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Improving Speaking and Listening

#1
I know this is a big topic, but it's super important. I have a very hard time with listening comprehension and natural speech patterns, and my priority is speaking over writing, so here it goes...

I'm just finishing up Genki I and still cannot understand much of anything that is spoken to me or heard in Japanese TV, etc. I'm referring mostly to words that I already know, but cannot "grab out of the air" in time (still translating in my head). I think this a symptom of textbook learning, which tends to get filed under "systems and mathematics" in my brain. Maybe that's because I was raised monolingual and have a science education - this is my comfort zone.

But enough about me... How did you get past this phase and get the stuff you learned in the books to become actual functional language rather than abstract rules and grammar-equations? I know part of the answer is "use it", but specifically what tricks and techniques have you discovered that accelerate this process? What are good resources for comprehensible input that is still native and natural? What activities have helped you the most?
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#2
I got through that stage by learning in an all-Japanese classroom environment (the teaching method they used was also pretty strong on discouraging translation of basic nouns and verbs). I think of the systematized learning of grammar and so on as a scaffolding that helps in the short term until eventually enough use of the language makes it natural and the scaffolding isn't needed any more.
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#3
(2017-11-19, 6:13 pm)Lpm215 Wrote: I got through that stage by learning in an all-Japanese classroom environment (the teaching method they used was also pretty strong on discouraging translation of basic nouns and verbs). I think of the systematized learning of grammar and so on as a scaffolding that helps in the short term until eventually enough use of the language makes it natural and the scaffolding isn't needed any more.

Thanks. I don’t know that I’ll be able to do an all-Japanese class, so I’m looking for resources that focus on listening comprehension. So far I found a free app called Ohayou, that has listening exercises based on JLPT level, and I’m trying Japanese Pod 101, but the English banter in the podcasts is super irritating.
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JapanesePod101
#4
subs2srs is great for listening
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#5
(2017-11-23, 12:40 pm)juniperpansy Wrote: subs2srs is great for listening

This is what I'm doing and I'm seeing improvement. 

But I'm still in that stage as you describe it. To be fair, though, I have a similar problem with my native language too. I just zone out way too easily. So I'm actually hoping that with practice this might help with my attention skills overall.
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#6
What I find has helped me with my Japanese listening comprehension ability is borrowing books from the library with accompanying CD's.

I listen to the CD first and try to understand as much as I can.  Then, I listen again while reading the transcription.  Then I listen again without looking at the transcription.

In this way I'm training my brain to decode the sounds I'm hearing.
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#7
IMO listening has a lot to do with "getting used to it". I personally really like to relisten to old stuff that I worked through more actively before, though I try to add in new material as well. E.g. If I watched a drama or anime I often strip off the audio and put it on my mp3 player and listen to it again and again in the background while doing other things (e.g. browsing the web like right now, or playing some games, sometimes even at work when I'm doing "low effort" tasks that don't require much interaction with others etc).

I also used to listen to just the core sentences in the iknow app on my commute to uni and work (they have a feature where you can just playback 100 sentences and I used that with the option to play each sentence twice or so, should be possible to recreate that even without the app tho). That got a bit boring after a while but I think it really helped move some more "theoretical" knowledge into more readily available knowledge listening wise. I guess if you don't use Core you could also just use the Genki dialogues or something. You might feel like you know them by heart after a while, but I personally felt like it still helped me recognize the same words and phrases in other contexts as well (that's what I mean by "getting used to it"). But tbh, textbook and core sentences aren't super fun, so I really recommend adding in some "fun material" as well.

I can't really say much about how effective this really is just considering the time I put into it. Personally I have the "luxury" that with my current lifestyle I can just easily put in ridiculous amounts of listening hours as a side activity. (E.g. having rather long train commutes that add up really fast (tried reading but I'm getting sick from it, so listening is the best I can do), sometimes I can even just listen to stuff at work, etc) So in the end it might just be that for me it's rather easy this way to put in the hours and that might not be the case for you. But well I guess I would still recommend trying "relistening" to someone with less time at hand.
Edited: 2017-11-24, 5:27 pm
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#8
Open up any indie movie, crash course or fast-spoken youtube video in your native language.

Ask yourself: do people talk like that IRL? Can i follow this without my full attention or subtitles? What do I get out of listening to such fast-paced babble? How much am I paying attention, and how much am I spacing out with noise in the background?

Japanese tv is also ridiculously fast and exaggerated, and if you speak like that people make fun of you. Anime is higher pitched than anything you will ever hear, and yes, you will subconsciously pick up the pitch if you listen to it long enough. Just because you don't understand all of it doesn't mean you will have as much trouble IRL. I still watch all media with subtitles if possible (even in my native panguage). Actual people talking is a lot easier to take in.

Sub2srs helped me a lot. I didn't even sub stuff, I just downloaded shared anki decks. Also listening drills in anki (core 6k deck, set to sentence audio and see how much you get). Other than that, just years of exposure.

As for speaking, sorry, speaking is the only thing you can so. Shadowing and stuff feels like it helps, but it doesn't much. Talk to yourself out loud, get some online courses, find a tutor, whatever. The more you speak, the better you are at it.
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#9
You're mentioning Genki I and understanding television. Or rather not understanding much of it.
I'd say that's totally normal. As far as I know, Genki I is just the tip of the iceberg.
I don't think anybody can pick up random stuffs on tv and expect to understand anything by the end of the book.
If it was advertised like that, then it must be a lie.
There's a broad range of stuffs happening on tv, from easy to insanely hard, like comedy shows with lots of colloquial sentences and cultural references.

It's also important to pick up things that are understandable at your level and build up from that, or it'll easily become discouraging, not to say ineffective. The goal is to reinforce what you already know, not to get things confused and burn your brain. If you can understand most of what's happening in a relatively relaxed mode, then you can start mixing things more challenging.

Jpod101 is a good start, I did all the lessons from beginner to lower intermediate prior to my study in Kyoto. My goal was to just be able to understand what a teacher would throw at me. But I still couldn't understand tv at all.
You might also try nihongo no mori to go along with your textbooks. That's the closest thing you can get that I know of, to an all-japanese classroom without actually going to Japan.

For natural speed japanese I like to listen to interviews like Asian Boss on youtube or any random youtubers.
You can even try anime aimed for kids like shimajirou. Last time I checked there was some N2 grammar in doraemon, so no shame into that.
Watching youtubers really helped me smoothing  out my conversation skill by grabbing common patterns and colloquial expressions, while news/movies/anime are better for acquiring new vocabulary.

A good exercise we did in listening class was to repeat or describe what was happening in a short story after listening to it multiple times.
I still do it from time to time, when I play a game or watch a video and catch an interesting sentence, I try to repeat out loud, or describe a scene with my own words. It helps me focus on the grammar and structure of the sentence rather than the nouns or verbs that I focus on when I only listen passively.

Anyway, no need to sweat it too much, Genki I vs TV, I think there's no match.
Just continue enjoying your study and you'll get there eventually
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#10
I started with Genki too and I remember clearly that most of the useful stuff is in Genki II.
In other words without the grammar in Genki II you will understand next to nothing.
I remembered that when I finished with Genki I, I tried to read an easy light novel and I didn't even understand where the words' bounds where, because I was unable to understand a lot of "grammatical words" written in hiragana.

What I suggest you is to focus on a chapter and be sure to understand it fully until you proceed to the next chapter.
Listen to the audio. Are you able to understand it without any effort? If not, continue to listen to it until it becomes natural.
Something that helps me is to focus on chunks first. Try to catch the easier words and sentences first.

If you already understand Genki I but still don't understand a single word of Japanese TV, then it's normal.
Once you finish with both Genki textbooks, I suggest you to do something similar to what phil321 said. Use resources with both audio and text. Those don't need to be difficult things at first, like the Harry Potter audiobooks and the like.
Start with easy things like Japanesepod101 or LingQ.

Once you understand those "easy" things, just build up with more difficult stuff until your knowledge of the language grow.
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#11
(2017-11-24, 11:18 pm)Zgarbas Wrote: Open up any indie movie, crash course or fast-spoken youtube video in your native language.

Ask yourself: do people talk like that IRL? Can i follow this without my full attention or subtitles? What do I get out of listening to such fast-paced babble? How much am I paying attention, and how much am I spacing out with noise in the background?

Japanese tv is also ridiculously fast and exaggerated, and if you speak like that people make fun of you. Anime is higher pitched than anything you will ever hear, and yes, you will subconsciously pick up the pitch if you listen to it long enough. Just because you don't understand all of it doesn't mean you will have as much trouble IRL. I still watch all media with subtitles if possible (even in my native panguage). Actual people talking is a lot easier to take in.

Sub2srs helped me a lot. I didn't even sub stuff, I just downloaded shared anki decks. Also listening drills in anki (core 6k deck, set to sentence audio and see how much you get). Other than that, just years of exposure.

As for speaking, sorry, speaking is the only thing you can so. Shadowing and stuff feels like it helps, but it doesn't much. Talk to yourself out loud, get some online courses, find a tutor, whatever. The more you speak, the better you are at it.

I'm more concerned with real life conversations than TV or movies. When Japanese people speak to me in Japanese, even if I recognize all of the words, I don't get it. I have to sit there and diagram the sentence in my head as if I were ...umm... learning from a textbook.  Confused

(2017-11-23, 9:29 pm)phil321 Wrote: What I find has helped me with my Japanese listening comprehension ability is borrowing books from the library with accompanying CD's.

I listen to the CD first and try to understand as much as I can.  Then, I listen again while reading the transcription.  Then I listen again without looking at the transcription.

In this way I'm training my brain to decode the sounds I'm hearing.

I've done most of the listening exercises in Genki, but even those were difficult. I'll go through again.

(2017-11-23, 12:40 pm)juniperpansy Wrote: subs2srs is great for listening

I've never had it actually work without major problems, sync issues, or massive clean up due to meaningless or repetitive cards. It would be great if there were shared decks out there, but all I find are broken links. Anyone have any good links? I'd love to find decks for shows I actually like, such as Terrace House, Hibana, 5cm Per Second, etc.

(2017-11-25, 10:58 am)cophnia61 Wrote: I started with Genki too and I remember clearly that most of the useful stuff is in Genki II.
In other words without the grammar in Genki II you will understand next to nothing.
I remembered that when I finished with Genki I, I tried to read an easy light novel and I didn't even understand where the words' bounds where, because I was unable to understand a lot of "grammatical words" written in hiragana.

What I suggest you is to focus on a chapter and be sure to understand it fully until you proceed to the next chapter.
Listen to the audio. Are you able to understand it without any effort? If not, continue to listen to it until it becomes natural.
Something that helps me is to focus on chunks first. Try to catch the easier words and sentences first.

If you already understand Genki I but still don't understand a single word of Japanese TV, then it's normal.
Once you finish with both Genki textbooks, I suggest you to do something similar to what phil321 said. Use resources with both audio and text. Those don't need to be difficult things at first, like the Harry Potter audiobooks and the like.
Start with easy things like Japanesepod101 or LingQ.

Once you understand those "easy" things, just build up with more difficult stuff until your knowledge of the language grow.

Thanks. Genki II does look more fun. I'm about to start on it, but I think I will focus on the audio a bit more this time.

(2017-11-25, 8:46 am)pied2porc Wrote: You're mentioning Genki I and understanding television. Or rather not understanding much of it.
I'd say that's totally normal. As far as I know, Genki I is just the tip of the iceberg.
I don't think anybody can pick up random stuffs on tv and expect to understand anything by the end of the book.
If it was advertised like that, then it must be a lie.
There's a broad range of stuffs happening on tv, from easy to insanely hard, like comedy shows with lots of colloquial sentences and cultural references.

It's also important to pick up things that are understandable at your level and build up from that, or it'll easily become discouraging, not to say ineffective. The goal is to reinforce what you already know, not to get things confused and burn your brain. If you can understand most of what's happening in a relatively relaxed mode, then you can start mixing things more challenging.

Jpod101 is a good start, I did all the lessons from beginner to lower intermediate prior to my study in Kyoto. My goal was to just be able to understand what a teacher would throw at me. But I still couldn't understand tv at all.
You might also try nihongo no mori to go along with your textbooks. That's the closest thing you can get that I know of, to an all-japanese classroom without actually going to Japan.

For natural speed japanese I like to listen to interviews like Asian Boss on youtube or any random youtubers.
You can even try anime aimed for kids like shimajirou. Last time I checked there was some N2 grammar in doraemon, so no shame into that.
Watching youtubers really helped me smoothing  out my conversation skill by grabbing common patterns and colloquial expressions, while news/movies/anime are better for acquiring new vocabulary.

A good exercise we did in listening class was to repeat or describe what was happening in a short story after listening to it multiple times.
I still do it from time to time, when I play a game or watch a video and catch an interesting sentence, I try to repeat out loud, or describe a scene with my own words. It helps me focus on the grammar and structure of the sentence rather than the nouns or verbs that I focus on when I only listen passively.

Anyway, no need to sweat it too much, Genki I vs TV, I think there's no match.
Just continue enjoying your study and you'll get there eventually

Part of the problem is that I'm a bit impatient. Smile  I travel to japan often and have many Japanese friends at home as well, but I can't seem to get very far in even a simple conversation. Listening and understanding is an even  bigger problem than speaking.
Edited: 2017-11-26, 7:51 pm
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#12
(2017-11-23, 12:05 pm)johndoe2015 Wrote: ...I’m trying Japanese Pod 101, but the English banter in the podcasts is super irritating.
Agreed, but you can get the dialogs only audio and skip the english banter and go straight to the good stuff. For the past half year I've been making my way through the dialogs and it's definitely improved my listening. I read the dialogs and then listen to the audio.

It doesn't need to be jpod101, but whatever you use needs have audio and transcripts. If you don't like jpod 101 material, something like subs2srs would be similar. I find it helps a lot to go over the same material a few times as knowing a bit about the material helps comprehension for material which might be opaque the first time through. Having a vague idea "what they should be saying" is excellent practice for leveling up comprehension.
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#13
(2017-11-27, 4:31 pm)yogert909 Wrote:
(2017-11-23, 12:05 pm)johndoe2015 Wrote: ...I’m trying Japanese Pod 101, but the English banter in the podcasts is super irritating.
Agreed, but you can get the dialogs only audio and skip the english banter and go straight to the good stuff.  For the past half year I've been making my way through the dialogs and it's definitely improved my listening.  I read the dialogs and then listen to the audio.

It doesn't need to be jpod101, but whatever you use needs have audio and transcripts.  If you don't like jpod 101 material, something like subs2srs would be similar. I find it helps a lot to go over the same material a few times as knowing a bit about the material helps comprehension for material which might be opaque the first time through.  Having a vague idea "what they should be saying" is excellent practice for leveling up comprehension.


Same here...got turned off from Jpod 101 due to the annoying banter. Are there abridged versions where they just get straight to the point, and if so where could I find it?
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#14
If you already have Japanese friends and go there often to get proper native exposure, then the problem is with your fundamental understanding of the language. Forget about speaking&listening, focus on learning more vocabulary and grammar. Read more. Humans understand speech by turning random strings of sound into words and meanings they are familiar with. No matter how much you listen to those random strings of sounds, you will get any meaning out of them unless you know what to look for. If you need to piece them together even if you understand all the words, then you probably don't understand them as well as you think you do. Recognition takes practice before it comes naturally. This is normal. Feeling impatient is completely understandable. But it is something you will have to learn to bear for a while. It will get better before you know it. Being self-conscious about it makes it worse. Just keep telling yourself that it has only been a short while, that it is normal, that you just need to study more. Don't let it turn into 'I don't get it yet so I suck'.

As for speaking, you will sound stupid and unnatural for a while, but we all do. Just keep speaking until it comes naturally. Don't be afraid of making mistakes, and if anyone laughs at you then maybe they're people you don't want around. If you feel stuck, try to remember what made you feel stuck and practice it later. Learn how to ask questions, or what gestures help your conversation partners give you hints. Also, Japanese people are polite and won't correct you unless you ask, but are really nice about it if you do. If I am feeling unsure of a certain usage, I just phrase it as a question or add in ○○だね? after the sentence. They will take the time to say it is correct/correct you without really interrupting the flow of the conversation.

Jpod101 is awful at beginner level but it gets increasingly better as you advance. What I did is just take out the recording of the conversation (1-2 minutes) and review using the .pdf, skipping the banter altogether. I think around the upper intermediate level they send in actual Japanese people who banter in Japanese, it's not really worth it until then.
Edited: 2017-11-28, 10:45 am
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#15
(2017-11-27, 6:30 pm)ForgettableFury Wrote: Same here...got turned off from Jpod 101 due to the annoying banter. Are there abridged versions where they just get straight to the point, and if so where could I find it?
Yeah it's terrible.  Un-listenable.  I've heard it gets better in the later lessons, but I'm getting what I need from the raw dialogs so no need to even verify.

Last I checked, they have the raw dialogs there on the site as well as line-by-line audio and whole season vocabulary lists.  Their app doesn't suit my study style, so I found a site-rip on a p2p site and adapted it all to anki.
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#16
I'm another one who was using the dialog-only tracks and PDFs from Japanesepod101. The dialog tracks and line-by-line audio are premium features, while the PDFs come with the basic subscription. The line-by-line audio seemed to be wrongly matched up on a lot of the lessons, so I didn't bother with it. You can buy 1 month of Premium and download all the audio tracks and PDFs using the "my feed".

Shortly after I started on Jpod's Lower Intermediate level, I switched over to Satori Reader. I think the material is a lot better, but there's not so much of it. I might go back to Jpod Intermediate when I run out of new things over there, or maybe I won't need it by then.

(2017-11-24, 5:24 pm)sumsum Wrote: I personally really like to relisten to old stuff that I worked through more actively before
...
I can't really say much about how effective this really is just considering the time I put into it. Personally I have the "luxury" that with my current lifestyle I can just easily put in ridiculous amounts of listening hours as a side activity.
In French I gained a big jump in listening level by working through a few hours of hard stuff actively and then listening to it again a few times over the next weeks. It does go slower in Japanese, but then everything does. I think this technique is effective.
Edited: 2017-11-30, 2:20 pm
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#17
(2017-11-28, 10:31 am)"Zgarbas Wrote: If you already have Japanese friends and go there often to get proper native exposure, then the problem is with your fundamental understanding of the language. Forget about speaking&listening, focus on learning more vocabulary and grammar. Read more. Humans understand speech by turning random strings of sound into words and meanings they are familiar with. No matter how much you listen to those random strings of sounds, you will get any meaning out of them unless you know what to look for. If you need to piece them together even if you understand all the words, then you probably don't understand them as well as you think you do. Recognition takes practice before it comes naturally.  This is normal. Feeling impatient is completely understandable. But it is something you will have to learn to bear for a while. It will get better before you know it. Being self-conscious about it makes it worse. Just keep telling yourself that it has only been a short while, that it is normal, that you just need to study more. Don't let it turn into 'I don't get it yet so I suck'.

As for speaking, you will sound stupid and unnatural for a while, but we all do. Just keep speaking until it comes naturally. Don't be afraid of making mistakes, and if anyone laughs at you then maybe they're people you don't want around. If you feel stuck, try to remember what made you feel stuck and practice it later. Learn how to ask questions, or what gestures help your conversation partners give you hints. Also, Japanese people are polite and won't correct you unless you ask, but are really nice about it if you do. If I am feeling unsure of a certain usage, I just phrase it as a question or add in ○○だね? after the sentence. They will take the time to say it is correct/correct you without really interrupting the flow of the conversation.

Jpod101 is awful at beginner level but it gets increasingly better as you advance. What I did is just take out the recording of the conversation (1-2 minutes) and review using the .pdf, skipping the banter altogether. I think around the upper intermediate level they send in actual Japanese people who banter in Japanese, it's not really worth it until then.

You are probably right, though most Japanese people try to use their English with me, or they go full speed natural Japanese. Very little inbetween. 

Speaking of vocab, I downloaded the optimized core 6k deck, but I noticed that it is not i+1. Is there a version, or another sentence deck, that builds on vocab in order, rather than by using words not yet covered to illustrate more basic words?
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#18
(2017-11-30, 2:19 pm)HelenF Wrote: I'm another one who was using the dialog-only tracks and PDFs from Japanesepod101. The dialog tracks and line-by-line audio are premium features, while the PDFs come with the basic subscription. The line-by-line audio seemed to be wrongly matched up on a lot of the lessons, so I didn't bother with it. You can buy 1 month of Premium and download all the audio tracks and PDFs using the "my feed".

Shortly after I started on Jpod's Lower Intermediate level, I switched over to Satori Reader. I think the material is a lot better, but there's not so much of it. I might go back to Jpod Intermediate when I run out of new things over there, or maybe I won't need it by then.

(2017-11-24, 5:24 pm)sumsum Wrote: I personally really like to relisten to old stuff that I worked through more actively before
...
I can't really say much about how effective this really is just considering the time I put into it. Personally I have the "luxury" that with my current lifestyle I can just easily put in ridiculous amounts of listening hours as a side activity.
In French I gained a big jump in listening level by working through a few hours of hard stuff actively and then listening to it again a few times over the next weeks. It does go slower in Japanese, but then everything does. I think this technique is effective.

I just checked out Satori reader and love that there is content for practical situations. It always shocks me how little popular textbooks cover words you'd actually hear in a restaurant! Smile
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