Home Forums Tips, Hacks, & Ideas For Learning Japanese The Secret to Improving Your Listening

This topic contains 30 replies, has 25 voices, and was last updated by  JThaddeus 10 years ago.

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    The Secret: Listen to Japanese as much as possible.

    Confused? Don’t be. Listening to raw, naturally spoken Japanese constantly everyday is the true way to improve your listening. Whether or not you understand any of what you are listening to is irrelevant. That will come with time as you learn more and more vocabulary and as more and more grammar makes sense and comes naturally to you. Your ears need to get used to the pronunciation, the pace and the feel of Japanese conversation and speech. There are things about spoken Japanese that go beyond written Japanese and which make it different from English conversation (other than the fact that it is a different language being spoken). Such as the constant use of そうですね, ですね and ね(「福島第一原発は、ね…」) and the constant grunts and 「えー?」 from the other people in the conversation as one person talks. You can’t learn a large quantity of grammar and vocabulary and expect to understand what is being said, if your ears have rarely heard natural Japanese speech. You might miss a huge quantity of that vocabulary because you have never heard it said at such a speed, or at all for that matter.

    Your brain needs a good reason why it should try to makes sense of Japanese, and what better reason than the fact that you listen to it all the time. If once in a blue moon you listen to spoken Japanese, and listen to English (and/or another language you speak fluently) the rest of the time, your brain won’t see a need to understand Japanese since it survives well without it. Listening is an important part of the virtual immersion environment (that all language learners should create for the language they are learning – it’s highly recommended. You can’t learn to understand Japanese novels or the Japanese news unless you read them – and listen to it, in regards to the news – all the time.). It is a great way to “passively” learn Japanese as you “actively” learn it on Textfugu and by using Anki and WaniKani.

    No matter what level your Japanese is at, this tip will be very effective to you. I wish I had learned this when I started learning Japanese 2 and a half years ago. I learned it in my 14th month of studying Japanese and have been listening to Japanese podcasts and the Japanese news everyday since then. It’s easy to find Japanese audio too. There are tons and tons of free podcasts in a large range of subjects on iTunes. Just change your country to Japan (日本) in the iTunes store and click “Podcasts”. I listen to “NHKラジオニュース”, “Dig”, ‘The Other Side Journal”, “The Woman Likes Technology”, and “男式ラジオ” among other things.

    So go out and find Japanese to listen to everyday, and stick to it!

    • This topic was modified 11 years, 10 months ago by  Drayomi.


    > Whether or not you understand any of what you are listening to is irrelevant.

    “We acquire language in one way, and only one way — when we understand messages.” — SDK



    That will come with time as you learn more and more vocabulary and as more and more grammar makes sense and comes naturally to you.



    I’ve always wondered about this, simply because I was doubting whether or not listening to stuff I couldn’t understand at all was helping me in any way, and was beginning to feel like I was wasting my time. Good to know it’s beneficial even without completely understanding it.

    Now my problem is figuring out how to keep it consistent. While at work I sometimes sneak my headphones out and listen to some podcasts, but nowadays it’s getting harder to do so, so I spend several hours and sometimes the whole day without being able to listen to a word of Japanese.



    Consistent doesn’t mean entirety. Listen to it an hour a day after work, but make sure you do it everyday.



    What Crumb said, consistency is key or any benefit from passive listening is going to be minimal.  Getting into a show works pretty well.

    Also it’s worth noting I’ve found that listening to people speak probably helps my pronunciation just as much as improving my listening.


    Also (maybe needless to say) watching anime in Japanese with subs is a good and fun way of being exposed to the language.

    In Norway we normally never watch anything dubbed, we rather want to see movies etc in it’s original language. But maybe this isn’t always the case in many English speaking countries.



    Watching with subs only ever work if they’re only Japanese subs.

    Wasting time with native lang subs





    Not entirely true.  Though it’s hard to multi-task with very long sentences.

    Edit to clarify:

    I think it’s a bit much to label it as a “waste of time”, as that is highly subjective. If you are actively listening, it helps. Is it as good as Japanese subtitles? No. Are Japanese subtitles as great as NO subtitles? Not in the least. Does that mean you should never watch anything with subtitles because it’s not maximum efficiency? No.

    All small things add up to big things. If you feel like watching Japanese media with subtitles, listen actively and do that, because it’s much better than doing nothing at all.

    • This reply was modified 11 years, 10 months ago by  クリス.

    No Japanese subtitles are just as good as having Japanese subtitles. Kanji training and reading speed is an important skill. It really depends on your focus.




    Definitely agree, but reading can be a crutch for your listening.  Not saying don’t do it, but for listening (thread topic) it is not as effective as no subtitles.



    For an additional learning exercise I would suggest language shadowing as well, I feel this is more helpful than simply just listening to Japanese being spoken.



    I think the biggest problem with learning by watching Japanese dubs with English subs is that your brain automatically latches onto the only thing it understands: the English words. Everything else gets subconsciously ignored. Even if you use the subs as a translation, it’s not going to be very accurate, as most subs are made for entertainment value, not accuracy. (Not to mention literal translations usually make no sense)

    Even just listening to Japanese anime wouldn’t be a fool-proof method because none of them speak like normal people. I’d say listening to anime is better than listening to nothing at all, but I’d also suspect that listening to normal people speak is worth 10 times the both of them. I’d personally suggest leaving anime for entertainment and being as effective as possible in your learning time.



    Watch Japanese dramas. I usually watch it once with no subtitles, then with subtitles and then finally without again. Sure it takes extra time, but I think it’s worth it to see the same thing 3 times than to see 3 different things, all with Eng subs.

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