How are you watching Japanese Media?

I’ve been watching Japanese anime for a few years now and I always watch in Japanese with English subtitles. I probably only understand about 30% of what’s going on if I don’t have the subtitles on. A lot of the times I’ll hear words I’ve started learning in the dialogue and try to match that to the English sub and try to get an idea of how I’d translate without the subtitles. I often find it difficult because of just the sheer amount of stuff going on/being said, and let’s be real there’s lots of words in anime that don’t seem to be used elsewhere.

My question is, should I start trying to watch without subtitles? Should I turn on Japanese subtitles to better try and see when the vocab I’m learning is coming up? I’ve started reading and I think that helps but I think I’m stuck in a gap where I just don’t understand enough to follow without English subtitles, and not sure I’m growing enough with what I’m doing.

Would love to hear others thoughts!


In a weird turn of events I clicked on your thread immediately after reading another one with a similar theme, so I’ll link that one here:

But personally, I would say watch with subtitles in your native language until you’re a bit father in kanji, vocabulary, and grammar (probably around WK level 30ish/several months of concentrated grammar study). Then after that, switch to watching with Japanese subtitles, which is what I’m personally doing right now. It’s rough, but I’m getting better.

However, don’t be afraid of changing it up depending on what works best for you! As long as you’re having fun and it’s interesting, push yourself as hard as you want to. Best of luck! :blush:


Hrmm maybe roku stick, or… there must be some way via satellite? Somehow japanese are good at cotrolling their content so it is not stolen. That being said (im in japan.) And my wife and every other japanese person is recording the local tv shows, everyday, and so they exist on her 4tb hard drive. That is a good point we need to start some kind of illegal file coalition. Where we can just pick choose and watch easily. Technically its not illegal, if you are giving the content away free. And technically its broadcasted for everyone to watch locally free anyways. So that means fairuse law. Ill check into this and get back to you.

I still watch with subtitles and I understand about 50% or so on most stuff and probably 80-100% on simple sentences.

However, I do make sure to watch shows without subtitles just for listening practice. My pure listening is around 30% but this exercise is mostly just to hear how the language sounds and I’m not too worried about comprehension. So I’ll watch shows I’ve already seen or ones I’m not too invested in.

I’ll even just grab random stuff on YouTube that’s all in Japanese. The フォーサイス家 ones are pretty good for this but just be aware that they speak Hiroshima-ben since that’s where they grew up. Personally I find it easier to learn when I hear different dialects.


This is a great point! I’ve been trying to consume more ‘real world’ Japanese content lately and I think more Japanese youtube would help with that

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Ive gotten to the point where i only watch japanese content with japanese subtitles on and i believe that to be the best method of learning. Making the connection between spoken and written is a pretty powerful tool in the long run, and really helps to solidify comprehension. The more links one can make to the same words the better those words are retained.
I’ve had a bunch of words pop out this way and stick because i could see the kanji and hear the words at the same time, with some additional context to support it.
Admittedly this works best when knowing the kanji, but other times i’ll know the spoken words but not the kanji and i’ll pick up on that too.

It’s very dependent on the show whether the comprehension is good enough to be enjoyable, so its necessary to start out with easier stuff (I’ve watched the entirety of One Piece only with JP subs).
It’s usually a good idea to stick with shows one already knows untill reaching some amount of proficiency.

Im not personally in a rush to do isolated listening practice because i believe the gains to be smaller than the combined method im doing. (But if i want to i’ll just listen to japanese radio since they talk a lot with good music inbetween)


Lately I’ve really been enjoying podcasts, since the people will usually have very natural conversations with no real script (although there are podcasts which do use scripts and that makes it easier to look up things you might not have understood). It also forces you to listen more closely, since there are no subtitles and sometimes you might be pretty surprised by how much you might already understand.
Some podcasts will also upload a vocab sheet of specific words they used when talking about a certain topic.

The ones I’m currently listening to are: “Sambon Radio” (Youtube) and “Let’s learn Japanese from small talk” (Spotify)

Sometimes I’ll also watch some random videos with Japanese subtitles, but I try to use English subs as little as possible, since I always get distracted and stop actively listening but rather focus on the subtitles themselves.


No, that wouldn’t be fair use. Fair use has a variety of requirements to be met. The copyright holders still hold the right to the means of distribution, even if they broadcast it for free initially.


I highly rate watching Japanese media with Japanese subtitles on!

At the moment, at least in the UK, Netflix is the best service for this. Kind of annoying that Crunchy Roll doesn’t support Japanese subtitles :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:

There is also a Chrome/Firefox plugin for Netflix subtitles so you can look up words on the fly if watching via laptop. Here’s one of the Chrome ones for example: Subadub.


What kind of words do you mean? There definitely are a few words that you will only hear in media in general and not in real life (such as archaic words), but outside of technobabble or series-specific terminology (which is usually in English anyway) I can’t really think of anything so I’m wondering what kinds of words you’re referring to.

On the main topic, I like to watch stuff either with no subtitles or Japanese subtitles if they happen to be available. I used to watch with English subtitles a lot but they’re unnecessary most of the time now. It’s hard to make the switch, I guess only you can know when you’re ready. Just make sure you’re actively listening and not just tuning out the sound while reading the subtitles. For me, I first tried turning them off when I realized that I had just understood an entire conversation and noticed that the subtitles were only distracting me.


I subscribed to TV Japan for listening practice, but was pleased to see that most of the programs also have Japanese subtitles. I still don’t understand much, but I have learned that I do catch new words and new grammar points nearly as soon as i learn them. But I’ve also seen that I am reading the subtitles faster, too. I still don’t get through an entire sentence before the next one is shown, but I get a lot farther than I used to, and that’s progress. I watch a lot of children’s programs and understand a lot of what is said there, so that’s encouraging. Overall, listening, watching, and reading subtitles in Japanese is making a difference for me.


Fair use can mean anything you want it to with a little creative thinking!


I don’t mean to hijack this thread but it seems relevant - what are some good ways to watch Japanese media with Japanese subtitles? I’m hearing Netflix can be good, anything else? Preferably something Japanese-only, as I would be way too tempted to watch English shows if I had a Netflix account.

Would posting that not run afoul of the forum rules? Pretty sure that site doesn’t have a license for those shows they are streaming. Not trying to be a narq, but that site seems a bit iffy for posting here.

Despite what their disclaimer says, posting untouched, full episodes of entire shows has almost never been held up as fair use. :man_shrugging:


The forum rules are to avoid illegally downloading or sharing(as in torrenting), but as that is a service from which you can not obtain the material it should not really infringe on the forum rules.

Whether they are adhering to fair use is their business entirely.

With that said i dont really like their site as my few attempts at watching something has mostly led to the video refusing to play.

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I haven’t used it in several months, but learned a lot by using it to study haikyu!

Since you’re asking about media in general:
I found it easiest to start with manga. You can read it at your own pace and you still get the visual context which helps you fill in the gaps if there’s something you’re not sure of.


Wow lot’s of great suggestions!! Right now I’m watching Japanese Ammo (youtube), looking into manabu and staori reader, and watching anime with English subtitles. I haven’t decided which one I’m really going to put my time into. Currently I’ve been putting my time into wanikani and duolingo but I am really lacking a lot of real world practice which is why I’ve asked the question here


I wish I had a better answer here but I’ve heard a lot of warnings about attempting to use things you hear in anime in normal conversation. If my memory is correct it’s a lot of phrases that are too cutesy, sound very over the top, or are too rough. There are other examples that explain it better than I can, here is one How To / How Not To Speak Like ANIME characters in Japanese - YouTube

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I’ve personally found that sort of warming to be a little overblown. If you consume real life media alongside anime you can pretty easily tell the difference. But, of course, your mileage may vary. :wink: