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Any advice on practice (especially listening)?

RobertB

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Hi, all. I've been registered here for a while but haven't been an active participant. Maybe I should be...

I've been studying Japanese for about four years. I'm pretty good at kanji, I like learning the grammar rules, and I don't have too much trouble picking up new vocabulary. I feel like I've learned a lot ... and yet, when someone speaks Japanese at me, I'm hopeless. My brain just can't keep up. Even if it's all vocabulary and grammar that I know, I just can't decipher it in real time. Give it to me a couple of times slowly, and then give me a minute to work it out, and I'll figure it out. But having a conversation? No way.

I feel like at this point I ought to be able to understand at least basic Japanese. Certainly I should be able to follow everything my teacher says in class. But I sit there with a blank look on my face feeling like an idiot. It's not that I don't know it; it's just that for me, it's like deciphering a code. It takes me time.

I know the solution is practice. What I'm struggling with is figuring out an effective way to practice. Sure, there's tons of Japanese movies and YouTube videos, but the problem is that I have no chance if they're using vocabulary or grammar that I haven't learned yet. What I need is some way to listen to spoken Japanese that I know I can understand, so I can just work on my listening skills.

Anybody been in this position? Any suggestions for how to push through and get to the next level?
 

mdchachi

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The best way is immersion. I studied Japanese three years (six semesters) in college. Went to a summer program in Japan. I had a decent handle on grammar and could put together a sentence. But couldn't comprehend squat. But I moved to Japan and then it gradually clicked. I still studied with a tutor etc but immersion and speaking with other people was key. Most of the time my poor Japanese was better than my colleagues and friend's English ability which means we'd stick with Japanese.
In short, conversation with real people I think is most effective. And not just study partners. Doing things with them. Drinking, eating, camping, playing tennis, whatever.
However if you don't have such opportunities, I suggest picking some content that you like and listening/watching it repeatedly until you know it backwards and forwards and have parsed it out completely. Then next time you encounter that vocabulary and grammar you will likely grasp them without thinking about it. Rather than Japanese content you could pick English content that you know and watch it in dubbed mode. The Terminator for example. hasta la vista baby. Or start with smaller bites. Like The Simpsons.
 

RobertB

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Yeah, I wish immersion were an option for me, but it's not, at least not anytime soon. I guess I need to find ways to simulate it, as best I can.

I have thought about an approach like you suggest. In class we practice dialogs from our textbook; when we first read through them I struggle to decipher them, but after we've done them a bunch of times I can comprehend them easily. That's partly because I have them sort of memorized, but I suppose that's OK -- like you say, with enough repetition I ought to get to where I can spot those specific constructions even with different vocabulary plugged in.

You also remind me of something else. When we visited Japan in 2016 I made a point of buying Japanese versions of a couple of my favorite movies. I know a good deal more now than I did then; I should dig them out and see how much I can actually understand.
 

HaruJ

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It's best if you listen to people speaking Japanese, so you can go onto youtube and search for Japanese songs in genres you like, this might help you get used to listening to the language.
 

WonkoTheSane

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There are websites where you can contact people who want to do skype language exchanges. Do a google search, there are a number of free ones.
 
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