I've heard of people learning English from watching movies and television shows -- usually friends of friends, as the stories went -- but I didn't realize it was such a cottage industry until I typed "Learning English from movies" into a search engine. (Go ahead, try it. I'll wait.) The search results from Google show that a lot of people have put a lot of thought into this idea, far beyond teaching somehow how to say "I'll be back" with a menacing Teutonic air that might one day vault you into the California governor's mansion.

In a similar way, some movie buffs have learned French or Italian in hopes of better appreciating their favorite auteurs, while even I have picked up a couple of Cantonese phrases just from watching movies -- though when I've tried them out on native Cantonese speakers, they look at me as though I'm speaking Martian. So why not try to learn Japanese by watching Akira Kurosawa movies?

The folks at Mahalo.com have assembled what is, in effect, a lesson plan based on the notion that "listening to Japanese in a dramatic setting can provide an emotional and contextual background absent in textbooks." They outline activities for watching and learning from the Kurosawa classics Rashomon, Ikiru, Yojimbo, and Drunken Angel. In Rashomon, for example, it suggests noticing the difference between how an old man and a young girl might say "I don't understand," which might be a very useful phrase for a new Japanese speaker. Personally, I'd like to learn this quote from Ikiru: "I can't afford to hate anyone. I don't have that kind of time." That might be helpful if I get drunk in a karaoke bar and insult a yakuza. How about you? Have you ever learned any helpful foreign-language words from watching a movie?