Fluctuating listening comprehension

Hello hello everyone!

I’m in a bit of a strange situation right now and not quite sure how to address it. One of the things I’ve been struggling with in the past is listening comprehension (specifically, picking up harder words from conversations at normal native speed).

To combat this I’ve been doing the following:

  • playing games which have full audio on top of the dialogues to match text to speech (for instance, Heaven Burns Red)
  • watching vTuber streams
  • since ~1 year taking 1:1 speaking classes

I noticed a significant improvement in my listening comprehension since then, but there are times when it fluctuates a lot. For instance, I’m currently taking a break from the 1:1 classes in favor of group classes (which ironically, are also on a break now…) and subjectively my listening comprehension has deteriorated a bit.

Has anyone experienced anything similar? How would one combat this other than more input?



it’s the same with speaking. If i watched/ listened to a lot of stuff in japanese beforehand the speaking seems to come easier.
same with listening. sometimes you don’t really realized in a “i have to translate it in my head” kind of way that it is in japanese and sometimes you have to really concentrate and listen to every word to just grasp the basics.

I wouldn’t worry too much about it. maybe you are just tired or your brain is doing too many other things at the same time, that you are not aware of.


I have found that most of my comprehension goes out the window when there are too many words I don’t know in a given sentence. From there, recognition of grammar structures, words I do know, etc. all become harder.

This could be the case for you, but you say that you are also failing to identify words you do know. The problem is, one issue exasperates the other, so it’s likely a mixture of the two.

My advice is: 1. Keep doing what you’re doing and 2. Maybe add in more vocabulary practice.

Perhaps I’m projecting my own issues onto what you describe here, but this is just my experience talking.

Good luck!


Sometimes it’s true that other distractions like background noise in another language (English, German, etc.) come into play. Usually when my brain is really tired my comprehension does take a nosedive, but before that there is a steady ramp-up.

That was my issue initially. When I was younger I would always watch anime with subtitles so I got familiar with the sound of the language, but my brain would learn how to block out the comprehension of words, because none of them sounded familiar. I spent the last ~1 year working on that so that my brain doesn’t switch off when I’m listening to stuff in Japanese.

I didn’t say that specifically, but yes, that’s very likely the case. If there are too many unknown words my brain still blocks out all of it instinctively.

It’s okay, I feel like we share a significant part of that experience!

Many thanks for the replies so far! :slight_smile:

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