An Easy Way to Learn Japanese (Panda Cubed’s Panel @ Anime Vegas)

The friendly know-it-alls at Panda Cubed will tell you what is what!

While no single panel at any convention could ever teach a native English speaker Japanese within an hour (especially not a scatterbrained “AmeriFinn” like me), Panda Cubed’s panel at Anime Vegas, Japanese the Easy Way offered up extremely helpful tips, advice, and resources to allow even the most feeble minds the opportunity to overcome their lacking language skills and become proficient writers, speakers and readers.

Panda Cubed's representative shares the truth about learning Japanese

Panda Cubed began the panel with a quick run-through on general tips;

  • don’t depend on anime/manga: most characters speak with a peculiar dialect and use tons of slang that would be improper to use outside of the manga/anime world.
  • if all you want to do is speak Japanese (and not write or read) then take a beginner’s college course: it’ll teach you the basics and you’ll most likely be able to pick up cues to move on your own.
  • if complete fluency is what you desire, be prepared to spend the rest of your life studying Japanese.
  • Japanese is completely different from English, if you aren’t up for an eternity figuring out a language, try something closer to English.

Panda Cubed’s offered the best and most fun advice, “if you ever plan on going to Japan (or) want to make learning easier and faster, buy a DS!” Their recommended DS games included My Japanese Coach and Beautiful Kanji Training along with Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten. When someone says, “the best way to learn is to play video games” I’m certainly not going to say different though be forewarned; DS educational games tend to require at least a bit of prior knowledge in order to pass the first round of a “beginner’s level”.

If learning Japanese (kanji) via manga is of utmost importance Panda Cubed suggested Kanji de Manga (a Manga University publication). If it’s just a matter of familiarity which is needed, Panda Cubed suggested childrens books along with the Japanese version of Disney movies as they are strict concerning propriety as well diligent in their translations. Panda Cubed did warn, “all of your favorite movies will be annoying to watch in Japanese as many nuanced meanings will be lost in translation.”

The Q and A segment allowed Panda Cubed to go into some very important information for any wannabe-Japanese-speaker to know concerning social manners;

  • there is an important difference in the way a male and female speaks Japanese. A female can get away with mistakes, it’ll be seen as “cute” but a male should take heed. It’s best to learn Japanese (if being taught face-to-face) from a person of the same gender.
  • Native Japanese do not have a definite way of saying “no”. Don’t be pushy when searching for a speaking partner. Try a language exchange site like lang-8.com instead.
  • Read up on culture differences if you plan on going to Japan. If you are doing an exchange program, you don’t have to know any Japanese to get by when you first arrive. You’ll learn as you go and your exchange group will all speak English and help you out.
  • Decent reading materials concerning culture in Japan would be Culture Shock! Japan by Reiko Makiuchi, Learning to Bow by Bruce Feiler, and The Empty Chair by Jeffery Deaver.
  • If you are a meat eater, you smell. In a vegetarian-based society, meat-eaters have a certain unpleasant stench to them. To not offend the noses of those you meat overseas, try vegetarianism for 4 months before you go.

After just an hour, I feel far more prepared to (re)attempt learning Japanese. I’m a bit disappointed that all my attempts to learn from anime and manga were in vain, though with all this great info I’m sure even I can master the complex Japanese language.

For materials to aid in your studies Panda Cubed recommends the following websites; Amazon Japan JBOX Lang8 Learn Japanese Pod Guide to Japanese (grammar) Text Fugu

*Panda Cubed travels around the United States, visiting conventions and holding panels to share a wealth of information. To learn more about Panda Cubed, their travels and their panels visit Panda3.

7 thoughts on “An Easy Way to Learn Japanese (Panda Cubed’s Panel @ Anime Vegas)”

  1. I eat, therefore I smell. This article makes me want to cry… I SHALL NEVER LEAVE YOU NIKU-CHAN!!!
    Also, what a great article for links to resources – much appreciated! I wouldn’t mind hitting up one of these panels someday.

  2. I didn’t know DS had Japanese learning games! I only knew they had Love Plus.

    Well, Panda Cubed is making some mistakes about Japanese, so there are some corrections need to be made.

    Most manga/anime does speak standard Japanese (Tokyo). It’s just some onomatopoeia like “kyun kyun, uguu, unyuu, hauu.” Actually seiyuu has the most beautiful way of speaking. Most Japanese can’t speak as clear as seiyuu. They speak the most proper one. So it’s great to imitate them.

    So I don’t think anime has a peculiar dialect. The only anime I know completely done in a dialect is Lovely Complex, characters spoke in Osaka dialect. But they didn’t use Osaka slang that much, so every Japanese can understand it.

    Female way of speaking is not “mistake.” We don’t call Ebonics “mistake” or “corrupt English.” Female language itself is correct. In turn, do American girls and boys talk differently? I can’t really tell.

    The biggest mistake Panda Cube made was that Japan is a vegetarian-based society. No, it isn’t. Their cuisine is pretty much Westernized, so they eat meat, fish, and ice creams. Moreover, they used to eat whales.

    I would say the best way to learn Japanese is live in Japan.

    Why is Panda Cubed spreading false information about Japanese? Panda is not from Japan but China. So, it’s China’s conspiracy to discourage people from learning Japanese, so they can promote Chinese instead.

    1. Hah, yes… the Japanese have released more games than just romantic visual novels. (Though I’m sure those can teach you plenty as well!)

      Concerning Japanese within Manga/Anime, I really have no way of knowing the difference between proper and stylized speaking. I think this is important to note, as many beginners (such as myself) wouldn’t be able to tell the difference within language used in entertainment media. I think this was where Panda3 was coming from when they said, “Don’t bother” because a beginner wouldn’t be able to figure out what is appropriate and what is not. Also, if one takes notice of what is typically the first phrases learned of any language, it tends to be whatever is said with emphasis and is heavily repeated. This tends to be slang and odd dialect for any language. (Curse words being the best example. Most people can curse in several languages even if they know nothing else of those languages.)

      Concerning female versus male forms of speaking: YES, in English there is a different way of speaking for men and women. While American’s like to pretend that everything concerning sexes is equal, this isn’t true. It’s slight and nuanced on many occasions but there is a difference.

      Panda3 did NOT say that the female way of speaking is a “mistake”, merely that a mistake can be made for beginner’s learning Japanese and a person of one gender can easily speak like the other gender on accident, which would be considered a “mistake” if it was unintended as it would be if one were to do it on accident.

      Concerning “vegetarian-based diets”: this phrase does NOT mean that all of Japan is vegetarian. It merely means that compared to other cultures (American, for example) the people of Japan DO have a diet which is vegetarian based in that they don’t eat nearly as much meat and most meals consist much of plant-based foods. I think this was my micommunication of what Panda3’s rep said as she did state as an afterword that they also eat plenty of fish (which many consider “vegetarian” for some reason.) Milk is vegetarian by all standards. (If it was stated that Japanese were Vegan (the term “based” thrown in or not) I would have laughed and said, “Oooh, no. Not even.” That was not the case and it was merely expressed that the Japanese culture is based far more on natural plant type foods rather than on the flesh of animals. (Excluding fish.) Of course, I’m not from Japan nor have I ever been, so for all I know they are pounding down burgers and steaks like a sterotypical American is.

      As for the scent of a non-vegetarian and a Japanese’s repulsion towards them, this I am iffy about as well. When I was a vegetarian for 11+ years, I can honestly say that YES, meat-eaters have a scent to them and I could identify what it was they ate. (Chicken, beef, etc… people really do smell like what they eat.) Was I disgusted by the smell? No, it didn’t smell bad to me. It was just an identifying scent and not anything more. (Then again, I tend not to be off-put my many scents, but I think I’m more analytical than the general public concerning smell and I know that many vegetarians are sickened by the smell.) Someone who eats a lot (daily in large quantities) of meat really does smell very different from even someone who only eats a small portion (daily or not).

      I didn’t know they used to eat whales. I thought that was more typical of cultures from far-northern regions. (Cool fact, thanks :) )

      Panda3 doesn’t seem to be spreading false rumors, I think it’s more my hastily written article that may have misled the meanings. They also have not much to do with China, despite the fact that Pandas happen to be from China.

      I must say, my former roommate (from China) did constantly joke with me that I should give up my love of Japanese culture (okay he said, “Stop being a weeaboo”) and to learn Mandarin and Cantonese and to move to China and teach English so you may have some truth to your last statement. (Lolz.)

      1. @shika

        Thank you very much for clarification, I felt like reading another article. I just merely wanted to point out that anime is actually a very good learning tool since Seiyuu speaks the most beautifully and the most articulating.

        That’s true. The first English curse word I learned was “Fuck you asshole” from the Terminator. I was imitating his accent before coming to USA. So, you know what happened after moving here. In turn, the first proper English phrase I learned in school was “This is a pen.”

        I see, girls talk differently from boys in America. But grammatically, it’s the same, like “This is a pen” whether formal or informal. No change. So it’s hard to tell. Maybe intonations different? AnimeDiet is a good place to learn American culture for me, so I’m always asking people about America.

        In Japanese, formal way is “kore wa pen desu.” But in informal way, boys say “kore wa pen da,” and girls say “kore wa pen dawa.” Maybe a moe character says “kore wa pen deshuu.” Hideyoshi says “kore wa pen ja,” a very old way. So, it’s very distinctive.

        It could be said that Japanese food is more vegetable-based compare to American food instead of “vegetarian-based.” Yes, the Japanese diet is more balanced, not like Americans, eating mainly french fries for vegetables, causing obese epidemic. India can be more vegetarian-based though. Until the late 19 century, the Japanese could be “pesco-vegetariat” since meat-eating was taboo (though chicken was ok). Perhaps they thought whales were fish, since the Chinese character for “whale” has a fish symbol in it. Yes, whale-hunting can be traced back to more than 8000 years ago, when the Jomon people were inhabiting the Japanese islands.

        You were a vegetarian for 11 years??? Wow… I didn’t know meat-eaters have a distinctive scent. That’s very interesting! Here, we drive. So I don’t get to be around people. But in Tokyo, subways were overcrowded, so people were very smell sensitive. We could immediately tell if someone ate Korean bbq, that garlic stench was unbearable in that confined space. And also Japanese taste tends to be milder, using less spices and condiments, thus less smell from the body. So, yes, it might be a good idea to reduce meat consumption before going to Japan, especially Tokyo.

        In turn, can you tell if someone eats fish? I can’t tell. I didn’t smell anybody fishy when I was in Tokyo. Maybe because they drink tea? Yeah, I just recently became a vegetarian, well no…not really. I tell people I’m a vegetarian because I don’t eat meat, but actually I barely eat vegetables too. Probably I’m rather smelling like instant noodle or cup-ramen. Should I call myself “cup-ramenarian”? Cup-ramenman?

        Haha. That’s funny. Yeah, China has just surpassed Japan this year economically. Now they’re No 2 just after USA both economically and militarily. Their ambition to be the new ruler of the new world order is even more facilitated. Their next step is to conquer the cultural frontier. So, now they’re trying to panda-cube us. AnimeVegas was just a beginning of their grand plan!

  3. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Panda Cubed is part of any conspiracy, but there are indeed some minor details that might be disputed. As LaMoe briefly mentioned, how far astray manga and anime go in terms of taking liberties with the language varies by mangaka. Furthermore, in going from manga to anime, a series is often run through certain standardizations (Japanese TV language is typically very polite and formally correct.)

    That said, many people (even Japanese) have this perception of anime and manga: it was said of Taro Aso that his Japanese language skills were subpar because he liked manga (and not, say, because he spent a ton of time training to be an Olympic athlete instead of studying grammar.) We might call that a common misconception that Panda Cubed is unwittingly perpetuating.

    Details aside, I think most people will find the resources very useful. Good catch!

    1. @moritheil

      Panda is from China. In turn, Tanuki is from Japan. So, they should have named Tanuki Cubed. But Tanuki is too graphic to show in sexually uptight USA, the bad example is a Studio Ghibli’s work.

      Manga is also pretty standard because it’s marketed toward all Japanese. Otherwise, we won’t know what they are talking if they use authentic dialects. Even if they use, it’s still standardized for all Japanese audience.

      You know Aso was an Olympic athlete for clay shooting? That’s cool! They said the same thing about Koizumi. He was so much into X-Japan that he was dumb. People around him said he couldn’t carry any intellectual conversation. Reagan was also called dumb because he was an actor. Too bad that the entertainment industry is looked down upon. I remember PTA told us if we read manga or watch TV and play video games, we would be dumb. But these boneheads were wrong. Look at AnimeDiet people like you, Mori. You guys are all intellectuals, far more educated and cultured than empty-head teachers from my compulsory education years in Japan.

  4. Haven’t really read the article but I passed JLPT4 with just the genki books and renshuu.org (best fucking website ever). Going for JLPT3 next year… ah, make that N4.

    Not really sure how going to amazon.co.jp is supposed to help you….

Leave a Reply