Tips for studying Japanese through listening

Hey guys,
I understand there was a previous thread about this, called “Tips and tricks to practice listening skills”, but it was locked, so I thought I’d start another one.

I am currently studying as much Japanese as I can for the JLPT 2 in December. I am currently focusing more on listening now, as my reading is already on par (in my opinion). My current method is watching the video without subtitles, try to grasp what is happening, and quickly look up the occasional word I don’t understand. I don’t stress too much about not understanding everything, just grasping what is happening. If there is a scene where I don’t understand what is happening, I replay it with English subtitles (I generally do this when a character speaks really fast, or has an odd way of speaking).

Also, in the previous thread, it was mentioned by Syphus that having conversation in Japanese with another person helps too. I am already currently doing this once a week with my tutor. (I probably could be doing it more often, tbh).

Anyway, I was wondering what tips you guys might have for studying Japanese through listening?

@Syphus , in the locked thread, you mentioned that you wanted to write a thread on this. I tried searching for it, in case you made it, but couldn’t find it. Sorry if I missed it.


Radio is really good. Exposes you to a wide variety of useful language.

If you’re in Japan you can find a little radio for pretty cheap. If not, you can still listen to podcasts online or through an app. It’s great because you can just turn it on when you’re doing chores like laundry or dishes, or when you get up in the morning and listen as you start your day.


I watch TV. NHK broadcasting is usually going around doing lots of interviews around Tokyo and even to the country side so I hear lots of dialects and new context. I have the luxury of just going outside to the bar and speaking and listening. It’s always best to be immersed in the source.

Edit. Also when I was back in the states I listened to alot of pimsleurs Japanese audio. You can skip all the beginner stuff and move to the intermediate and advanced tracks and the whole audio is Japanese. I would listen to it while going to sleep.


Yeah, watching Japanese regular TV is a good idea. I forgot about that. Probably better than what I’m doing, watching dramas. Do you recommend any other Japanese channels?

Podcasts are a good idea. Do you recommend any podcasts?

They might be kind of boring to some (i.e. they’re not about anime, or games, or Japanese pop culture), but the そんないプロジェクト podcasts are pretty good. There are a few on different topics (science, design, etc.) and you can find them on YouTube.

The nice thing about podcasts is they’re not scripted. These are just regular conversations, so there are sentences that trail off, natural chit chat, etc.


That podcast does look interesting. I’m just worried about too much use of technical terms, but I will try it out and see how I go.

The science one seems to be largely aimed at children, though the hosts are adults. They take questions from kids and talk about recent science news items. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard for a non-native, but it’s not super complicated concepts.

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For listening practice with dramas (which I’ve been mainly watching via, I’ve been recently using this approach which I’ve found useful:

When a difficult or interesting sentence is said by a character, I use a Google Chrome extension called Transpose - Pitch - Loop for videos it works with any HTML5 video player – it works on as well as YouTube) to have the video continuously A-B loop so that I can then clip the lopping audio into an mp3 file with another Chrome extension called Chrome Audio Capture (Although, more accurately, I used my own forked version of the extension at which allows me to just press 1 keyboard shortcut to start clipping and another to stop clipping, instead of having to use the mouse at all.)

The Transpose - Pitch - Loop extension allows for the speed of the audio to be slowed down so that I can also clip the slowed-down audio instead of the original speed audio (for easier speaking practice. I then rename the clipped mp3 file to have a filename that is the Japanese text transcription of the audio it contains. For example: でも私はしめしめと思った.mp3

If I’m watching a video without good Japanese subtitles, I’ll open the mp3 file using VLC and replay it on repeat at an even further reduced speed (VLC can slow it down to 0.25x with pretty fine-grained speed controls), until I can at least transcribe all of the syllables into ひらがな. From there, I try to figure out what was said by searching to try and figure out what was said. If I still can’t transcribe it correctly, I’ll send the audio on LINE to one of my Japanese language partners and ask them for the answer.

At this point, I also edit the ID3v2 tags of the MP3 file in VLC such that the Artist field contains the English literal translation (which may be awkward-sounding English, but helps to explain the Japanese grammar) and such that the Title field contains the Japanese transcribed text. This allows me to listen to the MP3s using any typical MP3 app or device and be able to see both the English and Japanese easily (since the Artist and Title are usually displayed prominently).

Also, when I’m recording the audio, I also take a screenshot of the video and save it with the same filename as the mp3, but with a .png file extension, so I can easily remember the situation where the audio originated from later on, in case I forget.

In practice, all of this takes about a minute or two for each sentence I clip from a drama. But it allows me to practice listening and speaking because I can play individual MP3 recordings on my phone, while I’m commuting to and from work. I usually like to listen to the same 3-10 second clipping on Repeat-One mode until I either feel like I have mastered pronouncing that particular sentence, or until I feel like I’ve had enough of that particular sentence that day. Over time, I naturally end up reviewing the older sentences less and less as they become more and more familiar to me (kinda like a DIY, rough SRS audio system, without the complex overhead of Anki).

I’ve found this method to be much more fun, meaningful, and memorable, because I get to choose exactly what sentences I want to practice, and I can choose the sentences from the most memorable and interesting parts of each episode. But if you’re studying to pass the N2, perhaps you’ll need to clip things that you might not particularly enjoy, but are good for passing the test (e.g. phrases from newscasters?).

If all of this sounds too painful and tedious, the site essentially gives you the same opportunity to practice listening to short video cllips over and over for listening practice (with English translations provided already).

Similarly, is good for this kind of listening practice too, but I’ve found the stories to be a bit too uninteresting for me (especially without any video to look at).

I’ve found the audio from the lessons at also to be useful for basic listening skills, with focus on particular grammatical points at a time.

I’ve also used a book called 180 Common Expressions Used by Native Japanese Speakers in Regular Conversation which has an audio CD with high quality recordings made by a male and female Japanese speaker who both sound like they’re either voice actors or TV drama actors, speaking at native speeds with native-sounding tones of voice (i.e. not slow, pedagogical speeds with overly emphasized and strange teaching tones). This book actually has, on average, 4 sentences for each of the 180 expressions (with Japanese text, romaji, English translation text, and Japanese audio) per expression, so there’s about 720 sentences to practice with.

You may also find this book (which also comes with an audio CD) to be mildly useful: Shadowing Let’s Speak Japanese Intermediate to Advanced Edition . I have not bought it, but I did buy their Beginner to Intermediate book from that series , and found it mildly useful.

I have recently also been listening to podcast episodes from that are all in Japanese. I don’t feel like I learn that much from it, as a lot of it goes over my head, so maybe it’s better for advanced level studies.

Of course, it probably goes without saying, but all listening practice should probably come hand-in-hand with a habit of looking new words up in a dictionary and practicing using them, and/or looking up new grammar points in a grammar reference and understanding how it works. (Or asking a native speaker or posting a detailed question about a particular sentence at

With grammar, I’m assuming you’re already well aware of the 3-tome collection of grammar dictionaries: . I also recently purchased this one, which is a good advanced-level reference too: 日本語文型辞典 英語版 ―A Handbook of Japanese Grammar Patterns for Teachers and Learners


I watch let’s plays (実況プレイ in japanese) from time to time. The fact that (provided you’re into the game in question) it’s enjoyable even if you understand nothing, coupled with the often simpler sentences, makes it a less frustrating way to start off I think.

There are 12 channels of publicly broadcasted TV including the government NHK channels.
Me and the wife got that basic package. No channel strongly reccomended. Gotta find someone who pays for that ¥2,700 – ¥4,800 for them specialty reccomendations haha. I’m cheap.

That looks like a good drama site. I am currently using Crunchyroll, which is very limited.

Thanks for the tip on capturing audio clips from videos. I might try that.

That hkbk radio podcast looks pretty good. Just looking at it on iTunes, I can see a number of podcast topics that look interesting to listen to. I just tested one podcast, and the speed and clarity is very good.

I have all of those handbooks on Japanese grammar, but I’ve mainly just been using the kanzen master series.

@crihak I have considered watching Japanese let’s plays. I am wanting to focus more on everyday language though. But, I might still give it a try to add some variety to my Japanese listening learning.

@acthedm I came across ■■■■■■, which is free. Though, it looks too hard to find something that I’d like to watch lol. I’ll have to look more into it later.

Good luck!

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If you have Netflix, Terrace House is a great show to watch. It’s reality TV, 6 people living in the same house, and it’s unscripted, so you get to listen to 20-somethings chatting with each other in everyday language. If juicy dating drama is your thing, give it a try!

Yeah, I’m actually all caught-up on that show. It’s great. Though, my family likes to watch it, so we end up watching it with English subtitles lol. Still, it’s pretty fun, as I try to listen for the Japanese and explain concepts and translations to them, while still learning a number of new things at the same time.

I listen to the podcasts:

そこあに about anime
ひいきびいき about whatever the hosts feel like
バイリンガルニュース science and other news and discussion in mixed Japanese and English


Are you sure you’re ready for the reading section? It was absolutely, positively soul-shattering for me. I’d studied specifically with the intent of passing the N2 and by the time I finished that section I didn’t even care what happened anymore. Didn’t even get to see all the questions.

On the other hand I scored the highest on listening and I’d never held a single conversation or actively listened to a single Japanese thing outside of j-pop. It’s a very easy section to game since there’s only 3/4 selectable answers per question. If you can cross out one or two answers per you’ll have a 50% chance of being correctly even if you randomly guess (and the JLPT only requires about 100/200 points overall to pass).

Just a few things to think about from an efficiency standpoint.

EDIT: though I was level 40 when I took it

NHK also has a podcast that you can download for on the go.

I feel like I’m ready for the reading section. I took JLPT N3 last December and scored high on all sections. I was level 30 at the time. I’ve been level 60 for a number of months now, and I’ve been comfortably reading light novels. My tutor says I understand most of the N2 grammar. Also, I tend to do better on reading than listening, as I’m more of a visual person. For example, in the JLPT last year, I breezed through the reading section with time to spare. I understand that the N2 is a fair bit harder than N3, though. Apparently, the N2 requires ~1000 kanji and ~6000 vocabulary. And Wankikani covers ~2000 kanji. So that puts me at some ease. I am still reading alot of native material and inputting stuff into Anki, though.

You are right about the listening section being easy to game, though. When I reached the listening section, I actually lost concentration (I blame that on not eating), and was half-guessing the questions, until half-way through I somehow regained my concentration and was able to answer the rest. Funnily enough, I scored the same as the reading section.

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