When learning how to read kanji helps you in listening practice

It clicks with me yesterday again but since I’ve begun to learn kanji, I noticed that I often understand some words in my listening practice more easily.

For example : yesterday I was listening some dialogs of a visual novel, and a guy suddenly called himself a 弱者(じゃくしゃ) (a weak person). I didn’t learn this particular word of vocabulary on WK, but I recognized じゃく and しゃ, and the pieces in my head clicked together.
I happens to me quite often.

So even if learning kanji can seem a reading practice, I noted that it quite helps me too in my listening practice.

Do you feel the same ?

  • Yes, totally !!!
  • Maybe some very few times ?
  • Huh, I don’t really know what you are talking about…
  • I don’t do listening practice ^^’
  • Just here to click
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Interesting, I have a sort of opposite experience: when I’m listening, I’m usually recalling the kanji for the words in my head, and if I can’t remember the kanji then I can’t remember the word.


So are you saying that in a way, learning kanji limits a bit your listening experience ?
Interesting :thinking:

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At the moment, yes, but it’s worth noting that listening is my worst skill, and as it improves, the kanji imagination thing is happening less and less.

The issue is all the homonyms. Take こうよう for example: it could mean government business, red leaves, use, elevating spirits, or several other things. So even if one knows all the kanji in those words, it wouldn’t help them with figuring out which word is being used is that specific instance.

And then if I didn’t know those words, I’d be thinking:
こう: construction, mouth, public, school, mix, effective, etc…
よう: task, sheep, form, sunlight, etc…
And trying to construct a word from all of that ^^ in like .06 seconds.

tldr: don’t neglect listening practice


I have experienced this an occasionally, and it always feels really exciting and motivating!

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Maybe you’re experiencing this issue more than me because I don’t know a lot of kanji yet, but the context generally helps, doesn’t it ?

はい、はい。わかりました。I swear I won’t ! :innocent:

It’s like when you find a critical piece of a big puzzle ! :star_struck:

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I feel similarly but I also think that it’s not that unique to kanji. In many (most? all?) languages a lot of vocabulary is made up of identifiable elementary “building blocks” that you can use to understand new vocab. In most indo-european languages you can see this with prefixes and suffixes. “undertaking” is “under” + “take” + “ing”. Russian соответствовать is со + ответ + вовать etc…

I feel like English fares a bit worse than most here because of the mix of Germanic and Romance roots, although of course Japanese is in a similar situation with Japonic and Sinitic roots. Sometimes it’s じゃく, sometimes it’s よわ…

My point is that I’m convinced that if Japanese dropped Chinese characters like Vietnamese or Korean did you’d eventually still identify many of these blocks phonetically even if you didn’t associate them to a logogram.

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Not so surprising and I also often experience this phenomenon. Research shows that reading alone helps with listening comprehension, although that might not seem logical at first. Although I’m pretty sure there still is no way around listening a lot. :smiley:

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I don’t really associate the “blocks” with the logogram, but more with their on’yomi reading (or kun’yomi in some cases).

I suppose you can identify “blocks” in other languages (even if I don’t really remember experimenting that strongly when learning english or spanish), but it feels more spectacular in japanese for me. I think it’s because when you associate various “blocks” it composes directly a new word, which meaning you can guess easily.
I’m also satisfied when I recognize a verbal form in japanese too, like your example of “taking” in english, but it’s not like a new word. When I can guess a new word thanks to its reading, I feel like an alchemist who’ve learnt a new secret receipe :smiley:

Well, I didn’t know that, and it makes me pretty curious ^^
If you have any resources to share about these topic, please do !

Can’t remember which exact study I’ve seen it in, might have been named in an interview with Jeff McQuillan, “Flashcard learning is not efficient”, although I remember the study being linked in the description.
For a fast search, I found other studies having similar results, though:

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These days I tend to think of ‘words’ as discrete little clusters. Each has multiple bits of information associated with them – the sound/pronounciation, the kanji, the actual meaning etc. Each of these crosslink with one another, and then (because words share kanji, pronounciations at time etc) they all also to a seperate degree crosslink with other words.

There’s also patterns - eg if you recognise 弱者、you’ll probably recognise 強者 or even slightly distant concepts like 学者、患者 etc and at least be able to associate meaning with them, if not necessarily pronounciation off the bat.

My point is, all these things reinforce one another and build on each other. So they all work in concert, even if you’re not specifically training one point or the other, they’re all different ‘pathways’ into roughly similar areas.

I read recently somewhere that native language speakers aren’t so much ‘learning to read’ as they are ‘learning to associate spoken language with symbology’. Second language learners get the full blast all at once, so it’s a bit more painful I think.


Yes exactly !
Stimulating various senses and finding various way to learn something is very effective.
I’m so glad science validates my constant need for watching anime as a solid assistant learner :grin: