What is your process for working through a show to practice listening?

The problem I run into is that I want to make input comprehensible as quickly as possible so I can allocate more time to listening. In the past, I have first tried listening to a line; read the subs if I don’t understand; once I comprehend it, I move on. The issue with this is that I don’t retain much, and the input isn’t initially comprehensible, so I spend a lot of time reading and not much time listening.

If I just listen to it raw, then I comprehend some it, but it’s sub-optimal.

Do you watch the same episodes 3+ times?
What is your routine?


What makes you think it’s sub-optimal?

That’s ok. In the beginning, you won’t retain much and the input won’t be comprehensible. You have to be ok with this if you’re going with the immersion approach. The other approach is as you said: understand a line before moving on.

It’s debatable which one is “faster” but many people have learned the language using both methods.

For pure listening, I pick shows that I know well and that I really like and I watch them without subs. I’m working through Jojo like this right now.

For listening/enjoyment, I will put subs on and try to ignore them as much as possible until I need them.

For listening/reading, I watch YouTube videos with Japanese subs. Sambonjuku’s videos are particularly good for this.


I think your mistake is trying for comprehension and retention from the start. First learn to recognise word/phrase boundaries, then start trying to recognise individual words and phrases. Eventually everything piles up and you understand more of the sentence than you don’t understand. At that point I think it makes sense to start looking things up.
Basically, I think the skill set involved in listening is different and so needs to be trained differently to reading…

Routine wise, watch lots of videos, paying attention to the stuff above. If I can’t be bothered, I leave it on in the background while I do other stuff.


When I started with listening practice via anime, I just had the subs on and leaned on them to understand each sentence. But like you, I realized I was doing more reading than listening.

So now I keep subs off as much as possible. I do a full pass at normal speed to get a sense of what’s going on and test my comprehension. Then I do another pass line-by-line, re-playing each line as much as needed to pick up what’s being said. If after a few re-plays I still can’t decode a word or whatever, then I turn on subtitles.

After line-by-line decoding, I replay the episode at full speed without subs as often as I can (usually while cooking or washing dishes) to review the content. I’ll also work in episodes I’ve gone through previously.

I think this strategy works best if your reading and vocabulary levels are up to the task: If you find that even with subs on, it takes a while to look up words and understand each line, then this will be a very slow process. If that’s the case, I might suggest putting listening aside for the time being, and practicing reading while building your vocab.

I think some good pointers have already been made. As a comment on using anime for listening practice, as much as I think watching anime is a worthwhile use of your time to help in your Japanese studies, I wouldn’t exactly consider that listening comprehension. Because regardless if you use subs or not, it’s a primarily visual medium. So, you basically understand by seeing the action unfold on screen.

There are audio-only dramas you can look up in a variety of genres. Or Japanese radio talk shows. Podcasts etc., that gives a more direct training of listening comprehension.

I won’t say, don’t watch anime, because I think that’s also good. But if you do, there is no reason for you to do it without subs as they help you nail down what you tink you hear as much as the visuals already do. When you feel familiar with the boundaries of sounds, words and sentences, that @denzo described really well, you might wanna take the step away from visual media alltogether.

None of the listening materials I’ve used have had the text written down, so that takes listening and reading out of the equation.

As for “routine”, I used to get comfortable and actively listen (doing nothing else) to the Drama CDs I wanted to give a try. Often lying down and even shutting my eyes to focus more intensely on what I was hearing. That also helps imagining the story in question without getting distracted. I often listened to Japanese dramas like this going to sleep (when I couldn’t keep track of the story or understand what was being said, I’d pause and just go to sleep for real. :sleeping:

The next day, I’d look up some of the new words I caught but didn’t understand. But, I wouldn’t stop as the story unfolded in real time. I’d rather aim to understand the gist of things when it got hard to follow and just try to retake lost ground later on in the story.

I feel like that skill, to ignore anything you don’t understand and instead focus on what you do understand, is really important to learn to improve listening comprehension. It helps you “relax” your ears while listening (don’t know if that made sense :sweat_smile: ).


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