Advice for Getting Started in Listening?

Hey all. I have a problem with 日本語 - I’m pretty okay at reading fairly simple text (NHK News Easy level with a bit of effort), whereas I can hardly listen even to beginning podcasts so far. I want to get better at listening, but it’s frustrating that I always lose track of what the speaker is saying, and then can’t easily start understanding again, then get bored and unfocused. Any advice? I’m thinking just listen to beginner podcasts, maybe read the transcripts for podcasts that have them and keep practicing until it gets better, right?


Jumping into videos with Japanese subtitles is a great strategy. It’s like a triple combo: you get the visual context, the audio, and the subtitles to read along. This approach can really help bridge the gap between reading and listening skills. It’s a bit like training wheels for your ears - the subtitles give you a safety net while your listening skills catch up.

Don’t stress too much about it. Just find some content that interests you and dive in. Anime, drama, YouTube videos, whatever floats your boat. The key is to keep it fun and engaging, so you won’t even notice you’re learning. And remember, it’s totally fine if you don’t get everything at first. It’s all part of the process. In fact, tolerating ambiguity is a healthy habit! Keep at it, and you’ll see improvements in no time


This is great advice!! Especially for listening practice. Although, if you have a harder time tolerating the ambiguity, something that I’ve done that helps me, is if there is a manga that you like, that you know has an anime, that you can find the Japanese original of online (like Net*flix or other :pirate_flag: ) try watching that without subtitles! You’re already familiar with the story/plot, and then you can connect new words with the previous background knowledge that you have!

Or even watching a Japanese dub of a favorite movie (as long as the background knowledge doesn’t fill in the English automatically and you end up zoning out instead of listening) can be helpful!

But also take it slow, if you start to not hear anything besides gibberish and nothing is entering your head, take a break! listening can be pretty exhausting, and easily tire you out. Taking breaks wherever you’re at in a show, or a podcast or movie, and then coming back to that same place (or restarting if you made it only a little bit in) will help keep those Japanese listening skills well oiled and help you get used to what you’ve already learned!

Good luck!!!


It generally takes quite a lot of time to listen well. Written language is very clear and concise, whereas spoken language is not as clear cut. Think about your own native language, you almost never talk with clear pauses between every word, you take shortcuts while speaking and words flow together.
It takes a lot of time to get used to such patterns with a new language, the only way is to listen a lot, no way around it!
Its no shame to not understand everything yet, you should not see it as a failure, instead try to be proud when you understand something. It will be like this for quite some time, but if you keep listening your brain can’t not start to recognize the patterns, it’s practically impossible to not be able to listen if you keep at it!

If you want an easier time, you can sometimes make the content you watch/listen to play at a lower speed or use subtitles in japanese to go along, that helps a lot; especially in the beginning. Or you could watch the same content in your native language first or with subtitles in your native language. This will make sure that you know whats happening and you get a lot of context for whats happening if you try to watch/listen a few days later in japanese again.
Just make sure to not neglect real native content, you will need to listen to a lot of it and at some point, listening at slower speeds might prolong the whole process.

Dont give up, be happy about the little bits you understand, its perfectly normal that way and everything you do understand is a big success! Just try for 2 or 3 more months and go back to the old content you listened to. You will be surprised how much more you will understand. :slight_smile:


There are “novel” games like Jack Jeanne, where you read through a story, but with full voice acting. In Jack Jeanne, you can always replay the audio for a line of dialogue. So you can first close your eyes and listen to the line. If you don’t quite understand something, press the button to play it once again. After that, you can look at the written line (subtitle) on the screen.

If you google “fully voice acted Japanese games”, perhaps you can find a game with a theme that interests you :slightly_smiling_face: Games and movies that are set in the present age, and deal with daily life, of course have a lot of useful language for real life. Fantasy or sci-fi games may use archaic language, or a lot of very technical terms.


I agree with everyone else that not understanding at first is totally normal. I often re-listen to the same podcast several times, and even though at the beginning it might be hard, I tend to find that I pick out some words and phrases on each listen, and after a while I can start to better understand the full context (assuming the content is aimed at my current level)

If speed of the talker is putting you off at the minute, then I’d definitely recommend the Walk and Talk videos by Japanictionary. He speaks clearly, one sentence at a time with pauses between so you can think over and understand what he’s saying before he moves on, and there’s also Japanese subtitles.

But yeh, I think the main thing is, keep practising, and it will get easier!


If you have watched anime before with English subtitles, pick a show you already know the story of and watch with Japanese subtitles. Do that for a while (few months to a year) then try switching off subtitles and see how you do and do that.


Beginner podcast like Japanese With Shun or Nihongo Con Teppei are fine for this.

And if you happen to use a textbook like Genki, don’t skip on the audio material of it.


nihongo con teppei is good to hear for its slow pace

also, watch the live news in japan24news on youtube, it’s a good exercise.

But you need a basic grammar to understand complete sentences, In my 20s lvl I wouldn’t bother with listening yet, I would prefer to start grammar study (bunpro) and with more vocab I would start paying attention to listening.

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I had a thread going earlier this year with the sole goal of improving my listening (which was almost nonexistent). I’ve found that the best sources for Japanese listening practice are anime and Japanese videos with subtitles. It might feel like all you do is read what’s there, but the brain is great at picking up patterns from content it understands. All I did for 3 months was watch about an hour of anime each day and it really improved my listening ability.

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Watch anime. :eyes:


Nothing you can do besides jump into it.

Maybe play a game that speaks Japanese so that you will be motivated.

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