Need help with improving listening

Hey there! So I feel like I’m at a decent spot with reading, like I can read entire manga volumes with a dictionary at hand, some even with barely needing to look up any words/grammar depending on what it is. I feel my listening is severely lacking, but have yet to figure out how to improve it. With reading I pretty much just read a lot looking up most words as I went, it took a lot of time but it worked.

For some reason I can’t find myself able to do the same with listening, like I think a big part is I have ADHD and struggle focusing and idk why but it was easier to do reading but I can’t seem to even get myself to listen for long periods of time purely listening let alone the extensive process that would be required of constantly pausing, rewinding to make sure I’m hearing the words correctly, looking them up which would be about the equivalent of what I did with reading.

I’m just wondering if anyone was in a similar situation and/or has any advice for me. I have access to plenty of good listening resources I think I would enjoy or at least wouldn’t mind constantly watching/listening to repeatedly, it’s just how can I actually use them to improve in a way that will work for me that I’m struggling figuring out.


How about listening to the anime versions of the manga that you’ve read? Maybe it’s less about intensive listening (looking everything up) and more about extensive? Try listening to the same episode a few times as well if you feel like.

I had similar issues in the past and I found that just consuming stuff in Japanese that I could kind of enjoy without understanding 100% of it really helped me get over the “gotta understand it all” mentality. Now I watch youtube everyday for long periods of time in Japanese and I just catch whatever I catch. It is improving but it’s just hard to measure the progress concretely.

It’s easier to stay interested if what you are listening to is combined with something visual. That way you pick up visual cues like facial expressions or situations that are happening on screen and won’t be as lost even if you don’t understand what is being said.


My preferred listening method is to record the audio of an anime I’ve watched and listen to it while I’m doing other things that don’t require my full attention, like doing the dishes. I found this to be really effective since I’ve already seen it and know the story and situation, now I just need to recognize what’s happening with only the audio to guide me.

I usually only looked up a word If I couldn’t figure out after a few times hearing it. I think it’s more important to get used to hearing it on a regular basis even if you don’t fully understand everything. Obviously anime genres focused more on casual conversations like slice of life will work better, while action anime not as much. The main thing is to choose something you’ll enjoy.


I don’t remember where I saw this - here or on Twitter or some other platform - but I saw someone with ADHD posting about how they realize that the way for them to actually focus on things they’re listening to is to speed up the audio to give them less time to be distracted by other thoughts. I don’t know how well this would translate for a situation where you’re learning a language vs. watching something for fun, but I thought it was worth mentioning so you could give it a try to see if it works for you!


Got ADD and this works for me atleast. Prefer people that speak faster when I choose what content on YT to listen to.


What I plan to do when I get further with kanji and vocab is something I did while learning English: buy both the ebook and audiobook and listen/read them at the same time. I did this mostly because in the beginning intuiting the pronunciation of an English word based on the spelling was really hit and miss and I’d been coming up with and reinforcing a lot of faulty pronunciations while reading previously. But it obviously also improved my listening comprehension and maybe it will work for you since you’re used to extensive reading already.


i love listening to Nihongo Con teppi podcast on my way to work. Something about the way he speaks is easy to understand…I think it’s his inflections…they somehow let you know where the words stop and start. Makes me feel like I understand more than I do :laughing:


You have two very good pieces of advice here from other contributors:

  • Speed up the listening (if it’s at a level your can handle).
  • Get the audiobook for an ebook or a book you have. Read and listen at the same time. It’s magic!

You say you have a few good resources, but do they combine listening with reading or viewing? This might be the trick you need.
I’d consider Satori Reader for reading and listening at the same time, if you’re not already familiar with it. It has some interesting books there with audio (for intermediate learners), and often explanations for difficult grammar structures. A perk with this app/website being that you can listen to the audio before you read - or vise versa. Reading speed can also be adjusted. Whatever setting floats your boat.
Another realm to explore might be gaming. Have you tried any voiced Japanese video games? Check out GameGengo om YouTube if that’s relevant content for you.

Good luck!


Thank you for the replies everyone, they were very helpful! To the few who suggested reading+listening at once - I do have a few of those in both the form of visual novels as well as anime with subtitles. I may try it here and there but I’d really like to not have to rely on reading so much as a crutch, especially since I won’t be able to do that every time I hear Japanese and I would like to be able to actually understand it without. I’ve found several vtubers I like who I’m also going to try to listen to regularly, and if that doesn’t work out I have several podcasts too but I’d rather focus on things I think I’ll enjoy more first.


Listening has always been my weak point, but the thing that helped me most was finding conversation partners.

When I tried to practise listening by listening to podcasts or watching anime with no subs etc, I found that I either got frustrated, or just zoned out when I couldn’t understand.
But with a conversation, if I didn’t understand I could just say “Sorry, I don’t understand”, or “Can you say that again please?”.
It still got a little frustrating sometimes not being able to understand, but most people were perfectly happy to repeat things, rephrase them, and speak slowly to help me understand and being part of an active conversation meant that I couldn’t zone out - so little by little my ability has increased to a point where I’m now much more confident.

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For reading and listening at the same time Visual Novel type games can also provide that experience, even if just partially - because usually only dialogues are voiced, while protagonist’s dialogue lines and narration are silent. But well - it’s something, and it can be fun :wink:


You can also find a let’s play of the visual novel on youtube where they read all the text for you. And in addition to that you get audio commentary that is not texted which can ease you into listening without using reading as a crutch.