Compared to learning a foreign language in an environment where that language is spoken daily, learning away from such an environment has several disadvantages. In fact, that was one of the original themes of this blog. (I’m mostly talking from experience about Japanese here, but I believe this applies to other languages)
Besides cultural things and pronunciation, learning casual language can also be difficult–or should I say was difficult before the internet became as big (as information-filled) as it is now.
One of the famous ultra-time wasters, Youtube, can actually be used to help you get a better feel for conversational Japanese. While their are certainly loads of professionally-produced videos, I think its fair to say the majority is done by average people, or at least done by somewhat non-average people but in a casual style.
Hikakin (ヒカキン) is a famous Japanese Youtuber with a large number of videos and millions of fans. He was originally known for his skillful beat box but has went on to do other things like product reviews.
From the point of view of someone learning Japanese as a foreign language, watching videos like Hikakin’s has several advantages. First, many of the videos are downright funny (though this depends on your taste, I guess) which keeps you interested, so you watching to enjoy yourself besides just dry language study. Second, he enunciates pretty clearly and the audio in the videos I’ve seen has been fairly good quality. Also, like many other Japanese entertainment videos there are selective subtitles for some parts (in Japanese). Due to his fan following it seems that some of his videos have also been translated into English, with subtitles. (If you like beat box, that’s a plus too (: )
Finally, Hikakin not only speaks with modern casual language (including slang words like ppoi that I haven’t heard older generations use as frequently), but he also uses a variety of language techniques for entertainment value, like using ‘dramatic’ expressions and even woman’s language.
Here is one of Hikakin’s videos I recently saw to give you somewhere to start, though I didn’t watch it to see him, I saw it to see the product he was reviewing: the recently-released new Aibo, a famous Japanese robot dog. (I really should devote a separate article to this cute pet, though…)
While from these types of videos you can pick up a lot of casual language (and other expressions you won’t find in an average textbook, or even novel), just be careful to understand the nuance of the words before you try to use them, especially with someone like a teacher. Also, keep in mind much of his content is tailored at a younger audience, so don’t expect too much high-brow humor.
If you have any other favorite videos of Hikakin, please leave them in the comments.