Most Frequent Japanese Words from Anime and Dramas
February 1st, 2022
There’s a theory about learning languages, where you only need the most frequent words in order to convey your ideas. Since 20% of the words make up 80% of word usage according to the paredo distribution. This theory does have validity. Johnny Harris spoke about how he minored in French at Uni and couldn’t even order a baguette in France. That’d be the most depressing realisation, that you wasted 5 years of your life for naught. There’s a quote, 400 words can run a battleship and 800 words can rule the world. Instead of trying to understand all the insane grammar rules, which are quite boring, try to learn to convey your thoughts through stringing words together. He memorised 400 words that he thought would be most used and then constantly talked to a native language speaker.
However, I’m a software developer, why would I use my pitiful brain and try to think up words, when I can get a definitive list? So, over the week, I analysed the most frequent words in 1,200 Japanese animes and dramas. This list, hopefully, will help you and I be able to understand and speak what we see, feel and hear in the world around us.
From this list, the most frequent word is I 私 (watashi) female form, with 163k counts, then this これ (kore), with 100k counts, and thing; matter 事 (koto), with 100k counts. A tiny bit later, informal I 俺 (ore), with 95k counts.
Now, what does this tell us? First off, that females talk more or are more frequent in animes/dramas. This isn’t too surprising, the subtitles are mainly from anime’s and female characters bring more viewership/revenue. This is a rather frequent word in normal day use. Thing; Matter; means that objects are constantly referred to. Then informal I is because nobody goes full formal all the time.
The number of frequent words is staggering. English required 800 words, but my list contained 8 thousand words, and that’s the top 10%, not 20%… See the embedded airtable for the entire file. Of course, this word list is useless unless we start memorise them, at least 1,000, so get going 🙂
Many thanks to Ahmed Fasih, who wrote the entire strategy to get Japanese sentences into words and for his assistance.
Dr Yoshinaga Naoki for creating J.DepP and helping when I was getting errors.
Jp Subtitles See that link for the entire list of Animes/Dramas analysed.