Formal vs casual Japanese advice

Hello !

i’ve been learning Japanese for about a year and a half now.

I attend a part time language course, which used Japanese for busy people as the core textbook.

As you can imagine, this focuses very much on formal situations, and meeting people for the first time.

As a consequence everything I have learned to date has been in the masu form.

I feel when i encounter any Japanese on tv programmes, I cant understand anything but the odd vocab word.

I am wondering whether my lack of comprehension may be because I cant recognise casual speech.

has anyone had the same experience? maybe had a point in learning where they transitioned to causal speech, and comprehension increased? Is it important to learn casual speech early on in conjunction with formal forms?

any thoughts would be appreciated ! :slight_smile:


Firstly, watching Japanese TV is difficult… fast-paced natural Japanese between natives is a really high level of listening comprehension. So, I wouldn’t necessarily feel bad about not understanding a lot, if your listening level isn’t super high, even if you were comfortable with casual Japanese.

It’s hard to say what you’ll hear without knowing exactly what you’re watching. If it’s news, of course it will be very formal. If it’s Terrace House, it’ll be quite casual. If it’s a talk show, it’ll be somewhere in between.

That being said… you do know the dictionary forms of words (assuming you’re not just skipping all your vocab items), so do you just need to practice using them I guess?

Try narrating your thoughts. For native speakers, they would never talk to themselves in です/ます form. If you get stuck on something, look up or ask how to say it.


I generally watch terrace house and the odd anime - it might be worth listening to more NHK web easy - at least then i know it will be the formal forms i have learnt.

I have not being skipping my vocabs ! I promise. :slight_smile: I have however not being learning my tenses ect with dictionary form. And i have never spoke using them - so talking to my self might be a good idea - i mean i already do it in english, so shouldn’t be too much of an intrusion. :blush:

Really good advice ! thanks @Leebo - 頑張ります… or maybe 頑張る

I’ve been studying Japanese at university for roughly two and a half years and still sometimes struggle with listening to Japanese in TV shows etc. Not because I don’t know casual (Actually it’s probably what i know best). It’s mainly just the pace of the speaking. One thing I’ve done to try and solve this problem is just watching loads of things without subtitles and trying to figure out, listen too it over and over again. If I still can’t figure it out then I just put the subtitles on and read it.

Once I know everything that is being said I then just rip the audio onto my phone and when I’m walking around doing stuff I just have it playing all the time. I’ve done this for about a year with anime/drama and podcasts etc and it has benefitted me greatly.


Maybe another thing to try is watching things in a player that allows slowing down the playback speed to help aid comprehension? That way you can use that opportunity to catch everything at an easier pace and then work you’re way back up to normal speed when ready.

I do this when trying to sing along with Japanese songs when trying to memorize the lyrics and match the pacing of the singer.

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This is great advice! Also what you said about putting the audio on something that you’ll listen to often, like your phone or iPod or whatever. I do this when I’m commuting to and from work and it’s very helpful.


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