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Listening after N4: What worked for me

#1
I see a steady stream of posts here asking for advice on improving listening ability. 

In the 18 months since passing N4 I've seen a huge increase in my listening ability, so I thought to share what I've done.

First of all: how do I know that my listening ability improved? Well, I took the JCAT right after passing N4. And 18 months later, I took it again. Here's how my scores compare:

listening : 48 (today) - 26 (after N4) = +22
vocab     : 45 (today) - 40 (after N4) = +5
grammar: 36 (today) - 38 (after N4) = -2
reading  : 42 (today) - 35 (after N4) = +7

Total: 171 (today) - 139 (after N4) = +32

So listening went from my lowest ability to my highest ability, which is pretty crazy. None of my other skills saw an increase anywhere near what happened with listening.

Of course, there's lots of caveats with JCAT (for example, I'm pretty sure that my grammar ability did not decrease in this period!) But to the extent that it's roughly accurate, something big did happen with my listening. And I thought to share in case it can help someone.

First, I bought a subscription to CrunchyRoll.com.

Second, I found two series that I was willing to watch from beginning to end. I chose Shirokuma Cafe (50 episodes) and Orange (13 episodes). Note: I chose these shows because I had friends at the same level as me who were watching them. I would never watch shows like this in English. Sometimes they were fun and amusing, but mostly I did it for language practice.

Each weekend, I would watch a single episode. First I watched the episode without subtitles. Then I watched it again with subtitles. 

I added unknown words to Anki.

I also picked up the manga for those series, and read them while I was watching them. 

That's it. 

Having people here who were reading / watching the same series along with me helped a lot too. if I didn't have a community like this, I probably wouldn't have finished each series. 

What's odd is that, at no point did I feel like my listening was improving. I don't recall any "aha" moments where I was like "Now my listening ability is so much better". Although pretty much each time I rewatched an episode with subtitles I did have "aha" moments. With the subtitles there were always points where I could pick out an unknown word (which I knew I missed the first time around), etc.

Anyway, this worked for me. So I'm now repeating the process with 1 week friends (12 episodes, 7 manga volumes).

Hope this helps someone!
Edited: 2017-07-09, 2:11 pm
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#2
Congratulations on the very impressive improvement, and thanks for sharing your technique!  Sounds like a useful approach, it's a little reminiscent of the "L-R Method" http://learnanylanguage.wikia.com/wiki/L...ing_Method in the way it combines L2 text and audio with L1 text.  BTW, just in case you didn't already know, the Japanese subtitles for 一週間フレンズ are available on kitsunekko in case you want to have them in addition to the manga.

If you enjoyed Shirokuma Cafe at all you might also like the audio dramas.  There's no text or translation, but I found them fairly comprehensible even at my N4-ish level.  In general I really like audio dramas for listening practice, since the delivery is often relatively slow and the enunciation is very clear.  The ones included on the iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls CDs were also pretty easy.
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#3
I have a different method that I use for listening practice currently. I've also seen big gains with it, but I don't have any objective numbers that I can toss out.  I also used shirokuma cafe. Fantastic show with simple language.

I watch once with English subtitles to have a solid understanding of the plot. Then I take the Japanese script and import it into anki, and I simply read and then suspend each card. If I don't understand a card, I  leave it in the deck to study in more depth later. Once I have made it through the deck, I go back and watch the episode with Japanese subtitles. I usually find that I have 90%+ comprehension on this watch. Further, I copy the episode audio to my phone and just listen to it at work or something when I have time.
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#4
(2017-07-09, 12:16 pm)ariariari Wrote: Anyway, this worked for me. So I'm now repeating the process with 1 week friends (12 episodes, 7 manga volumes).

Hope this helps someone!
One week friends you can watch on animelon:
https://animelon.com/series/Isshuukan%20...20Friends)

More convenient pesenteation of the subtitles and translation is difficult to imagine. You can grab the whole script from the right side, but I think the best is that you can use the sentence by sentence split to go backwards (or forwards) directly to the spots where you want to relisten something or where you want to look up unknown words.

You can rely on the integrated word translation (which provides you a history) or you can also use e.g. Yomichan for word look up [and perhaps also direct anki card creation]. Yomichan is quicker.

Hope this helps you!
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#5
(2017-07-09, 3:23 pm)Matthias Wrote:
(2017-07-09, 12:16 pm)ariariari Wrote: Anyway, this worked for me. So I'm now repeating the process with 1 week friends (12 episodes, 7 manga volumes).

Hope this helps someone!
One week friends you can watch on animelon:
https://animelon.com/series/Isshuukan%20...20Friends)

More convenient pesenteation of the subtitles and translation is difficult to imagine. You can grab the whole script from the right side, but I think the best is that you can use the sentence by sentence split to go backwards (or forwards) directly to the spots where you want to relisten something or where you want to look up unknown words.

You can rely on the integrated word translation (which provides you a history) or you can also use e.g. Yomichan for word look up [and perhaps also direct anki card creation]. Yomichan is quicker.

Hope this helps you!

That site is awesome! I wish I knew about it last year. My #1 gripe with crunchy roll is that they don't provide Japanese-language subtitles.
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#6
Quote:What's odd is that, at no point did I feel like my listening was improving.

I'm really a big fan of relistening in general, but yeah I also never really feel like I'm improving. My listening score is usually pretty good in tests, so it does seem to help... It just seems  a bit funny, it doesn't feel that strong...  I guess it's easier in general to miss a word that's spoken rather than written, so I it just always feels as if my listening is lagging behind even if compared to other learners that doesn't seem to be the case.
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#7
Hey ariariari! Your listening score has almost doubled from what it was since you took the N4 exams. Congrats!

In terms of whether or not you feel like your listening is improving, as least for me, it kinda blindsides me. For example I could be watching a random anime and look/walk away for a few seconds (e.g. getting a glass of water) and only hear the dialog but somehow guess that I understood what I missed. Then to backtrack the episode and notice that I was actually on the right track! Not exact comprehension but the gist of what I had heard was correct! Those tend to be my "aha" moments. Big Grin
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#8
(2017-07-10, 7:20 pm)RawrPk Wrote: Hey ariariari! Your listening score has almost doubled from what it was since you took the N4 exams. Congrats!

In terms of whether or not you feel like your listening is improving, as least for me, it kinda blindsides me. For example I could be watching a random anime and look/walk away for a few seconds (e.g. getting a glass of water) and only hear the dialog but somehow guess that I understood what I missed. Then to backtrack the episode and notice that I was actually on the right track! Not exact comprehension but the gist of what I had heard was correct! Those tend to be my "aha" moments. Big Grin

BTW, I wanted to tell you that I think I owe a good chunk of my improvement since N4 to you. 

Especially the listening. I think we swapped JCAT scores around the same time, and your listening was so much better than all your other scores, and you were like "It's probably because I watch a lot of anime. You should check out shirokuma." 

At first I didn't like it. But I think having a community of people at the same level, going thru the same material, helped a lot. An the fact that each series is also a manga, really helped a lot. 

That, combined with my daily grind with anki, really did the trick.

If I didn't have an upcoming Japanese presentation in December, I'd definitely go for N3 this year. Oh well, it can wait. The presentation is probably gonna be more fun Big Grin
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