How can I get better at understanding what I'm hearing? (Side note, any general learning tips for progressing in general?)

Hello! Basically as the title suggests, I’m having a very hard time actually taking in what I’m listening to in Japanese. I’m about an n5 level but have a fair bit of kanji knowledge (not so much readings, because I hardcore studied an rtk 2200 deck on anki lol. I easily recognize the joyo kanji- but only visually). I can honestly read fairly well (by the kanji visually, at least) but since I’m a fairly new learner there’s not a lot of resources I find helpful for me personally yet. Mostly I can’t understand what I’m hearing unless there is text with it. I’m considering a Satori Reader subscription as it has that- but are there any other effective ways to advance on listening comprehension? I get very frustrated trying to listen to podcasts, videos, etc. because I don’t understand much aside from basic standalone vocabulary. Also I suck at grammar so maybe that’s not helping me either lol. I’ve started stalling on Japanese learning and haven’t been making much progress at all because I’m frustrated particularly with this setback and not sure what to even do or study next. Thanks for the help :smiling_face_with_tear: みんなの勉強には頑張ってね !


Well, you can listen to-

I guess if vocabulary is what’s holding you back, then you have to study that by itself before proceeding to listening.

Anime has pretty basic vocabulary, grammar, etc., so it’s usually the simplest way to learn a lot of vocab just by watching, even if you have subs on.


Yeah, thanks! I’m trying to study past n5 vocabulary now but I feel like I just don’t recognize many words when they’re said (maybe it’s just the speed of spoken language idk) but I might try watching more anime just for that to see if it helps.

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Make sure you’re actively listening for anything you might know, too.

Also, something that seems a little odd, but often works: Practice speaking, even if just to yourself. The idea is that it could help you internalize the words, so that you’ll recognize them better when they come up in your listening time.


Sorry to focus on the one weak point you already know but grammar is essential in the beginning. If you have words, but can’t figure out what they all mean together or when combined then you’ll be very lucky to understand them at al. Context can only do so much. I suggest trying out bunpro to get a head start on grammar. It’s a SRS system and you can decide what you want to study, and what you’ve heard before.

Having lots of vocabulary is great, but it’s the grammar that glues everything together. You’ll be amazed at what all you can understand as soon as you get further in grammar studies. Good luck!


What kind of stuff are you watching? Native level content or stuff targeted to learners?

That doesn’t help. I’m fairly advanced, but I still have times where I misunderstand something because of the speed.

Thank you! I like bunpro a lot actually, I’ve used it for a couple months (just passed n5) but I feel like I forget it a lot lol so I may just need to study it/try practicing it several times on my own to get it down better. I definitely agree though that grammar is very important. I’ve struggled understanding it good enough, but I’ll definitely keep working at it and perhaps prioritize it now that I’ve grown more comfortable with kanji.


I’ve tried both a little bit. I did listen to some stuff for beginners since it’s a little easier to understand from what I do know, but I’ve also tried listening to general everyday videos/podcasts (and anime which I guess is kinda advanced knowledge ish?) which is usually what I catch a few words/phrases from but struggle to understand in general.

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Congrats!! :partying_face:

This is the hard part if you don’t get the opportunity to practice it… Do you have any textbooks or study groups you are a part of? Or is it self study? I unfortunately studied in college, so I can’t help much with concrete ideas at your level, but there are lots of study blogs here on WaniKani and I saw a few textbook specific ones as well that I think have tandem studying sessions? (not quite sure) It could be helpful! There’s also the Japanese sentence a day on both WaniKani and in Bunpro. (I know bunpro makes a point to use the grammar you learned that day, but that can be daunting) Maybe even the absolute beginner book club can help you start to slowing figure out how Japanese language gets put together.

Learning how to put sentences together in Japanese I’ve found helps me understand how the information will come at me when listening to spoken Japanese. Maybe putting on Japanese subtitles while watching something in Japanese, and also pausing a lot, will help you understand things better than just listening alone?


I would recommend listening to stuff for beginners and then increase the difficulty to native media when you feel like you’ve got a handle on the beginner material.


Thank you!! I am self studying but I have been following the Genki series and some Anki decks, Wanikani and Bunpro. I totally have struggled with the structure and get very confused on a lot of the grammar that doesn’t quite translate quite right haha. I will definitely look into those posts and the subtitled videos because I think that could help a ton. Seeing the kanji while listening is a huge help I think. Thank you so much for all the ideas and help, I really appreciate it!!


Something like this:

And this for simple stories with audio and English translation:

And this for filling in song lyrics:

And this (or other extensions) for content in general:


I’d guess that I’m around N2 in grammar and vocabulary and N1 in kanji, I practice every day, and I still don’t catch everything I hear! Your progress sounds normal to me. I agree with the other replies, especially @Kazzeon.

The bulk of listening practice is time served. You have to go through a long, long, long period of not understanding much. I can understand a lot now but I’m still not all the way through that period, and I’ve been at it for over a year!

Freestyle speaking is a great idea (and one that I know I should be doing but I keep putting off!). Personally, I like to practice reading sentences out loud using OJAD. That helps me remember which pitch drops to listen for (they’re not always where you think, especially the most common words). Talking to a native speaker is a tremendous help, if you can find one who’s willing.

I can see why you’re frustrated, but it sounds to me like your progress is actually right on pace. You just have to take a deep breath and keep being frustrated for a while!


I have greatly improved my listening comprehension by watching anime with Japanese voice actors and English subtitles (although many of the words that I’ve learned have little applicability to everyday conversation, such as magical girl, explosion, dragon, etc., and many dialogs contain slang or pronunciations or word usage that should probably be avoided).

I still have difficulty understanding everything if I avoid looking at the subtitles, however, and so I will need to supplement that with other sources. But watching and listening to anime has gotten me to a place where for a lot of the dialog that I hear, I simply ‘understand’ it, without consciously translating it to English, and to me at least, that feels like an important accomplishment.


Thanks! I’ll check those out :slight_smile:

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Ahh thank you! That’s very encouraging to hear, I thought I was pretty much way behind other n5/n4 learners haha. It’s frustrating to not be able to understand but it’s you’re right, it’s an important part of learning and something we all have to get through to make it to the other side, no matter how long it may seem lol. Thanks for the encouragement and the resource! It sounds interesting and helpful so I will look into it tomorrow!


I also struggled with listening comprehension. Here’s how I improved my listening:
I first used Genki 1 (and 2) and the accompanied workbooks. I found the PDFs of the workbooks so I can reprint any lessons I felt I needed to redo. The workbooks have listening at the end of each lesson. I listen to the listening sections with my notes open and go through each question. After I finish the next few lessons or so, I go back and redo the listening without my notes.
I also found JLPT workbooks specifically for listening.

I used the one for N4, but I found the N5 version for you. I failed N4 2x because of the listening section, and this book really helped me.

I also highly recommend these practice tests. Again, I used them to pass N4, but I found the N5 version for you.

Good luck!


Hello there! I can speak for my very limited experience. What I did was:

  1. I listened to every Dialogue in Genki I following the transcript and without the transcipt. THe routine was: I listen to it one time, then I read the transcript, and thirdly I listen to it again while reading the transcript.
  2. I started listening to Nihongo con Teppei for Beginners. I binge listened to it, everyday. Just put the podcasts, lied on the sofa and focus on what he was saying. By episode 300, I was already understanding 80% of the episodes and I kept going, until episode 700 where I was able to understand 95-100% of it.
  3. Then I moved to a more advanced Podcast (That’s where I am now).

I’d like to stress thou that when I started the Podcast, I was already done with Genki II (which I also listened to it the same way I did with Genki I). As for me, what holds me back is the lack of vocabulary which I’m working slowly through active listening, where I grab a transcript and read along with the audio file. If you feel confident enough you could try some Anime with Japanese subtitles. That’s what I do when I watch anime nowadays. I’m currently and sporadically watching slow paced slice of life to increase vocabulary by exposition.

Learning language is hard. I wish you luck on your journey and most important, have fun while learning!


This is where application is super valuable! Are you doing the activities in Genki? How about the workbook? A lot of them are made as partner activities, but you can just do both parts by yourself. It’s a really good way to practice using the grammar to better internalize it. You can buy the workbook answer key off Amazon to check your work.

If you’ve got the money for it, working with a tutor on iTalki could also be very helpful. Since you’re struggling with grammar, I would recommend going for a professional tutor who can explain the grammar to you, clarify your issues etc. rather than someone who just does free form conversation lessons (though those are also valuable)

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