I kind of have the impression that most Japanese learners on my flist are way ahead of me, with a few additional people who are still on the hiragana and katakana, so things that I (upper beginner, lower intermediate, ish) find useful might really be useful to nobody but me, but just in case, I have been meaning to mention two things I watched / have been watching recently that I found really useful (and enjoyable) for Japanese practice.
1) I watched Nihonjin no Shiranai Nihongo
, in Japanese with Japanese subtitles. This is a half-hour comedy about a quirky, unusual teacher (yes, really) ending up teaching the class full of weirdos (yes, yes, really) at a Japanese language school for foreigners (new!), where she tries to get them all to graduate together (YES, REALLY).
The plots are nothing special and you've heard all of the tropes before, but because it's only half an hour long, I found that didn't really matter. What I found cool on the language level was that it was fairly easy to understand; partly because, well, we know all the tropes, but also partly because the foreigners speak fairly clear and slower Japanese. It also usually opens with some actual 'history of Japanese' teaching, which I found interesting just on that level. (For example, there is a classroom scene where they talk about why all sorts of green shit is called BLUE in Japanese, and one plot revolves around the proper use of keigo.)
The foreigners are basically a bunch of Japan otakus/weeaboos, and the show pokes some fun at them, but in a benign and friendly way that I found sweet rather than cringe-worthy. It is a little bit racist but actually a lot LESS than I expected. (Don't let the first scene with the black dude mislead you, it gets much more nuanced.)
It helps if you find Naka Riisa, who plays the teacher, as charming as I do, but, really, in terms of language learning, this was one of the cooler series I've checked out recently.
2) A while ago, I downloaded the first episode of Nihongo no kurasou
. I downloaded it mainly based on the title, for random curiosity, and then when I first checked out the ep, i giggled at the setup and linked the torrent to Solo, feeling sure that it was mostly something to watch-and-mock -- it's a Japanese-learning TV show from... some
years ago, the look of which is extremely dated and kinda cheap, and reminded me of this 'how to deal with a mugger if you travel abroad' English-learning video that I once watched that nearly made me pee my pants. (If you have not watched this, here, let me make your life improving.
Japanese is not required to appreciate this.)
Turns out, though, that I've found this a pretty cool language listening tool. The episodes are themed ('Asking questions, 'Becoming Annoyed') and you get to watch little skits that explain the usage of particular phrases. In terms of vocabulary this isn't that
efficient, because it's usually two or three phrases and the eps are twenty minutes long, but the sensei and the three foreign students always discuss the skits, and I've found that pretty cool listening practice even without
subs. Basically, they explain Japanese grammar and word choices in Japanese but with the help of pictures and skits, and since this is something I don't get in class, I've found it a cool addition.
Sample on Youtube, the whole thing is available on d.addicts.
On a not-Japanese note... I'd been looking forward to reading Dan Savage's new book, American Savage
. I'm a regular listener and reader of his and two of his previous books, The Commitment
and The Kid: what happened after my boyfriend and I decided to go get pregnant
, are books I've reread. Turns out, though, that when you're a regular reader and listener, American Savage
is just kind of... boring. The political chapters just basically rehash his rants and writings from elsewhere, and even if they're very justified rants, it doesn't really make my life improving to read another fiften page explanation on why health care policy in the US is nutty and hair-raising, you know? So there's a lot of preaching to the choir in there.
However, I've found his recent essay in response to the DOMA ruling in the US... well, enjoyable is probably accurate despite how weird it sounds. Morbid, touching, funny, and in my opinion worth reading: I Can Die Now: Here's What I Don't Have to Worry About Now That the Supreme Court Overturned DOMA
I don't think this is a unique
perspective or anything, but it boiled things down in a way that... speaks to me. Possibly because to some degree, I share these 'worst case scenario' and jinx ponderings. Not entirely -- I'm not Catholic, I don't have the guilt, and I don't think about it all
the time -- but it's somewhat familiar. And possibly because my mind goes 'tax breaks' and 'pension entitlements' before anything else, too. :-)