Netflix may be associated most with binge-worthy series like House of Cards and subtle romantic preambles (“Want to Netflix and chill?”), but it can actually become a fantastic Japanese language learning tool, too, if used correctly. Read on to see how to find Japanese-language TV shows and movies, turn on subtitles and Japanese audio, and change the Netflix interface to Japanese.
Whether you find Duolingo to be a green-feathered friend in your pocket or an intimidating monster lurking outside your door waiting to pounce on you for not meeting your daily study goal, there’s no denying the app’s ubiquity and widespread cultural influence. Even Saturday Night Live has done a skit about it! Given its popularity, I am frequently asked whether I use Duolingo myself and what I think about it as a path to foreign language fluency. The answer to the first part of this question is easy: yes. Every single day. The answer to the second half, however, is far more nuanced and chock-full of caveats. Read on to see why Duolingo (alone) won’t get you fluent in Japanese, but why I think you should use it anyway…
Ever catch yourself saying, “I really wish I could learn Japanese but it ain’t ever gonna happen ’cause I can’t just up and move to Japan! Nor are there any native Japanese speakers near me… Guess I will have to put my linguistic dreams up on the shelf alongside competitive caber tossing and having lunch with Warren Buffet.” The bad news? Kilts and cabers can be hard to come by outside of Scotland. And you probably won’t ever share a cheeseburger and coke with the “Oracle of Omaha.” The good news? You can reach and maintain fluency in Japanese (or any other language) anywhere in the world using tutoring sites like iTalki.
Interview with Jonty Yamisha: Circassian Language Activist, Accidental Polyglot & Founder of Optilingo
Jonty Yamisha is a language activist, an “accidental polyglot” in his own words, a “third-generation Circassian refugee,” and the founder of OptiLingo, an audio-based language app that uses “guided immersion” to help people reach fluency in foreign languages more quickly. We discuss the Circassian language and cultural history, how he’s raising his children bilingually, and how he “steals back” time for language learning amid his busy professional and family life.
We have been conditioned by well-intentioned mothers to believe that television will “destroy our brains.” This might well be true if one spends their time watching “reality” TV shows that don’t actually reflect reality, the sensationalist 24-hour news cycle, and tasteless drivel that neither entertains nor educates. But if you watch television in Japanese, this otherwise time-wasting and brain-wasting activity can become a constructive form of language learning that even mommy should be able to get behind! Video is also one of the best ways to create a fun, effective, foreign language immersion environment no matter where in the world you happen to live. Here now are my top ten favorite tools for using online video to learn Japanese.
Katie Harris is the founder of Joy of Languages, a site dedicated to helping make language learning a joy instead of a chore. She was bored to tears with languages in school, but eventually figured out a more fun, effective approach to language learning that is focused on communicating with people and enjoying authentic listening and reading content. With a Masters in Linguistics from Cambridge University and an MRes in Speech, Language and Cognition from University College London, Katie does a great job peppering in just enough linguistics, psychology, and neuroscience to help language learners, but always keeping the focus on fun and efficacy. We first met at the 2019 Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava where I attended her talk How to Learn a Language by Watching TV and Film. Her philosophy was right in line with my “Anywhere Immersion” approach and I was eager to get her on the podcast.