When you become Kanji master BUT


So I feel like I have now reached quite an advanced level in Japanese (studying in the top levels at an intensive school in Tokyo), yet I’ve realised lately that the gap between my reading/writing skills and my listening/oral skills is IMMENSE.

A typical example being movies: with subtitles I can understand (almost) any movies, but without I’m like “what’s going on?”.

Basically, I’ve become dependent on Kanji.

I talk with my Japanese boyfriend without subtitles all the time and I’m planning on getting a baito and opening myself to more situations to practice oral Japanese… But I feel like progress is so slow just waiting for practice to do its job!

Any advice for boosting my comprehension without visual aid? (At a higher level that is… Everyday conversations should be ok)
Does keeping watching stuff with subtitles really help or should I just get rid of them even if I don’t understand and it will come to me magically? Any ideas would help :slight_smile:


Maybe start by watching a movie or TV show you’ve already seen, but without subtitles this time, and see how it goes. That way you won’t be completely lost even if you don’t understand all of the dialog.


I watched tons of YouTube videos (obviously without subtitles) and my listening comprehension got much better.
Now, I can’t really say where the two are actually related, but they are correlated…

Except for that, I do feel like JP subtitles do improve your comprehension, at least if they match exactly what they are saying on screen :slight_smile: It’s not like you are unplugging your ears.

Finally, watching again something you have seen already without subtitles is also a good exercise.


I think your vocal skills are already at a certain level by having a Japanese (assuming Japanese talking ) boyfriend and living in Japan. You just need time I guess, you have knowledge and exposure.

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the sound of stats professors crying tears of joy can be heard in the distance


But it takes so much tiiime! haha! I’ve already lived 8 months here and made lots of progress; but I only have 9 months left before my VISA expires and can start applying to translation school and I feel like that’s really not enough x’)

Also I think with my boyfriend we arrived at a point where we know each other’s way of talking and thinking so much I feel fluent with him so it doesn’t help that much more… My level is really not the same when I speak to other people!

I guess I just have to stick with watching a lot (more) Japanese videos, including the news, with and without subtitles, immerse myself more without translating all the time… And hoping my brain will catch up!

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Any suggestions of Youtube videos? I can’t find channels that I like in Japanese, but I might just not be searching at the right places ^^

It depends what you are into…
I really enjoy let’s plays, so that’s most of what I watch, for instance…

Here’s a random sample:
(I only watch キヨ and 2bros those days, though)


Thank you for your suggestions :smiley: Unfortunately I’m not that into games haha :slight_smile:
What I usually watch the most in English or French are either humour mini-films, or short documentaries about weird stuff around the world or something ^^ I’ll keep searching!

I think intermediate or upper level shadowing exercises might work here. Even though shadowing is mostly for speaking abilities, it also helps your listening. The good thing about shadowing material is that it usually comes with a vocabulary list that accompanies the “text”, that way you learn vocabulary and hear it being used.

Also, I think you should get rid of subtitles. It seams you are cheating yourself into believing you are listening to movies, where in reality you are reading. If you can read, it means you know the vocab. So you only need to get used to hearing it in order to recognize it.

Start by watching dramas and tv shows, and gradually move to documentaries, which have a more technical speech.


I used to have the same problem with English, and watching a lot of youtube made my listening comprehension much better over the past few years. You just have to find something you really like and watch (or listen) a lot of it, that way studying won’t even feel like studying, and that’s the best way to learn.

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I agree with it.


Oh, I remember hearing about shadowing exercises a long time ago, but my Japanese wasn’t quite there yet at the time! How do you go about this exactly? I’ll google it, but if you have any directions to give, I’ll gladly take… :slight_smile:

And yes, what you are saying with subtitles makes sense… ^^""

I’m in the opposite boat, I can’t wait to be able to read. My listening is decent but I can’t read much yet. I would really recommend joining some sort of cultural activity or team if you live in Japan. Doing a tea ceremony class or joining a basketball team for example, will give you a lot of practice. I started doing karate when I came to Japan to learn something cultural and joined a sports team, both have helped a ton. Karaoke is also always a fun option.


You absolutely need to practice without subtitles. Especially if your reading is much better than your listening, your reading skill is completely compensating for your lack of listening comprehension when you are watching something. So when you are doing this you are not really listening.

So listening comprehension is two (very) related skill that you can practice sepearately.

First is hearing japanese (phonetically). Can you hear spoken japanese and transcribe what you hear? can you listen to a song and transcibe it? (by transcribe i mean write down the sounds being produced in kana even if you don’t have grammatical comprehension or know the word being said). You can practice this with Youtube videos (and youtube also has speed ajustment so you can slow videos or music down) or songs (clearly sung stuff is better, like folk music). Without looking at the video, just let it play a line at a time and then pause it and try to write down the words one at a time (if you know the words) or the sounds that were spoken or sung (even when you don’t know the word).

This is really great practice and forces you to listen closely to what you are hearing. it also forces you to make a decision as to what you heard and not just say “i don’t understand”

As far as comprehension of what you hear, I have less to offer. If you read well there is no reason why you shouldn’t have a similar level of comprehension IF you are able to hear what is being said.

I do have two tips though.

  1. to the extent that you still think in grammar glosses (when you read or hear a grammar construction, relating it to an english construction), try not to think of japanese grammar in a way that forces you to reorder the sentence to understand it.
    here is a simple example: のに
    If you think of a clause: “something something のに”, as “even though something something…”, that means that when you are hearing japanese and get to a のに you will have to stop and try to “insert” that meaning at the beginning of the phrase you just heard. This is really hard to do at speed. So try to think in “inline” glosses. のに = and yet. So then “something something のに” becomes “something something and yet”.

  2. The second tip is weird but it definitely helped me. Japanese has a much lower information density than english. So even though spoken japanese has more morae per second than english has syllables per second (which is why it sounds “fast”) , the amount of information transmitted per unit time is about 3/4 of english (according to one study at least). So changing your expectation of the amount of information to expect (less, and noticably less) really helped me lose the anxiety of feeling like I was “missing” alot. The pace of spoken japanese is actually really relaxed (by comparison to english).


I’m pretty much in the same boat.
I’m a total novice at both still, But listening-wise, I’m completely helpless. I can read basic material in kana, but can’t even make out a two word sentence spoken.

I sort of disagree with this in a way. My reading skills are also better than my listening skills and even though i know the word 大使館 when reading it, if I hear someone say “たいしかん” I am not guaranteed to know what it means. I hear it correctly and I can transcribe it but the meaning doesn’t appear in my mind.

The amount of words that this happens to is slowly decreasing as I am listening more and more though. I am currently going through the Core 2K deck just for the listening practice and it helps a great deal. This has been my process.

I hear a word - I don’t know what it is - I look at the answer and realize that it’s a word that I know - Next time I hear the word I can understand it

I think the transcribing idea might be a good idea. I will try it myself with native material.


This is true. Something that has helped me with this is reading books like:


this is one of a whole series of books based on famous anime which are written with a decent amount of vocab but no (or very little) kanji, so it forces you to extract the meaning from the phonetic info (kana) without relying on seeing the kanji


I think the problem for me lies more in the lack of connection between visual and audible input. Even if I would read something in mainly hiragana, I still don’t get the audio input so I’m still just practising my reading skills. :face_with_monocle:

Btw, I realized the other day that it is an incredible milestone to be able to complain about how “when I read the subtitles I understand what they’re saying… but…”


I aspire to have this problem