Learning Japanese From Anime With Ken Cannon

SEASON 1 EPISODE 12

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  • This week’s podcast answers a frequently asked question – can you REALLY learn Japanese from Anime? Ken Cannon says yes! Ken runs a website called Learn English through Anime where he shares his tips and tricks for learning conversational Japanese. He also discusses the origins of the project, his approach, and the strategies grounded in anime and manga for learning the language.
  • The second burning question of the day is on smoke-free cafes in Japan. Brad Stephenson joins the podcast to discuss his site 25Cafes where you can find reviews of smoke-free venues across the country.

Non-Smoking Area, please

Japan is probably an ideal country for smokers; it has very strange laws and habits on smoking. Because the Japanese government hasn’t officially declared smoking as unhealthy, it hasn’t crept in the consciousness of people that it is unhealthy. Probably one of the reasons for this is that the government receives a lot of support from tobacco farmers and some members are heavy smokers themselves.

Because this is Anthony’s pet peeve, he talks to Brad Stephenson to find options on smoke-free cafes in Japan. Brad started his website 25Cafes to identify places where you can catch up without being swamped with smoke. While the government has made efforts to ban smoking, the progress seems a bit slow. A year ago, many cafes in Tokyo opened and claimed to be smoke-free. However, some places were not quite successful in maintaining smoke-free areas. Both Anthony and Brad share experiences on coming in shops and hotels with the expectation that these had non-smoking options.

The thinking that everyone smokes is strong that one needs to be quite specific in requesting a non-smoking room or communicating preferences for smoke-free restaurants. Unlike in the west, businesses in Japan don’t advertise their places as ‘non- smoking’. Thus, 25Cafe is a good website not just for identifying non-smoking cafes but for hunting great food shops in general. A lot of useful information such as the menu listed, the language used, and pictures of food are included in the website.

Learning Japanese through Anime – is it possible? 

As anime is extremely popular across the world, people can’t help but wonder whether the Japanese can be learned in it. Anthony talks to Ken who’s claim to fame is learning Japanese through anime. Ken’s interest in Anime began at the age of 16. He had extreme social anxiety which meant he was scared to go outside and deal with social situations. This made him miss out on school. Anime, which often dealt with similar issues, acted as a savior. Ken shares how his interest in anime soon expanded to an interest in Japanese drama and culture, and ultimately a desire to learn Japanese.

Transition to Fluency

Ken’s approach to learning Japanese has been unique. He began watching dubbed anime on TV but moved to sub-titled ones which could be downloaded from the internet. This helped pick up a few simple words and phrases but Ken acknowledged that these were not enough to learn the language. He also shared his experiences with popular programs such as Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur. Ultimately, he concluded that these programs were too focused on grammar. These would simply feed learners constructed sentences for repetition but not exactly for learning. The narrow set of questions does not necessarily prepare one to answer outside its range. Thus, Ken came back to what motivated him to self-study the language: anime!

Through his research online, Ken found out that there are 2 types of Japanese. The formal style was taught by Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone. Casual, conversational Japanese was used in anime, drama, and day-to-day life. Going back and forth studying casual to the formal style made it difficult to learn the language.

This issue prompted Ken to develop learning strategies grounded in anime and manga. Since anime is often geared for kids, it uses basic words and is spoken by voice actors who speak clearly for the benefit of the show. Ken acknowledged that some phrases spoken in anime are slangs and are incorrect, but these are very few in numbers. Most words used are still pretty handy in conversations. As long as the learner master most of the vocabulary used, one may get an idea of what other unfamiliar words mean.

Ken also stressed the importance of passion in pursuing the motivation to learn the language. Learning a language requires work and effort. This drive can push anyone to do anything using whatever method they are comfortable with. In Ken’s case, his passion for manga and anime helped him learn faster. In the hopes of sharing his knowledge and tactics with other people, Ken created detailed YouTube content to teach people how to learn the language with the aid of Japanese shows. Not only are his videos geared for learning and humor; he even developed a 15-week course at the request of his viewers! 

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