How to properly and consistently practice listening

So I have a big problem. While I still wouldn’t call myself great I definitely am noticing a steady improvement in my reading ability. That is obviously due to me actually practicing it on a somewhat consistent basis. It’s a lot easier for me to get into for whatever reason. It’s not even for lack of materials either. I know of tons of anime, youtube videos, podcasts, VNs, games, etc. I could practice listening with. It’s just that whenever I try I tend to tune out or become unable to focus within minutes, not being able to understand much of anything at all really is super discouraging and in turn makes it so I hardly get any practice in. If anyone has any advice I’d really appreciate it. Listening and speaking are the major things I’ve really hit a roadblock in with regards to my Japanese ability.


experiment watching with subtitles! in japanese or english, or double subtitles! I’ve been watching anime with triple (japanese, romaji and english) subtitles and the results have been good so far, been able to catch a lot of speech patterns.

I have no idea if this will be the same for japanese, but when I was getting the hang of understanding spoken german watching with german audio and english subtitles actually helped more than just watching with german subtitles. I guess because I got instant translations for stuff I didn’t understand so it became way less boring. After a while I just stopped needing them and could recognize what I didn’t understand by ear to look it up. The strange part is I have absolutely no idea when this started to happen.

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This is very much a taste preference, but personally this is one of the main reasons I love vtubers. The more casual style and conversation means that there’s a lot of periods where they only say a few words, making it less tiresome for longer periods. And the shorter phrases they use are much easier to understand than a string of half a dozen sentences.

Seconded. My recommendation is to try and watch anime you’ve already watched but really enjoy, with Japanese subtitles. You won’t get frustrated because you’ll already know what happens, but you’ll still be invested enough to want to understand it

The only other advice I could give is just to keep trying. Eventually you’ll form a habit of trying to break down any Japanese you hear which will gradually make it easier.


I don’t think my listening noticeably improved until I was actually in real conversations. Videos and audio obviously do their part, but they aren’t the same as talking to other people. Not only do things become more time sensitive, but you can’t fool yourself into thinking you understood something, (over the years, I’ve seen lots of people watch a video and claim to have understood all of it, but then give them an audio, ask them questions about it, and they’re lost) and it becomes obvious when you are lost, or if you didn’t understand something. The feedback is near immediate.

Alternatively, somewhat unsurprisingly being forced into situations, namely in Japan, where if I misunderstood something there was a real, and noticeable consequence, helped. Just wait until you go an hour out of your way because you ended up on the wrong train and had to backtrack.

Speaking, well there’s no golden bullet here (Silver bullet isn’t good enough). The only way to get better at speaking, is speaking. In written conversation you can attempt to write as-if you were speaking, but that only does so much.


I’m glad this thread exists; I was planning to make a thread with this question myself!

What I’ve been doing lately is watching some shows with Japanese subtitles and others with none at all. It’s frustrating but I feel like I’m getting two useful kinds of practice.

I’d say figure out where you currently stand when it comes to listening. Throw on a podcast or something and ask yourself what you understand.
If you understand most of the individual vocab, but can’t get the grammar, note that.
If you notice the grammar but are missing key vocab words, note that.
If it all sounds like a jumbled mess, note that.

Once you know where your current listening is at you’ll have a better idea on your approach. Try to listen to conversations with a lot of context–where you could guess what they’re talking about and saying even if you don’t understand.
I imagine since you’re level 60, you probably have your vocab down decently well, maybe it’s time to get on some grammar? I find that with N3 level grammar structures, I am able to understand the grammar of maybe 80% of what is said.
Learn some colloquialisms. As you might expect, there’s a lot of things Japanese people say that don’t show up in textbooks; when you hear something strange, look it up and practice using it.

Hope something in this block of text is helpful.

I wanted to add an addendum regarding focus. When you’re learning a language, your brain uses a ridiculous amount of processing power to piece together sentences and recall vocab, so it’s only natural that you’ll get tired and zone out. Try to keep listening practice to very short intervals at first (say maybe 5-10 minutes) with 30 minute breaks.
If you just compare to doing WaniKani, listening to 10 minutes of conversation would be the same as doing ~1500 reviews and piecing together the grammar for those… within 10 minutes.


On Bunpro’s message board, someone recommended Refold to me. I’m not sure if I agree with all of it, but you might want to read Stages 0 and 1. That gave me a clearer idea of what I wanted to get out of listening practice.

I’ve been spamming myself with Japanese audio all day every day for a few weeks now. I’m far from able to comprehend long sentences, but I’m seeing some gains. One thing that helps me is to listen for “landmarks,” common words that I know that don’t have homophones. Loanwords and non-Japanese names are easy, but I try to challenge myself to listen for Japanese landmarks. I’ve been listening to NHK News a lot, so my brain has started picking out 緊急事態, 自治体, 感染, and of course, 新型コロナウイルス.

It’s also a handy exercise to practice mentally translating numbers the instant you hear them. It’s deceptively difficult, especially when 万 gets involved. It took me forever to mentally write out 二千万円, and I’m a mathematician!


I reeeeeally want to stress the magic of using English/double subs and your brain in overclock mode trying to connect everything you’ve just heard with the meaning in the subtitles, all the while your connections are made from how the Japanese expressions that you studied and already know would have those equivalents in English, all while not having to go super slow

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I feel there’s a difference in difficulty depending on type of media. Podcasts with people speaking normally in a non-structured way is simply harder to follow than any kind of scripted media (audio drama, radio theater etc). So, I’d go for the latter if I have problems following the audio.

While I do a lot of listening when watching anime, that isn’t the same as audio ONLY media. Having no visuals force you to focus that extra bit to understand. And that takes practice to get right.

I do find myself spacing out when listening to Drama CDs, but not for long. It’s usually no problem to get back into the story by just keep on listening. Worst case, rewind and relisten.

But, I think that you just have to keep at it. Accept that there will be stuff you don’t understand. Let it go and move on and focus on the bits that you do understand. With enough time and experience it becomes easier to relax while listening to Japanese audio. :slight_smile:


It’s a shame that no (legal) streaming services provide Japanese subs for most content. Netflix has some, but their selection is terrible. As far as I know, Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hidive (the major dedicated anime services in the US) never provide Japanese subs.

I’m currently rewatching Hibike Euphonium with no subtitles, and even though I know the story I’m still getting frustrated. I’ve encountered a few times where I’ve heard a short sound instead of a long sound (so yay, I found something to learn and look out for), but other times I don’t understand an entire conversation. In those cases I get so annoyed.


I agree that this does have value, but only to a point. Early on when learning Japanese, I had the same experience you’re describing. I made connections with specific words, with grammar, and most importantly with sentence structure/flow. But I don’t really learn anything meaningful watching anime with English subtitles anymore. I think once you reach an intermediate level (in the language in general, not specifically in listening), it may not help much anymore.


You can use a VPN to get the show with japanese subs. Das what I do


What service are you talking about? If you’re talking about Netflix, the problem I have is that their anime selection sucks, so there’s nothing to watch even if I can get subs.

Really? I’ve never had a problem with the anime selection on japanese netflix, but I don’t watch a whole buncha stuff nowadays so maybe thats just me.

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Oh, Japanese Netflix. Right, I misread what you said. I watch on my TV, and getting a VPN to run on my entire router is a hassle. I don’t really want to watch on my computer.

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Ah, fair enough assuming you dont wanna set up a hdmi cable or something.

There is a certain questionable* site that not only has Japanese subtitles but also such excellent language-learning features** that it’s very difficult to turn down. I ensure I support creators by obtaining the content legally in some other way as well, but I will probably continue to use this site for improving my listening.

*They justify their legality through fair use copyright law. It’s definitely a huge stretch of this allowance and I doubt it would hold up in court, but if you are actually using the service for purely educational purposes as the site intends, using it feels better than using any other illegal streaming service.
**Subtitles in English, Japanese, and kana only; One-click definitions directly in the video window; line-by-line fully searchable transcriptions; ability to slow down playback; personal saved word lists

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One of these days I’ll get past my laziness. :slight_smile:

is the site youre referring to something relating to the following picture


Honestly, I think that their copyright protection would hold up in a US court. But since Japan doesn’t have a fair use clause to their copyright law, I think they’d run into some issues there.

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