Learning Japanese through music

Music is definitely a popular way to pass time for lots of people. Maybe you can relate to the simple pleasure of putting on that favourite Spotify playlist, the one that never fails to put you in a good mood

Always changing, always with new songs and albums to get stuck into. But did you know its also a really useful way to learn a language? Yes, your favourite band could help you pass those language exams and get fluent a lot quicker! Also, any students overlook how powerful music can be when it comes to learning. 

Getting to grips with pronunciation, remembering all the  tricky vocab, and picking up the trendiest slang words and phrases. Theres so many ways music can really help your language studies. You can also listen to whatever you want, as much as you want!

  1. The music of Japan
  2. Japanese music today
  3. How music can help you with language learning
  4. How to use music to learn Japanese
  5. More tips
  6. Our Japanese playlist
  7. Conclusion

The music of Japan

Music is a real gateway into culture – you can really learn a lot about a country from its music. Did you know that Japan has the second biggest music market in the world? Not only that, Japan also has a wide range of music genres, both traditional and modern. Listening to Japanese music is a great and fun way to learn more about the culture and history of an amazing country. 

When it comes to traditional Japanese music, the origins are generations old!

The Japanese have been playing unique instruments and performing for centuries. For example, gagaku, a type of orchestral court music that combines song and dance goes back to the 8th century! 

Lots of Japanese music is played on special Japanese instruments. theres wadaiko – a type of drum and also hichiriki – a type of flute. Theres also minyō folk music fisherman songs (think sea shantys but in Japanese), religious songs, childrens songs…the list goes on and on! Also, many of these incorporate traditional dance forms and musical styles that reflect unique Japanese customs and culture. And of course different regions have unique regional genres – like the music of Okinawa – one of the many islands of Japan. If youd like to learn more about traditional Japanese music, check out this article.

Learning Japanese through music

Japanese music today

In the 1800s, Western music finally arrived on Japanese shores and the music coming out of Japan started to really change. Today, you can also find Japanese tunes in almost every musical genre – from rock and R&B to heavy metal and electronic. There are also uniquely Japanese genres – like city pop, a type of pop music and visual kei, a branch of rock – with both genres gaining popularity in the 1980s. 

J-pop and J-rock are especially popular with fans and listeners from all over the world.

Idol music, yet another unique style of music, includes those boy bands and girl groups with lots of members and even more fans. Not to mention – theres anime music – all the theme songs and soundtracks from the best Japanese anime series. There is also hip-hop, rap and even grime – yes, really! Hikaru Utada, AKB48, Ayumi Hamasaki, X Japan and Exile are some of the biggest names today in Japanese music – and thats just the tip of the iceberg!

Learning Japanese through music

How music can help you with language learning

When it comes to language learning, music can help in endless ways. Theres listening skills and pronunciation – listening to natural Japanese repeatedly helps you get used to the various sounds of the language. Also, If youre a beginner, music is extra helpful to pick up those really subtle differences between Japanese sounds. Youll find your listening skills improving with each song! . And when you improve your listening, youll get better at making these sounds. So your pronunciation will improve too! The more you listen, the more you learn. Also, getting used to the natural rhythm and pace of spoken Japanese, will help you with speaking Japanese.

Then theres vocabulary – music is a much more fun and quicker way to memorise new Japanese words. Music is obviously easier to remember – catchy tunes and simple repetitive language should help new Japanese vocab stick. By exploring song lyrics, you can learn lots of new words. Especially those informal phrases and casual slang that youre less likely to find in your Japanese lessons. You can also pick up regional expressions – all of this can really boost your Japanese a lot quicker and help you pass language exams. All while having fun doing it!

Theres also research to back the idea of music in learning – studies have shown how music can accelerate language learning.  Other research has shown singing and music can help with language learning – with learners who use music doing better in language exams. Read on for more tips on how to prepare for language exams from our Learn&Co team.

Learning Japanese through music

How to use music to learn Japanese

Want to know how to use music in your language studies? Weve got some great tips for you, whatever your language level! One way you can use music is by taking a closer look at song lyrics. You also might want to try reviewing Japanese lyrics with a Learn&Co tutor, avoiding any unreliable song translations online. Engage online language tutors and use music to learn Japanese, turning catchy tunes into effective linguistic lessons.

When it comes to choosing what kind of music, the catchier they are to you the better. Whats more, you can try making notes on what you find. Any new words or expressions? Use the internet to find answers to your questions, from Reddit to Google to language forums. Theres also online dictionaries too – check them out! Keep notes of the new words you’ve learnt and try using them in your own writing. If you’re a more dedicated fan, the internet also can help you connect with other fans. There’s a huge worldwide fan base so it’s really easy to immerse yourself in the world of Japanese popular culture.

Learning Japanese through music

More tips

Try not to get ahead of yourself – keep your language level in mind. Are you a beginner Japanese learner? Therefore, stick to songs with clear pronunciation, simple language and slower melodies – check out our list below! This will also help you remember the words and phrases for longer. It’s a good idea to listen to the Japanese versions of songs that you already know – even children’s songs or movie soundtracks are a great place to start. You can easily find these versions online and they really help you get used to Japanese music. 

Repetition is key - listen to the song once, trying to pick out any words you already know.

Repeat this but this time try to identify different parts of the song, the bridge, chorus, any parts that are repeated. Also, by repeating songs like this, you can eventually master all the sounds and words. Its a great technique that can improve listening and reading skills at the same time! Feel free to sing along and have fun with it!

Learning Japanese through music

Our Japanese playlist

I hope you find these tips useful in your Japanese learning and begin to use music in your own studies. It shouldnt take long to find the kind of music that really appeals to you, as you discover artist after artist. Music can definitely help you on your way to fluency – and why not start with some of our recommended songs? Also, for more on our Learn&Co courses, check out our website as well at this this article from our Learn&Co team thait shares tips on using music to learn language!