Obviously listening more improves listening ability and reading more improves reading ability, but how about their secondary effects on other domains of language learning?

For example, people often say that reading is far more effective than listening for building a massive vocabulary. (Obviously this sort of broad statement may need to be qualified, but it serves as an example.)

What are some secondary benefits of reading vs listening?
How (if at all) does that influence how you allocate your study time to reading vs listening?


Listening, and to a lesser extent watching, is more passive than reading. I use it to give my mind a break from reading due to the effort involved.

The thing I’ve found is that they reinforce each other, as does WK. So each one still moves you further along the path.


You may find these interesting,
although not related to your actual question but more like a qualification of your initial statement, and because you seem interested in these things.

In particular this one:
Reading vs. listening for vocab acquisition
Interesting excerpt

It therefore appears that,
not surprisingly, the written form is significantly easier to acquire from written input than spoken
input while, interestingly, the spoken form is acquired with similar ease from written and spoken

But also this:
Reading and vocab acquisition

Theres hardly anything surprising about the findings, but theyre worth a read regardless.

In particular i find this very relevant for us wanikaniers (also from the reading vs. listening study)
Interesting excerpt:

beyond the first few thousand most common words in an L2, most vocabulary is acquired incidentally from context (Ellis, 1994; Huckin & Coady, 1999). Exposure to large amounts of written and spoken input enriches and consolidates knowledge of partially-known words and can also develop knowledge of new words (Brown, Waring, & Donkaewbua, 2008). Researchers therefore emphasize that incidental vocabulary acquisition is necessary for any well-balanced L2 vocabulary learning program (Nation, 2001; Schmitt, 2008).

But also this is not particularly surprising

For further reading theres also
A comparison of reading, listening and reading while listening.
It shows a slight increase of vocab acquisition when comparing reading while listening to reading-only,
meanwhile listening-only lacks significantly behind in most respects.
(This seems to indicate that watching shows/movies with subs in the target language or audiobooks with a written copy to be the best vocab method, altough it only appears marginally better than simply reading, at least for the tested results)

As with all studies, there are limitations to consider and some caveats to the results that must be taken into account, thankfully the researchers of these papers have done a good job at dealing with those considerations.

Also might i suggest renaming the title to
“what are the effects of listening/reading on language learning appart from vocabulary acquisition?”


Problem with reading as a beginner-intermediate in Japanese you can’t really read anything “natural” or interesting for that matter, and even if you do it is super slow. That’s why I spent a lot more time on listening as I could also do it passively while commuting. The sheer amount you can do with listening is just not sustainable with reading at the beginning. Listening for podcasts for two hours everyday made a huge difference in getting the language inside my head and I don’t think you can get that kind of “intuitive feel” with reading that easily. Reading doesn’t really force you to practice quickly absorving information. As a bonus you are getting the sounds in your head, too. Anecdotally I think this helps enforcing the sounds later while reading.

Of course in the end you need massive amounts of both but I think for myself focusin on listening in the beginning paid off a lot. Of course now with my kanji knowledge and vocab I’m doing a lot more reading.

Interestingly my cousin can read books easily but has like absolutely zero ability in speaking and listening as he has never spent any time on it. I sometimes wonder if he has a completely different kind of concept of the whole language.


This is not really an opinion on which you should do, but I’ve definitely noticed that learning vocabulary via reading has the (extremely unsurprising) effect of improving my listening ability, even when I haven’t done any listening practice. It’s just a lot easier to pick things out when you have a much better vocabulary, because otherwise even the words you do know get drowned in a sea of confusion. Reading has also given me a much more intuitive sense of Japanese sentence structure, and holding long sentences in my head, which again helps a lot when I come to listen.

So although it’s very much the case that if you want to get better at listening you need to listen (!), I would say that of course all these things help each other. Just like morteasd said above, where they’ve experienced the opposite; listening loads later helped their reading.

It’s the same with WaniKani and learning kanji. Some people find that learning a decent set of kanji upfront helps them get through grammar materials better, while people who focus on grammar first find it makes the kanji learning process much easier.

Of course some approaches are more efficient than others (although this might vary between people), but you’ll always see benefits from studying effectively at whatever you’re focusing on.


I second this:

Knowing more words allows me to break down the sentences I hear more easily. However, I think listening helps mainly with two things that you can’t get from reading: 1. pronunciation 2. learning slang/spoken Japanese structures. It’s a lot rarer to find spoken Japanese transcribed than it is to find written Japanese read aloud. It’s definitely easier (for me at least) to acquire written words than spoken ones, but some structures don’t seem natural until you heard them spoken. At the very least, listening is the only time you’ll definitely get to hear the emotions associated with a particular expression, which usually isn’t as obvious when you’re reading it off the page.


As soon as I saw the title I knew it was a foodhype thread.


I would think pitch accent to be one of the few things you absolutely cannot acquire from reading alone. And as previously mentioned the general feel of conversation flow and emotion should be practiced through listening.
Depending what one reads i dont think its impossible to pick up on slang and colloquialism tho, but those are likely still more prevalent in listening material.
Generally i would think reading gives better feel for how “proper” grammar is used whereas listening may need to identify more omissions of words and particles.

Written is probably how the language “should be” (for this reason should give a better idea of the logical structure of the language)
whereas spoken is how it actually is. (where all the rules are broken)
All things considered i believe written to be easiest aswell since it “mostly” adheres to the “rules”.

Personally i place listening later in my language journey as i also suppose it will be easier to pick up on these nuances when you dont have to worry about understanding what is essentially being said.
So with that in mind i still primarily stick with just reading as actual “practice”
But then i also like to just listen to radio and watch JP subbed shows, so still i get that practice without considering it practice.

If i were to really put words on how that shapes my strategy then let us suppose a spectrum of fluency with regards to size of vocabulary, ranging from none to complete recall of all encountered words.
I would emphasize reading (only for active consumption) untill reaching around 95%(another metric might be more usefull here) vocab recall upon encounter and then change the reading to listening ratio to 1:1
Obviously this is purely theoretical speculation on what an optimal approach to consumption would look like in order to achieve fluency in the least time without accounting for passive listening consumption. Regardless that is as far my thoughts take me.
And to be honest i just do whatever i want anyway :sweat_smile:

Even if one reads and understands loads of text on how to play a sport, there is zero connection with their actual physical ability to play that sport.

I really enjoy seeing content like this on the forums, so thank you for asking so we can all investigate and learn together, @foodhype.

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lmao I tend to ask lots of questions when I start experimenting with new strategies, and I’m approaching the end of traditional textbook learning. I definitely think I benefited a ton from these threads, although I also feel like I’m asymptotically approaching a point where my strategy is optimal enough that optimizing more will be more trouble than it’s worth.

I’m currently trying to decide, for my reading and listening time, whether I should go all in with J-subbed Language Learning with Netflix (for each line of dialogue, listen only first, then read subs) or alternate between that and reading Harry Potter on Kindle. I’m leaning towards alternating.

I’m personally alternating between watching Japanese dramas and reading novels. I can’t say how effective it is yet since I’ve only been doing it for a few days, but I definitely think that improving my understanding of spoken materials is improving my reading abilities, and vice versa.


The strategy you ultimately choose is up to you, but speaking from experience, even if you’re really motivated, constantly pausing videos to study the words used is kind of exhausting, even if you love the story. (I’m doing it with one of my favourite anime right now.) I mean, you definitely can do it if you intend to study the whole lexicon of the show, but I think it’ll probably be more interesting (and less tiring) if you alternate between activities that require intense study and focus (e.g. reading a novel, even one that you already know in English, is likely to mean a lot of words that you might want to look up) and activities you can do more passively for fun while learning (e.g. watching a drama or anime while glancing at the subs whenever you have trouble catching what’s said, and possibly only leaving ‘looking up’ for later).

EDIT: My experience with no-subbing (with a transcription open so I can refer to it when necessary) so far tells me it’s usually more enjoyable when you understand more, so it might be really frustrating if you attempt to no-sub/J-sub without adequate knowledge. I also think you learn more from listening beyond a certain threshold because you can capture more. When I knew less Japanese, I usually just watched with English subs, but I tried not to look at that too much while picking up whatever words I recognised. Once I reached the level where I could parse most of the Japanese in real-time, that’s when I started picking up words. Otherwise, there’ll be too many words to check in the dictionary.

That’s a good point. For the record, tools such as Language Learning with Netflix, Animelon (currently down), etc typically support automatically pausing at the end of lines. That said, I do think I should be doing some novel reading.

My end goal is to be able to converse fluently with natives at full speed through (1) speech and (2) electronic messages (text, email, etc). So, I’m a little bit biased towards listening over reading. That said, I don’t want to abandon pure reading (books as opposed to subbed anime), and the responses suggest reading and listening enhance each other. I’m also doing 5 hours a week of spoken conversation practice and deriving a fair amount of listening practice from that.

Hahaha. Sounds a lot like my end goal! (Though well, for now, I’m just aiming to get a good N1 score within a few years, but I know the JLPT doesn’t test all language skills. It’s just for the practical utility of the qualification.) The 5h of conversation/week sound great.

Anyway, if it’s any assurance, here’s what happened for me with anime: when I started the Tobira textbook, I tried to read along with the audio files, but I just couldn’t recognise and pronounce everything fast enough. It was like a tongue twister. However, even when my eyes stopped keeping up, my ears were still telling me what was going on, so it seems like all that anime really helped. (I watched one 20-minute episode every night for a few months, even if it was often just the same anime I liked over and over again.) Simply put: somehow, even listening to things you don’t fully understand while trying to understand them can improve your listening for slightly lower-level listening.

Either way, all the best with getting to your goal. I can see you’re working really hard at it. :slight_smile:

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That analogy isn’t arguably the best since sports require physical training and aptitude and so it’s a given that reading on the sport isn’t going to actually make you good at that sport. Being able to read a language however can pretty much go hand in hand with one’s ability to listen, given that the voice inside their head when they read is of a similar accent to what they hear. That makes me wonder what the voice inside his cousin’s head sounds like…

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Welp, I really wanted the Kindle approach to work, but the accidental page turns while trying to look up words is infuriating. I got the Kindle Oasis because of the dedicated buttons (and matte display); it’s possible to disable the screen entirely, but then I can’t look up words. Adjusting margins didn’t work because of vertical text. My comprehension rate for the material I want to read isn’t high enough for that to be feasible.

However, I found something I like way better, Japanese Quora + Yomichan. I’m already very active on Quora and do 90% of my English content reading / writing there, and it’s perfectly suited for my goals.

For listening, I’m doing a combination of conversation on Italki and ExpressVPN + Netflix + Language Learning with Netflix (listening first, checking Japanese sub if I don’t understand).

My plan is to alternative between the two.

I am starting to learn business-level Japanese and there are many things that listening alone cannot teach me. The formal writing style and vocabulary is very different from the spoken ones.