When was your last Twitter check?
If it was less than an hour ago, don’t worry—I feel you.
Many of us—myself included—can’t seem to kick that social media habit.
But what if I told you that Twitter has the potential to be a useful study tool?
It took me a long time to think about how social media could aid Japanese study, despite the embarrassing amount of time I spend checking my various feeds.
But as my interest in Japanese fashion and pop culture grew, I began to follow Japanese people on Twitter and Instagram. Now, this is my favorite daily reading practice!
Why Twitter Is Awesome for Learning Japanese
We all know the importance of immersion in our studies for making a language stick. But unless you live in Japan or are fortunate enough to be able to travel there often, this can be a real challenge.
This is where you can use social media to your advantage—this stuff is really prominent in our lives. We check social media a lot, so this can become a constant stimulus of Japanese in your life. Need a few more reasons?
- Beginners can start small. Tweets are short snippets of text, a maximum of 140-characters long. This is a totally manageable start, even if every tweet is in a totally foreign grammatical format and is riddled with new kanji. Make sure you’ve got a base with hiragana and katakana—then you can type an unknown word from a tweet into any dictionary and boom! New vocab.
- Hashtags and searches can help you find your people. Twitter is really popular in Japan, and by searching hashtags you will easily find Japanese people with similar pop-culture passions and interests to connect with. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find love, or make some lifelong friends. Then you’ll really have some opportunities for immersive practice using Skype or iChat, chatting away with your newfound Japanese skill.
- You’ll see Japanese as it’s spoken in daily life. The language used on social media is casual, colloquial and dotted with slang. This kind of language is not usually taught in classrooms, but is really important to know if you ever plan to live in Japan or if you make long-term Japanese friends.
- Twitter is gossipy, which is a good thing. If a tweet brings your attention to a new development in your pop-cultural world (for example, a new album from your favorite JPop band, or a new dorama starring your favorite actor), follow it up by searching the hashtag or the wider web for more information. Try to look only at Japanese-language sites in your research—if you can hold off knowing all the details for that little while longer!
How Twitter Helps You Progress with Your Japanese
- Easily achieve small daily goals. A lot of the time, learning a language just feels like really hard, boring work. Since most of us are trying to squeeze language learning into our crazy-busy lives, going to social media route ensures you get a bite-sized Japanese study in whenever you can. So what if you didn’t finish that grammar chapter in your textbook, you read a whole tweet with no dictionary!
- Trace your improvements over time. You’ll be amazed how quickly your reading speed improves from reading just a little every day—especially if you’re reading about the same kinds of topics. You’re sure to run into the same vocab that you couldn’t understand the first time around, but now looks cozy and familiar! This is really important in maintaining momentum for study.
- Stop “forgetting” to study. We’re all busy, but Twitter is right there on our smartphones, literally at our fingertips. If we add in some Japanese to these little constants in our lives, even if you’re not yet at the point of being able to confidently read what pops up, you will be reminded that you’re studying Japanese. And if you’re really good, that might motivate you to whip out your flashcards to copy down anything you didn’t recognize, rather than scrolling any further down your feed.
- Keep your motivation piqued. You won’t feel like you’re studying, because you didn’t seek it out. This is really motivating in those times when you’re just feeling completely uninterested—least of all because you’ll want to know whatever gossip is being shared in that tweet! This is why language apps are so great, but even with those you have to be at least a little bit motivated to engage. With social media, you really don’t have to be at all!
6 Ways to Turn a Twitter Check into Dynamic Japanese Study
In case you didn’t know, you can supercharge your study by combining reading, writing, listening and speaking practice in dynamic ways. Let’s take a look:
1. Change your account language settings to Japanese
This is a step further for the more advanced student, and can be done on Facebook, Twitter or even your entire phone. That will certainly ensure that you’re reading Japanese all the time. And the catch is, you’ll need to at least read enough Japanese to change it back!
2. Read the tweets and captions out loud
This is the simplest way to practice reading, speaking and listening all at once—so simple! Want to make sure you’re pronouncing it right? Paste that tweet into Google Translate and hit the speak symbol. It’s not perfect…but it’s super easy.
3. Translate difficult tweets step-by-step
I like to copy down tweets into a notebook. Then I look up any kanji that I don’t recognize, to include the furigana reading. Then I read it aloud until I can say it fluently, at natural conversational speed. I look up any words I don’t know, and note down the literal word-by-word translations. From there I can figure out the proper English translation, which helps me to understand any new sentence structures. Voila! In only minutes I’ve done reading, writing, speaking and listening practice, and now I have several new kanji and vocab to add to my flashcards, as well as a new grammatical form.
4. Practice writing by tweeting in Japanese
You don’t have to write much! Only 140 characters on your day-to-day life. The most important way to learn a language (or any skill, for that matter) is to just use it. In high school my friend and I used to memorize new and difficult grammar forms by passing notes to each other in Japanese. Now, I use the same approach with my Twitter account. When a language is relevant to the context of your life, it becomes far more simple and important. Believe me, it won’t feel like a chore to remember a new way to crack a joke, or complain about your boss in Japanese!
5. Once you have read a tweet, maybe you have a few thoughts in response
Write them down in your notebook, or if you’re feeling bold, reply to the original tweet in Japanese and see if you get a response.
6. Talk about contemporary news and gossip from Twitter in your conversation practice
Share and recommend Japanese-language Twitter and Instagram accounts with your classmates or like-minded friends, or chat about them with your language partner. Again, this makes the language stick because you’re using it to talk about what really matters to you!
Of course, following a few people on Twitter and Instagram won’t teach you perfect Japanese, but like watching dorama and anime or listening to JPop, it’s a fun aid to formal study. It brings Japanese into your everyday life, which will keep you engaged and immersed.
Search the hashtag for a dorama, idol, anime or manga that you love to find your fellow fans in Japan, or follow some cool Tokyo fashionistas on Instagram and read the captions and comments.
The cyber-world is your oyster!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Japanese with real-world videos.