I’ve been studying japanese for about a proper year now and I’ve realized that I have focused nearly entirely on kanji. Now although I can pick out meanings via text well I’ve realized that I am very poor at listening and understanding. Are there any good tools that anyone would recommend in order to be able to hear speech more clearly. Grammar is still something I kind of struggle with aswell but that one is a bit more of laziness lol.
I don’t know if there are any specific tools for that, but here’s a couple of Youtube channels that I watch since I struggle with listening comprehension too:
あかね的日本語教室: Aimed towards beginners, has subtitles on every video
Has a bunch of grammar explanations, all in japanese, although the videos are not fully subtitled.
And lastly these two:
They upload gameplays almost daily. They can be pretty hard to follow since they speak faster than in the other two channels, but if you’re ever feeling brave you could give them a listen.
I’m a little too tired for one of my usual long answers, so I’ll just say this: if you enjoy anime, dramas or some other media, and you can find subtitles in English or in Japanese, just use those for listening practice. Don’t worry about catching every single word. Just listen out for words that you already know. You’ll get better over time. (I watched the Konosuba anime over and over while going through my beginners’ textbook, and while I didn’t understand absolutely everything by the end, I did notice I was catching more and more words over time. By the way, I credit those months of repetition for giving me the skills to easily pick apart faster Japanese speech when I moved into more advanced material. It worked even though I was far from understanding everything in the anime without subtitles.)
I think that you really should spend time on grammar and simple vocabulary (possibly outside WK too) though. The reason is this: if you know simple words that are likely to appear in what you’re viewing or listening to, you’ll be able to practise ‘catching’ words more frequently. You can of course also look up new words you encounter as you go along, but that does require a little more effort, so I’ll leave you to decide whether you want to do that.
I don’t know where your reading skills are at, but for me, I found my reading skills were WAY above my listening skills. For me, I found Satori Reader to be super helpful in bridging the gap (even though from the name you’d expect it to help more with reading).
Essentially how I used it was I would first listen to a sentence (or paragraph, etc.) without allowing myself to read the sentence. I’d do this three or four times to make sure I’d understand as much as possible. Then I’d read the sentence to see how I did. If I still didn’t understand something, I’d check the reading notes available on every sentence on Satori Reader. After I’d finished an article or an episode of a story, I’d download that episode and add it to a playlist on my phone. Then I would repeatedly listen to the chapters I already knew how to listen to when I would go on walks or drives etc.
This helped cement a lot of my listening ability and take the reading knowledge I had and transfer some of it to listening knowledge.
I asked something similar in the past, and got a lot of good ideas from this post from pocketcat. For beginner level listening, Comprehensible Japanese is great too. I’d also recommend looking into the Nihongo con Teppei podcast.
That said, after struggling a while too, I’m starting to pass the threshhold where I can follow most of certain real native material, like an audiobook I’m listening to and a podcast (4989 American Life), if it’s not about anything too specialized or with too much of a thick accent or something. And personally, I feel like what got me here more than anything was reading. While there are a lot of ways that listening is its own unique skill, it’s also largely a test of just how quickly you can access your knowledge of words, and how much you’ve internalized the sentence structures. To get from being able to decipher the kanji with a few seconds of effort to knowing things so well they are instant, you just have to encounter them over and over and over. It’s always good to keep hearing the language so I wouldn’t say to stop, but if it was me, I’d focus on that grammar as much as you can manage while trying to work to being able to read more, then once you’re regularly reading and it’s starting to feel a little more natural, you can push towards how to listen better specifically. At least, that worked for me. I’m sure it doesn’t have to work this way but it felt the most natural/least painful for me to first focus in on the option that allowed for taking my time with each line, and some of the listening took care of it itself better than you might expect.
I would recommend when you watch movies or anime to always set the subtitles to Japanese. If you don’t understand whats going on then you can watch it again with english sub but at lease once, watch the whole thing without the english sub. I find that when I’m trying to comprehend Japanese and I see an english translation, my eyes will always be drawn to the english and my mind shuts outs the Japanese.
seconding nihongo con teppei! I am listening to his beginner’s podcast and i really like that the episodes are short enough I can squeeze a few in while I’m doing chores or driving to work. I studied Japanese for three years in college and then spent roughly the same amount of time not studying at all, and I can still grasp about 90% of each ep.
I suggesting looking through the multiple threads of listening resources by using the search function, but most of all looking through the main threads:
Once you’ve decided on what type of media to focus on for listening comprehension, you can narrow down your online and forum searches a bit: podcasts, YouTube, drama CDs, JP dramas etc are all viable resources after all.
Good luck with your studies!
But just generally speaking, you just need listening practice to discern sound and interpret them. Experience is key, no matter what kind it is really frankly. So just go for something you truly enjoy or simply desperately want to understand and make that your focus. Keep doing it until you can “hear” as in understand while doing it. Expect it to take as much time as it took you to parse kanji and kana in reading to get a flow going at least if not more (since listening is just more vague for most to get at first).
But basically, don’t give up but just keep doing it and as some point you’ll simply start being able to interpret what’s being said.
Not as everything at once, but words, then phrases, then more phrases, then concepts and grammar…it just builds and builds. Be patient is the key!
Satori reader has excellent audio to go along with the reading material. Not free, but the content is excellent and will expose you to useful, natural dialog.
Note that you get a lot of context clues from anime/videos/movies, so pure audio like this can be more difficult (but better imho).
Been there before. The best thing to do is just start listening, but you dont have to do it cold turkey. If you’re starting at the bottom with a lot of kanji knowledge the best thing is to read subtitles in your native language and listen for the words you think they might say, its a good exercise and eventually you can turn them off and just enjoy what you enjoy. Language has no easy fix, the simplest solutions is to do more of the thing you need to do.
You improve listening comprehension by listening
I can highly recommend Hajimete no Otsukai on Netflix, they added it recently and it´s easy to understand.
Or, my Japanese teacher makes me listen to an audio book and then, after a few tries, he will send me the text so I can read it while I listen. The idea of that is : I try to understand most of the text by listening only and then, by reading the text, I try to get all the small details I couldn´t hear or understand. This is good training.
This is the first thing I listened to: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLt4c6vHCiki0pmKYIYa-cSSUk_lDbTwBr It is a story from a graded reader, The Bus, told very slowly with tons of questions.
I found it very helpful because of the many repetitions and slow speed. With time you can listen to faster and faster speech, but right at the beginning it is difficult to find something slow enough.
I don’t know you level at all so sorry if it’s too easy.
Maybe you can try this free elementary 1 and 2 course. Has easy audio and grammar too. https://www.irodori-online.jpf.go.jp/
I use that go back 10 seconds button a lot when I watch anime.
Nihongo con teppei has youtube playlists for different levels, e.g. this beginner one:
I like them a lot.
Here are some listening practice videos. She also has good grammar and vocabulary videos as well.
Thanks for introducing me to Lily’s site. Learning Japanese on my own, I don’t really practice output so it was a good challenge for me to write out the answers to the questions in her 聴解 videos in kanji and hiragana!