Is music a good source for learning Japanese?

The catalog of music I listen to is 80% of Japanese of any kind of music and 20 is in other languages. What I love about Japanese music is that I think it offers a very deep and meaningful story or message I like to think that is not available in other languages I think.

What I am trying to ask is music a good source for learning Japanese? If so, what are effective ways in how to learn Japanese through songs or music? If no, please explain why.

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Well, there are things you can learn…but I wouldn’t say its too good ime. It doesn’t flow like a normal story or dialogue a lot of the time and sometimes there’s weird grammar that may just confuse you more if you’re not already at a decent level. There’s also stuff like how I see some adjectives in their き form in songs, but if you say 悲しき to a native you’ll get weird looks.

Theres things to be learned, of course, but I wouldn’t call it a “good” source considering the alternatives.

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I was listening to this podcast the other day, and it brought up Japanese music at one point:

In short, it mentions that Japanese music can do syllable stretching that you might not find in normal conversation.

Still, I’ve been having fun using karaoke videos to practice getting the language’s sounds out in at least some form, hahaha.

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Definitely don’t try to learn proper pronunciation from music. The mora/word lengths and pitches are often changed to fit in with the background music and would be completely wrong if used in regular speech.

Music is one good source in a balanced diet of Japanese language learning. It complements learning through other sources, but it’s not enough on it’s own.

I’m sure it’s not the best source, but why does everything have to be “the best”. It’s enjoyable. You’re more likely to do something that is enjoyable. Sometimes I feel like listening to music. Sometimes I feel like playing a game. Sometimes I feel like reading. Sometimes I feel like watching something.
Sometimes I feel like studying. They can all complement each other.

You get some exposure to potentially new vocabulary. (Follow up with looking up and studying things that you don’t know.) Lyrics are pretty readily available in some form. Sure there are differences from normal spoken Japanese, but you still get some practice with listening and pronunciation. The tune is kind of a mnemonic, and it’s easy to get repetition (especially in your downtime or when you’re otherwise occupied).


It’s good for vocabulary study. I print out the Japanese lyrics of my favorite songs so that I can practice reading Kanji and pick up some new vocabulary. I highlight the words and characters I don’t know then study them. It’s not a good source for grammar though.


Personally, one of my pet peeves is questions from beginners about song lyrics.

They are a very advanced area of any language, but beginners want to know how to translate them first.


It depends on your Japanese level. If you have to look up every word/grammar point in a song I’d imagine that isn’t as fun as understanding most of the Japanese up front. I’d put the cut off somewhere around 50% before it really feels “grindy”.

For me though, it’s wonderful. I’m a shameless TWICE fan, and their new Japanese album has taught me all sorts of new grammar and vocab. Similar to popular music in other countries, lots of popular Japanese songs are EXTREMELY catchy, which is great for your language learning. Print out the lyrics and follow along and you’ll be humming and singing Japanese in no time. Just find Japanese music that matches your level (TWICE is pretty easy) – I think music works best as reinforcement for grammar and occasional new vocab.


As in any language. As long as you realize that and keep it in mind I think it can still be helpful for pronunciation, in combination with other sources of learning.

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You don’t have to understand 100% to get something out of it. And how many times out of nowhere will a song pop into my head again and I pick it up again. And pick up new things from it, from other things learned recently. Or get inspired to look something up. Maybe some day 100%.


Agree, I think most would be lying if they said that they knew what song lyrics meant in their native language 100% of the time. Songs are more akin to poetry than standard prose

I completely agree – if you’re understanding 100% of something I’d argue you’re not learning anything, or at least not very much. I also like that you mentioned that it’s good in combination with other things!

For me though, I find that other methods of study (textbooks, NHK easy, free chat) are more enjoyable than trying to understand an entire song that is far above my Japanese level. The jump from 70% --> 100% understanding is a lot easier than 30% --> 100%. Japanese songs (similar to American songs) often have weird pronunciation and grammar present, adding to the difficulty. I love learning from music, but sometimes I hear songs I know are out of my depth. Other people may be more gung-ho than I am, but I’ll take other study methods over grinding through a really difficult song.

Yeah it’s pretty funny. Usually I’m not sure what songs in English are talking about most of the time. I have to take a second to consider the background of the musician, genre, time period, etc to make sense of what they’re saying. But interpreting art is a separate skill from just breaking apart the sounds, which is what I’m doing with the karaoke. Physically getting used to making my mouth do unfamiliar stuff, or being able to tune into and identify more quickly the unfamiliar sounds. It’s exercise! It’s fun! Plus there’s replay value. Maybe several years later you’ll have learned some more in-depth history of the subculture that music is from and you’ll realize that character in the song is a protest to blah blah or something. That’s when you know you’ve come a long way.

Personally music is a good way for me to remember vocabulary. If I hear it in a song I’m much more likely to remember a word somehow. As the others have said, pronunciation and grammar might be weird tho. Still, it works for me


Hear, hear. I can barely make sense of song lyrics in English.

I guess, to be fair, 見上げてごらん夜の星を is how I remember the word ごらん…

Right so, for example, it’s probably as good a source of learning Japanese as this is for learning English. I give you, the rap from Katy Perry’s Dark Horse. (I’m sure you all can come up with your own examples as well.)

She’s a beast
I call her Karma
She eat your heart out
Like Jeffrey Dahmer
Be careful
Try not to lead her on
Shawty’s heart was on steroids
'Cause her love was so strong

You may fall in love
When you meet her
If you get the chance you better keep her
She swears by it but if you break her heart
She turn cold as a freezer
That fairy tale ending with a knight in shining armor
She can be my Sleeping Beauty
I’m gon’ put her in a coma

Woo! Damn I think I love her
Shawty so bad
I’m sprung and I don’t care
She got me like a roller coaster
Turn the bedroom into a fair
Her love is like a drug
I was tryna hit it and quit it
But lil’ mama so dope
I messed around and got addicted

Vocab like: shawty, sprung, Jeffrey Dahmer. The term Dark Horse seems pretty obscure itself too.
Grammar like: “she eat”, “she turn”, “I’m gon’ put her”, “tryna”, “lil’”, “woo!”
Hey, but maybe you’re picking up cultural stuff that’s not taught in a texbook, IDK.

Keeping all that in mind… There’s still some value in it, as we’ve already been discussing. And if you enjoy it, and it helps you, then why not?

In other words, maybe it’ll help you get along better with the type of person who might listen to this stuff and not so much help you get along with a stuffy professor type person. Or boss. Or help you pass an interview and get hired. You might also sound as intelligent or rude or polite as your source. Bitch.

The best practice is the practice that you actually do.
I like listening to music all day long at work, so music is an easy point for me to get exposure to new vocabulary. A lot of Japanese pop is subtitled in live performance or karaoke, as well, so it’s not difficult to get exposure to written language, either. Also, I have no problem listening to the same song many times, whereas I very rarely want to repeat a TV show or movie. The hard part is actually looking the words up.


A very good example of this is hide’s Pink Spider. Depending on who is interpreting the lyrics beyond just a literal reading, some people say it’s an obvious song where he is foretelling that he was gonna commit suicide. Or X songs where even for the lead singer confessed in the We Are X movie that it took him years to realize that many of Yoshiki’s songs were written about death.

As what others say, music is really not great for grammar and the such. And yes, I also feel that translating Japanese lyrics to English is a bit much. There can be many translations for a single Japanese song… Same could be said of English songs… Lyrics are more similar to poems than text or dialogue maybe.

But music is still a great tool. Use it for vocabulary building and speeding up your listening skills. Reading the lyrics can also be good practice to go along your Wanikani. Just memorizing kanji and vocabulary can be mundane at times. Its good for a change in pace. 気分転換 And why not try picking up new vocabulary by playing music in the car or while cooking?

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