NHK World Easy Japanese – Japanese Beginner Lessons

Sakura & Anna First Encounter
The main characters of the NHK World Radio Japan audio drama Easy Japanese Anna (right side), a student from Thailand and Sakura (left side), her Japanese tutor and friend, at their first encounter at the university campus. In the background, the cherry trees in full bloom indicate the arrival of spring, which is also the time for new school semesters in Japan.

Are you a budding student of Japanese, looking into ways to get your Japanese learning routine off the ground?

Then, I might have a little starting aid for you into this great language. So much upfront though, I won’t give any learning tips here because I’m not competent enough, but it is that with this article I introduce the learning program Easy Japanese produced by NHK World Radio Japan that offers all-free audio lessons for beginners of Japanese language. Besides useful expressions and basic grammar points you will find some cultural references that are both informative and entertaining. A fun learning experience and maybe the starting point of your own learning journey into Japanese👩‍🎓👨‍🎓!

Easy Japanese Main Characters
All the characters that lead through the 2015 version of NHK Easy Japanese (from left to right): handsome Kenta (Sakura’s cousin), the main cast Sakura and Anna, witty Rodrigo (Anna’s classmate from Mexico), sincere Prof. Suzuki and the care taking Dorm Mother.

About Easy Japanese

The first time I came across Easy Japanese was in 2011, when I had just started my studies and was in wait for my study visa to Japan. At the time I followed the everyday life of Cuong, a hopeful young Vietnamese, who sough job opportunity in Japan. Later on in 2015, the latest version of the Easy Japanese learning program was released with cheerful Anna switching with Cuong’s place to take listeners around on her enjoyable adventures. Two years may have passed, but the story setting and Anna’s profile remain somewhat appropriate with many students from Thailand, Vietnam and other South East Asian countries flocking to Japan attracted by its vivid pop-culture and outlook of a promising working career.

The series was originally released on a weekly basis, which was in fact a good time window to repeat the material extensively until the next episode came out. By now all the audio files are readily available as a complete set and are accessible at users’ wills at any time, any place. This is in particular preferable for fast learners, who soon will crave for more 💪. The full list of episodes you may find here:

Easy Japanese List of Lessons

The learning program is recorded in 17 different languages 😍, with all audio content conveniently downloadable on any MP3-player or mobile device. With the audio lessons comes a neatly prepared PDF format textbook 📖 containing skAnna Listening Japaneseids and look-up sheets for students. The skids are listed in Romaji (ローマ字; romanized script of Japanese) as well as Japanese characters with Hiragana (平仮名, ひらがな; Japanese syllabary used for Japanese native words), Katakana (片仮名, カタカナ; Japanese syllabary depicting foreign loan words) and Kanji (漢字; adopted Chinese characters). If you are more a visual learner like me, the textbook is particularly helpful to review what you couldn’t grasp with listening and also it will facilitate the visualization of characters as your read along. Also you can make conveniently any memos right on the printed version and add your learning hints. The colorful illustrations of the skids will put you directly into the scenes with Anna, enhancing the learning factor.

The audio lessons run each in digestible portions of 10:00 minutes, so you can get in a learning session on a short train or bus ride. I used to do it when pedaling to and from school, which though is not recommended as it is not permitted 😉. The 2015 Easy Japanese version is 48 lessons long, so if you stick to a weekly review, you can almost fill a year of learning with the podcast, which is also the length of Anna’s stay. Hard to beat for free-of-charge and the programs cover a wide range of situations that you could easily find yourself in as well, be it at the classroom, socializing with friends or going around in public.

Anna LearningEvery lesson starts with a short story and focuses around one key sentence/expressions to be remembered. The skids are very well explained and analysed in detail by the narrators for words, tenses, particles, verb forms. Sometimes the narrators also share their own experiences that livens up the learning sessions and conjures smiles with listeners. After skids are reviewed, follows the section of Teach Us, Teacher, where the program supervisor explains on important learning points. The last part of an learning session is made up by Sound Words that are onomatopoeia and imitative words describing actions, things or persons. Getting in a few in of those in a playful way like they are introduced here, isn’t such a bad thing after all because onomatopoeia you can’t start with early enough. It’s one of Japanese’s peculiarities with many tough nuts, even for experienced learners. You will be amazed what Japanese can come up with for sounds for certain things. As some might compute, some totally don’t with non-native speakers. They even have a sound word expressing where there is no sound at all 😉. It will take a lot of practice and exposure to get used to those, let me tell you.

Easy Japanese is an all-around pleasant and encouraging way to get into things and to receive a first good grip on the language. By the time you are through with the entire program, you have a good set of basic language skills and also the ear for the rhythm of Japanese language, its pronunciation and intonation. If diligently studied you could put the learned to use straight when you hopefully will have the chance to visit the country in person. It’s a good starter package, with which you can safe on tuition fees for beginner classes as you skip it by self-learning. From there you can then build up further and join classes as the studies intensify – it will come soon enough 😉. As for any language, a solid foundation is indispensable and it’s my hope that it will serve you as much as it did for me. Please enjoy your first steps in Japanese – one at the time 😄. Off to a successful undertaking 🚀!

That is it for the introduction of the Easy Japanese language learning program by NHK World Radio Japan. Maybe a new series will be published soon as Japan is getting all excited for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and welcomes many foreign visitors. Let’s see and keep our hopes up. After you completed the learning program and want to get a filler for the next program release, you may want to also look into News Web Easy that brings you all the recent news ticker in simplified Japanese including Furigana (振り仮名, reading helps) , audio files and videos. Concluding this main article with a big thanks to NHK for putting all their efforts in bringing Japanese out to the world … 本当にありがとうございます、NHK💓! これからも、引き続きどうぞよろしくお願いいたしま~す。

Down below I just added some personal notes, for those with interest and time enough to read on.

NHK Easy Japanese Characters

Personal Note

This blog I use to post on topics of interest to me, but also to recollect some of my memories in Japan. A recent listening of the 2015 version of Easy Japanese brought me back to my very Japanese beginnings and I want to devote a little post about it. I started relatively late at the age of 28 to learn Japanese and long before I picked up Japanese Textbooks and Comic Essays, I started with this helpful program that comes at no cost and is accessible to everyone.

I fondly remember how eagerly I anticipated each weekly release of every new audio lesson during my stay over in South Korea in wait of my student visa. At the time, which was 2011, I accompanied Cuong, who got transferred from Vietnam to Japan to work at an electrical appliance manufacturer, through 50 informative lessons. Step by step I could learn from his experiences as he adapted to his new life environment in the foreign land. Without knowing, his lessons inevitability had become part of my own daily life for several weeks and pleasantly shortened my waiting time. As a backpacker with no room for weighty study books, the audio lessons, which I could easily listen to on my laptop, perfectly suited me. It provided me with practical guidance before I eventually would embark on my own Japan adventure. But even in the early stages of my classes, I kept frequently listening to the skids to complement my studies at school. Filling any spare moments, I would listen to it while commuting to school or when lying in the dark before falling asleep.

I really like the program as I always felt it sort of difficult as beginner to find any kind of progressive learning content that was self-contained. Nowadays there is much more information on the language available on the net, but sometimes blogs go random or are not consistent in their offering. This is where I have found Easy Japanese an ideal solution. As I advanced in the language, I tried to leave out on English learning helps as much as possible to fully immerse into the language. Yet, now that I’m no longer in Japan, I still like to listen to Easy Japanese when time permits to bring back some much cherished memories of mine and nourishes the slumbering dream of having the chance to return to Japan once again in the future to realize my book project.

Eesy Japanese 2011 - Cuong in Elevator
There is always a time to talk in Japanese, but one should not be talkative while in an elevator with others as considered impolite. Cuong, thank you pal, we had a good time studying with each other. Hope you are fulfilling your dream as a successful salaryman in Japan or pursuing a striving career back home by using your Japan experiences. Take care buddy!

Did you find this article useful? If you have any comments or enjoyed the article, please feel free to like 👍, drop a feedback below 💬 or share it in your network & social media👥. Looking forward to hearing from you!


You might also be interested in the following article(s)/page(s)💡:

Article Guide:

  • Words in gold color link🔗 to other articles/pages on MyLittle Dejima
  • Words in pink orange color link🔗 to external references/pages
  • Words in simple bold, titles and article relevant information without external reference
  • For Japanese related words Hiragana (ひらがな), Katakana (カタカナ) and Kanji (漢字) are added for those interested in Japanese terminology

Edition History:

First published: May 26th, 2017

©MyLittle Dejima

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