When should I start watching shows/movies without subtitles?

Been trying to improve my listening comprehension by turning off subs when I watch something but it’s hit or miss, sometimes I have the necessary vocabulary and grammar knowledge to understand what’s being said but other times the dialogue is too slangy or uses a lot of jargon specific to the subject matter. Should I wait until I’m at a higher level before watching stuff without subs or do I just do it anyways and hope to learn as I watch?


One linguistics theory states that one should aim for “n+1” which means just a little more advanced (+1) than your current level (n).

That would mean spending most of your viewing time watching material that you understand most aspects of while occasionally viewing previously-too-challenging material to see if it has become more comprehensible.

I don’t do much viewing, but I’d imagine there are threads here to help you find suitable media for your level.


I second what @Rowena is saying, aim for shows where you’re not struggling too much with and then sometimes go into challenge mode of doing more difficult stuff.

Shows that are fast-paced, use special terminology, has a complex plot to keep track of, are obviously going to be more challenging, so it’s a bit about genre. Dramas are generally simpler than sci-fi.

I tend to be flexible about this: sometimes I just wanna enjoy what I’m watching and then I simply try to avoid reading the subs while still keeping them on. When I’m fine with not getting 100% of a story, then I forego subs. There is no shame in relying on subs imo.


I have 2 questions for you : do you enjoy doing that ? Do you feel you learn something ? If yes, you should do it. If it feels like hell then you should wait, otherwise you will be put off Japanese. Around N4, I wanted to start playing video games in Japanese and a friend told me that I should not because I wouldn’t understand vocab. Like, I had to understand EACH word before I could start playing. But what’s the point ? I wanted to play SO I could learn. That means, I didn’t need to understand everything since I was prepared to translate. And, I made a good choice. The 2 first hours of playing were like hell, but after that, vocab kept coming back and that way I could learn new words.
So, what I want to say is : do as you want. Others advices are about their own feelings, but what matters are yours.


I have a friend who is of N4 level and he started learning by watching Netflix Japanese TV series with Japanese subtitle. Whenever he couldn’t catch what they said, he would read the subtitle. If he doesn’t understand the vocab / kanji, he would pause it and look up the meaning. He learned a lot from this.

I can’t do that. That takes the joy of watching the film for me. I want to be immersed in the story, not pausing every other second to look up the meaning of the words / grammar I don’t understand.

I started watching with Japanese subtitles at N2 level. It’s a comfortable level where I would understand 85% of the conversation without having to stop and hit the dictionary.


If you’re level 37 and already know most of the basic vocab, go for it.

You’re never going to learn magic/industry specific/dialect/etc. terms without interacting with those words.


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