A common theme of this blog (as well as my personal studies) is how to experience “real” Japanese in all its forms, without actually living in Japan. By “real”, I mean not just watching Anime or reading Manga, but rather experiencing Japanese that an everyday person would be using. Focusing on too many fantasy-oriented resources won’t give you an adequate vocabulary for living in real life.
Podcasts are a step in the right direction, but many podcasts are heavily produced and feature professional commentators or celebrities, so you won’t necessarily get to hear what an everyday Japanese person sounds like.
Recently I found a great podcast which has virtually no production and a great example of everyday Japanese. It’s simply two guys talking over Skype about software development and other related topics. You can get it here on Podcastle, a site I reviewed the other day.
Off and on I’ve used Skype to speak with Japanese people to practice my conversation skills, and hearing this podcast reminded me of those sessions. This was not only because of the degraded voice quality particular to Skype, but also because of the down-to-earth attitude of the speakers. There is little feeling of speaking for an audience – It’s as if somebody just happened to secretly record their conversation. Their speech has pauses, self-corrections, sentences which change midway through, and other aspects of natural conversation that are all good to emulate in your own speech, especially if you’re talking in a similar environment where you are on roughly even ground with the other person.
The other reason I love this podcast is because software development is a topic I’m very familiar with, so I can pick up on the flow of the conversation easily. There are also many loan words, or names of things spoken in Japanese which you probably heard in English before (like パール or モジュール), and that helps with comprehension.
Even if you don’t know much about programming I’d recommend listening to this for a few minutes just to pick up their tone and speech patterns. As far as I can tell neither of the speakers has an accent and speaks typical Tokyo-dialect (標準語).
I highly recommend everyone to search for Japanese podcasts about topics they are familiar with, regardless of their experience or ability. You’ll pick up many new words quickly and the connection between what your existing knowledge base on that topic will help motivate you to continue studying.
Another thing I learned from this podcast is that the speech recognition engine of Podcastle isn’t as good as I originally thought, since when listening to this podcast there are many mistakes. One of the reasons is probably the high frequency of loan words, some of which are not likely in a Japanese dictionary. Nevertheless, roughly 50-75% of the transcription is correct, so I won’t change my stance on Podcastle being an extremely useful tool.
(Featured image of headphones downloaded from here: https://openclipart.org/detail/189811/headphones-icon-by-mlampret-189811)