Don’t Be Deaf To Japanese
Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
One of the (many) mistakes I made when I began learning Japanese was not to listen to anyone actually speaking the language.
I read lots of children’s books, played with plenty of apps on my iPhone and computer, watched the occasional Studio Ghibli film and some anime.
I became proficient at memorising kanji but the first time I heard real-life native Japanese people, I had no freaking idea what they were saying at all.
Looking back it seems a no-brainer but at the time I was so focussed on what the textbooks were telling me to do that I completely missed one of the most obvious needs of learning a language – the need to be able to converse with a native speaker.
What’s The Point
You may be thinking ‘I can’t understand any Japanese so why would I listen to it yet – what’s the point?’
The point is that the more you listen to Japanese the more you’ll pick up on the words, phrasing, timing and everything else about how a native speaks their language.
It’s no different to how we all learnt as babies.
We listened to our parents and those around us and then regurgitated that in one way or another until we got it right. As babies we had no idea what anyone was saying but once you listen enough, it will sink in eventually.
So with that in mind let’s take a quick look at some places you can listen to native Japanese speakers and it’s all for free – nice ^_^
Stick with the longer podcasts (20-30 minutes) as you can then sit back and listen or play it in the background on your computer without having to change it every five minutes.
There’s an almost endless amount of Japanese podcasts available across any genre you can imagine
I don’t particularly care what I listen to as long as it sounds like the people on the other end are having fun. I lean towards comedy and music plus some news but that is normally a little boring, which is not what we want.
So where do I find all these podcasts? Glad you asked. ^_^
At the bottom of your iTunes store page, change your store location to “日本” (it’s at the bottom of the page of countries – look for the Japanese flag).
Once you’re in the Japanese iTunes store, scroll down to the bottom right of the page and you’ll see a Podcasts list – click “View All” to see a whole range of choices.
They’re all free, so go ahead and preview a few and then subscribe/download a few that you really like.
Japanese music is a little harder to get your hands on but not impossible.
You’ll need a Japanese iTunes gift card to be able to download any songs and you can only get those in Japan or at certain sites like JList, who sell Japanese products to the world.
As you probably don’t know any Japanese band names yet, just click around the iTunes store and you can listen to a preview of anything you want.
Make a note of the singer or band name and head over to YouTube to find their promo or concert videos, which you can then listen to as much as you want before making a purchase.
Radio, TV and More
There’s an awesome mp3 listing of English and Japanese novels and fairytales read by native Japanese over at how-to-learn-any-language.com
These are read in a more formal way so they won’t be anything like what you hear on the TBS comedy show I mentioned above but they’re fun to try and the wider range of audio you listen to the better you’ll get.
Other options are Japanese radio shows, which you can find via the “Radio” section of iTunes under “World” or “International” or just search Google.
Also check out Keyhole TV for live streaming of many Japanese TV stations. Although the quality is not good, I find listening to all the variety shows and the ads is heaps of fun.
Good luck and listen to as much as you can and keep it fun.
You’ll find over the first couple of weeks that you start picking up lots of new words and that’s when you know you’re making progress even if it is just small steps to start with.