In my checkpoint about how good I was doing in 2018, I had to admit that I hadn’t work much on listening. I regularly come up with a renewed motivation to listen to more Japanese, but as long as it does not find a concrete plan and schedule, it often remains at the stage of “I would like to…” or “it would be great if…”.
This is why I have designed, if I may say so, a listening exercise that I have been doing every day since last Monday and, hopefully, will be doing on a daily basis until the end of the year.
My exercise is very simple, I use the audiobook and the book version of the same novel. I first listen to the audiobook and transcribe what I hear. After that, I check myself with the book version and look up words I didn’t know. Finally, I write lines of kanji that I forgot or couldn’t write.
It may sound boring, but I actually enjoy doing this exercise very much.
The exercise and its benefits
These are the advantages the exercise offers:
- First of all, it makes me listen to some Japanese every day. Of course, this could be achieved in different ways and without having to submit oneself to writing exercises, but the truth is that I simply do not do it. I am not listening to Japanese, and I could even say that half of 2018 has gone away without any Japanese entering my ears at all. I am the kind of person who needs a concrete schedule to get started and build new habits.
- I won’t feel discouraged because I only make very short sessions. I usually limit myself to one minute of audio per session. This is the usual piece of advice we receive when setting new habits and goals: start small and don’t overwhelm yourself. At the end of my one-minute session, I always feel like I could have done more and this makes me look forward to the next session on the next day.
- Another advantage is that the whole exercise does not take much time, so it is easy to add it to my daily study routine.
- Listening to only one minute of Japanese every day might seem risible, but it is one minute of active listening. As I have to transcribe the text, I try hard to understand everything that they say. In this respects, it might bring more benefits than when I let the audiobook run while I am busy with other tasks.
- This exercise also helps me to improve my writing of kanji. If I feel confident in recognising and reading kanji, writing them is a more perilous activity for want of practice. Writing a line of kanji is not exciting, but it works for me. It has already happened that I was able to remember and write a kanji correctly because I had revised it in one of the previous sessions. It is greatly rewarding.
The principal obstacle is certainly the resources. To make a writing transcription of audio, we need both the audio and the script for correction.
I use the audiobook of the novel 「世界から猫が消えたなら」 by 川村元気（かわむら・げんき）. This book has the perfect level for me. It is not discouraging, but I am still learning new things in each session. I can only recommend it for Japanese learners because it is not difficult to read or to listen to.
I bought the audiobook on a site called FEBE months ago. In the meanwhile, they have changed their site which is now called audiobook.jp. You can read a more complete review of the site on Self Taught Japanese. As pointed out, they only have few titles of fiction, but we can only hope the field will develop.
Buying the audiobook and the book of 「世界から猫が消えたなら」 was a little investment, but it is worth it because I have listened to the audiobook several times already and I am now using it for this particular exercise. If you don’t mind having music in your audiobook, I can only vouch for the quality of this particular one. The narrator is excellent, different protagonists are voiced by different actors, and the overall quality is perfect. They made a choice, however, to sometimes add music in the background, but I personally don’t mind it and find that it is rather well done.
One advantage of working with an audiobook is that you can use an app for audiobooks rather than a music player. I am not familiar with other devices, but the app iBooks of an iPhone allows you to jump 10 seconds forwards and backwards in the audio, which is much more comfortable, when doing the kind of exercise described above, than using the scroll bar… especially when your audio is 5 hours long!
This exercise is the best idea I came up with since last Monday when I stated the necessity to make a concrete listening plan. I really want to reach a good level of listening comprehension in Japanese, and I am much mortified to see that I am doing nothing at all in this direction. I have told myself a hundred times to listen to a podcast every time possible, but I don’t do it.
I hope that I can go on with this exercise long enough to feel some improvements. We’ll see!