How I Taught MySelf Japanese Using Anime

I’m partly here to tell you how you can use anime to learn Japanese, but it’s really more than that. Japanese is considered a Category V language by the Foreign Service Institute, making it one of the hardest languages to learn in the world. This means if you manage to learn Japanese, you can learn literally any other language in the world, and dare I say, any other skill in the world.

A quick background about me
I grew up only knowing English
I’ve never been to Japan
I did not take any Japanese classes

And despite all this, I’ve worked as a professional document translator, and currently teach thousands of people Japanese over Youtube.

How I taught myself Japanese

And this all stemmed from the simple innocent thought we’ve all had at one point:

“I wanted to learn Japanese so I can understand anime without subtitles”
So how did I get to this point? Let’s talk about three concepts that made all the difference:

1) Find your truest motivation, and let that guide you, no matter what it is

Even if it’s something as simple as anime(and I know there is a lot of you operating under that motivation). It’s okay to be motivated by silly and selfish things. In fact, I encourage it.

You’ll no doubt run into people who scoff at this motive, while atop their high horse of learning “because they love the culture”. That’s perfectly fine of course. I think Japanese culture is awesome too, but I was never confused as to what my actual motivation was: I wanted to understand anime without subtitles, and everything else would be a bonus. Ironically this motivation can be the most practical. Consider the following two scenarios. Who is more likely to become fluent in Japanese:

How I taught myself Japanese

A fan of anime who desperately wants to understand anime, and is reminded of this every single day when he watches his favorite shows.

A nonfan of anime who has a 2-week vacation in Japan coming up 6 months from now, so he wants to learn a little bit before his trip to impress the locals.
A true anime fan will learn faster, it’s going to be Number 1
Number 2 is only invested for that two-week trip. Number 1 is invested for as long as he watches anime, which will probably (statistically speaking) be his entire life. So remember, be true to those selfish and silly desires. Aesthetics is a good enough reason for getting six-pack abs, and anime is a good enough reason to learn Japanese!

2) You must be obsessed at least for a little while

If you want to get really good at something…not just two-week tourist good… but REALLY good at something (like if you want to understand an entire episode of Naruto without subtitles), make no mistake, a level of obsession will be required. Perhaps even border-lining on what would be considered crazy by average people. You have to be willing to at least do the following:

Study 2-4 hours a day
Do this every single day for 100 days3
Again, at least that much effort will be required. If you can manage that, you can pretty much master any skill you desire. Back to the obsession thing. Obsession sounds kind of extreme. All I’m really talking about is the focus. Here’s a small tip that’s often overlooked about focus:

Extreme focus can be attained through the exclusion of everything else.

So essentially remove as many distractions as you can, until only your goal remains.
So what does that mean in the context of learning Japanese? Here are some examples:

Delete all your English music, only Japanese music
No more English TV shows
Change your phone language to Japanese
Fill the first screen of your phone with Japanese learning apps
Notice the pattern? We’re removing the unneeded English in our lives, and turning them into more opportunities to learn Japanese! Setup up your environment so it’s almost impossible to not learn Japanese!

3) Believe Japanese is your birthright

Okay, this one sounds kind of weird, I know. Bear with me here.

In order to give something your all, you need to inherently believe that thing was made for you.

Believe it’s your destiny. You are the chosen one. Japanese chose you.

Okay that still sounds weird LOL

Sometimes the only difference between being able to do something or not is whether you actually believe it or not. So ask yourself:

Do you really think you can learn Japanese, or are you doubting yourself in the back of your head?
This core belief can effective your learning speed significantly.

If it helps, start thinking your great great great grandfather on your mother’s side was Japanese. You’re just claiming the motherland baby. You can do this. Learn the language.

Thanks for reading! This article was mostly focused on mindset, but if you want to start diving into some real Japanese study methods, check us out at and our Youtube Channel.

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