Dubbed movies suck. Right?
They’re dubbed, not dumber!
Even if you can overlook the out-of-sync mouth movement, it’s hard to take those over-the-top voice-overs seriously. And any of the emotion that the original actors gave their performances is usually lost.
While hardcore movie buffs say subtitles are the only way to enjoy foreign films, dubbed movies can be an invaluable tool for Japanese learners who are working on improving their listening and comprehension skills.
Why Are Dubbed Movies Great for Japanese Practice?
In Japan, the demand for dubbed movies has actually been growing along with the country’s aging population, according to this this Asahi news article. Seems people in their 50s and 60s feel it’s too much of an effort to read subtitles.
But what’s bad news for true cinephiles is great news for you: the supply of potential Japanese study materials just keeps expanding.
Watching almost anything in Japanese is going to help you learn. Real study, though, means you’ll be watching something over and over. So why not start with the film you love the most?
How Japanese Dubbed Movies Will Rock Your Language Learning World
The best thing about watching your all-time favorite movie dubbed in Japanese is your familiarity with the story—you don’t have to guess about what’s going on in the story at all.
Another great reason to watch the dubbed version of “The Empire Strikes Back,” or whatever movie you’ve seen 100 times, is that it taps into your inner Ebert. You most likely love to talk, maybe even argue, about the film. Make that passion work for you and it’ll help you convey your opinions in Japanese, as opposed to memorizing a standardized conversation from a textbook.
Having trouble finding eager study partners? Your Japanese friends are likely as crazy about at least one movie. Find out what they like the best and then invite them over to watch the dubbed version. They probably wouldn’t mind re-watching the movie with you. Meanwhile, you’re laying the foundation for a future conversation in Japanese with your friends about these movies.
Another idea for choosing what to watch is finding a movie with a protagonist who has a similar lifestyle or career as you. Since the situations are ones you can easily relate to, you’ll encounter a lot of useful vocabulary and phrases.
Find Your Favorite Flicks Dubbed in Japanese
Before you start searching for a specific movie, it’s worth finding out what the movie title is in Japanese. In some cases, movie titles are simply katakana versions of the original title. But many movies are given an entirely new title, complete with all that difficult kanji.
Even movies that you expect to be perfectly titled for the Japanese market might not be what you expect. “Napoleon Dynamite,” for example, was called “Bus Man” (バス男 – ばすおとこ) for its theatrical release.
Track Down the Hard Copies
Finding movies to buy or rent could just be a drive away if you happen to live near any neighborhoods with a large Asian population. These communities usually have a video store that caters to local residents.
Check to see if there’s a Japan Society or similar organization in your local area. Many of these groups have their own libraries where you can borrow DVDs.
The Internet has made it a lot easier to get your eyes on Japanese dubbed movies, either streaming online for free or for purchase.
If you’re serious about studying and there’s a movie that you’re so crazy about that you’d watch it over and over in any language, you’ll probably want the DVD or Blu-ray.
Blu-ray.com is a great place to start. In their search window you can select “Japan” and then type in the movie title. This will bring you to the Japanese version of the disc, but make sure to check that the disc specifies that it has both English and Japanese audio tracks, not just Japanese subtitles.
Clicking to purchase on Blu-ray.com actually leads you to the corresponding Amazon.co.jp page. The site just makes it a lot easier to find the movie you’re looking for because it’s all in English.
Amazon Japan carries a wide selection, and the site does have some English navigation capabilities. But once you enter the movie category, you’ll have to click around through some Japanese in order to find what you’re looking for.
You can either browse through their selection of gaikoku eiga (外国映画 / がいこくえいが — foreign films) on DVD or on Blu-ray, or you can type in the name of a specific movie in their search window. Usually, either English or Japanese will do the trick.
Once you find the movie that you’re looking for, make sure it actually has Japanese dubbing and not just Japanese subtitles. Just scroll down to check the DVD details and see if next to “Language” it has 日本語 (にほんご — Japanese) written next to it.
Before you buy, remember to check the region the disc was made for. The U.S. is Region 1 and Japan is Region 2. Although some discs are region-free, many are only viewable on Region 2 players, so make sure you have a compatible machine or software on your computer that’ll enable you to watch it.
Watch Japanese Dubbed Movies Online
There are plenty of video on demand services available in Japan that offer dubbed films as well as the latest TV shows, but these VOD options are technically unavailable outside Japan. To access these outside of Japan, you’ll need a top-notch VPN service like HideMyAss!. Even if you’re not tech-savvy, you can quickly and easily install HideMyAss! VPN on any of your devices—it works on your computer, smartphone and internet-enabled TVs and game systems.
Plenty of expat Americans living in Japan are using VPN services to watch Netflix and other region-blocked sites and keep up with current English movies and shows. And plenty of language learners around the world are using a VPN to explore the internet and gain access to more authentic materials.
Hulu Japan reportedly works in the U.S. when used with a VPN. But as it’s a paid monthly service, you most likely won’t need it unless you plan on doing the majority of your TV and movie viewing in Japanese or with subtitles.
Streaming video is the cheapest (i.e. free), and most legally dubious, option. Trying different search engines with the Japanese expression for 日本語吹替え版 (にほんごふきかえばん — Japanese-dubbed version) should produce results, although they’re kind of random. A double feature of “Patch Adams” and “Rush Hour 3,” anyone?
A keyword search for fukikae produced a list of several movies on this website.
You’ll discover tons of new Japanese vocabulary through these great clips.
Don’t worry about your skill level being an issue when it comes to understanding the language. FluentU makes native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts.
Tap on any word to look it up instantly.
You’ll see definitions, in-context usage examples and helpful illustrations. Simply tap “add” to send interesting vocabulary words to your running vocab list for later review.
Oh, and it isn’t just about watching videos passively—it’s about actively learning and practicing the language. You’ll finds all kinds of goodies like downloadable transcripts, active learning tools, podcasts and more.
The active learning tools are probably the best part. Study and reinforce new language lessons with the multimedia flashcards and vocabulary lists that are custom-made from the vocabulary and grammar you encounter while watching your chosen videos.
Pretty cool, right? Go ahead and take a look. It’s only one click away!
Access FluentU on the website to use it with your computer or tablet or, better yet, start learning Japanese on the go with the FluentU app for iOS or for Android!
Methods for Learning Japanese with Dubbed Movies
1. Enjoy the darn movie.
The first time you watch a dubbed movie, whether it’s one you’ve seen before or a first time viewing, just enjoy it. Give your brain a rest. You’re going to be re-watching it, so simply listen without trying to translate. Eventually, you’ll begin to distinguish words and understand their meanings purely based on the context—much like someone fully immersed in a language does.
2. Watch actively the second time around.
Upon subsequent viewings, have a notebook ready. Keep in mind that you’re going to talk about the movie with your Japanese friends (or study partners) afterwards. What key vocabulary from the dialogue would be necessary for you to adequately rehash the story for someone to understand? Hone in on those words or phrases and create a list that you’ll be able to look up later.
3. Parrot it all back.
Famous lines of Hollywood dialogue are also fun to repeat in Japanese. Put on your best Schwarzenegger impression and tell people “I’ll be back” like you’re a tough guy yakuza. Memorize a famous monologue and try out your Japanese acting skills. Toho Studios is always looking for the odd 外国人 (がいこくじん — foreigner) to cast in a film.
Who knows, maybe you’ll end up being dubbed back into English one day!
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