Not feeling great with turning off the subtitles completely

So here I am, first time poster person. I’m level 17 wanikani and I’d say I’m around N4 for grammar. I’ve been reading that “you need to turn off subtitles ASAP!”. Well I tried to take this advice when watching anime and I ran into a couple of things.

  1. I felt like I could barely follow anything.
  2. Most of the shows on Crunchyroll and Netflix do not have Japanese subtitles to make the
    transition more fluid.

Any thoughts on if I’m still too early in my Japanese career to go completely raw? Or should I just stick it out and read plot summaries of English to fill in the large gaps I am missing right now?

Would also take recommendations of good places to watch shows with Japanese subtitles. Thank you for your input!!


I find that while they can be a ‘crutch’, English anime subtitles can also be useful tools for learning Japanese.

I often watch anime on Crunchyroll with my remote in one hand and my iPhone with Shirabe Jisho in the other.

Whenever I hear a word (distinctly enough) that I don’t know, I stop the playback and check the dictionary - comparing that with what I see in the subtitles.

I am also constantly comparing my own ‘in my head recognition’ of spoken words with what I see in the subtitles and noting the differences.

I do also have access to other sources of Japanese content, such as J-dramas and live broadcasts of news, weather, informational shows, sports, etc. without subtitles. It’s a tough slog, but not as difficult as it used to be, as I am evidently improving my listening comprehension over time.

For anime shows, I’m not yet ready to go cold turkey on the subtitles, because (at least for some series) I’m mentally and emotionally “invested” in the show to the point where I don’t want to miss out on fully understanding the dialog - but for other types of content that is less of a factor for me, and I’m not bothered by only getting the gist of what is going on. I also make use of the pause and replay features of the video player so that I can go over sections of dialog that I may trip over.

But I can certainly see some merit in the suggestions for turning off subtitles completely…

I am also going to look in to the recently-posted thread about a chrome extension that enables Japanese subtitles for certain shows on Crunchyroll.


There is an anime club here.

Otherwise, practice with easier stuff like this on youtube.

You can also look on Natively to see which anime are rated easier than others.


If you’re watching native content at native speed with no subtitles at an N4 level, you’re definitely going to be pretty lost and miss a ton of stuff. I think that’s too early to go full immersion unless you’re really motivated to treat it as a learning experience and pause all the time to look things up. I think that “no subtitles” advice is thrown around a lot but you have to be at a pretty high level (or be watching content aimed at children/beginners) for it to make sense.

For a while early on I thought listening to lots of Japanese music and watching native content without subtitles would help me learn really quick. Turns out, if you don’t understand enough of it, it’s literally just noise. Even n+1 sentences you hear often won’t have enough context to really “teach” you the word you’re missing, and you’ll only get a vague idea of what the word is and need to look it up anyway.

That being said, I do think it’s really distracting to have English subtitles if you’re trying to really listen to the Japanese. For a little while I used asbplayer and downloaded Japanese subtitles to sync to the anime I was watching on Crunchyroll. Even then, at N4 you’ll be pausing to look up tons of stuff! Nothing wrong with that, but I just want to caution you to not turn all of your Japanese content enjoyment into a learning opportunity that might end up being frustrating and lead to burn-out. I guess in conclusion I’d say you’re never “too early” to go raw, it’s just a matter of how much tolerance you have for pausing for lookups and/or not understanding lots of stuff.


I was frustrated with zero/Japanese-only subtitles for a long, long time. I just endured it. I still do, really. I still don’t get everything, but I get a lot and that’s good.

I just subscribed to their Patreon earlier this week and I have to say that it’s been an extremely worthwhile investment. If I had to start immersion training from zero all over again, and I’d known about this, I’d have started here.

EDIT: What I try to do now is watch both Comprehensible Japanese and content aimed at natives, sort of alternating between the two. I think I get different but good things from both.


Netflix, Disney+ do frequently have JP subs (Netflix has JP subs for a lot of non-JP shows, I quite like Rick & Morty), but the only way of reliably getting them is to - with dubious legality - download the anime & the subs. There are web apps that allow you to add subs to online video, so at least then you’re only downloading the fan subs which is probably fine.

To watch without subs, you can watch twice - one with EN subs, and then with none. That way you know what’s going on and can spend time listening out for things you recognise. Or you can watch repeatedly (maybe the first time with EN subs) and try and pick up a little bit more each time. With that approach, you will often remember things from their sound alone even if you don’t know what they mean. Then later when you find out what they mean it’ll already be in your head.

The amount you gain from watching in Japanese only is related to how much you understand of what you hear, but not in a simple way. One thing that is useful even if you don’t understand much is just listening to Japanese - you get used to the rhythm and quite quickly start to hear the individual words even if you don’t know what they mean. You also get used to conjugations and sentence endings, etc, after a while.


Absolute nonsense IMO. It took me a very long time before I was able to watch English shows without subtitles and still manage to understand most of what is said. And it is much easier for a Frenchie like me to learn English than Japanese!

What you want to do ideally is switch to native subtitles as soon as possible but with the whole kanji situation it may be difficult to read those too…

But even active listening with English subtitles can be productive if you make the effort to listen and try your best to match the words you recognize with the subtitles.

One step at a time, there’s no rush…


Yeah. I can still remember the first time I watched a whole episode of an anime without subs and felt like I understood basically all of it – it was Card Captor Sakura (so pretty uncomplicated language and plot) and I was somewhere between N2 and N3 level. (TBH, I was only watching raw anime episodes at all because I happened to be living in Japan at the time and so it was just what was on TV in the evening…)


Thank you I think that’s the advice I needed to hear is that I can use full Japanese as an occasional study tool, but still enjoy anime with English subs too in order to avoid burnout

Awesome, thank you I’m going to try this out!

I’m lv 43 on WK, not sure what N-level, though I’ve been reading for over 2.5 years so probably at least a shaky N3? (I don’t plan on taking the JLPT, so I haven’t been studying with it in mind.) Really the only time I can get anywhere with no subs is when I’m already familiar with it, from having already watched it with (usu. EN) subs before and/or read the manga/book it’s adapted from where applicable. But even then, if it was long enough ago, I’m still just like, Uhhh… (大きくふりかぶって and the バッテリー anime did not go very well. The バッテリー movie, on the other hand, which I watched after the anime and reading much of the manga, went a bit better.)

I wouldn’t worry too much about watching without subs for now, except to test yourself. It would probably be better to watch once with subs and once without, the order depending on whether you’d rather go into it already understanding what’s going on or if you’d rather see how much you can pick up first and then check your understanding—or whatever other method works best for you. You could even try focusing on the audio without looking at the subs, and then glancing down at them to check (I mostly tend to do this with voiced video games with manual-advance dialogue so I don’t have to worry about pausing).

You can definitely still pick stuff up while watching with EN subs as long as you keep at least a little bit of your attention on the words they’re saying and not just the words on the screen. Just like reading, listening is a skill that you need to build up and which requires comprehensible input. You don’t have to tough it out if you feel like it isn’t getting you anywhere—rather, find some way to work it in more and more, little by little, and you’ll get there.


So when you started reading, did you get every sentence first time, or did you have to reread sentences a few times? A lot of people intuitively understand they need to reread sentences when starting to read when they’re having issues, but rewinding a piece of audio or video content to repeat feels jarring so they don’t. But then they’re challenging themselves to a much higher standard (understand the first time) with the audio/video content than they are with the written content.

Another trick might be to use a player which lets you have dual subtitle tracks. e.g. I can set up mpv to use Japanese subtitles, but make English subtitles available on hover. I don’t use it so much now, as my skill at reading has improved significantly ahead of my skill at listening, so the Japanese subtitles by themselves are usually sufficient (especially for anime when there’s visual content to go with it). I also have it so I can copy the subtitles on screen to clipboard, so when the japanese subtitles are hard to understand I can get the kanji directly if I need to do lookups.

The thing with English subtitles is that it’s easy to fall into just reading the English subtitles and tell yourself you’re listening. That’s why I think English-on-hover is fine when English on-screen-all-the-time is not. That said, if setting that up technically is too much of a pain, you can always do the low tech option of dragging another window over the bottom of the video to hide the subs and then moving it out of the way when you need to read it :slight_smile:


Complete Beinner Japanese"–Thank you for putting this up. What a great beginner listening exercise!!! I will be making use of this every day.

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With listening, there are still two issues like reading, grammar/comprehension and vocabularies. Those are further compounded by speed and sound not being clear.

So I think, to get started, not only with Japanese sub, but also absolutely clear voice, like in YouTube for language learners. On the level that you can imagine yourself saying everything yourself. This is also a first candidate to turn off sub.

Well, some anime with JP sub might not be that bad, but pausing and reading are OK. Listening and comprehension speed aren’t going to be there for a while.

About EN sub or non-JP sub, I don’t think it’s much easier than pure listening, but it may help with vocabulary issues, less likely grammar. I can imagine late N3 trying that.

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Everyone has written some really great answers, so I’ll just offer an anecdote. I also tried watching without subtitles early on in my learning journey, about the same level you seem to be, and it was a similar disaster so I’ve just continued watching with subtitles on.

However, what I’ve found is that as I improve my grammar and vocab, I notice in tandem that I don’t read every line of the subtitles any longer. Sometimes I’m able to look away for several minutes and still follow along. None of this is intentional and the subtitles are still there if I need them, but assisting my progress this way is preferable over attempting to brute-force my understanding of everything at once.

There are also some options for watching with both English and Japanese subtitles at the same time, so it’s worth it to do a little bit of a google dive. You’ll be there soon!


You won’t be getting comfortable with ambiguity until around high N3/N2. Keep the subs on for now but try to see what words you recognize that connect with the subs.

I remember watching my hero with no subs and being completely lost and then focused on the audio after reading the subs and could start making the connections. Eventually you’ll find the subs aren’t necessary and you can switch to Japanese subs for further refinement or go with no subs. It takes time and practice. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.


Fwiw I don’t think that 99% of the advice is saying not to use native language subs. I think it’s referring to English subs.

Unless you’re trying to do listening practice specifically. Then yes, all subs need to go ASAP. But if dude is n4, I think it’s more like “English subtitles” need to go


Which country are you in? I’m in the USA, I don’t recall ever finding a Japanese show on Netflix that does NOT have Japanese subtitles. I looked at my Netflix list now, and I have more than 40 Japanese shows in my list, and all have Japanese subtitles. And those are just the ones I watched.

About turning off subtitles completely, if someone is on Wanikani to learn kanji and eventually be able to read, I don’t see any reason to do that. I don’t plan on turning off Japanese subtitles any time soon.


I am in USA. I checked out more on Netflix and you are right! I did see a lot of them had Japanese subtitles. I honestly watch mostly
On Crunchyroll and had just tested One Piece on Netflix to check and it does not have Japanese subtitles so I assumed the rest did not. Thank you for pointing this out!!!