Learning from Videogames from the start

Of course… but when to start? How much grammar I need… that’s confusing.

I don’t agree with the fact that with european languages is easier because they’re similar.
I tried Deutsch language in the past… been really hard compared to japanese.

I know that keep pushing is the only way to learn, but It’s also true that If It’s totally useless compared to other methods… well It’s not worth It.
That’s why I asked for other people experiences.

I’ve to go out and try It… that’s the only way.


Personally I find let’s plays to be a nice place to start. Since you like games, chances are you’ll enjoy just watching, then you’ll start picking out words as you learn them.

I argued a bit for that method here and listed a bunch of my favorite Japanese let’s plays here!

I often start watching let’s play videos even before starting learning the language proper!


I’d say learn basic grammar and dive in. As long as you don’t care about understanding all of it. Immersion is an essential part of language learning. Learing some other things beforehand will just make your job a lot easier. My mother tongue is nothing like English, our schools give years of English education but general English knowledge is nowhere near good. I learned it by spending a lot of time with it and looking up words :d


I can assure it will be a frustrating experience. You’ll hate it if the text means much and you didn’t play this game before. I suggest finding a game that you either played before, or is not really dependent on text. Like minecraft, i’m sure you played minecraft. Or maybe terraria. Don’t even try visual novels if there’s literally no text you can read without stopping every sentence. But that’s my experience.


I’m playing Persona 4 in Japanese now. It’s not shy about using kanji even for words usually written in kana. And the grammar is diverse too. I saw JLPT N2 grammar for sure.

It’s definitely not a beginner level Japanese. I think I would’ve struggled with it even half a year ago after passing N3. Those WK levels after 40 are quite useful. I see kanji that I’ve recently learned in the game quite often.

So, yeah, playing games for Japanese practice is great but maybe pick an easer one than Persona. It’s pretty much a visual novel with some combat later on. First battles started happening after ~5 hours in.

P.S. there’s no furigana. Imagine looking up 90% of the kanji by writing them on a phone :scream:


Well… that’s perfect.
I’ll try with looking at let’s play.
Right now I’m following her she’s cool and slow talking.

For the “frustrating experience” … well I think no one can learn something like a new language without frustration. I’m a programmer, I live in “frustration mode” all the time.


P.S. there’s no furigana. Imagine looking up 90% of the kanji by writing them on a phone


Well… not doing It.

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Gaming grandma, I like it without even having seen the actual videos! :slight_smile:

As for P4, you could just watch the let’s play and soak up whatever you manage to soak up but I guess it might be boring with endless dialogue if you don’t understand that much of it.

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I recently started playing a visual novel with a text hooker so I can hover over any word I don’t recognize and look it up. I usually have to look up maybe 75% of the words I see (rough estimate, depends on the context), but it’s very rewarding when I recognize what a sentence means and can process it by myself.

I’d say that you need quite a bit of vocabulary, but the most important part is grammar; it’s easy to look up words and kanji, but it can be much harder to look up specific grammar when you don’t even know where to begin with a sentence.

I hadn’t studied any grammar when I started playing about a month ago, but I still had fun, and it still felt like I was making meaningful progress. Now, after going through all N5 grammar on bunpro and reading 1/4th of Tae Kim’s grammar guide, it’s gotten easier, but it’s still super hard. I frequently run into sentences that I can’t parse in the slightest because I simply don’t understand the conjugations or how the expressions fit together.

But if I were you, I’d just do it. Maybe not starting with Persona 4 as the others have said, but if you want to learn with games, the best way is to just find a game that seems interesting, and then start playing.

It’s going to be very, very hard no matter which game you pick, so the most important thing is that you have fun playing the game, otherwise it’s easy to get demotivated. I recommend visual novels simply for the ease of looking things up. It would be a shame to quit just because it’s clunky to find out what a word means.


I tried something sort of similar early on, reading a relatively slang-filled manga. Like many have mentioned, it is torturously difficult and tiring if you try early on. However, I also learned a ridiculous amount from doing it. So I think it can definitely be worth doing, but you just shouldn’t expect it to be fun for quite a long while. That said, things being fun make it much easier to study consistently so you have to balance the payoff with the costs and see if you can maintain it. For me, after a few weeks, I felt overwhelmed and took a break from reading until I knew a bit more, but I think it was a mistake. Anyway, like others have said, I would suggest trying it out for a week or two, seeing how it goes, and seeing if you can keep it going over an extended period of time. Good luck! :turtle: :upside_down_face:


I’ll just add that this is made at least a bit more feasible by a lot of it being voiced and there being a conversation log where you can replay old messages.

So you could potentially look them up by listening very closely for the spoken words.

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going to jump in here and echo that yes, if you’re a beginner you’ll probably face difficulties with games like P4. but if you really love P4, you’ll probably get a lot out of it! I think the key will be to just pick up what you can and accept that you won’t get everything on your first play through. but if you’re ok with only understanding 10-50% and looking up the rest, then go for it! It’ll be fun to see how much you pick up over time too. just remember to pace yourself so you don’t burn out.

my recommendation for games at your level though would be to look at a younger reading level. The Mother series, for example, is written mostly in hiragana and katakana since it’s aimed at a younger audience. But the writing of the game is full of jokes and unique dialogue, making it fun for adults too (and great for learning Japanese!)

Pokemon, Yokai Watch, etc. will also probably be at a similar level. I haven’t played Dragon Quest, but I bet it might fall into this category too. and since people have played a lot of these games when they were younger, you’ll probably start to notice references to them in other games or anime :slight_smile:

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If it motivates you then you should do it.

But if you ask me if it’s an effective method then I’d have to say it’s quite ineffective.

Reason being that text in a video game is not selectable.
This is an issue because you won’t be able to easily copy-paste into a dictionary, or copy it into any flash card system like anki/memrise/kitsun.

And if you are playing a AAA title on PC then you’ll have to alt-tab to get out of the game or have to use a separate phone/laptop/tablet to access a dictionary.

All in all it’s time consuming and hence not a very efficient use of your time spent in language learning.

But as I said in the beginning if it motives you to spend time using Japanese then I think you should do it.

Personally I’m going to keep gaming until the very end. I should mention that I still do spend quite a lot of time watching Japanese youtubers play video games, but I’m mostly listening to their commentary and following along.


Yeah, it is pretty useful, but only for voiced conversations.

Yeah, and those do get more sparse as the game goes on. But it might make it a bit more feasible.

When I played Suikoden I did look up a lot of kanji by selecting their component radicals in the dictionary app, but I was probably 20 or so levels in so I didn’t have to look up the most common ones.

I just kinda still feel like @Gentarozzo could give it a go and then come to their own decision rather than just give up before they got started… either by watching the videos or buying the game an then keeping it for later as an increased incentive.

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I actually do this. cough NieR Automata cough

I play through the game once in English so I have the gist of what’s going on. Then I switch EVERYTHING (not just audio or not just text) to Japanese interfacing. Then I “play” for however long I have by getting into the game with my dictionary in hand.

I have found it useful for:

  • Learning new words
  • Mixing up my learning in a fun (but definitely not simple) way
  • Helping me to immerse myself in the language
  • Making me put my knowledge and understanding to use

I’ve found it to be less useful in:

  • Teaching me grammar
  • Allowing me to listen to the natural way to talk
  • High productive learning (more time is spend trying to look up kanji than anything else)

Regardless, I enjoy it, and even if it isn’t the most productive way to supplement learning Japanese, no doubt it is helpful to some extent.

I recently found a Youtube channel that does Japanese let’s-plays and walks you through what is being said so you aren’t studying the game on your own.

Whatever you decide, good luck!


I don’t think it’s a yes/no kind of question.

I’d like to suggest something: remember the audience the game is for. P4 is probably for teenagers and older players so Japanese will scale accordingly.

You could make your life a lot easier by opting for games aimed at a younger audience.

I went to get you a screenshot from the Japanese version of ゼルダの伝説. As you can see sentences are short and furigana is always provided. This is probably as good as it gets for beginners.

If you want to jump the deep end go for P4 but it might test your resolve.


On PC, you can achieve copy-paste with combining things like Textractor and Chiitrans Lite, e.g. see this community post

However, I found it to be much more motivating to just play and slowly but steadily advance in the game with a dictionary on my mobile phone (I’m playing this game on PS4 now)

What I found is that even though it seemed horribly tedious and unconquerable at first, playing while keeping jisho.org at hand has turned out to be quite a fun activity in and of itself! There are times when it takes 5-10 minutes to decipher just one paragraph, then again sometimes I don’t need the dictionary at all for the easier sentences.
Upon coming across new words, hmm… (I know it sounds a bit lazy but) I don’t take any notes to study them later. If they do reappear multiple times they’ll begin to stick on their own.

So to sum it up, I agree with the others, @Gentarozzo you should definitely try it and see how it goes! :slight_smile:


So what do you think of something like

Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~

as game to start?

Is japanese with english translation below.
I’m scared that I will look at english all the time!

Would love to play Zelda in japanese, one of my favourite saga.
You know if the PAL version can use japanese text?

thanks a lot… so you just did It, without care about grammar, and for me, It’s a pretty good choice. Grammar won’t teach you a language, not more than vocabs and standard construct you can recognize just by doing.

Mother will be a nice choice for sure. Dragon Quest is a bit different and also lot of vocabs are not of my interest in It. Too many Fantasy Stuff for me.


For anyone who is playing, has played, or plans to play Persona 4 in Japanese… what console or method are you using? I was interested in this but the only method I could work out was buying a Japanese ps2.