Learning Japanese through games, How To

Hey community !

I decided I’m going to spice up a bit the way I learn Japanese.
There’s this game, Trails of Cold Steel 4 which is only japan-released as of now, and I’m going to order it and play through it all.

This raises the question : How ?
It’s a really text-heavy based game, with dialogues some times light, some times really heavy with politics and stuff happening.

I make my mission to translate for myself everything before going to the next action. Translate every menu, every item name, and speak to every freaking pnj in existence and understand all the freak they want to talk to me about.

So I come here with a question, kinda, how should I approach it ? I’m going to be exposed to a very great deal of unlearned kanjis, vocab, and all. I need a way to quickly find what word is what, and if possible, I would like to be able to keep each vocab/kanji I get presented with somewhere with it’s translation so I can learn them and also don’t have to make the same research twice once I got the translation once.

I ask you community, which tools would you use ? What can I do to :

  1. Quickly find what kanji/vocab I am looking at.
  2. Finding the translation
  3. Add the kanji/vocab + translation somewhere so I can find it back easily if needed.
  4. In a perfect world, maybe even quizz myself with the knowledge found, wanikani style, so I can memorize most of it ?

I need you help.


Using Anki, I believe you can make your own deck of words that you’ve learned! You can use that to review. Torii also allows you to add your own custom words.

As for quickly looking up words and saving them, an app that I that I like to use on android is Jsho (That’s not a typo, promise!). You can bookmark words and even look up words that also have the same kanji in it. I use Google’s Gboard Japanese writing keyboard to help me look up kanji I’m unfamiliar with, or you can look kanji up by radical (which I think can be slower than drawing it out on my phone.)

I wouldn’t recommend reviewing every single vocab word WK style personally, because depending on your level, you’ll very quickly drown yourself in new vocabulary, which can be extremely demoralizing. Having a separate deck/list of common menu words, in universe phrases, and other common game words should be enough to get you started!

Other advice: If the game is voiced, be sure to keep the voice acting and subtitles both on which will help you to follow along.

I’ve played several games in Japanese and some games are more difficult to play than others, Generally, I stick to rated ESRB E-T games because the vocabulary in those tend to be less difficult. M+ games tend to have more complex writing, and have more kanji in general.


OK, so Googling the game I see it’s on PS4, PS3 and Vita. I’m going to assume (and hope) you’re playing on PS4. If that’s the case you can stream it to your PC using either the official app, or a third party one called Chiaki. Once you have the game on your PC screen you can use OCR to read the characters with a pretty good level of accuracy.

You can set up ShareX to do OCR if you’re on Windows. Set up a ShareX hotkey to OCR a box then copy the result to the clipboard, then set up a clipboard inserter to put anything copied onto the clipboard into a webpage. You can then use Yomichan to instantly look up words in various dictionaries. For a pretty decent setup with most of this, follow this guide, specifically the Anki setup, ShareX setup, Yomichan setup, and the text inserter part of the VN section.

As for remembering things in the long run, I’d follow some rules somewhat like this:

  1. If you are going to remember a word anyway, don’t do anything. For example you cannot play Persona in Japanese and not learn the word 弱点 because it gets yelled around 10 times per fight. It’s obviously not worth putting any study into these words.
  2. If the word is very uncommon, ignore it. In Yomichan you can set up a dictionary file called Innocent Corpus, which will tell you the frequency of any given word based on its occurrence rate over 5000 novels. If this number is over 10k it’s probably common enough to worry about.
  3. When choosing sentences to make cards for, only use sentences you can completely understand given the meaning of the one missing word (i+1). This means you can use the sentence as a usage example in your mind, and begin to actually acquire that word. If you are struggling with the rest of the sentence it won’t be comprehensible input and you won’t learn well.
  4. Don’t learn too many words a day. At first you might even need to have a higher frequency cutoff than 10k to reasonably test yourself. I’d say start with a 20 words / day limit and adjust up / down based on your review load. Maybe even drop that to 10 if you’re going to keep up with Wanikani too.

Hope this helps give you a basic idea of one route you could take, there’s certainly a lot of options, but I feel this method will get you a long way.


I make my mission to translate for myself everything before going to the next action.

Just to clarify, if you’re translating it must be by first understanding the meaning in Japanese, and then translating that meaning into English. If you’re doing any kind of piecemeal translations, especially when it comes to grammar, try to stop that as much as possible.

Also sometimes it might not be worth your time to spend too long on one thing. If an NPC uses 5 low frequency words you don’t know or something, just forget about them for now. If it’s essential to the story and too hard ask a Japanese person or use MTL to get past it (but don’t rely on MTL to have any accuracy). It is more important to get to the next comprehensible input that to linger on stuff you can’t understand.


Interesting thread. Once I reach WK Level 20 and somewhere between N4-N3 grammar I plan to do this with Pokemon Sword/Shield. I’m sure there’s more efficient ways to learn, but this seems like a nice way to treat myself and stay motivated.

So far my plan is to just translate everything in the game. Like if the initial bit of plot development/tutorial at the start of the game takes me a week to finish this way, then that’s just how it is.

For new vocab that I feel could be useful to learn, I’ll make a new Anki deck that releases a fairly small number of new cards - maybe 5 or 10 - a day. For vocab that seems way too uncommon to be useful for my current level of Japanese, I’ll just translate it once but don’t commit to learning it.


I made a quick Youtube demonstration showing some of the ideas I mentioned here.

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Your replies are really noteworthy ! Thank you !
I will do my research about the various methods/tools you gave me and give you my feedback along the way ^^

Yes I’ll be playing on PS4, and I agree with the whole mentality you spoke of rilwal, will do my best :slight_smile:


I used an android app called Jsho (not Jisho for some reason) to look up any word I didn’t know. It can search for kanji by radical.

It can also export the word to anki so you can quiz yourself on it

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I am also playing Sen4 right now XD! (I suppose a lot are, who have finished Sen3 XD)

I am creating an Aniki deck with the words I am unfamiliar with as well, only for Sen vocabulary. And there are a lot in the beginning… Wanikani sadly does not teach the kanji for the Great Twilight after all XD! So 黄昏 was the first word I learnt by heart XDDD!.. and because a lot of them have been introduced in the previous games, furigana are not always there. So the only way is to look kanji up the good old way: radicals and counting strokes.

You know there is a translated spreadsheet available? For now I just play the game, take notes of kanji I am unfamiliar with, but mainly try to concentrate on the gist of the story, because translating everything one by one would probably mean I would not be done with chapter 2 by the time the official release will be out.
From time to time I compare what I understood from the story with the spreadsheet (though mind you, the translation is rather freely, so there are also some mistakes!) and honestly I was surprised I could follow the story rather well so far. Much more than the first time I had played it, and it really gave me a lot of motivation to stick with my study routine regarding kanji and grammar.

My biggest problems actually are the different dialects some characters use. Rean is luckily rather easy to understand, but others can be a challenge. Also some use rather old words, especially the nobles (yeah, calling out Jusis now… his language is such a pain), so honestly be ready for some real headaches when you come across them.

“Luckily” there are a lot of Katakana words regarding the arts, so it’s a different kind of evilness you have to face. オーダー for orders and so on… reading them out loud is embarrassing, but helps figuring out what it means. But fighting is luckily rather easy because it’s similar to Sen3.

I was really scared when I first played it, because back then I had not used Japanese in years and I was really rusty, but even then I always wanted to enjoy the game. So as long as you do not lose that, it is very beneficial. Studying with Japanese games is most efficient for me, because it’s something I really love and when I am fully motivated to learn, it sticks with me… even if it’s vocabulary like the Great Twilight or warship… and thanks to Jusis’ kanji usage, I have already learnt kanji from the 40-levels… so yay!

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Keep in mind that there’s a difference between understanding and translating. If you really want to translate the game, that’s going to be a heck of a lot of work and requires a lot more research and looking up words, since translation requires that you (ideally at least) understand 100% of the content, including the nuance, and are making a decision on how best to express that in your native language. Playing to understand, on the other hand, is a lot less demanding because you can understand only as much as you’re comfortable with. You can skip sentences if they’re too hard, you can pass over that one kanji you spent 15 minutes trying to radical search, because it’s okay if you don’t understand 100% as long as you understand enough to enjoy the game and follow the story.

Also I would say from experience that the more time you spend looking up words, the less fun you’re going to have. It’s a trade-off between learning and enjoying the game, but I think you should try and get to a point where you’re comfortable with reading game dialogue (and not to mention menus) before you attempt a translation. Just my opinion, I hope you have fun with the game. Personally, I still have to finish the third game - I have the Japanese version and I recently bought the English version but I haven’t gotten around to it either way. :sweat_smile:

I think their intention is understanding rather than literally translating the game. It sounds more like they want to be able to know exactly what’s being said in the dialogue/menus rather than the “I get the gist of what’s going on” sort of comprehension.

I’m using Akebi on Android for looking up words. You can either draw the kanji and kana or search by radicals. It also supports Anki export (with example sentences if there are any).
Gotta admit, Akebi was SUPER handy when I played Nier: Replicant. Especially the search by drawing feature. Saved me a lot of time.

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