Ultimate Listening

Every text book includes a CD or tape that you can listen to so that you can hear the sound of native speakers. This is usually a short conversation and the grammar and vocabulary match the things being taught in that unit as well as using previously taught things.

Do you want to know how to make the most out of these conversations?

To get the most out of any taped conversations you should follow four basic steps. All four steps are necessary to help you learn at a slightly more rapid pace.

You will need:

  • The tape / CD
  • The tape script for what you are listening to
  • 2 notebooks and a pen or pencil

For the tape script, please check your textbook. If it is not in the book you can ask your teacher if they have a copy of it. If you are unable to find it, this technique may not work for you.

Here we go:

Step 1) Do the Exercise in the Book. (or listen)

Key points: Understand the general meaning and pull out some details

If your text includes some exercises with the listening, the most basic thing to do is listen and do the exercise. Here we are focusing on listening for general ideas as well as trying to focus on understanding a lot of the details. There is a best procedure for this:

  1. Read all the questions
  2. Listen once and answer the questions
  3. Listen again and double check your answers.
  4. Check your answers with the key
  5. If you made a mistake, find out why!

If your book does not include any exercises then I recommend that you listen and imagine the situation and what the dialog is about. Listen once and try to understand the conversation in general. Listen again and try to remember as many details as you can (people, names, times, places, etc…)

Step2) Dictation

Key Points: Grammar, Spelling, Vocabulary, Writing and Listening for Pronunciation

I said we should have two notebooks. Here is where they both come into play. One will be a dictation notebook and the other will be a vocabulary notebook.

Now, We will listen to the conversation one line at a time and then write this into our notebook. Once we have completed this we must be sure to check our answer with the tape script in the book. Pay close attention to spelling, using the correct characters (practice your kanji!) and small words such as Japanese particles (は、が、に、で、etc.). Beginners should also pay close attention for long vowel sounds and “baby tsu”. (Ex. School = がっこう not がこ) They are sometimes easy to miss even when correcting. Right after correcting you should listen once again paying special attention to any mistakes that you may have made. This is a key point to getting a benefit from this stage.

Keep a vocabulary notebook! Upon completing the dictation and checking of your dictation you should write any vocabulary that you didn’t know into a notebook along with the definition and an example sentence of how to use this word. You can come back and check this notebook whenever you need to. You can also add these words into Mnemosyne at a later time.

Step 3) Line by line Repetition

Key points: Fluency, Pronunciation, Intonation and Rhythm

At this stage we want to listen carefully to the speaker’s pronunciation and intonation. We will hear the line spoken, pause the CD then repeat it. We should also start to form an image in our heads of this situation. Where are the speakers? What is the relationship? What are they discussing? Is there a problem? How do the speakers feel?
Can you visualize the scene? Can you picture it?

Step 4) Shadowing

Key points: Fluency, Pronunciation, Intonation, Rhythm and Speed

Here is where we will play the CD, without pausing, and read the conversation with the book, at the same time. We want to read it at the same speed, with the same pronunciation, with the same intonation and same rhythm. Here it is important to picture the scene in your head.

Tips and Advice

The pace at which you study will be up to you. You control how much you can / will improve. For most students, I recommend a 3-4 day cycle for each conversation.

Day 1: Step 1 and 2. The dictation will take a lot of time.
Day 2: Step 3 and 4. (twice if you can) Refer to your vocabulary notebook if you need to
Day 3: Step 3 and 4. (twice if you can)
If you could not repeat the conversation well at the end of Day 3 you should think about trying it again every day (Day 4, Day 5, etc…) until you can do it. When you feel like you have mastered the conversation then you can move on to the next one.

Also, if you are a student attending a Japanese class, you can follow the pace of your teacher. Steps 3 and 4 only take a few minutes for each conversation so you can do it everyday until you move on to the next unit!

There is a great book called Shadowing. You can use this to supplement your current text. It has its own instructions.

Also a great source of listening material are the past JLPT tests. You can use the level below where you are at to really reinforce what you have learned! One or two months before the test, you can also use the practice tests for the level you wish to achieve. This should really prepare you for the test!

*** If you do not understand a lot of the vocabulary or grammar that is in the conversation then it may not be of much benefit. You must UNDERSTAND what you are repeating!

You have now improved your listening, speaking, vocabulary and grammar with 4 easy steps.

This technique is very flexible. You can adjust each section to your needs. I would not sway too far from it because every step does provide something important but everyone learns in a slightly different way so Good luck!

Finally, I fell it is much better to study a little everyday than to study one day for a long time!

Questions or comments? Send mail to linuxspaz {at} gmail ・ com

About the Author

I have lived in Japan since 2004. I love Japan and studying Japanese.