Noticing improvement in listening comprehension

This is kind of an oddly specific topic so I wasn’t sure how to word the title.

Recently I’ve started wondering whether other people have a similar experience when it comes to improving their comprehension in Japanese (or any language), in particular, listening comprehension. I think it’s reasonable to say listening practice is one of the most neglected areas in learning a language - possibly due how tough it can be to get practice, but also due to how many people just can’t be bothered to focus. Around the start of the year I decided to try taking listening practice more seriously in both the two languages I’m learning. In Swedish, this meant using an Anki deck full of a bunch of audio of sentences, and in Japanese this meant… well, nothing really yet. I’ve been lazy with getting listening practice for Japanese.

I did however notice a very obvious change in my ability to comprehend Swedish after just a few days of doing this Anki deck for around 10 minutes a day, which really surprised me. Listening comprehension practice (in my experience anyway) doesn’t focus on just one specific thing unlike learning kanji or vocab or grammar, so I expected results to take a few weeks. This got me wondering whether this was normal and it’s something people have noticed in Japanese, or whether it takes people weeks of practice to start noticing improvements.

This could also be how I’ve practiced. I imagine listening to whole conversations rather than individual sentences is far more effective listening practice, but would also take much longer to notice any improvements.

Any thoughts on this? Apologies if this doesn’t make much sense, I didn’t know how to word it. Also if you think I’m an idiot for practicing individual sentences or you have other tips, please tell me. I’m trying to listen to a JLPT listening test every day now, which is around 20 minutes of a bunch of different conversations, although it’s too early to say what difference this has made.


I get what you mean. I’m an upper intermediate level in German and listening was also very hard for me to crack. Honestly, it’s my weakest skill.

I only made marked improvement when I came to Germany to study (been here since October) and had to sit in seminars for 2 hours apiece. Honestly, the first two weeks I didn’t understand probably 50% of what was said. I wasn’t used to native speakers, let alone professors, talking at a fast pace about symbolism in literature or whatever. Never mind my classmates rattling off ideas at 100mph… but that kind of immersion isn’t easy to come by, and while that was great for being able to follow literature seminars, I still get stumped in day-to-day conversations sometimes.

I also have an Anki deck with audio and that definitely helped with listening. In my experience, it is just about listening more. It sounds obvious and simple, but that’s because it is! I now try and watch German shows on Netflix or if I’m strapped for time I’ll watch a Video or Audio Thema on and do the accompanying exercises. I also have a German playlist with songs I actually like and listen to that sometimes. It’s a great feeling to be listening along and then suddenly realise I understand a whole chunk.

I’m still a beginner in Japanese - haven’t started grammar yet - but when I get round to it, I plan to use resources like to practice listening, even if it’s just lists of words at first.

Also re: listening - a huge part of it is vocabulary. So to improve in listening, make sure you’re learning plenty of vocab. :blush:

I’m sure your Japanese listening efforts will pay off! Good luck!

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I do sentence mining daily, using anki and subs2srs sentences. Those are basically from shows I’m watching, so there’s a context that I can relate. I founded they resulted into a more realistic speed listening practice (though the main reason to use them was for cementing vocab actually), specially compared to textbook examples and more educational material.
Now I’ve just made the jump with listening, and I’m ripping the audio of the shows I’m watching and listening constantly in my iPod while commuting, walking or whatever. There was the phase of understaning just words… then some phrases… and now some dialogues are getting through as well. I’m aiming to immersion and so far it’s working for me (in a way I can’t really measure I guess), though I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

Ps: a more palatable way could be the SuperNative website :+1:

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I’m not a particularly advanced learner, and listening is one of my weakest skills, so I’m not sure why I’m commenting! But I just wanted to second detamysantiago’s comment about vocabulary - a lot of the times when I notice that I’m understanding more than I used to, it’s because I’ve learnt more vocabulary. And if I can pick out nearly all of the words in a sentence easily, it gives my brain a lot more breathing space to focus on understanding the grammatical nuance, and makes the structure of the sentence a lot easier to parse on the fly.


This is happening more and more often for me as well. I’m finding I can understand so much more now going back and listening to certain things or watching shows that I started on a while ago. I can only imagine as I progress more with my vocabulary that improving my listening will become much easier as well.


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