Japanese learning. When you read manga, you will see lots of pictures and fewer words. It is basically a Japanese version of a comic book. So, you will be able to understand whatever you are reading.

Apart from that, in the manga, you will see the use of Furigana quite commonly which will help you to learn Kanji quite easily. So, yes, if you read manga regularly, then you can create a decent Japanese vocabulary by yourself.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Japanese to Watch Anime?

When it comes to the time you need to spend in learning Japanese, there is no precise timeframe because it depends on a lot of factors.

First of all, the levels of proficiency you are looking to gain in Japanese will play a big role in determining that time. Apart from that, how many hours in a day you are willing to spend in learning Japanese, matters as well. All in all, to achieve fluency in the Japanese language, you would require close to 3 to 4 years minimum.

In saying this, learning Japanese purely from anime will be a hard task as you will not get very far due to the grammatical patterns involved. If you are planning on using anime to assist your learning you should use it as an additional tool in your toolbox to keep it interesting whilst learning the language as a whole.

Final Thoughts

Finally, you will have plenty of resources and websites telling you that you can master the Japanese language within 3 months or so. But, for a native English speaker, you should know that Japanese is amongst the hardest languages that you will learn because it does not resemble English or its style whatsoever. Hence it is recommended that if you are wanting to learn Japanese it is best to enrol in either a face to face course or an online course.

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