Using Japanese Documentaries as a study aid

By | January 4, 2014

I’m sure that those of you studying Japanese take advantage of TV dramas and anime to help boost your vocabulary and comprehension, but documentaries are another great resource that is often overlooked.

Documentaries typically talk about more real life subject matter, so you’re more likely to learn expressions you can use in real life, unlike many anime and some TV dramas. Professional announcers are also employed, who make their living on speaking in a manner which is easy to understand. Furthermore, subtitles are often used which help you follow the story and improve kanji comprehension.

I happened to come across a short (~25 min) documentary about the success of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. In cases like this where you already have some background knowledge about the story, its easier to understand the Japanese used. Unlike “The Social Network” movie which details Mark’s life, this documentary emphasized the contribution of his father. As a father, I felt this was a very important lesson, and I hope to have an equally great influence on my own son.

This is just one example out of thousands of other Japanese documentaries on YouTube. You can check the related videos column on Youtueb to find many more.

There is one funny thing about this video which is sometimes done in documentaries about Westerners. In a portion of it, events are acted out by westerners, but their speech is dubbed over by Japanese voice actors. The lines can be quite exaggerated in both tone and meaning (similar to what you would hear in Anime), but you can learn some useful phrases nonetheless.

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