Over the years, I’ve really struggled to find Japanese entertainment with native speakers using natural speech. Variety shows aren’t the most accessible here in the US, and I noticed that when I was in Japan they seemed to be the most helpful way to get some listening practice in and solidify what I’ve been learning. That’s when I learned Netflix was streaming a Japanese reality show called “Terrace House: Boys & Girls in the City.”
The premise is simple, 3 men and 3 women live in a share house in Japan with no script (or so they claim). What you get is a reality show unlike nothing you would see in the States. There’s no yelling or profanity, no random hookups (at least in front of the prying camera lens) and no over the top editing. Coming from the land of such reality gems as “Bad Girls Club” and “Flavor of Love”, I can say the first episode felt like watching paint dry, yet I was intrigued and I couldn’t stop until I devoured the season. It’s a slow build, watching these 6 young people struggle with making their dreams come true, but it was a worthy watch for me.
But entertainment value aside, how does the Japanese learner benefit? The cast members of Terrace House are young, so they speak casually and use natural expressions and colloquialisms. Once they get to know each other, the polite Japanese is kept to a minimum. They also have arguments and discussions where they express their feelings and try to understand the point of view of other cast members. The nuances involved are what any language learner will probably have the most difficulty with when picking up a second language, and it’s so helpful to be exposed to real situations like this. And finally, just being exposed to the speech patterns and pitch accents of native speakers is always a plus. I happened to watch the whole season with English subtitles, but I’ve started to go back and re-watch using Japanese subtitles (which are available on US Netflix – yay!) and pick up on more vocabulary and grammar that I missed before. Listening to Japanese at a natural speed is difficult, so the subtitles are a huge help.
Have you seen Terrace House Seasons 1 and/or 2 yet? What are your thoughts?