This post is part of a series called “Learn Japanese with...”
Each post highlights a specific resource or method you can use to immerse yourself in Japanese anywhere in the world. In today’s world of smartphones, apps, streaming video, podcasts, etc., anyone with internet access can learn Japanese no matter where they happen to live. This series will show you exactly how.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ―Plato
Music is a wonderful language learning tool for three key reasons:
- Music is fun! The most important factor in learning a language is consistent daily action. The easiest way to make sure you put in your daily dose of Japanese is ensuring that you actually enjoy the process. Listening to music is inherently enjoyable (at least for most people), and is therefore something you are more likely to do consistently.
- Music makes repetition more enjoyable. Repetition is an essential component of language acquisition, but there’s one big problem: it’s usually boring as hell! With music we love, we can enjoy the same song over, while such repetition for a TV show or text would quickly lead to boredom.
- Music improves memory. Not only are the melodies and rhythms of music pleasing to the ear, but they are also useful for increasing retention and providing a scaffolding for new information. If you ever find it difficult to remember a given phrase or collocation, try saying it aloud to a common tune you know (e.g. “Yankee Doodle”).
How to Learn Japanese Using Apple Music
Okay, so I’ve now made the case for using music to learn Japanese. But the obvious question remains:
“Where in the heck can I find Japanese tunes? And how should I go about leveraging them in language learning?”
In this post, I will detail how I recommend using Apple Music to learn Japanese. It start with Apple because 1) I myself use Apple Music, and 2) I know that many of readers already use it, too, or at least have an iPhone or Mac.
I am happy to detail a similar approach for other music streaming services in the future if there is demand; let me know in the comments below which apps or services you want me to cover.👇🏼
So here are the steps to get valuable Japanese listening practice using Apple Music (see the video below for a short screen recording on iOS):
- Sign up for Apple Music if you haven’t already. They have a free 3-month trial, after which it costs $9.99 a month for individuals, $14.99 a month for families, or $4.99 if you can verify you are a college student.
- Open the Music (ミュージック) app on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, or PC. Search for a Japanese artist, song, or album. You can use roumaji (e.g. Onitsuka Chihiro), kana (e.g. おにつかちひろ), or kanji (e.g. 鬼束ちひろ).
- Not sure where to start? Don’t have any favorite Japanese artists or songs yet? I gotcha covered! You can see a list of popular Japanese artists available on Apple Music here.
- Tap on a song and hit play. Listen a few times, trying to understand as much as you can. Don’t worry about understanding everything at this point. You are just trying to get a global understanding and solidify words you already know.
- Turn on lyrics. On iOS, simply tap the quote icon in the lower left while playing a song or see full instructions for Apple TV, Mac, or PC here. Listen a few more times as you read, or even sing along karaoke style as the lyrics auto-scroll!
- If you want to repeat a given line, simply tap that line in the lyrics to jump back. (Note that this only works for Apple Music songs with built-in lyrics).
- If a particular song doesn’t include lyrics, add your own! On Mac or PC, 1) control/right-click on the song in your library, 2) click Get Info, 3) click the Lyrics tab, and 4) paste in the lyrics. See the tips here for finding Japanese song lyrics.
- Tap the ellipsis icon to the right of the song title (…) and then View Full Lyrics (歌詞をすべて表示). Read the song’s lyrics a few times without listening, looking up any new words in your favorite Japanese dictionary (e.g. the Nihongo app).
- Create custom spaced repetition flashcards with these words in your favorite flashcard app, including the actual phrase or sentence from the song. Add more example sentences if needed using Tatoeba.org.
- Study these cards every day for a week until you’ve mastered them. Pro Tip: The fastest way to consolidate new memories is reviewing right before bed and as soon as you wake up since we store memories during sleep.
- Listen to the song again with the lyrics turned off. You will be amazed how much more of the song you now understand! This also creates a tangible, visceral way to see, hear, and feel progress (the ultimate motivator).
Here’s a short screen recording I took on my iPhone showing:
- How to find Japanese music in Apple Music.
- How to turn lyrics on and off.
- How to jump to a specific part of the song.