Arashi no Yoru ni: DVD Audio as Listening Material

14 Jan 2008

A while back John B introduced me to a blog called All Japanese All the Time, in which the author describes how he became fluent in Japanese while living in the States, in a relatively short amount of time. The key, as the name implies, is to immerse oneself in Japanese as much as possible. In our world of digital media, it’s not too hard to find listening material for a language like Japanese. Load this stuff onto your iPod or whatever, and soak it in. Obviously, you’ll need to be doing lots of studying as well.

Khatzumoto, the author of All Japanese All the Time, advocates finding a DVD you know well that has audio in the language you’re studying, getting familiar with the movie in that language, and then ripping the DVD audio. The idea is that you start out familiar, and with enough repetition, all those lines in the movie become yours.

I liked this idea, but I wanted to try it a slightly different way. Not long ago, my wife bought a cute animated Japanese movie called Arashi no Yoru ni. She was listening to the original Japanese dub, and watching with Chinese subtitles. I noticed in passing that the original Japanese was not difficult at all, and the plot was quite simple.

Here’s the plot (from the Wikipedia page):

Arashi no Yoru ni

> A goat named Mei wanders into a barn during the night for shelter from a storm. In the barn, the goat finds another refugee. The two can neither see nor smell each other, yet huddled together fending off the cold, they begin to talk and eventually develop a friendship. They decide to meet at a later time using the password “one stormy night”. The next day, when the two meet, Mei learns that his companion from the night before was a wolf named Gabu. Despite the fact that the two are naturally supposed to be enemies, they share a bond and begin meeting regularly. However, Mei’s flock and Gabu’s pack eventually find out about this and forbid their friendship. Mei and Gabu, hoping to preserve their friendship, cross a river during a storm, hoping to find an “emerald forest” free from persecution for their friendship.

> However, Giro, the leader of Gabu’s old pack, holds a grudge against all goats, and views Gabu as a traitor to his kind. Gilo and his pack go on the hunt to track down the two companions. Gabu and Mei, having reached the summit of a mountain and exhausted from fighting their way through a snow storm, stop and rest. Gabu hears his pack approaching and hides Mei in a nearby cave, ready to defend his goat friend to the death. As he is about to go face the wolf pack, there is an avalanche. The next morning, Mei digs through the snow blocking the cave and sees the “emerald forest” they had been searching for in the distance. However, Gabu has gone missing…

(If that’s not enough for you, there’s also an online trailer.)

OK, so now the basic question is: how well could I understand this movie in Japanese only by listening to it? That’s the point of the experiment.

The good news is that this same movie also has a high-quality Mandarin track (those Taiwanese do good work!), as well as a Cantonese track. There is no English track. I’m putting all these MP3s online for other people to give it a try as well.

Arashi no Yoru ni (Mandarin) – 16 Chapters, 128kbps, 97.3 MB
Arashi no Yoru ni (Cantonese) – 16 Chapters, 128kbps, 97.3 MB
Arashi no Yoru ni (Japanese) – 16 Chapters, 128kbps, 97.3 MB

If you give this a try, I’d really love to hear about the results. For example:

– Do you find there’s too much music to concentrate on language-learning, or does the music help?
– Can you follow the story?
– Is it enjoyable in audio-only format?

(And if you’re an angry lawyer representing Arashi no Yoru ni, just e-mail me.)

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. Oh I love that movie. It’s really cute. But I think it will be quite difficult for someone to understand a movie just by listening to it if they are just starters at the language.

  2. Sarah,

    Perhaps I should have made that clearer… I don’t recommend it for beginners. I also don’t recommend it for anyone who insists on close to 100% comprehension, because even language issues aside, without the visuals, there are bound to be some parts that are hard to get.

  3. The true key to language learning is repetition. Repetition is intensive focus upon limited material.

    In particular, one should memorise famous poetry from the target language. Then, one should repeat these poetry regularly. After a while, listening and speaking in the target language will feel perfectly natural.

    In former times, people learnt Sanskrit, Arabic, and Classical Chinese by repetition. Students learnt Classical Chinese by repeating a few key texts over and over again. Usually, in less than a year, a student could read and write Classical Chinese fluently.

    Today, university graduates spend years studying Classical Chinese. But most of them have difficulty writing the most elementary passage in Classical Chinese. If only they spent an hour a day reciting Mencius!

    Recitation appears simple. But once you’ve memorised a text, every time you recite it, you discover new nuances therein.

    For those who are spiritually inclined, I recommend the memorisation of traditional Daoist prayers. This way, every time you eat, sleep, sit, or engage in some everyday activity, you’ll apply the prayer and practise Classical Chinese simultaneously.

  4. Of course, it doesn’t have to be famous poetry. So the above folk story would be perfect for beginners, since it is simple, authentic language material.

  5. Report : I understand 100% the movie in Japanese, but sorry, I am a native Japanese. I think that Mei, a goat, speaks standard Japanese in a soft voice, and Gabu, a wolf, speaks a little broken one in a clear voice.

  6. maxiewawa Says: January 14, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    I do this with movies sometimes. I usually rip both English and Chinese. When I get bored of language study, I put on the English version and continue whatever I’m doing!

    In general:

    1) I usually choose a wordy movie, so that the music doesn’t bother me.

    2) Yes! I wouldn’t rip a movie that I didn’t already enjoy, and if I enjoy it it usually means that I know what’s going on.

    3) Yes! Not as much though… nothing beats the original text.

    I hope others can get into this method of study, but I have a feeling that it will be difficult for those who don’t live in a DVD pirate’s paradise like Shanghai.

    I’ll download the mp3s and give it a go!

    どうもありがとう!

  7. the guy is now using this same method to learn Chinese. So does anyone really know for sure just how good his Japanese is? What about his Chinese?

  8. Abstract,

    There’s no denying that repetition is key, but I’m actually very against the use of poetry. The same basic benefits of memorizing poetry could be said of memorizing anything in the target language. My vote is for something more useful.

  9. I like to do this with a movie I’ve seen so many times I have the dialog memorized.

  10. prince roy,

    I can’t verify the man’s language skills, but it’s hard to find fault with the basics of his method, which are massive target language input and systematic memorization, all with an underlying theme of learner autonomy.

  11. yeah, that part certainly makes sense. I’ve read through some of his Chinese pages, but it’s not easy to get an idea of where he is in the language, because he writes about it almost entirely in English. Still, like you say, his basic strategy is fairly common sense. What I find interesting is his adaptation of the latest techie tools. I need to adapt this part for Lao.

  12. Chuck in NY Says: January 14, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    Yes! I have also been using this technique for chinese. Watch the video a couple of times , then rip it to mp3 and listen to it again later when you’re working out or doing something mindless like washing the dishes. When you get bored of that particular TV show or movie, you move on.

    I think the main advantage to this type of approach is it is entertaining. If you really like the shows you are listening to, then even listening to it multiple times is not boring. (I got really into two shows with this method, one called 小留学生and another called 金婚). Another good thing is you can get some input from less standard accents, which is also important. I think at a certain stage of learning a language, you just need a huge volume of input, and I don’t know of any other way really.

  13. Rather than finding stuff philosophical recitations, I’ve learned quite a bit of standard formal Chinese from pop songs. At the very least, it instilled in me knowledge of the language of emotion that was more proper than the Cantonese slang I learned growing up.

    Thank you for providing the MP3s for the Cantonese and Mandarin track as I will familiarize myself with the movie with the Cantonese and then start listening to the Mandarin audio. Unfortunately, it will not be the speediest education on my part.

  14. I always thought it would be incredible of there was a Mandarin dub of something like Seinfeld, or some other English series I know by heart. If only…

  15. Dear John:

    I agree that any language material is useful. But surely, isn’t poetry the most useful, since you can recite it both for friends and for yourself?

    I mean, you’re hardly going to recite instructions from a computer manual.

    Furthermore, ancient poetry, which has rhymes, is written specifically to facilitate memorisation.

  16. Hey John,

    I’ll give this a listen and let you know. I’m also ripping the soundtrack from Crouching Tiger right now. 🙂

  17. James in NJ Says: January 15, 2008 at 9:46 am

    I’m an intermediate self-taught student. I like the idea. I’m pretty sure it’s feasible.

    After listening for a while, I don’t think I could use that technique on these particular samples. Mainly it gets boring in between dialog, and then I have to concentrate when dialog comes on. Too much switching back and forth. Also the particular voices grate on my nerves (how mean of me to say so, though). I wonder if I’ll be pummeled for giving my honest opinions.

  18. I’m still waiting for The Simpsons with Chinese audio. If I had that, I’d be fluent by now.

  19. I hear Taiwan did a bang-up job with South Park.

  20. yea! Great blog btw – John I emailed you last night my idea – Im thinking of getting an undetectable wireless earpiece like spies in the CIA use (hahaha) that you stick in your ear canal and that way I can hook it up to my ipod in my desk and listen to chinesepod lessons at work – I have at least a 1-2 hours of downtime everyday, often more – I figure this way I could probably add 2-3 more hours of listening practive everyday – over a year that will be a ton of added practice…looks like they run about 3-400 USD, pricey, but I figure it is worth it since I am serious about learning Mandarin! This movie idea is really cool I think – I could take stuff Ive already watched and replay it at work several times to enforce it!!!! I like this idea!!!

  21. I managed to get my hands on a Mandarin dub of Caddyshack a couple years ago, it does help when you know every word of the original dialogue. What that says about me is maybe a little embarrasing, I guess.

  22. Ok keeping in mind that according to his method, before someone gets to this stage they have mastered all the Kanji they need to know (or Hanzi for us), then the power of this method becomes a lot more pronounced. Because when you don’t understand a section, you have the subtitles to check it with (using a monolingual dictionary, he recommends).

    It’s better to just selectively record the sections of dialogue from a film that you actually like, or to edit that DVD rip, so that you don’t have to listen to prolonged music or action scenes or whatever.

    John, you’ve gotta finish your series on how you learned Chinese! They have been excellent posts so far.

  23. I just reread my above comment, and I realized I may be a nerd!!! ahhhh!!!

  24. Hmm. So if we need a movie we know every line of by heart, that means my ideal one would be the Princess Bride….dubbed into Mandarin.

    Anybody want a peanut?

  25. Here is my point of view on a possible related subject.
    I’m not a native english speaker and I’ve got a strong visual memory.
    Then, most of my english comes from the sitcom “Friends” with english subtitles I’ve watched few years ago. In this sitcom, the language is clear and the dialogues are interesting (especially the lines from Joey : “grab a spoon”, etc …)
    I’m doing the same with chinese now.
    I use movies from mainland, HK, Korea or whatever with a PTH audio track (dubbed or original) and good simplidied chinese subtitles.
    The image helps for the context but also for memorization though association.
    You then learn with long exposition to pattern and basic vocabulary. It’s not academic but it’s working really well for me.
    PS: I also use Cpod 🙂

  26. Micah Sittig:
    Oh boy! Do you know where I could buy (or otherwise acquire) South Park in Mandarin? So far my search has been fruitless.

  27. John,

    When I first started studying back in ’02, I was living in Shanghai. I went to the Big Ass Bookstore downtown with my interpreter hoping to but come Chinese learning aids.

    I ended up buying a VCD designed for Chinese people whose Mandarin is not quite up to par. There was no English, only Mandarin spoken in every situation. It basically covered using the subway, getting a work permit, renting an apartment, etc.

    I used to leave it playing in my DVD player all night in my hotel room while I slept. After about two weeks I could “hear” the Chinese being spoken around me, even to the extent I could write down in Pinyin the conversations I overheard during the workday.

    I can’t remember the name of the DVD/VCD but I would love to get my hands on it now for some friends I have wanting to learn Mandarin.

  28. I would disagree that constant repetition of the same material is the best method for language acquisition. I would say constant exposure to similar material–i.e., material using similar vocabulary and about similar subjects, but expressed in different ways–is a much better method, with a de-emphasis on repetition.

    Considering that there are so many different ways to express the same exact thing in a language, memorizing only one way to express something something forces your mind into thinking of the language as a solid, megalithic thing, rather than the malleable, constantly changing thing it really is.

    But what do I know–I still don’t consider myself fluent in Chinese.

  29. kmm,

    You make a good point, but we’re talking about stuff you can load onto an MP3 player and listen to. Movies, TV shows, etc. don’t tend to say the same thing in different ways; that would be boring to native speakers. So the main way you get the kind of input you describe is through meaningful interaction with real people, and that’s something you should be doing as much as possible anyway, regardless.

  30. Yeah, actually I wasn’t meaning to argue with the basic idea, which I think is great. My point is just that, if possible, I think it’s better to listen to a wide variety of television shows or movies that suit your level, rather than listening to just one over and over again until you’ve memorized it. Also, this way if there’s a new vocabulary term you’re not sure of, you can here it used in many different alternate contexts, which I think helps solidify your understanding of how to use it.

    Of course, I guess it would kind of be a pain to upload a dozen or so ripped television shows to your mp3 player.

    Thanks for creating the audio files, by the way. My computer is trying to download the mandarin one at present, but downloading any thing that ends in something other than ‘kb’ is hard for me. If all goes well hopefully I can provide you with some feedback.

  31. I started with Korean dramas which were dubbed. This was, similar to John’s anime, a dubbed version of another language. Since it was a dubbed track it seemed to be a clearer Chinese. Since it was a Korean drama, it was fairly predictable, comfortingly repetitive, and occassionally entertaining (I find I’m more easily amused in another language). I’ve had two friends who had similar successes with dubbed Korean dramas.

    Now I’ve begun ripping 武林外传.

  32. It didn’t work for me. The audio quality was not very good and some tracks had just lots of noise (zero language). It was painful to listen to. After listening to that crap, I’m extremely grateful that we have Chinesepod.

  33. Dave Edwards Says: January 22, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    FYI, Khatzumoto has a Japanese language blog on his website, the URL is http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/category/%e6%97%a5%e6%9c%ac%e8%aa%9e , his Japanese seems pretty good, and if he took as long as he says he did to learn it, I’m very impressed.

  34. […] while back, John at Sinosplicelinked to a website with an unfortunate name but excellent content, “All Japanese All the […]

  35. I finally listened to the audio files, by the way. Here are my answers to your questions:

    1. The music wasn’t a problem. The long segments with no dialog were the problem. With only sound effects to go by, it’s a little hard to figure out what’s happening.

    2. I could more-or-less follow the story, except for the above-mentioned segments without dialog.

    3. Not really, but it was useful. I would agree with others who said that using a more dialog-heavy movie would be much more useful.

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