A Few Questions on Listening Comprehension ;w;


so…listening comprehension…how???
like, two separate kanji could have the same reading (like 口 and 工) so if you were to be listening to something, how would you know the difference?

i’m probably not making any sense, so basically what i’m saying is where you’re listening to something, how are you supposed to tell the difference between the two words? is it like context or something?

how are you supposed to pick stuff apart when someone is talking in japanese? like, i can pick up 私, and like maybe a 心, but outside of that japanese just sounds like a jumbled mess.

i’ve considered listening to bandori tv a sort of seiyuu show but i’m not sure how much it would help because again, japanese just sounds like a jumbled mess to me apart from like a few phrases here and there.

It’s important to remember that the when you learn the kanji, it doesn’t always follow that the reading for the vocabulary will be the same. There are a LOT of kanji with the same reading.

Take 市 (city = し) or 士 (samurai = し) and you get the picture.

Fortunately, vocabulary will usually be paired with kana characters to make it easy to differentiate, or have an entirely different reading to the kanji itself. Tofugu have a great article about the difference between the on’yomi readings you usually learn during the kanji lessons and the kun’yomi readings you sometimes get in vocab and you can find that here. So for the examples you gave:

工 = こう = is one reading for construction
工事 = こうじ = is the vocab for construction

口 =こう= is one reading for mouth
口 =くち =is the vocab for mouth

So you see that in spoken conversation, what you get will be vocabulary words and should be easier to tell apart. I too had the same feeling when I first started, but you quickly find it going away once you get the first vocabulary coming in.


I am not that different from you( i think) however i feel i pick up alot more since i started wanikani. I am not an expert but i believe it grows in you with experience.


thank you! ^ ^ honestly it’s kinda been nagging at me for a while and i just felt really confused, then again i basically just started wanikani so that’s to be expected ^-^;

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yep, i’ll give it some more time, considering i’m only on level three ^^; but yeah, i guess you kinda get used to it, like with on’yomi and kun’yomi. thank you!

No problem at all. A lot of this stuff just becomes apparent the longer you progress, so stick with it and you’ll find it becomes easier :slight_smile:


There’s a lot of good stuff on the forum to help you, like The Ultimate Additional Japanese Resources List! and The New And Improved List Of API and Third Party Apps - all of which make your learning journey a bit more fun, so it’s always worth checking those out ^-^


As with any language, a lot of it comes with experience. Listening to stuff where you don’t know the vast majority of words will be difficult. Once you have a good sized vocabulary and are quick to pick up on those words, it gets easier.


To build off what Joeni said, also keep in mind that English has the same way of saying things too. When someone says “My aunt is one of the nicer people in the family”, you don’t think they’re talking about their ant. Or if someone says “I’m going to go read a book”, you don’t assume they’re talking about a reed.

So it’s also about the context of the sentence, if that helps any.


Wanikani is going to help a lot with reading. You will passively acquire vocabulary from doing your reviews, which you will be able to pick out occasionally.

If you’re wanting to improve your listening comprehension, I would recommend watching Japanese content made for Japanese people, WITHOUT subtitles.

If you use Japanese subtitles, you are kind of reinforcing your reading. I would just forget about English subtitles, as you may as well be watching the show dubbed in English.

You need a decently sized knowledge of vocab to be able to comfortably consume any foreign language’s content. I would suggest getting a core 2k vocab deck or something and then watch thousands of hours of Japanese tv.

That being said, Wanikani is probably the best resource for acquiring both vocab and kanji, albeit some of the vocab feels pointless to learn.


thank you again! ^^*

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100% this!

It’s always worth remembering what an absolute travesty of homonyms, homographs, and combinations of both the English language is. If you’ve managed to learn that heart, beard, and heard are all pronounced with different ear readings and that we have a bunch of different sounding there/their/they’re words, then you’re pretty well set up to understand any other language with practice :smiley:


What do you mean? Those only share a similar reading when in a kanji compound. Otherwise, as a standalone word 口 is くち (or ぐち if rendaku in a compound word like 入り口). So you would use the context of the full word to know which is which. Or in the case of when the full word is a similar reading, you’d use surrounding context of the sentence. If someone is saying something that involves 人口 then 人工 isn’t often going to make any sense even though they have the same reading.

Context is king in Japanese.

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I’ve been studying Japanese pretty diligently for five years and still can’t really watch stuff without subtitles.

I would recommend starting with really easy beginner materials and slowly build up your listening skills which will give you more confidence. Check out the Graded Japanese Readers (levels 0 and 1 are especially good to start) series which come with an audio CD so you can listen first, then read later!


I think the first step of listening comprehension is to be able to pick up on where the word boundaries are, even if you don’t understand the words themselves.

If you haven’t started grammar study, I would do some of that. By the end of Genki I (or some equivalent), you have most of the tools you need to at least pick up on particles and sentence enders. Genki I also includes CDs with audio for all of its dialogues and listening comprehension tests, which are easier than what you’ll find in the wild.

The other thing, that has already been recommended, is to watch Japanese content with Japanese subtitles. Even if you can’t read the Kanji in the subtitle, any hiragana will help you determine where one word ends and the next begins.

Good luck, you’ll get over the first hump of “garbled sounds” to “words, but meaningless” fast enough. :slight_smile:


I think expanding your vocab is probably the best thing you can do to start with, it can be really hard to understand what you’re hearing when you only know like 0.1% of the words that you’re hearing. Another good thing can be to study some grammar, that way when you start hearing things like です or する or というor particles in speech, you’ll recognize those bits and pieces and be able to tell the structure of the sentence, even if you don’t know the meanings of the words yet. Once you get further along, studying pronunciation can help a little bit as well. I’ve heard many people say that the Japanese R sounds like a D to them, and understanding what it’s supposed to sound like can help you to make that distinction. Personally, I used to have trouble telling T and D sounds apart in Japanese, and sometimes it’s still hard to tell if a vowel is long or not in faster speech. Making sure that you’re hearing all the sounds correctly can make a big difference in the long run.

Also if you practice by for example, watching anime with subtitles, try to force yourself to listen to the dialogue. It can be really easy to tune it out when you’re reading subtitles!


I like NHK Easy for listening practice, but any materials where you have both audio and a transcript will work.

First read through the article, with whatever fluency your current reading level allows.

Then listen, following along with the printed text. At the beginning, don’t worry about understanding, just try to match the printed text with the audio.

Then read through the article again.

Then just listen to the audio, without the transcript. At the beginning, pay particular attention to particles and verb endings. Partly because they repeat often so they’re easy to learn, and partly because they break sentences into manageable chunks.


I think the best (and possibly only) way to get better at listening comprehension is by listening as much as possible. I know it sounds really obvious, but I really do think that you just have to listen and get used to how the language sounds.

I enjoy watching anime, so to practice listening I’ll just watch an anime I like, minus the English subtitles (this part’s important!). Having Japanese subs is great too, but I think for listening practice it’s better to have no subs at all. I think if you find some kind of entertainment that you really like, (anime, j-dramas, YouTube), and listen a lot then you’ll get better.

It really does help to have a solid foundation in vocabulary as well, and as much as I love Wanikani, I think you’d have a quicker time using something like Anki or Memrise to pick up vocab. One of my favorite things is when I learn a new vocab word, I start to hear it everywhere, even if it sounded like a jumbled mess before, and I wonder how I never noticed it in the first place.


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