If you’re new (or old!) to practicing listening comprehension then I recommend learning pitch accent basics first.
I can feel your anger and smell your fear. Let me explain. or well, it’s hard to explain but here goes:
i went a long time without practicing pitch accent. during my first few years of learning japanese, i only practiced reading, writing, and listening comprehension. luckily i never practiced speaking, so i never developed any bad speaking habits.
i’ve been practicing pitch accent for at least 2 years and i wish i started earlier.
Why does knowing at least the basics of how pitch accent works help with listening comprehension?
ok, it’s hard to explain, but you know when you’re listening to a Japanese audio recording, and it’s just a bunch of gibberish, a bunch of noise. but you know your hiragana/katakana, so you pick out those phonemes. well, now it’s just an outburst/bombardment of phonemes. You try to listen for an arrangement of phonemes that matches words you know. you’re a beginner, so you don’t know a lot of words, and so even if you think you might recognize some clusters of phonemes that might match a word you know, maybe you’re not sure because you’re not sure where each word begins and ends in the sentence you’re hearing. and as for that remaining random alphabet soup that you definitely dont recognize, well, i mean can you even really expect yourself to hear words that you dont know? you DO expect yourself to, but you can’t hear them. it’s just bananagrams. it’s like reading japanese text with no kanji, no spaces, everything hiragana (or everything katakana). i.e., you’re not going to register a cluster of syllables as a word unless you already know that word and know it well.
ok, so you know how when you read japanese, kanji is actually pretty useful seeing where one word begins and ends? as long as you know the kanji in the text, reading japanese with kanji is actually easier than reading just plain old hiragana (you know, assuming there isn’t spaces between each hiaraga word, as there often is in beginner literature).
well, pitch accent is useful for listening comprehension in the same way that kanji is useful for reading. the pitch accent pattern helps your ears to distinguish each word. It gives some structure to the flow of gibberish. (edit: I wanna emphasize the word some, in that last sentence. This post is just advice, to help listening comprehension. I do not claim this is the key or something to unlocking listening comprehension abilities. If you’re struggling to ~hear~ Japanese, maybe take a break and try learning some pitch accent stuff first, is all i’m saying.).
pitch accent on the sentence level does tend to differ from the level of a single word, especially when speaking fast, but generally, and in long sentences sentences especially, you’re gonna hear enough pitch ups and downs to be useful.
Standard Japanese pitch accent is actually pretty straightforward, and there’s a lot of easily accessible, free resources online you can google pretty easily. just learn how 平板, 頭高, and 中高 work, and then you can start listening for them and begin benefiting from being able to hear them.
as a final note this post is not sponsored by dogen . everything i used to learned about pitch accent was free.