Advice for practising listening at low levels

I just finished Genki 2 and I would confidently say that I am about level N4 at reading and grammar/kanji, etc. However, I suck at listening. I had no problems understanding the audio material from genki because it was spoken relatively slow and clearly. However, after taking a practice JLPT N4 test, I realised that I could not understand most of the listening part because it was too damn fast.

I tried listening to learning material, but everything is either too easy or too hard. The complete beginner content is too easy and doesn’t help me progress at all. However, beginner-intermediate level material is just too fast. I tried listening to children’s anime like Doraemon without subtitles, but still to me everything sounds like a mess of random sounds from which I can only understand a few words here and there.

Did any of you had any difficulties with the learning curve of listening? How did you overcome it? Do you have any material you could recommend me that would be around my level?

Thank you very much.

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The best way to get past the “mess of random words” stage might be to watch something like Doraemon with Japanese subtitles, instead of English subtitles or no subtitles at all, to help you build the skill of parsing separate words even when they speak very fast.

It will still be very fast at first, and you might struggle to understand most of what’s happening while you do both reading and listening at the same time, but seeing the words that are being spoken will quickly help you pick up listening speed. And more importantly, you will get used to filling in the blanks of which syllables are written but not spoken - kind of the way we say “gonna” but write “going to”.

Officially I can’t share the website I use to watch anime with Japanese subtitles because it is against the rules lol. But if you google around a bit, you will find some options of websites you can use to immerse with no English.


i would recommend Fluentu. if you can’t afford that, Lingq or Podcast 101.

Thank you very much.

I tried to watch children’s anime without any subtitle as i thought the it would be easier to understand but I’m still struggling. I will try to find some with japanese subtitle. Is there any anime or other media you would recommend that would be around my level and have japanese subtitles?

Thank you I will look it up. Seems expensive though.

Natively now has audiovisual listings –

Otherwise, browse Natively forum for reviews / recommendations.

Some videos on YouTube may have subtitles, or even transcripts; if you can find an enjoyable one.

There is also this level-assorted list that may help.

Usually this is not a good idea because in most cases (at least with Netflix) subtitles in Japanese are different from the Japanese audio so it gets very confusing-- maybe it is not the case of Doraemon… I suggest instead to watch first with subtitles in English and then watch again a second time without subtitles.

Also, Genki 2 has very LONG texts in second portion of the book. One of them is about Doraemon. The one about Rakugo is hilarious! Try reading them first out loud with your voice (no audio), then try reading with the audio and then one last time with just the audio. If you drive, then try to listen to Genki main dialogues and these dialogues in your car or bus or train when you commute.

Anyway, it will take time until your ear gets used to it.

Fwiw ive literally never experienced this. I’m in Japan if that maybe makes a difference in selection and whatnot (though vps are an option).


Isn’t this more of a problem with things that were originally in something other than Japanese? Because then the Japanese voices are dubbed and have much different constraints than the subtitles translating the English text.


I can give an advice from my English listening comprehension practice.

The key is repetition. I usually listen to the same material several times.

Here is how this process looks like step by step:

  1. Find any material that you like
  2. Watch it “as is” without subtitles and translation
  3. Turn on subtitles and watch it again. Pause and rewind if needed. Translate unknown words.
  4. Watch it again “as is”

Listening comprehension has always been difficult for me as well. Over time I’ve just chalked it up to poor genetics. I didn’t win the listening lottery.

However, as others say, it’s all about repetition. And you are lucky that we live in an age with digital audio. This was much, much more difficult in the 1990s for instance where you might have to use, gasp, cassette tapes.

Netflix is really great. Watch an episode of The Makanai with English subtitles, then rewatch with Japanese subtitles. And then do it again. And again. And again. As you progress with WaniKani you start recognizing a surprising amount of the kanji. My perspective on this is it’s not about following everything but it’s about ear training. This is why you watch with English subtitles first. So you aren’t completely lost and completely bored. And then when you start being able to read ahead and hear the hiragana and then match kanji to what you’ve learned here, you feel a sense of accomplishment even if you don’t understand all the vocabulary.

Satori Reader is another great resource. It’s a tad expensive, but you can tell they put a lot of money into their audio production and it can pull your known kanji from the WaniKani API. Listen and read along, and then do it again. And again. And again.

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If you like podcasts – I’ve been casually listening to Japanese podcasts for several months now while driving, doing chores, etc, and I honestly feel like it’s improved my listening skills a lot! I just finished Genki 1, for reference. There are a ton of podcasts aimed for Japanese learners on Spotify (that’s what I use, but I’m sure other music platforms have them too) so I would recommend browsing to see if there’s any you like. My personal favorite is Momoko to Nihongo because she has a relaxing voice and always has interesting topics. She also clarifies some of the more difficult words/phrases in English, so it’s not true immersion, but I really like it because it helps me check my understanding or put me back on track if I’m totally lost. She also uploads Japanese and English scripts for her episodes on her website! I know Nihongo con Teppei is popular too, he uploads new episodes daily that are 4-5 minutes each. If those podcasts are too low level for you, I’m sure there are some more “intermediate” type ones too but I haven’t looked into those much. But I think the most important thing is to find listening material that you genuinely enjoy and will keep coming back to, because consistency is key.


Yes. I think with the original Japanese content, this should not be an issue.

In case you dont have subtitles or they dont match. You can download them for lots of anime over here kitsunenekko. You can use asbplayer or Migaku to display them


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