Learning from Videogames from the start

Hi there,

I would love to ask you all a simple question:
Is learning from videogames a good idea when you start japanese?

I’m studying from: Genki I; WaniKani, Shadowing and flash cards.
If I’ve free time on the weekend, is playing something like Persona 4 in Japanese a bad idea for beginners?

What I mean for playing:

  • Sit at my desk
  • Grammar book
  • Jisho
  • Notebook
  • Look for grammar unknown
  • 30 minutes

Why I’m wondering about this?
I totally learned english with videogames (I’m not a native). When I was 13 I was able to play videogames in english, also the harder one, using the dictionary here and there. At the start I was not even able to recognize “Start”, but with a lot of patience I mastered the videogames world in english.
Learning basic grammar became very easy.

Just by studying from english stuff, I’m having not a good time with japanese.
I think that studying japanese without thinking in japanese is slowing me down so much!

I’m curious about your idea of playing videogames in japanese… someone tried it?
It worked?

Thanks a lot mates!
Have a wonderful day!


First of all. Why not just try it and see if it works for you! :slight_smile:

My personal experience is that in the beginning it’s difficult because you haven’t really wrapped your head around the grammar yet.

Looking up grammar points doesn’t necessarily make you understand native-targetted sentences. There’s often a lot to unpack and every thing you have to look up adds uncertaintly, eventually that uncertaintly is big enough that you just can’t really be sure what it means.

At least for me, in the beginning, I would often fail to comprehend sentences and then when I came back months later I realized I “knew” both the words and the grammar points, but I just had to have more actual practice on easier things.

That said, again, why not just go ahead. You’ll notice quickly if it works or not I think!


I think Persona 4 is quite a monster to tackle for a beginner.
I tried a bit of Pokémon Let’s Go and could make out some sentences. Depends on who is the speaker.

Lately I checked out some episodes of Game Grammar’s Leafgreen playthrough and realized how much grammar there is, that I just don’t know yet. So yeah, in an easy game like that, I get the general idea, but much nuance is lost.


I don’t really recommend trying to play games in Japanese this early. I tried it before I finished Genki 2, and I had a really bad time. Even now, I’m around N3 (already studying N2 grammar but still learning N3 vocab) and I can barely play JP games comfortably. :open_mouth:
There’s a lot of grammar that is required, most of which you won’t learn until around N3. This is important because without some core fundamentals of grammar, you’ll have a lot of difficulties parsing the sentences, especially when there is slang involved that sentence parsers like ichi.moe might not be able to catch.
Also, if you’re that early in Japanese, there is a good chance that there will be several sentences where you can’t read a single word, which can be very disheartening. Also, for 30 minutes a day, you won’t be doing much playing at all, since that majority of that time will go to looking up words and grammar.

This being said, it’s not impossible! As others have said, it’s best if you just try it out yourself first. Good luck!


Ah, yeah I think so too.

What I found the most difficult were the amounts of slang used by Yosuke or Kanji… that stuff can also be pretty hard to look up.


I’ll add that I personally played through the first Suikoden game after having gone through Tae Kim and also practiced on some graded readers and read Yotsuba for a bit.

It was fine. I had to do a bunch of lookups but I could get through it.

Again: just give it a go. If you’re not there yet, give it another go later, eventually you will be. That’s what I did.


I know 30 minutes is not enough…
But If you want to play videogames in japanese you will never be able to do It without playing videogames in japanese!.

How many vocabs in videogames will be teached in japanese classes? Not that many I think…


Sure… but Persona is a “modern” game.
Vocabs are not so complex or medieval… that’s why I would like to.

Also the fact that is a japanese game, in Japan, with japanese life style in It… It’s more immersive.

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same. learned english through rpg games like mass effect and baldur’s gate.

Sadly i dont think japanese can be learned the same way… at least in beggining stages.
Every european language almost has the same identital grammatical stucture. Yes there are some special rules there and there in every lanaguge, but overall 95%+ of your time would be devoted to learning new words and you easily can pick up any grammar points in context.

But since japanese has compeltely diffirent sentence structure you really need to know at least preintermediate grammar, its very hard to learn it in context+ know kanji.
Ofc you can do it while playing game, but im afraid its going to become very daunting task quite fast.

i would advice learn at least core 1500-2000 words. Cover jlpt 5-4 grammar. And then you can start diving deep into native content with solid foundations. It can be done in 3-4 months if you are quite dedicated.
Im planning to do the same. Although i dont have currently interest in japanese games, so i probably going to start with japanese anime with japanese subtitles.


There isn’t that much of the language that is typical to just games. Apart from obvious words like save or load or settings or whatever. Maybe you might count “weapon” or “armor” or “equipment”, I dunno.

Like with anything, 90% will be the most common words, but those remaining 10% will be rather domain-specific

Like Persona 4 will have a lot of slang that could be difficult, and there’ll be a bunch of police terminology or news Japanese. Igor speaks very formally and uses a lot of big words, but none of it is specifically “game”-y to me.

You’d get the same shock from watching crime dramas och high school dramas or whatever.


Yeah, that is kinda cool.

Again, just give it a go. Might work out!

If not, it’ll give you a goal to work towards, either way you win! :slight_smile:


There is no right or wrong way to learn. If it’s something you can be passionate and consistent about: great!

I tried such a thing with a book from a very low level. It was… not successful for me personally. The amount of time and mental strain it took to feel like I understood 25% of just 1 sentence meant it was a drain and a hassle.

Personally I’d say, if you’re going to do this: be okay with potential failure. Accept that it might be fun and doable for you, or it will be a demoralising drag that you may have to drop after a while. That’s fine. Happens to very many of us.

For me, reading didn’t become sustainable enough until I had at least basic grammar, kanji and vocab knowledge, but that doesn’t have to be your experience!

As long as you don’t let yourself get so drained that you stop doing Japanese, trying out a video game can’t hurt at all!

I do agree with @crihak that slang can be a real hassle. I was never very successful at looking up slang and internet speak unless I did the searches in Japanese and read Japanese explanations about them.


For sure! Which is why I say it’s up to you whether you view this as good practice or not! I’m just warning you that it will be very difficult!

Well, a lot of video game vocabulary is still just normal vocabulary. You’ll definitely learn things like 戦う, 回復, 魔法, etc, if you use something like KameSame to learn vocabulary. The video game exclusive vocabulary will be easy to look up once you have grasp on all the other regular “advanced” vocabulary.


I personally found Tae Kim’s guide a pretty good jumping-off point for this though. He’d often show how things could be said in a sort of mangled vernacular fashion as well.


Interesting. ^^ I haven’t looked at Tae Kim’s stuff in a long, long time.

Now I mostly just put it to google, especially when it’s niche internet slang. Thank god there are Japanese people out there asking those questions. :joy:


If you are aware of the fact that you won’t understand a lot, it can still be fun. I learn Japanese every day for about 8 months now and I am a slow learner (Still havent completed N4 grammar). But playing a game that I already know in English (in my case Zelda: Breath of the Wild) is very motivating and refreshing. If you are happy with recognising snippets of things you learned, it can motivate you to keep going with your Japanese routine.
In my case it is less learning, than recognition of the few things I already know. I rarely look up things that are way over my head, only if it really really bugs me.
Games for me (as a beginner) aren’t learning tools, that would be too frustrating. I stick with WK, Bunpro and my textbook, but exposing myself to some Japanese content is exciting in itself and shows me where my goals lie.


I’m currently replaying it in Japanese (about 25h in) and my strategy was to have the English and Japanese script with audio as flashcards (I have it on my website, but you could probably use anki too) so that I can look stuff up if I don’t understand it and add the sentence to my study queue if I think its useful (new grammar etc).

I think it helps tremendously since P4 tends to be so colloquial. It’s great to compare scripts and see why the official translator translated a sentence as such.

When it leaked that P4G would come out on steam I stopped my playthrough and am now skipping back to the same point with the steam version :sweat_smile:

I will say that P4 will leave beginners stumped for sure. It’s a really difficult game to learn with if you dont have a solid grasp of Kanji and Grammar. I can give you some example sentences if you’d like so you can test yourself?

I think it is possible to learn from easier videogames as a beginner, but even then it’s like trying to plow through a brick wall until you have a basic grasp on the language. I also found that it takes away the joy of gaming when you constantly have to look things up. So I’d personally say wait a bit longer :smile:


Or you can check out this let’s play series.


Well… I’m not going to do this anyway at the moment.
Thanks all!

I would like to immerse myself in this language and not learn int this english-japanese way, but It seems almost impossible :frowning:


It IS possible, many people have done it before.

It’s just a matter of not quitting, some stuff WILL make more and more sense. :slight_smile: