Immersion/Active listening question

I have about 100 hours of active listening since last month and I only started learning Japanese at the end of October. I only have around 300 vocab words (all N5 words) that I’ve learned, with around a rough estimate of 25-50 words (excluding numbers) I can almost automatically understand if I hear them in audio. My question is when I’m active listening (not using subs) to a show and I hear a word I 100% know is a word I’ve learned, but can’t quite recall what it means, should I take the time to try and remember what it means and then confirm it with the subs? Or… should I just let it pass by and continue listening. The reason I’m asking is because whenever a word comes up that I know is something I’ve learned, I end up focusing on this and I stop listening to what is being said. I then lose active listening time, and I spend a minute or so focused on one word. Another reason is because after confirming it with the subs, to my surprise, there are quite often words I knew in the sentence that I missed (which is most likely due to me zoning out the rest of the sentence and focusing on the familiar word). Anyways, it’d be greatly appreciated for some advice here. Feel free to bring your own idea in as well if you have one.

Thank you.


i think you should just take note of it and get back it to later. i have notepad++ open at all times so if something like that happens to me, i just write it down and move on. just the exposure is great because now you have a place where you can recall that word other than where you do your reps.


Or you could keep open a tab of Jisho and quickly pause and look it up.
Maybe if it continues bugging you otherwise, it’s better to get it out of the way.
I know that I usually can’t stand being unsure of what that word was that i usually know.
Also, you can write down the word as 02pastel said and review it a few times after you had to check it again.


when you catch a single word, it might be word or it might not be a word (combining ending of a word with beginning of next word). Also it can mean anything. Because there is a lot of homonymic words in japanese (example: kankaku - I believe it is more important to catch whole sentence instead of catching words. ps: i am not language learning professional etc. So take my opinion as a grain of salt.


true, though they said they catch themselves hearing a word they know they learned. Sounds like that’s recognizing the exact word.

Edit: I agree with @Ncastaneda
The method I provide here won’t be very helpful at the early beginner stage I believe.

I don’t know how much time you have to practice listening but I tried the following thing and it worked for me.

Set a specific amount of time each day where you look up EVERY word you don’t understand. Pick material that is sort of on you level or even below. It could be something incredibly simple to make sure that you don’t have to look up everything. I used nihongo con teppei at the time (intermediate version).

When you have finished this session you can continue on with more “casual” active listening where you let unknown words pass by. It’s important to get used to the rhythm and speed of the language. If you keep pausing all the time you never challenge your brain to quickly understand long sentences or statements etc.

After 1 or 2 months of this (1h/day of looking up unknown words) the unknown words gradually decreased and I could move on to more challenging material. I never reviewed the words I looked up but I kept them in a list. Keeping a list of unknown words helped to make them stick a bit easier I think.


What’s active listening looking like now?
If you’re just starting to build your base of vocab, listening almost anything should be mostly incomprehensible, visual media should be providing the context (re watching some old shows or dub movies is something I used early on) for the most part now.
With that been said I would focus on keeping the flame alive mostly at this stage, picking a good show without hating the whole activity. 300-500 words is really just the beginning, so chill and enjoy what you can.

About the vocab you pick on the fly, great! The rest will take more time, but eventually you’ll recognize it on the fly as well. It is one thing to know a word via SRS and then to “acquire it”. You will “earn” those words by listening hundreds of times until your ears are so familiar with them that you will guess them right even when they might sound muffled with mostly context providing.

For now, I think you should try to make of active listening something you enjoy and avoid worrying too much on checking every word. Immersion when starting it will be more difficult because of the limited material to choose from. Showing up constantly without making a drag out of the activity should be more important imo. :wink:


Thank you, this is pretty helpful. I sometimes forget that I’m still in the early learning phases even though I have around 300 hours studied. It’s hard to know too because learning a language, especially one like Japanese, you have no idea what’s not being done “right” since it’s something I’ve never done before. Glad to have help from the community here, thanks.

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I struggle with this a lot. I actually recognized it as probably one of my biggest barriers to listening at the moment. I’m able to parse speech, I just can’t recognize most words when I hear them, even when I know them when written. I still struggle with listening, so while I can’t give you definitive solutions, I can tell you what works for me so far.

To solve this, I’ve created a listening deck for all the words I know, and slowly am working through it in anki. Since they’re words I do already know, I set the intervals to be longer. If you hear a word and know that you know it, but just can’t recall it, I’d say that’s a situation where you should look the word up. For a while I would just let it pass over me, but some content I’d listen to over and over again, and I’d realize that after listening to the same thing 10 times, I still didn’t recognize any more words than I did the first time. When I looked a lot of words words up, I realized I knew most of them.

I recommend that if you’re not able to catch words after hearing them several times, then looking them up is okay. Don’t look them up on the first go, since that would just take a lot of time, but definitely look them up if they’re giving you trouble. You could also put words you struggle with into an audio deck. I use Yomichan for this purpose.


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