Reading and listening as a beginnger

Hi everyone! I’m a beginner with japanese (I’m about halfway through Genki I and am on level 7 of wanikani. I also have done the first two sections of Duolingo, though I know that’s very contentious haha). I’m wondering where people would recommend going from here? A lot say the best thing is to read and listen to authentic japanese material, but even the most basic “easy” media feels out of my reach.

So I guess I have a few questions. What would be good to add to my studying? Is it useful to still listen to podcasts/native speakers/shows when I only understand like, 2% of what is said?


For listening, I really recommend

It’s as it says on the tin. She does drawings and mimes actions so even if you don’t understand every word, you get the gist of it. Plus she does lots of western fairy tales so that helps with parsing it.

Reading I’d recommend


I second NHK Easy News.

For listening, I also highly recommend

There’s also excellent

(both for reading and for listening), but, unlike the previous two resources, it’s not free… It is worth it, in my opinion, though.


A lot (A LOT) of people will say yes, it “trains your ear to the sounds”, but I’ll be the crazy person and say no. As a super-beginner, it’s more demoralizing than it is helpful. But you absolutely should include listening and reading in your study. AND SPEAKING! Repeat what you hear! but that’s another topic.

Until you’re able to recognize SOME of the words, identify sentences, and get some vague meaning out of speech, native podcasts, etc. are just going to be noise. I would start with something that may even seem too easy for your reading level like the standard textbook introducing yourself, where do you live, etc. but try to do it no-text, no subtitles, only listening. THAT’s what “trains your ear to the sounds”.

When you’re more upper-beginner to intermediate, that’s when I think it becomes important to get as much exposure as possible.

Or maybe everyone learns differently, and that advice just applies to me :man_shrugging:


Hey there!
I started reading at the same level (Chapter 6 of Genki 1). It is possible, but still very difficult!
I started with the Absolute Beginner Book Club for this book: 小さな森のオオカミちゃん
The ABBCs on here are great because you can read the discussion and see everyone’s detailed questions on the grammar. You can also read translations for difficult sentences and skip them until you’re ready.

If you would like to start reading, just do a little bit at a time while continuing with your grammar studies. Soon it will be much easier! (For example, short forms of verbs are introduced in ch8-9, you will need these for manga!)
Satori reader is also a great resource, but I would maybe wait for about two more chapters of Genki to start using it.

I also started with daily podcast listening (about 10mins) at that level using the Nihongo con Teppei podcast. I suggest building it into your routine without stressing about it- eventually words and phrases will start to click.

(Also, don’t feel scared to post about your progress on the forums!)


2% is too bad for listening. Not just the words, at least some sentences need to be understood.

Reading first. Maybe Satori Reader is a good idea if you can keep up with it. Consider listening alongside reading first, that is, with text.

Maybe something like Graded Readers Level 1, and maybe with audio, can work. If you like it, you might make it extensive reading / listening.

I don’t know how many manga has audio, but someone made one for Ruri Dragon in YouTube, a previous book club pick.

Anyway, it’s also important to sort out priorities. Get basic grammar down first, then basic understanding. The aim in mind is those native things, but you can’t hurry more than you can.

Think about burning out and sustainability as well.


Finishing Genki 1 + 2, dropping Duolingo, starting to read simpler manga or regular manga with furigana in it and a dictionary at the ready. Probably watching shows for kids like Shirokuma Cafe to get used to hearing Japanese.

I always wonder why, when there are so many people that reached high levels in reading/listening in record times without practicing speaking, people still seem to think that speaking is necessary :thinking:
If you want to be able to speak, if you draw motivation from being able to communicate with others, practice speaking. If you don’t care about being able to speak, if all practicing speaking does is drain you, if all you want to be able to do for now is read books and watch shows, don’t practice speaking :man_shrugging:

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Because it helps you learn even faster by using more motor pathways, costs nothing extra except moving your mouth, and you can change your mind about wanting to speak later if you choose.

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So you’re only talking about shadowing? You’re not saying people should practice producing Japanese? :thinking:

Is this some kind of debate game gotcha? Sure I think people “should”. I think it’s super-helpful to learning. It sounds like you’re the one who doesn’t think so. It’s not required by law, so you do you, I guess. :man_shrugging:

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Sorry, I was just trying to clarify. I thought your post was about speaking practice with e.g. an italki teacher, but your reply seemed to be about shadowing specifically. Was just trying to make sure I didn’t misunderstand.

Yeah, I very much think a general statement like “You should practice speaking” is wrong. It’s nuanced. It’s good advice for some, it’s terrible advice for others.
Starting out I thought practicing all four skills at the same time was necessary, but it just made me miserable and was the reason I dropped Japanese. Years later I came back and focused purely on input and reached a high N2 level in under two years and it was actually fun. Nowadays I can speak decently without ever having dedicated much effort to it.

There is plenty of people out there. Some will draw motivation from speaking, some will just feel drained. Some learn Japanese because they want to communicate with others, some learn it just for the sake of enjoying Japanese media. There is absolutely no need to practice speaking if all you want to do is be able to read.
Telling people in general that they should practice speaking just ends up making some of those that are better off not practicing it feel pressured into doing it anyways or feel bad about themselves if they don’t do it.

It is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, so sorry if it feels to you like I’m making too big a deal out of this :man_shrugging:


Ha, no worries. I’d say ‘necessary’ is too strong - ‘recommended’ maybe, and remember we’re talking about a beginner. I think it’s safer to err on the side of “don’t limit yourself at this point”. After a while, everyone’s going to know what’s best for them and not listen to random internet strangers anyway. :smiley:

So the original question was is it helpful to listen to media from the get-go. Did you? (purely curious, not trying to be a smart-ass) It never did anything for me, but as you say, everyone’s different.


Not really? I did do a lot of listening and thought it was helpful, but by the time I started I was already somewhere between N5 and N4. I had covered most N4 grammar, but because I didn’t know a lot of vocabulary yet I was probably only at an N5 level.
I do think you need some basis before you can learn effectively from listening to native media - perhaps something like knowing most N4 grammar and the 1000 most common words? - but I also think waiting until you feel ready can be deceptive.
I used to watch easy slice of life anime, record the audio and then listen to it again soon after, e.g. while going for a run or doing the dishes. When I first watched the episode I understood barely anything, but when I listened to the audio a second time I understood so much more. Even more on the third time.
I had the vocab/grammar to understand a lot of what was being said, but I just didn’t have enough practice listening. So I do think there is some merit to trying to push through even when you don’t feel ready.


Thanks! I think I’ll take a look at the Satori Reader. I’ve looked at NHK easy news before but it’s not quite easy enough haha.

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There is also which provides a series of free and paid easy readers, starting at the See Spot Run level and working up.


nhk easy news only became easy for me around lvl 25

before I still didnt now a lot of words so I spent considerably time just looking up words (and forgetting them 5min later).