Get more use out of Native Material for listening practice

So, I discovered this technique more or less by accident, but it is obvious in retrospect. I’ve never seen anyone mention it though, so I’m doing so in case it’s useful to anyone else.

Short version: Use Audio Description track for videos that have them rather than the regular sound track.

Long version: On many movies and shows, there is an Audio Description track. This is primarily intended for the vision impaired, but is huge for language learners, because it adds audio description of the scene into the soundtrack. These descriptions are:

  • In proper grammar. No idioms or slang
  • Clear. Not noisy, muffled, or voice altered.
  • Short. They have to fit in between regular sound and dialog.
  • No complex grammar. They have to be understood quickly and easily, so tend to be utilitarian.
  • Increases the amount of content per show. You still get all the regular dialog, of course, so this just adds to the amount of listening for a given amount of time.
  • Have a built-in visual gloss. Because they describe the scene, the video itself gives you a way to work out what is being said without resorting to L1 clues.
  • There’s no subtitles for these descriptions, even if the rest of the video is subtitled. Which means you can get listening practice in even with things that you’d like to watch subtitled for whatever reason (I won’t judge).

Only real drawback that I’ve discovered so far is because you don’t need to understand them to enjoy the show, you can learn to tune them out, so some active participation is still required. I think that passive listening, since it’s paired with appropriate imagery, is still valuable, but your mileage will probably vary.

So, anyone doing this and am I just rediscovering something everyone already knew? Does anyone see any other issues with this that I haven’t thought of?


Ive done this and do this when I get the chance. The biggest issue is just that not everything has audio description. Matt vs Japan made a video on it awhile back that probably got several tens of thousands of views, so I think its safe to say a good amount of people who are serious about immersion learning know about it already. Rather or not they do it is a different story. I also do condensed audio for my passive listening which essentially cuts out all parts where nobody is talking.


Yeah. Availability is a big drawback. But it is becoming more and more common.

And yeah, I couldn’t believe that no one else was doing this. I haven’t seen anyone talk about it though. Possibly because of the difficulty finding content that has it.

I did it accidentally one day and the light bulb went off. So I figured posting would spread the idea further.

I think a lot of people on this forum are probably focused more on reading, and people who do want to listen to shows probably aren’t at the level where they don’t need jp subtitles, let alone can handle another audio track. Thats my guess for why it doesn’t come up all that much, at least.

There is a way to sort netflix by what has an audio description track, but unfortunately the shows Im currently interested weren’t on there.

1 Like

I would never use audio description track because I feel like it would kill my enjoyment of a show, but I do like closed captions since they contain short descriptions of sound effects that I find interesting to learn.

1 Like

I do it, and found it also accidentally.
My kids have been watching Godzilla 2014 and I realized it uses a lot of WaniKani vocabulary that I always thought to be rather rare.

So I wanted to watch it several times and doing so I discovered the 音声ガイド.
I think it is really the best way to learn vocabulary, because of its descriptiveness. In order to make the training more intensive I wrote down the audio guide for the whole movie.

Actually I was planning to share it here once it is finished 100%.
There are still some little parts I cannot hear well and so I asked my husband to check the missing parts.
Seems he will not do so soon, so I might just share it with some blank parts left.
I guess I wrote down 98% or more at the current moment.


Implying you haven’t done it and don’t plan on trying?

I have turned it on by mistake in English before and it freaked me out because of sensory overload. So no, I have no intention of trying it in Japanese.


So that’s why I put it in the listening section. I haven’t seen it on other language learning forums that aren’t dedicated to kanji, though.

In any case, the big thing I’ve found (and understand, I’m just experimenting with this) is that it’s not really ‘another audio track’, it’s ‘additional audio you can instinctively understand because it’s describing what you’re seeing’. At least for me, it doesn’t feel tiring the same way struggling without subtitles does.

Yeah, I can see how it might do that. I haven’t had that problem so far. My problem is trying to find time for listening practice, so this really helps by increasing the density of practice for a given amount of time. And at my (sucky) level, I generally find it more comprehensible than the actual dialog a lot of the time.

1 Like

I never actually thought to try this, thanks!

I don’t personally disagree, thats just my guess for why it doesn’t get brought up

I just posted the link to the Godzilla script if you are interested.

1 Like

Same. I don’t think this is fo rme. I much prefer watching with no subs anyway.

What might pique a bit of interest in me, would be a commentary track, where the creators discuss the movie and scenes. That might hold my interest in its own right, but if it’s about watching/enjoying a drama, I prefer to just do that.


Forgot about this, haven’t had netflix in a while but might consider resubbing. Tried the description track a few times and found it quite fun, but could be quite weird depending on the show. Also fills the “useless” time of a show with more input :grin:.

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.