How did you get over the frustration of immersion?

Anyone here that has reached a decent level of comprehension by reading incomprehensible media? I find it comfy to just read on if I don’t understand and pick up words and add them to my SRS deck along the way.
I get something out of it, but I’ve heard that you learn way more by always having a solid level of comprehension in what you are reading. So I’m wondering if someone here can vouch for reading more difficult stuff even though it’s way less comprehensible.
The reason I ask this is that I’m playing Persona 3 FES in an emulator right now, and I find it somewhat enjoyable. It’s way beyond my current level though.

I’m no expert so take what I say with a grain of salt but what’s been working for me is to immerse with a range of materials, taking a slightly different approach to each based on things like difficulty level.

For example, with most of the manga I read I will try to read to a pretty full level of comprehension. If it’s something I feel comfortable with like よつばと I will often try to stick to a monolingual dictionary for lookups (I’m trying to get better at that but it’s still too tiring for me for harder material when I have to look up a lot of stuff).

For watching anime without English subs, I’ll just chill out and get what I get. Podcasts - something like Nihongo con Teppei I’d tend to listen again if I didn’t feel like I got most of it, but I listen to a few podcasts and audiobooks where I just get as much as I can and don’t stress too much about what I don’t. Tbh the latter group I think have helped my listening and conversation ability quite a lot - I think figuring out how to get things from context and being comfortable with some ambiguity is an important skill to try to build.

Of course - it also means that I spend some of my time listening to or watching material I maybe only understand 50% (or less) of. This probably isn’t the most productive use of time…but I tend to immerse in those sorts of materials at times when I wouldn’t be doing something more productive anyway (eg I’ll put on half an hour of an audiobook as I’m going to sleep, or watch some anime when I’m tired) so it works for me but it’s worth noting. So generally I think that as long as you’re also immersing on some material closer to your level and paying attention to grammar etc etc for that then having some lower impact immersion materials is probably also a good thing!


I know many people wouldn’t consider this immersion, but it worked for me: watch a ton of anime with english subs.

I like Japanese and language studies in general, so I pay a lot of attention to what is being said vs what the subs say. Over the years I started noticing that I am reading the subs less and less.

I don’t need subs most of the time now, so I turn them off on most shows. Actually deciding to switch off the subs was a bit of a challenge but It feels amazing now. I’ve been watching vtuber streams since autumn last year. And they don’t have subs (except fan translated clips), so there was no other option than to watch in Japanese. After getting used to watching vtubers I decided to give unsubbed anime a go too.

As for my results, all the tutors say I have a fairly natural pronunciation, intonation, and stuff. So I am pretty sure it’s thanks to me listening to a lot of Japanese on a regular basis for years.

Overall, English subs don’t harm unless you never decide to switch them off.


That’s a very interesting approach! That it actually worked for you is pretty cool.
I don’t think it will work for me though. My eyes instantly catches on to any text.

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If it hasn’t been mentioned already, I recommend some podcasts!
There’s bilingual ones and ones made just beginners like Nihongo con Teppei for Beginners (he’s got an intermediate one too). There’s even ones for shadowing/speaking practice

I thought I was the only one. :wink:

I’m still at the level where I need them for most things, but I’m finding that I ignore them more and more. As my reading has improved, my listening has gotten a lot better.

It takes a bit of conscious effort to focus on listening but it helps if you watch a lot of anime. For me, it’s the only media I consume outside of YouTube.


I literally learned verb conjugations and katakana by reading a vn that I would say is harder than the average light novel. Went from there learning basically the rest of grammar by reading stuff I could barely understand even with the help of Google and minutes per sentence. I turned out fine.

Same here!

You can try to train yourself to look above the subs or to focus on what’s happening on screen. I’m very used to reading subs, but when I choose to, I can look away and try to decipher what’s being said instead. That aside, well, even if you’re reading the subs, as long as you’re also trying to listen, you’ll be fine: you’ll notice a few common words as well for sure. Just try to wean yourself off them over time.

I did that for French: monolingual dictionary definitions + tons of redirecting because I found words I didn’t know in the monolingual definitions too, so I’ll keep going until I found something simple enough to understand. Of course, this isn’t terribly efficient at first, and is best coupled with simpler immersion tasks as well, but it gets better over time. You can also try to decipher sentences from something that interests you that you can’t really understand, but this tends to be easier when you’re able to identify the grammatical structures that you can’t understand, or if most of what you don’t know is just vocabulary. Trying to learn from media that you can’t even break down (which is worse than just not understanding because you’re not even able to guess the structure of the sentence) is probably not a good idea though. It’ll be like… trying to read Classical Japanese when you have no clue how any of the grammar works. You’ll just get stuck unless someone else does the break down for you.


funny, i just spent like 2h watching half an episode of からかい上手の高木さん before reading your comment

The first anime I watched without subs was Cardcaptor Sakura. It’s fairly easy. I watched it just after passing N3.

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Ha, oh well. My view is that if it takes that long it’s too high above your current level to be worth your time. But really it’s up to each individual to decide based on their tolerance and interest in the material.

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hahah it sure was hard to maintain focus due to my low level but i felt it was worth the effort. let’s see if i can finish the episode tomorrow…

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I think that’s the key. Interesting material makes you want to stretch your abilities and it feels less like work.

The turning point for me was hearing the disconnect with spoken information coming earlier than the subs because of SOV. Plus, the majority of the time I’m on my phone so it’s nice to be able to look away from the screen if I need to.


Those wistful days of yore when people like seanblue were amateurs at reading and needed help from people like me!
But now he had surpassed us all

Hi JesperHH…

Shannon rambles on about her last 10 months of immersion...

For me, the thing that helped me the most with immersion was reading with the Book Clubs (the Vocabulary worksheets or decks can be added to your Anki) and most importantly listening to the audiobook of the book club book that I am working through.

I started listening to the audiobook of Kikis Delivery Service when I started reading it last August. Sometimes I would trace along the text (with my translation notes) with my finger as I listened (but then I couldn’t absorb either the audio or the written part (now I can!)). I read the sentences out loud. Over the 4 months that I read Kiki’s, my listening comprehension was still low, but I was able to track the written part and catch enough as I listened to know where in the book it was and what scene.

Then I started doing the same with Harry Potter (audiobook and ebook; It was like blah blah blah 動物園blah blah Dunburudowa blah blah Harii Po-taa… ). Sometime in January, my brain changed, and I suddenly noticed that my brain was tracking every sound in the audio and attempting to parse it as a word (yay!).

Since then, my immersion is continuing to evolve. More and more words pop out of the audio for Kiki’s and Harry Potter. I’m getting 75% of the sentences that I’ve interpreted and reviewed. Now I am staying to memorize bits. My WaniKani and DuoLingo studies are reinforcing the books. My reading out loud is improving.

When I switched to other Native media (a personal quiz) I can comprehend far more of it “cold” (still need to look up lots of words tho; can’t parse the grammar very fast) Recently, listening to unknown audio is like a super-fast flash card quiz. I get about 40% ha ha, but it’s FAR more than this time last year. Right now, I’m hearing vocab, but not comprehending full sentences with grammar, but that’s improving, also.

Now full sentences are forming in my mind, and when I read out loud things that I’ve written on HelloTalk, the natives all say that my pronunciation is good, they can understand what I’m saying. They ask how I got so good.

The answer: listening to native audio upon which I work daily to convert into “comprehensible input”.

Cool: Some Vocabulary has already switched into instant understanding without translation. I’m reviewing constantly to convert more words into that “burned” category (where a translation stepis removed). So far, I’m able to read more comfortably.

So anyway… You might enjoy The Language Learning with Netflix plug-in to Netflix… It has the native Japanese audio on subtitles, and you can select words and exist them to your Anki (I haven’t done this, because I just replay). The copyrights have all been cleared for the application. Artists are getting paid.

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Ha, yeah right!

Especially when “us all” includes Naphthalene.

For some reason this gives me the idea of the wanikani reading olympics were users can face off in battles of reading words, expressions, and yojijukugo (which are also just words I guess).