My listening exercise for the second half of 2018

In my checkpoint about how good I was doing in 2018, I had to admit that I hadn’t work much on listening. I regularly come up with a renewed motivation to listen to more Japanese, but as long as it does not find a concrete plan and schedule, it often remains at the stage of “I would like to…” or “it would be great if…”.

This is why I have designed, if I may say so, a listening exercise that I have been doing every day since last Monday and, hopefully, will be doing on a daily basis until the end of the year.

My exercise is very simple, I use the audiobook and the book version of the same novel. I first listen to the audiobook and transcribe what I hear. After that, I check myself with the book version and look up words I didn’t know. Finally, I write lines of kanji that I forgot or couldn’t write.

It may sound boring, but I actually enjoy doing this exercise very much.

The exercise and its benefits

These are the advantages the exercise offers:

  • First of all, it makes me listen to some Japanese every day. Of course, this could be achieved in different ways and without having to submit oneself to writing exercises, but the truth is that I simply do not do it. I am not listening to Japanese, and I could even say that half of 2018 has gone away without any Japanese entering my ears at all. I am the kind of person who needs a concrete schedule to get started and build new habits.
  • I won’t feel discouraged because I only make very short sessions. I usually limit myself to one minute of audio per session. This is the usual piece of advice we receive when setting new habits and goals: start small and don’t overwhelm yourself. At the end of my one-minute session, I always feel like I could have done more and this makes me look forward to the next session on the next day.
  • Another advantage is that the whole exercise does not take much time, so it is easy to add it to my daily study routine.
  • Listening to only one minute of Japanese every day might seem risible, but it is one minute of active listening. As I have to transcribe the text, I try hard to understand everything that they say. In this respects, it might bring more benefits than when I let the audiobook run while I am busy with other tasks.
  • This exercise also helps me to improve my writing of kanji. If I feel confident in recognising and reading kanji, writing them is a more perilous activity for want of practice. Writing a line of kanji is not exciting, but it works for me. It has already happened that I was able to remember and write a kanji correctly because I had revised it in one of the previous sessions. It is greatly rewarding.

The material

The principal obstacle is certainly the resources. To make a writing transcription of audio, we need both the audio and the script for correction.

I use the audiobook of the novel 「世界から猫が消えたなら」 by 川村元気(かわむら・げんき). This book has the perfect level for me. It is not discouraging, but I am still learning new things in each session. I can only recommend it for Japanese learners because it is not difficult to read or to listen to.

I bought the audiobook on a site called FEBE months ago. In the meanwhile, they have changed their site which is now called You can read a more complete review of the site on Self Taught Japanese. As pointed out, they only have few titles of fiction, but we can only hope the field will develop.

Buying the audiobook and the book of 「世界から猫が消えたなら」 was a little investment, but it is worth it because I have listened to the audiobook several times already and I am now using it for this particular exercise. If you don’t mind having music in your audiobook, I can only vouch for the quality of this particular one. The narrator is excellent, different protagonists are voiced by different actors, and the overall quality is perfect. They made a choice, however, to sometimes add music in the background, but I personally don’t mind it and find that it is rather well done.

One advantage of working with an audiobook is that you can use an app for audiobooks rather than a music player. I am not familiar with other devices, but the app iBooks of an iPhone allows you to jump 10 seconds forwards and backwards in the audio, which is much more comfortable, when doing the kind of exercise described above, than using the scroll bar… especially when your audio is 5 hours long!


This exercise is the best idea I came up with since last Monday when I stated the necessity to make a concrete listening plan. I really want to reach a good level of listening comprehension in Japanese, and I am much mortified to see that I am doing nothing at all in this direction. I have told myself a hundred times to listen to a podcast every time possible, but I don’t do it.

I hope that I can go on with this exercise long enough to feel some improvements. We’ll see!


6 thoughts on “My listening exercise for the second half of 2018

  1. I usually shudder when I see people do stuff that’s involved like this (with the transcribing… it’s just not necessary for improving listening comprehension) because I don’t think it’s particularly effective or efficient method for improving listening comprehension ESPECIALLY considering how taxing it is. However since you’re limiting yourself to 1 minute sessions I cannot object. Do you have anything you listen or watch in Japanese that you like or want to understand??? If you mainly like listening to audiobooks in Japanese then this strategy seems fine. I personally have no interest in audiobooks in Japanese since I am very comfortable with daily conversation Japanese and know that there’s a lot of words/compound words that are primarily used in print (rather than speech) that i would never understood if I didn’t see the kanji. If not you should find something. I have so I feel motivated to rewind to catch whatever it is that I didn’t etc. That is talk/variety shows TWO shows that I loved are Black Mayonnaise – Blamayo To Yukai Na Nakamatachi Atsuatsu! and matsumoto hitoshi’s zotto to suru hanashi. nowadays I watch a bunch of things and 2 are london hearts and ame-talk and there is a site that puts up transcripts (they ripped the tv caption I think ) WHICH is helpful!

    1. I’m sure TV shows are great to improve one’s listening without really having to study. Thanks for the Link! The problem is that I don’t like watching TV so I’ve never been able to improved my listening in this way, but I’ll have a look at the shows you mention.

      I want to start watching dramas, so I think I will watch the first episode of several dramas and select the one’s I want to watch full (I can watch the first episode of a bunch of dramas for free through our internet/TV subscription).

      You’re right about audiobooks, that’s why I want to find something else to improve my method. To me the major problem is that the narrator reads a text instead of talking. As a result he has a clear pronunciation, does not speak too fast and so on. It’ great for language learners because it’s easy to understand, but it does not reflect how people really talk. As a result, I can understand this audiobook very well but I’m lost when I listen to podcast or watch a drama/film where people speak more naturally. That’s why I’ll keep my audiobook for this particular exercise (it’s also to improve my kanji writing and learn vocabulary) and find dramas to get used to how Japanese speak!

      1. I used to watch jdramas for that reason too. I even wrote reviews about it on my blog. If you do read it, take it with grain of salt since everyone has different tastes. I also love hamsapsukebe’s blog; he watches a lot of jdrama!! Maybe this is applicable to audiobooks too but i noticed improvement in my listening comprehension just from relistening to an episode of a jdrama multiple times ( but of course if there’s no transcription or script and your level is not that high there’s parts you’re not gonna understand or catch no matter how many times you relisten to it). I recommend checking out jdramas with scripts or transcriptions but at the same time don’t watch crappy jdramas just because there are subs. Well that’s common sense

        1. I would also read interviews of the actors on the official site for dramas I really liked which reminds me I got read the interviews for bokutachi ga yarimashita and that I was disappointed that there’s no interviews for odagiri kyouko no uso on the website.

        2. Thank you, I’ll check his blog and yours! As a newcomer in jdramas, I’ll be glad to read reviews and recommendations! I hope I can find dramas I like enough to want to watch an episode several times.

          1. I recommend relistening as in just the audio. I’ve never rewatched an episode of jdrama. I’ve kinda rewatched eps to go through the lines with the transcript and mine for anki

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