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Learning Japanese From Video Games?

With region codes being removed from a lot of the games and game systems, it has become easier than ever to get copies of Japanese games. The big question however, is do games make good tools for practicing Japanese?

In the past I would have generally said “not really”. Not for me at least. If you have subtitles enabled you can get practice reading kanji, but since I was in a rush to actually play the game, I generally tend to skip most of it. Most games also have voice overs, but similar to anime, the acting is very far from actual speaking. I am sorry to disappoint, but people just don’t talk like that in real life.

So in the past I would have said that video games might possibly make average Japanese study tools (if you are diligent enough to sit through all the text and cut scenes).

Using games to speak to native Japanese speakers

However, there is one aspect of gaming that I think can help you practice your Japanese, online gaming.

Now I will admit I don’t really do online gaming. I just don’t play enough to try and play online. However, at the end of last year, Modern Warfare 2 came out. My brother liked it so much he sent me a copy, along with a mic, and told me I had to get online with him and play.

Eventually, I started playing online when my brother wasn’t playing. It may because I am located in Japan, but many of the people I end up playing with are also located in Japan.

To be honest, I am not really interested in talking when I play a game. I set the headset aside so I don’t have to listen and can just enjoy the game.

However, for someone who is interested in practicing Japanese, it seems like it would be a great chance. While you aren’t going to have deep conversations, you will at least get to practice some common Japanese greetings and basic commands for helping each other out in the game. You might even be able to make a few friends a long the way.

Proper etiquette

Of course you have to be a little careful on how you approach this. Don’t just start trying to talk to anyone and everyone that is Japanese and has a mic. Remember that everyone is there to play a game, not teach a Japanese lesson.

The following tips should help you practice Japanese and meet some new people without becoming an annoyance.

  • Try to keep the conversation focused on the game.
  • If they seem hesitant to speak with you don’t try to hard.
  • Refrain from asking too personal of questions. Unless they ask you first. (Remember other people can hear)
  • If you want to add them as a friend, ask them first. They will be more likely to accept.
  • Only talk when necessary. Remember everyone is there to play game.
  • If you do get a good conversation going, remember to show interest in them (don’t get lost in learning Japanese).

In the end, I think that online gaming communities can be a unique place to practice Japanese. You know you have some similar interests, the conversation topic is already chosen, and if you end up on the same team, you have a great reason to communicate.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. If you have already tried it please leave a comment and let me know how it went.

P.S. I am looking for a new PS3 controller. Any recommendations?

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