How Do I Practice Listening To Japanese?

Hello! :smile:
I’ve been learning Japanese for about a year now, and I am completely self taught (Or at least I’ve never taken classes for it)
However, one thing I’ve never been any good at is listening. Since I’ve never taken classes, I didn’t hear Japanese much when I first started learning. I try to listen to it as much as possible now.
That being said, I suck at listening. I can read a lot in Japanese and understand it, yet I can barely understand basic phrases when spoken. Mainly because it’s too fast. At this point, I have trouble understanding JLPT 5 listening practice unless I have the transcript right next to me.
So for those of you who are experienced, what is the best way to practice?
One thing I’ve always been wondered is if it’s good to follow a transcript. At this point I am still reliant on the transcript to understand what they are saying, so I wonder if it’s inhibiting me. Should I be trying to listen without any transcript?
Also: Should I be listening to full speed native material for practice? I was thinking about buying these JLPT 4 and 3 Listening practices I found, so I’m wondering if that’s the best way, and if so, when should I start listening to native material?
I would also appreciate it if you could give me sources for listening practice Free or otherwise, as long as it’s not too expensive because I’m broke :upside_down_face:


I currently live in Japan, so naturally I am more exposed to it on a daily basis. I know a lot of people shit on JapanesePod101 but I noticed my listening comprehension sky rocket when I signed up for that. They act out stories at native speed and give you a line by line audio dialogue where you can click a particular sentence over and over to hear it while reading at the same time.
I don’t move on from a lesson until I can completely understand the whole conversation at native speed. Lately I’ve noticed a lot of the things i’ve been taught on the site in daily conversation I over hear, plus i’ve been able to use a lot of the material during work etc.

My recommendation is give that a shot, start from beginner and go from there! :slight_smile:


I’ve never heard of JapanesePod101 before :smile: I’ll definitely give that a go! Thank you so much

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It’s always great to practice listening with something that is accompanied by visuals like a anime, dramas, etc. Running full force into podcasts or unknown audio only material wont help as much in the beginning since you will have no clue as to what’s going on.
I would suggest to listen to native material from the beginning since your brain will eventually start to automatically pick out words that it keeps hearing and highlight them. If you know a word when it’s read and then hear it later somewhere, the connection might spark eventually. This happens all the time for me.

If you don’t want to power through the phase of “omg I don’t understand anything this is bs” I would suggest to listen to benjiros super simple skype conversations with Japanese natives.

You can also listen to various N5 listening tests found all over youtube if you feel like.

It’s also good to practice with something that you have watched before in a language that you understand. If you watched a series with lets say English subtitles before, try watching it in Japanese without subtitles and catch as much as possible. Even if it’s a small amount, the visuals will aid you and keep you from getting super bored. You can even watch the same things twice unless you find that boring.

Personally, I listened to some JLPT N5 listening comprehension tests while walking to work (20min) and back (20min) at least. After a week or two I felt comfortable with N5 material so I pretty much jumped straight into listening to audio that I ripped from anime that I watched in English before. Since I’ve watched the anime before, I know what’s happening in the story and I’m able to draw parallels between what they are saying and what should be going on in the story. This has increased my listening skills a lot and I was surprised one day when I managed to completely understand a full 3 minutes of conversation.


Thank you! Those look really useful :blush: For some reason it’s never occurred to me to look on youtube, so I’m glad you brought that up!


Genki has some audio files to go with its textbook problems, though that’s far from a comprehensive solution.

There’s also Pimsleur, which makes some great audio lessons where you’re intended to listen and actively respond. They’ve got 5 levels consisting of 30 half-hour lessons each. I used to do those on my commute, though I’ve kinda fallen off the wagon. They’re expensive if you buy them directly, but you may find them available for free in your local library. You can also get the first three levels through Audible, albeit in 5-lesson chunks per credit.


I would recommend SuperNative - Level up your Japanese

And if you’re are more of a DIY person, I would go this way , which basically it’s doing your own material using the shows you’re into, making the lines into your once sentence mining routine, wether for reading, litening practice, shadowing, etc…

I did several seasons of Jpod101 and the listening practice in Genki book too, and my main issue with those was speed and parsing… it was ideal… hence not close to any other condition I’ve ever encountered in actual native material or real speech :man_shrugging: .
Adapting your ears to actual speed speech with material in your own level I find it’s the best of both worlds (learning / immersion).


If you’re using Genki, someone has made a website with additional listening practice for each chapter: Each exercise has a slow speed option and a natural speed with background noise option, then a quiz to test your comprehension. I’ve found it helpful because it’s short and easy to use


Thank you! I actually never ended up using Genki but the website looks useful even if I didn’t! Thanks :wink:


Ooh. Very nice. I haven’t touched Genki since May, and now that I’m caught back up fully with WaniKani, I’ve been looking for a way to dive back in, but it’s been hard to get myself to redo old exercises.


Also, if you’re into games you can check out Let’s Plays (実況プレイ in Japanese).

I’ve been watching those off and on pretty much ever since I started, it’s kinda relaxed since I don’t really need to understand what they’re saying in order to enjoy watching (in the beginning I just understood stray words).

It’s also been pretty cool to come back to a series you watched a few months ago and notice how you can actually pick out more words / sentences now.


It’s perfectly fine to do this when you are learning something new. My Japanese teacher recommended this method to me.

I like the Genki CD because it stops to let the student fill in the gap. You could try it with the book in front of you and later, without the book.

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I also like, it looks funny, but it has a lot of material. You can choose to listen the videos with or without English/Japanese subtitles. It also explains grammar, but I only use it for listening.


I also advise one of the core deck (core 10k deck) - There a version on kitsun (if you have it). There a version for anki and whilst i dont think its core 10k - NukeMarine has a core deck on memrise.

I would also advise starts with sites thats suited for easy reading such as N5-Beginner タグが付けられた記事一覧を表示しています。 -free web magazine written in easy Japanese language (which i’ve recommended a few times and most seem to have audio [though sometimes TTS]). Also has sentence breakdown with audio and can play the whole article. Additional benefits, you will also be learning to dissect and read sentences.

News podcasts - I believe NHK does a news podcast both slow and normal speed. There easy news though seems to be text to speech (which i wouldn’t recommend). If you were new, I would have recommended their course Easy Japanese 2015 - List of the Lessons | NHK WORLD RADIO JAPAN but this is probably way to slow and easy for you.

Instead of the NHK course, maybe try WEB版「エリンが挑戦!にほんごできます。」サイト閉鎖と新サイトのご案内 | WEB版 エリンが挑戦!にほんごできます。 they do skits for learning and its great resource overall for beginners and those further along.

Variety shows… Even if they dont have subtitles, it likes to lock on to phrases and splash them across the screen.


Minna no nihongo recently started offering the audio files for free download/stream on their website. Of course you still have to pay for the exercises to with it. They have an app for it. Might be something to try, since it starts of simple, following their textbooks. At least you’ll figure out how good you really are at listening.

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By the way, the listening practice it’s aimed at passing the JLPT, watching a show or more conversational?

I think if JLPT oriented, textbooks should be a good resource, as those will provide with clear voicing, correct and to your level sentence structure, and use of a already known vocab.

On the opposite side, if not JLPT oriented, I would stress the importance of going raw. The sentence mining routine I posted is a compromise to make use of raw material while keeping it in your known vocab. But actually the most important thing it’s speed on casual speak, with its shortened terms, various sentence endings… and much more shortened versions of what a textbook would provide for a sentence in a similar situation (AKA japanese not finishing their sentences :sweat_smile: )

There’re books that don’t fall into this category as well. Most books in the basic japanese (foundational japanese) spectrum will be in this category, but then both books aimed at listening or shadowing, are more focused on understanding actual japanese, so I would say try something aimed at those activities specifically.
Two books that I’m aware are very much like actual japanese are the “Shadowing: Lets Speak Japanese” series and Yasashii Nihongo no Chokai Training w/CDs : Japanese Listening Comprehension Training with Ease

I would add passive listening of a show you’re into as a great reasource as well (ripping the audio of a show you already are familiar with and listening on a daily basis).

By the way, somebody mentioned the Core 10 K deck too, and indeed the sentences are recorded by native speakers, but those are aimed at japanese learners too, so they’re more or less about the same as what jpod101 or Genki provide.

Anyway, depending on what you’re aiming for there’re different tools … lot’s of them free, and many out there for you to try :+1:

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I reccommend the first of the listening Japanese Core 2000 deck.

When you get to level 20 you should have seen most of the words and learned from Wanikani alone. Knowing some vocab by listening, not only Kanji alone will be the goal here.
I also recommend turning on the audio files on Wanikani and say the vocab every time you do them.

Also shadow listening on YouTube can help you a lot.
There are a handfull of different sources to find. Try to find one suitable to your JLPT Level.


It might be helpful to check your local library for CD Language Learning programs like Pimsleur or an equivalent. You can then import those CD’s from your computer onto your phone or mp3 device and listen to it while doing chores, taking walks, etc.

All of the other suggestions I was going to give were provided by someone else: Subs2srs is great, and the Benjiro videos on Youtube have personally helped me come a long way in my listening comprehension. I’ve also found a lot of success in searching Youtube for listening material. Sometimes, I convert YT videos to .mp3, create a vocab list of words I don’t know on a Japanese Dictionary app on my phone, and use that for listening, whenever I am away from a computer.


+1 for pimsleur, a bit expensive but very effective!

Now I try something like when I watch an anime, I read the english subtitle very quickly then focus on what’s said in japanese(can be a bit tricky to do lol). Surprisingly, I noticed that in anime they don’t speak as fast as in dramas.

Watching dramas is probably a good way to get used to the listening part :smiley:

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I got a lot of responses while I was away! :sweat_smile: Thank you all so much!

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