Tales from Archipel

    If you're a fan of Japanese video games, manga, or art, you are probably already familiar with toco toco, the excellent documentary series made by YouTube channel Archipel. The series showcases Japanese artists and creatives, often of the gaming variety. Archipel now also makes documentary content about other sides of Japanese culture, showcasing composers, artists, and even a "ramen creator," though there is still an emphasis on the video game industry.

    A lot of effort has gone into this, and it provides a fun way for intermediate students to improve their listening skills, vocabulary, and grammar, using authentic material.

    Most—but not all—of Archipel's lovingly-crafted documentaries are in Japanese, with an option to add subtitles in English and a handful of other languages. The Japanese subtitles, though, are auto-generated. Adding its own Japanese subtitles is apparently a headache, so as an alternative way to help learners of Japanese, Archipel is now experimenting with learning materials in the form of a series currently published on Medium, called "Tales from Archipel." For now, they have just created one test article, but if the feedback is good, the plan is to produce more of them, and possibly move to a different platform.

    This test run consists of a six-minute monologue from game creator Kazutoshi Iida. The audio is accompanied by a full transcript together with a high-quality English translation, a Japanese/hiragana/English glossary, and a helpful list of grammar explanations. All of this is broken down into paragraphs to make it easier to digest.

    A lot of effort has gone into this, and it provides a fun way for intermediate students to improve their listening skills, vocabulary, and grammar, using authentic material. If you happen to love video games, this resource is made for you. But it is also an interesting resource for those of us with no more than a passing interest in the Japanese gaming industry, and if all goes well, future installments are likely to cover a broader range of Japanese cultural figures. Definitely one to watch.

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