Able to understand Japanese much better with English subs?

It’s a weird sensation. A recent example is this:
When I see what they’re saying in English, I’m able to piece together the grammar and placement of words pretty well. This is especially true for things I hear in the wild even if I haven’t heard the word before (Such as 然も無いと). If there are no subtitles, I’m suddenly back to the occasional bits and pieces and I almost wouldn’t understand a thing out of a masculine voice. I know it’s probably just me needing to double down and yatta yatta. Just wanted to know if other’s had that sensation and about how long before they didn’t need those “training wheels” or if any milestones are actually hit being able to do just that.


I think it makes sense you would understand more that way. The subs tell you more or less what to expect from the Japanese, so you kind of know what to look for.

I mostly feel that way when watching something with Japanese subs. Without subs, if I don’t catch something, I usually get caught up a bit trying to figure it out and miss some other stuff. With subs, if I don’t catch a word I can just glance at the subs, see what I missed, and concentrate on listening again.

It’s hard to know when is the best time to move on to the “next level”, but you don’t have to jump from English subs to no subs, you could jump to Japanese subs instead. I see they’re available in the video you linked too, so maybe try it out and see how it goes? :wink:


It depends on the complexity of the content as well as the level of your ability in the language.

If you can get Japanese subs, it’s worth the stretch, and although it requires an effort of concentration, once you get to a certain level you can try watching things with simple themes like high school romance anime without subs altogether.

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I’m having this exact problem right now. I watch a lot of shonen which aren’t necessarily complex. But without subtitles I’m almost helpless. With them I feel like I’m cheating, but I can hear the words they’re saying. It’s like you’re just about to break through to understanding the material but you’re just as useful as someone who can read English subs and doesn’t know any Japanese lol.


That’s why you watch without subs if you want to train your listening ability.

I’ve heard that it’s good to use subtitles throughout your learning experience. However, I’ve also heard that anime sometimes uses vocab that you most likely won’t run into in the wild. (This is a generalization and doesn’t apply to all anime.) What I try to do instead is watch live TV. There are a lot of things to watch that use words that are used everyday. They have a wonderful thing called shopping TV. I’m sure it’s a thing in America too, but it’s really good for learning the names of stuff you just might have to buy when in Japan. Be warned though not all applications with Japanese TV will have subs. Also, news tends to be terribly turgid, using words one might only use in professional settings. I hope this is a help.

Ever since I started learning more vocabulary, I had the same feeling where I could hear the Japanese better with subtitles, but now i’m actually starting to understand more and more without subtitles, on songs and the like…

I’m in the same boat right now, I have both the english and japanese subtitles up wherever possible, but if I’m lazy and don’t want to pause I’ll just glance down at the english subtitles. I’m not advanced enough to understand complex sentences with the couple of seconds I have to read them (in japanese). And some sentences are way beyond me. I am finding that anime is far more difficult to understand voice-wise sometimes. The incredible speed and high pitch can be impossible. Tried Saiko (i think it’s called that - netfllix) but his speed was too fast (in the first 10 minutes before I gave up). Then I tried Little Witch Academia, which is easier (and great btw).

I looked for non-anime on viki and found Signal (crime drama), of which I’ve already seen the korean version. Instantly the voices seemed better moderated and clearer than in anime, but obviously the style of speech and vocabulary was verrry different. I think it might be good to watch something first with english subtitles, then with japanese subtitles upon a rewatch. So you aren’t completely lost but you are still thrown in the deep end. And try to find something where their voices seem not too difficult to understand. One of the characters in Little Witch Academia speaks in a monotone voice and I can’t tell what she’s saying even as I’m reading it!

If you do want to watch anime, other than little witch academia I’d suggest Noragami. I’ve only watched it with english subtitles, but their voices, style and speed are not too difficult. Also it’s a good anime.

Oh and I forgot to say, there’s an extension for netflix where you can use subtitles in two languages at once. You can hide the english translation and reveal it by hitting E on the keyboard. Very useful if you’re willing to pause a lot.

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