Tag Archives: study

Picking up Japanese Girls: Learning from the Best

Charisma man comic

Japan: Living the dream

As yesterday was Valentine’s day, I’ve decided to share some advice on how to woo the Japanese ladies. Because I obviously have lots of experience in this field, right? And because if you follow my rigorously-tested PUA-style tips, you’ll suddenly become a Charisma Man yourself, capable of attracting J-girls like flies are attracted to syrupy, sugary mounds of goodness, right?

Well, no, not really.

But, one thing to recognize here is that the Charisma Man in the comic above has pretty poor Japanese. All he does is use the 私・・は・・です formation, which is pretty much the first thing you pick up in Japanese 101. Don’t you want to be just a bit more awesome than that? Don’t you want to be ready to bust out some really syrupy, sugary, chocolate-filled nuggets of Japanese in order to impress the ladies?

Of course!

So the best places I’d recommend searching to go find such lines would be anything that isn’t a “How to Pick Up Japanese Girls” or “How to speak Dirty Japanese” book. Because while those sorts of books may have some value, the only way they also have any sizable amount of content is because most of the content is terrible. Filler. No longer used by anyone in Japan…ever. And besides, if you’re buying books like that, let’s be honest: your Japanese probably isn’t exactly up to snuff either.

So where do you find good “pick up lines” in Japanese? Well, I’ll take the AJATT approach on this one: straight out of genuine Japanese media. Anime, Manga (especially Shojou, I bet), Jdramas—take your pick.

Nisemonogatari Episode 6

Here’s an example courtesy of Araragi from Nisemonogatari:


“You may not know this, but I love you…I want to be with you all the time.”


“Sometimes I don’t know why I’m dating you. But I love you so much, I don’t need a reason.”

The first line may have a bit too much cheese for the average person, but the second one—the one about not needing a reason—really just straight up owns. The girl’s (Senjogahara’s) reaction is therefore appropriate: 「ヤバすぎ。超絶かっこいい」”Oh no…so incredibly cool.”

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann episode 8

But perhaps you’re too cool to spin off a line like that. Maybe you need a more Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann-type response. If so, Kamina has you covered. After going in for a kiss, his response to Yoko is:

「おまえ・・・. 10倍返しだ。 戻ったら、10倍返しだ。 」

You… I’ll repay that… I’ll repay that ten times over

Yoko laughs at Kamina after he answers, but come on, you’re at least as cool as Kamina, right? You should be able to handle the delivery no problem.

Moteki episode 4

Or maybe you’re just looking for some good confession Japanese to help you settle the deal? Girl been giving you a hard time, but you want to show just how romantic you can be once and for all? Then perhaps a typical line from Moteki might be what you’re looking for:

I love you. You’re the one I loved the most in my life. Even now… even now I still love you.

I have to admit that all of the lines here aren’t delivered without a nice helping of romantic cheese. Perhaps J-Girls are into that—the straightforward confession of love, or perhaps the simple raw emotional power of saying “I love you” itself (cue a slow procession of ha ha ha’s here). At the same time, though, I can’t say I’m unhappy during these scenes either—after all, watching awkward characters have awkward encounters with one another without either one being able to actually say what they’re feeling (I’m looking at you, Freeter, Ie o Kau) is just painful after the first time. I get it, you’re awkward but you like each other—get to the good stuff already!

That’s all for now—but any love-related Japanese media should have plenty of lines for the grabbing. Not to mention I do have a copy of Love Plus sitting around my house somewhere


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Interviews with Foreigners Fluent in Japanese

I found a very cool series of interviews showcasing a large number of gaijin, or foreigners, who are fluent in Japanese. The Japanese television host asks the interviewee common questions, such as why they’re in Japan, their favorite Japanese food, and their favorite Japanese word. Some of the responses are pretty funny, and because it’s a 12-part video, there’s lots to see!

Some cool words I noted down and took away from the interviews include:

  • 時は金なり (ときはかねなり): “time is money”
  • ぼちぼち: “so-so; not bad”
  • 苦肉の策(くにくのさく): “last resort”

I encourage any Japanese learners to watch the videos and try to pick out some interesting words to keep for themselves as well. The great thing about Japanese television is that subtitles are commonplace, so it’s easy to look up words that are unfamiliar to you.

Furthermore, although not all the interviewees were amazing at Japanese, some really were great. I know I tend to be pretty competitive, so seeing some people who have gotten so good at Japanese motivates me to study harder and work my way towards fluency. Plus, I loved the fact that because the foreigners featured in the videos were so fluent, the hosts didn’t need to dumb down their language to interview them or dub over anyones voices as is common in other interviews.

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Using Video Games to Study Japanese: A Grandia Case Example

Alternate Title: How to be badass: get better at Japanese by playing video games while your friends are stuck in class using Genki I.

I’ll admit that the alternate title here is a little misleading: you might be able to become better than your friends, but simply playing your video game of choice isn’t going to do anything for you. You need to have a plan, and you need to follow it carefully and methodically. You might be playing a game, but you’re not playing around.

My Experiences Using Grandia to learn Japanese

Title screen from grandia—but you're not allowed to begin until you look up all the kanji!

The great thing about using video games to learn Japanese is that the video games that are going to contain the most text are RPGs, and many of these originate in Japan. So if you have a favorite RPG—think Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Dragon Age, Pokémon, etc—then a Japanese version is bound to exist. One that contains lots of text to read will obviously be better.

I personally love Grandia, so going through the Japanese version and trying to figure out what is being said is fun. There’s lots of text to read and the characters travel to a variety of places so the vocab will be varied. Plus, having gone through the original English version, I’m not completely lost on what to do. Here’s what you’ll need in order to effectively study from your video game of choice:

  1. The game.
  2. Your flashcard program of choice that supports multi-sided flashcards. A popular choice is Anki, although I’m personally partial to iFlash—it’s your choice in the end.
  3. If possible, a separate English translation of the Japanese text—one for Grandia can be found on GameFAQs, although they probably exist for many other games as well.
  4. Patience—you’re not playing the game normally this time around.

The search for the Sulfer Weed medicine begins!

Your task while playing is to essentially mine the game for all that it’s worth—jot down every sentence you think is useful and not overly convoluted with difficult or rarely-used words. Using the above screenshot as an example, let’s see how I would go about creating my flashcards:

1. Write down the sentence in Japanese.



If you’re not sure how to read a kanji so that you can enter it into your computer, you can search by kanji by handwriting or by kanji radical.

2. Know what the sentence means in English.

If you’re having trouble, the sentence may be too difficult for you at this point—you can save it for later after you’ve improved your grammar—or you can check your English translation for an idea.

3. Now you’re ready to build your flashcard. Here’s what I would use for the new unknown word 薬草:

Side 1薬草

Side 2: やくそう

Side 3: medicinal plants

Side 4: 苦しそう。。いま[薬草]を見つけてきてあげるからがんばってね。

Side 5: 苦しそう。。いま[や…]を見つけてきてあげるからがんばってね。

Multiple-sided flashcards gives me a wide variety of ways to go about studying. I could start by studying the sentence, doing Side 4 first by reading it out loud. If I don’t understand the key word I’m trying to study (I put it in brackets in case there’s more than one word in the sentence I might be studying), I’ll look at Side 3, the English meaning, to remind me. If I don’t remember the reading as well, I can also look at Side 2.

And when I want a bit more intensive practice after I get the meaning down, I could do a Side 5-2-1 review. That is, look at Side 5 first and try to recall the reading (Side 2), and after that, recall the writing of the kanji itself (Side 1).

There are many different ways you can choose to study your cards, but I believe combining these two methods—meaning you go over each card at least twice before you can count it as memorized—is very effective.

Words of warning

When playing through games with authentic Japanese text, you’re bound to run into a lot of words you don’t know—this is a good thing! However, don’t try and rush through studying by quickly creating cards and moving on; slowly work your way through the cards and the game so you’re actually learning.

There may be thousands of words you don’t know, so this isn’t going to be a fast process if you actually want to get something out of it. Going to fast leads to input overload, as I’ve discussed before. So take your time and enjoy learning Japanese! These techniques can be applied to anime and manga as well—so choose whatever medium you like best when studying.

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Filed under Japan, Japanese, Language, Self-studying, video games

Learning Kanji: Using Shorter Sentences to Study more Efficiently

Alternate Title: The Secret to Learning Kanji: Don’t Learn kanji.


The good news: if you learn these, you'll be on your way to basic reading fluency!

The great thing about the kanji is that there are a lot of them. However, this may or may not in fact be a good thing depending on your point of view. The Dai Kan-Wa jiten apparently contains over 50,000 kanji, although it is generally recognized that the some 2000 Joyo Kanji are what is necessary for basic reading fluency in Japanese. Furthermore, because each kanji can take on more than one reading depending on the word, the task before the Japanese learner seems rather arduous.

But not to fear, right? After all, the most common 1000 kanji covers 93% of what you should expect to read. Except that this statistic—and I’ve heard it from Japanese teachers as well—is rather misleading. First, even if you did understand 93% of the kanji being used in an article, that’s still an unknown kanji to look up every 10 or so words—not exactly reading fluency by any means.

Furthermore, even if you recognize a Kanji, it might be used in a word that contains unknown kanji as well, making the word incomprehensible without decent guessing skills, and making your 1000 kanji knowledge base not as useful as you may have hoped.

So what do we do?

The most common kanji learning methods

There’s no reason to go over these in detail since they’ve been discussed ad nauseum:

1. Study just a few kanji by rote a day—if you studied just 3 kanji a day for two years, you would have studied 2190 kanji, a bit more than the entire joyo kanji list! Problem: sticking to a daily schedule for two entire years is easier said than done, not to mention the necessary need to review what you’ve learned already. Plus, what does “3 kanji” even mean? Just writing the kanji? Writing and all of its readings? Just recognizing it and its rough english meanings? There’s more here than meets the eye.

2. Use RTK (as I discussed briefly before along with AJATT) as a way to internalize kanji meanings to aid in the learning and writing of vocabulary words. Problem: and as I said before, I’m not the biggest fan of RTK. It advocates a piece-wise learning process that is not as useful as it seems. It’s possible to pick up kanji meanings without needing to study them explicitly first through rote-memorization.

3. Play/read/watch X game/manga/anime in Japanese to pick up kanji naturally. Problem: non-textbook style materials are very helpful, but they can lead to input overload when it comes to kanji—more on that below—and so students should exercise discipline when using this route.

All of these are useful ways of learning Kanji, but they each have flaws as well—as any learning method will likely have. Nonetheless, I have one more of my own to propose.

Learn Kanji by Not Learning Kanji

The problem I see with a lot of Kanji learning material is that you go one character at a time, treating the kanji as a sort of separate entity from the rest of your Japanese learning. This may be perfectly effective, but I feel that it’s actually more efficient rather than less to study kanji through the study of vocabulary.

That’s right—don’t study the Kanji; study words.

But why? Isn’t studying words long and tedious? Shouldn’t I learn the alphabet first?

Kanji is not phonetic like English or the Kana; as a result, trying to learn it like an alphabet may actually be inefficient. I’m not going to flat out say it is inefficient, but I think there are better methods.

So how do I go about learning word-by-word?

One thing you may notice about Japanese is that even when a kanji is used in multiple words, these words tend to take on similar meanings. This may not always be the case, but it’s a good general rule. For example, I have a list of JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) words that I can sort by Kanji:

There seems to be a common theme here...

Even if we don’t explicitly study the meaning of 「予」we can get the sense of what meaning we should expect if we see this Kanji in a word. And by studying words, we ultimately assimilate both this meaning and the meaning of a real Japanese word as well—a two for one deal.

However, what I am not suggesting is to simply study lists of words rather than Kanji. Studying words by themselves is ineffective because we won’t know when to use them in real conversations or contexts. Four of the words on the list above have the listed meaning “forecast,” but only one of them would be used in the common construction, “weather forecast,” in Japanese:

  • 「天気予報」= 51,600,000 Google hits.
  • 「天気予想」= 154,000 Google hits
  • 「天気予期」= 123 Google hits
  • 「天気予測」= 108,000 Google hits

Despite the similar meanings, the winner here is pretty clear. We need to study words in context—more specifically, we need to study sentences.

Where do I get sentences to study?

Not all sentences are created equal—some can be too long or too complex, something we want to avoid when studying. Generally, your sentences should contain no more than a handful of unknown words, and you should be able to easily guess at the meaning of the sentence without too much difficulty without those words. That way, you won’t overload yourself.

Grabbing haphazardly from newspapers or tv shows—that while filled with useful Japanese—will likely result in having sentences with too much content for a reasonable human to study at one time: that’s input overload. You can take from a newspaper, book, or tv show if you feel you’re at that level, but keep the sentences very short while still retaining some semblance of context. Taking or transcribing sentences from tv shows in particular may be useful, since you’ll remember the context of when the words were used and thus remember both the meaning and when to use the word more easily.

But for the beginner, the following would probably be more useful:



Taken from the beginner-level shadowing book I mentioned previously.

An easy-to-understand exchange about going to the convenience store to purchase lunch gives the beginner the chance to practice 「弁当」and 「買」while giving some context as to when to use these words as well.

After reviewing the sentence, one should practice writing it by hand—using fill-in-the-blank with the kanji—to review. By going over short sentences, we avoid input overload, study both kanji and words simultaneously without doing too much of either at one time, and study grammar and natural Japanese constructions as well.

In a future post, I’ll go over where to find good sentences to practice, and how to incorporate more fun things like anime into serious study.


Filed under Japan, Japanese, Kanji, Language, Self-studying