Increasing Japanese Vocabulary: JDramas

Increasing Japanese Vocabulary: JDramas

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  1. When studying the Japanese language, or any language for that matter, one of the greatest challenges faced by students is increasing relevant vocabulary.  Especially for older students, and those in or entering professional careers, having usable vocabulary, and knowing how to properly apply it, can be vital.

    Unfortunately, the majority of text books and study tools focus on younger learners and often fail to introduce such vital "grown-up" vocabulary and usage.  Even if one has an excellent dictionary, learning the words is often not enough in Japanese, one needs to learn the proper usage of the words.

    One way to increase vocabulary in a relevant way is to find Japanese Dramas (JDramas) that focus on topics and people related to your particular career field or focus.  For some, this can be quite simple, but for many it may be difficult until you get the hang of it, especially if searching the internet in English only.  This is not to say it is impossible, simply that it may take some time and patience.

    Forensic Vocabulary

    As a graduate student of forensic psychology and one who continually tries to advance her Japanese, I have faced considerable difficulty finding relevant vocabulary tools for my field, and even if I learned the words, I may not inherently know the proper usage or application.  One of the greatest JDramas for this so far is ミスターブレイン(Mr. Brain) starring Takuya Kimura, famous for his long-time role in the all-male JPop group SMAP.

    Mr. Brain focuses on a neuroscientist, so there is a significant amount of vocabulary involving neural activity, processes, behaviors, emotions, instincts, and so forth.  Additionally, he works for the Institute of Police Science, a national organization in Japan that specializes in research and proposed application of improved techniques for all police and law enforcement activities.  (Just a note, this is a federal job in Japan and they will not hire you if you are not a Japanese citizen.)

    The Method:

    1. First, watch the episodes.  You can either watch them one at a time and run through these steps for each episode, or watch the complete show then go back and apply these steps to the show as a whole entity.  You may watch with or without subtitles, if given the option.
    2. Second, re-watch the episodes taking time to pause and write down words, phrases, or anything that you didn’t know that seemed relevant to you, personally.  This becomes very time-consuming if your Japanese skills are still developing, but the extra effort pays off.  You watched the episodes first, then re-watch so that you already understand what is going on.  Using subtitles during this step can help make grabbing important vocabulary easier, as can using an electronic dictionary incase you hear words incorrectly, but can get the spelling close.
    3. Third, study the proper usage of the new vocabulary as it is used in the show.  In Mr. Brain the dialogue switches from casual to formal because parts of the episodes are in a professional environment (e.g. the labs, the police departments) and between colleagues or with subordinates there is a lot of casual language.  If you understand the formality levels, then you can adjust the statements and phrases as needed for your own practice.  If you are unsure of how to use the new vocabulary, take the sentences right from the show and use these as your examples.

    Examples of Forensic Psychology Vocabulary

    The following examples were obtained from the JDrama Mr. Brain, and are meant as examples of how one can build relevant vocabulary.  These are but a few of the vocabulary words one can gain from this type of show, and depending on your current Japanese level you may learn anywhere from 5-10 to well over 100 new words per episode.  In this instance, Mr. Brain is relevant for me because I am a Forensic Psychology graduate student, so this vocabulary may also be useful for other forensic professionals or law enforcement professionals, but probably not so much for those in fields such as history or engineering.

    警視庁  (けいしちょう)    Metropolitan Police Department

    勘          (かん)        sixth sense, intuition

    鑑識   (かんしき)      criminal investigation, forensics

    鑑識課  (かんしきか)        a crime lab

    白状   (はくじょう)     a confession

    脳科学  (のうかがく)        neuroscience

    左脳   (さのう)       left brain

    右脳   (うのう)       right brain

    神経細胞 (しんけいさいぼう)neuron, nerve cell

    究極の犯罪(きゅうきょくのはんざい)the ultimate crime

    殺人   (さつじん)      murder, homicide

    殺人事件 (さつじんじけん)   a murder case

    死角   (しかく)                   a blind spot



    記憶障害 (きおくしょうがい)defect of memory, amnesia

    健忘症  (けんぼうしょう) amnesia, memory loss

    大脳   (だいのう)      cerebrum

    大脳皮質 (だいのうひしつ)   the cortex, cortical layer

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