Listening Exercises - SKM vs SM, etc

I’m working on Tobira (up to chapter 3) with a private instructor, and would like to find additional listening practice I can do on my own, as it is my weakest skill.

Any comparative opinions on the popular options like Kanzen Master or Sou Matome? Any other options I don’t know about? I’m looking for level-appropriate structured exercises rather than native material at this point.

Would the N3 books/CDs be too hard for me, or should I use N4?

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I really like JapanesePod101 for listening. You also learn culture, vocab, and grammar along the way. They have a week long trial.

They sort their lessons by beginner, intermediate, and advanced, plus they offer a bunch of other learning supplements and features. The app is really good too.

Ooof, another subscription:). I’ll look into it. Thanks.

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If you’re cool with using the mobile app only (no PC access) - you can get the premium membership for $9.99 / month.

I’ve had it for about 1.5 months now, and I wouldn’t use it without the premium stuff. But, totally up to you and the trial is long enough to figure it all out :slight_smile:

I like listening to native YouTube content. Many of the Japanese youtubers add subtitles, so it’s easy to double check your listening comprehension.

Also there’s a great channel for Japanese students (it’s all in Japanese but the teachers speak slowly and use simple explanations):

I’m surprised it’s not paid content honestly. Nihongo no Mori have very good quality classes on YouTube. There’re different series, such as JLPT prep for different levels, Kansai dialect tutorials etc.

And since the start of the lockdown they do a live class every day with rotating topics: Grammar, Vocab, Songs, Expressions etc.

Another great resource is “Let’s learn Japanese from small talk!” podcast. It’s two Japanese girls talking about their lives and everyday things. Each episode comes with a vocab list that they read out in the end of the episode. So, you can listen once, then listen to the vocab and repeat the episode to understand more. They are targeting Japanese learners, so they are speaking in a simplified way.


Would a podcast by a native speaker but aimed at Japanese learners fit the bill? It’s not structured exercises, but it’s not the same as free-flowing native conversation. Anyway, just a thought as an alternative.


Ive been consuming Nihongo con Teppei for about a year. Mainly while I do my indoor cycling sessions. Started out with the non-beginner, then he started the beginner one, so I switched to that exclusively. I just cycle thru the entire playlist over and over. Now I alternate between the non-beginner and the beginner. I am still a bit confused re all the 「という」「どういう」「そういう」but I sort of get the gist of some of it and each time I repeat I get more of it, plus the WaniKani stuff I learned starts kicking in and I get an “aha!” moment, here and there.

Ive also just discovered Azumi’s Easy Japanese Small Talk, which I am enjoying currently. I get a small percentage of what she is talking about, but more than I would have a year ago, for sure.


How do you see which one is beginner/non-beginner? I just listened to the latest episode #477. I missed a few words but could understand pretty much everything. But I wouldn’t say it’s a beginner friendly source.

There are two different feeds. Here is the beginner one:

Here is the non-beginner:

#477 seems to be from this. I am probably years away from being able to understand this.


As permezel said. I suggested the intermediate version because the OP seemed to be asking about intermediate resources, although as they’re working on listening because it’s a weak skill, that was perhaps not the most helpful.

I think native materials could be great even for beginners but they need to come with a transcript or at least a translation, ideally both.

Why many people find it difficult to understand spoken language is that their brain struggles to correlate the sounds and the grammar/vocab they already know. It will come naturally if you listen to a lot of native content. But to speed it up you need to understand what you’re listening to. So a transcript is like a support for the brain. It’s easier to parse the sounds when you know what to expect.

I’d suggest finding a native source of appropriate difficulty in terms of grammar and vocab that comes with a transcript/subtitles in Japanese. Then, listen to it first without checking the transcript, then go through the transcript. Make sure you understand it. Finally, listen to the audio a few more times. Look at the text if necessary. Do it until you can listen to the audio and understand most of it without looking at the text. Then try to listen to this audio some time (e.g. a week later).

Sorry, is this aimed at me? I’m not quite sure who you’re directing this at. The OP doesn’t sound like a complete beginner, and permezel says they’ve been doing listening practice for quite some time.

I’m suggesting this podcast because it’s aimed at learners - so I wouldn’t really class it as “native” in the sense that it’s “natural” content a Japanese person might listen to. It’s native in the sense that it’s spoken by a Japanese person.

And I think there’s a lot of value in listening to something even if you don’t understand everything, especially if it’s really easy. It gets your brain used to picking out sounds and hearing the cadence of speech.

Ah no, it’s aimed at the OP and others who are looking for advice on listening practice.

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Thanks for the replies! I’ll look into these resources.

Does anyone have any experience with the books I mentioned? I’ve read a lot of comparisons of the grammar and vocab books, but not much about the listening books.

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I don’t have any experience with Sou Matome, but I found the ShinKanzen listening book for N4 to be excellent, and I haven’t finished the N3 book yet but I think it’ll be just as helpful. It really builds up from phrases and small clips to full paragraphs like in the real test.

Editing to add: if you’re doing Tobira, you may as well get N3.

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Thanks. I will probably end up buying both, since different listening exercises probably won’t be redundant for me.

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