Listen, listen, listen

Why I don’t listen to enough Japanese

I have always considered the listening skill to be the easiest one to improve while self-studying. It does not require a professor and it is easy to find listening material on the internet. I also think that listening a lot, even without making special efforts to understand everything, is enough to progress. In this regard, listening should be easier than reading, which requires effort and concentration.

So the question is: why am I totally at a loss when it comes to understanding what I am listening to? The obvious answer is: because I don’t listen to enough Japanese on a daily basis. Then comes a new question: why not? why not listen to some Japanese every day? I can’t even answer “because I’m lazy” for the reason that listening does not require much effort.

After thinking a lot about it I came to the conclusion that

  1. I don’t know what to listen to, maybe because there is so much choice I don’t know what to pick or I start listening to a little of everything and persevere in nothing.
  2. I try to force myself to listen to material that does not interest me. It’s the same for reading. At the beginning, when I still thought that a novel would be too difficult, I forced myself to read easier material like magazines articles. But the fact it that I don’t enjoy reading magazines. I never read magazines in Fench. So how could I enjoy reading magazines in Japanese? I really made progress in reading when I struggled my way through my first novel in Japanese. It was a detective novel, a genre that I like very much. Of course, it was much more difficult than reading a magazine article but I didn’t have to force myself to go back to my book (compared to all the magazines left untouched) and I really wanted to know what would happen next. The conclusion is that when we pick a material, out taste should prevail upon the difficulty level (I mean, be reasonable). Why I haven’t applied this principle to listening, I still don’t understand. But it is never too late, and I will start now.
  3. I am too lazy to search for an audio when I have time to listen to Japanese. Let’s say it’s time to cook, I know that I will have between 30 minutes and one hour before me when my brain will be available to listen to some Japanese (cutting vegetables does not require all my concentration). So I should start a podcast and there we go. The problem is, that I don’t have a favourite podcast and looking for it will take too much time so I just give up. Having material close at hand should resolve this problem.

What I have to do

Obviously, I have to select material I want to listen to and make it easily accessible. After a week or two, I will see what works (ie what I listened to a lot) and suppress what doesn’t work from my list. Here, I hear myself make an objection: Shouldn’t I listen to as many different formats as possible in order to get used to a lot of speaking contexts: narration, dialogue, radio, anime, and so on. But if I do so, we come back to our problem number 1 and 2: too much material to listen to and contents that I don’t like. And anyway, listening to just one type of material is better than what I am doing now, which is almost nothing. Wanting to do too much, often equals to do nothing. So even if listening to a lot of different things would be optimal, let’s begin with a reasonable range of things that I like.

In my case, what I want to listen to are audiobooks and if possible, from novels. I don’t mind buying 2 or 3 audiobooks that I really like and want to listen to, even if a lot of material can be obtained for free. As I said before, I tend to be discouraged when facing tonnes of contents that don’t interest me. Let’s go for a small amount of carefully chosen audiobooks. And of course, they will have to be accessible from my phone, so that I can listen to them anywhere.

The advantage of audiobooks is that there is nothing else than a narrator talking in Japanese. I have a lot of audio tracks from textbooks which all start with 1 minute of jingle and unnecessary explanations about how you should listen to the text and repeat or answer the questions. It really is irritated. Sometimes, I say to myself that I should take a textbook CD (for example, a JLPT N2 CD) and edit the tracks to keep only the text. But I haven’t taken the time to do it yet…

So what I am going to do is:

  • Find an audiobook I want to listen to and put it on my phone.
  • Have a look at the podcasts that I can find and, if I find one or two that seem interesting, follow them.

It’s not much, but it won’t take too much time and it’s a good start.


Those were very personal thoughts but I think it can apply to other Japanese learners, too (or any language learner). I will come backs with a list of things that I listen to, there may be interesting titles in it!