How to Learn & Study Japanese by Playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (あつまれ 動物の森) is one of the hottest games to hit the shelves in 2020 – And it’s making people’s self-isolation period a lot more enjoyable.

Animal Crossing has quickly taken the gaming world by storm, selling out in many stores across North America. Now that most people are not in a hurry to leave their homes in the real world, they instead choose to do so on their Nintendo Switches.

In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you can collect bugs and fossils, try your hand at interior decoration, go fishing, pay your bills to Tom Nook, or even…

Practice your Japanese With Animal Crossing!

Due to the game’s layout, playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons (あつまれ 動物の森) in Japanese is a fantastic way to study the language. The game’s use of kana, kanji, colloquial form – and more – make studying Japanese while playing easy.

In this article we will cover some ways in which you can advance your Japanese study just by playing あつまれ 動物の森!

Study Japanese by Playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons


The Premise of Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (あつまれ 動物の森) is a life sim where you get your own island to build on and customize. You start out by coming to the island and getting land from Tom Nook.

Tom Nook, although presented in the English version of the game as a raccoon, is actually a Tanuki. His name in the Japanese edition is たぬきち.
(the Tanuki are a kind of rare Japanese raccoon-dog animal)

Tom Nook Animal Crossing Japanese
Image can be viewed at

Tom Nook is the antagonist, sort of…

Unfourtunately, Tom Nook is more or less the antagonist of the game. He takes advantage of your lack of resources and slugs you with a mountainload of debt at the very beginnning of the game! Much of the beginning of the game is spent doing fun activities and tasks for him to repay your debt.

Once you have established your home a bit on the island, you can build upon what you have. You can decorate your home and customize the layout, as well as across the whole island. You can collect insects, fish, and fossils to give to the museum, and trade with friends online!

You’re basically just living island life on your own terms! Well, except for paying back that たぬきち…

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How to Learn Japanese with Animal Crossing: Kana, Kanji, and Vocab

One of the big ways in which you can study Japanese by playing Animal Crossing is with Kana

As you probably know, studying written Japanese begins with the Kana. That is: Hiragana (ひらがな) and Katakana (カタカナ). It is the basis for written Japanese – and without it, it is very hard to master vocabulary and grammar, even for spoken Japanese.

Animal Crossing makes frequent use of kana, both Hiragana and Katakana. If you can already read these, great! Now you can practice reading them to get your reading speed up.

If you aren’t quite there yet, that’s ok too! You can try getting through it and refer to this chart anytime you get stuck.

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The more you read through Hiragana and Katakana, the more you will be familiarizing yourself with Japanese vocabulary. You will be building up your internal Japanese vocabulary list without fully realizing it!

The names the game uses for insects, plants, fossils, and fishes are all their real world Japanese names. This means that you will be reading, re-reading, and memorizing the Japanese names for all of these items!

But mostly, you can learn from the dialogue

More than that, you will be picking up vocabulary, nouns, and verbs from reading the Japanese game dialogue flashing across your screen.

All of these names, words and terms you will pick up with Hiragana, Katakana, or Kanji. Just like in this screenshot.

Image can be viewed on

Yes there’s Kanji! As you can see, the game features Kanji with the furigana readings

All of the Kanji in the game has furigana. Because of this, you will not only be building upon your vocabulary, but you will also familiarize yourself with Kanji readings and their meanings.

Practice associating the Kanji with its reading, and the reading with its meaning. And you will be well on your way! That plus the frequent use of kana will ensure that your Japanese list is building – Even if you aren’t aware of it.

How to Study Japanese with Animal Crossing: Reading Comprehension

This is directly connected to the point above about practicing Kana, Vocab, and Kanji. By getting in all those hours playing Animal Crossing in Japanese, you will be building up Japanese comprehension – especially reading.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a rather slow paced game. You can take your time doing tasks and building out your island. This means you can also take your time reading the Japanese text as it pops up on your screen.

Animal Crossing Japanese Conversation with talking dog
Image can be viewed at denfamiwiki

Even if you don’t understand certain words or phrases right away, the visual association will help you figure it out. As long as you keep actively reading through the Japanese, you will be improving your reading comprehension!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a very visual game. Your brain will absorb the words together with the images, and your reading comprehension will level up. All while playing a super fun game!

The other thing about playing Animal Crossing in Japanese is the Grammar.

This is especially good for if you are preparing for the JLPT!

Since Animal Crossing: New Horizons in Japanese is made for a native Japanese audience, it exposes you to natural ways the Japanese language uses its grammar.

Japanese grammar can be complicated and overwhelming. That’s why interacting with it in a fun setting like Animal Crossing is a good way to get Japanese grammar stuck inside your brain.

Animal Crossing Japanese talking pig
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By reading over the gameplay text, you will be able to gain a deeper understanding of the use of Japanese grammar. Which you will be able to use for reading, listening, writing or speaking. Animal Crossing is a fantastic resource for building Japanese comprehension by exposure to native interactive Japanese.

In short, the simplistic gameplay style and slow pacing of Animal Crossing: New Horizons make it a great resource for Japanese reading comprehension.

How to Study Japanese with Animal Crossing: Colloquial Form Japanese and Accents

If you want to advance your conversational Japanese, Animal Crossing can help here as well. It features a variety of different “accents” and forms of colloquial Japanese.

Because the Japanese in Animal Crossing is mainly interactive dialogue, most of the Japanese is casual. To get the most Japanese study out of this, it might be a good idea to practice reading the game dialogue out loud to yourself.

This way you are hearing yourself say it while reading it. You are practicing Japanese pronunciation and training your ears to hear Japanese.

Animal Crossing is mostly casual Japanese

In other words, if you are especially keen on studying spoken Japanese for conversation and daily life, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has you covered.

What’s more is that some of the NPC’s that you interact with will use different accents. Pay attention to how they use different slang and speech patterns to identify what purpose the vocabulary serves!

Just like in real life Japan, some people might have little language quirks or attributes that make their speaking style unique. Animal Crossing is a great way to train your brain to understanding this type of Japanese in a natural way.

Talking Robot duck in Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Image can be viewed here

Advance Your Japanese With Animal Crossing: New Horizons!

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