Podcasts are great for studying Japanese! You can find podcasts on pretty much any subject. From video games to knitting, from culture to novels, from the latest news, to ancient history. Of course you can find these in English, but there are also thousands of Japanese podcasts out there too!

The great thing for Japanese learners, if you can even find podcasts for upper-beginner and intermediate levels! (See Recommended Podcasts for Japanese Learners for some suggestions.)

But once you’ve found a podcast you like, how do you use it to improve your Japanese? (Specifically listening.)

You could just listen to it, which is fine, but if you want to improve your listening skills, then you’re going to need to put a little effort and time into it.

Not sure what to listen to? Check out Recommended Podcasts for Japanese Learners!


0. Find a podcast that’s right for you

Even before we get to step one, you need to find a podcast that’s right for you. This can be tricky when you’re not sure what is “right for you”, but here are some questions to answer which might be able to help.

What level Japanese are you and what level are you aiming for?

Resources that are at your level of Japanese are best because they affirm what you’re studying, while presenting them in a way you might not be used to. So you might know how to read 読める (よめる) “I can read” but your ear might not be as familiar with it.

If you’re used to listening to Japanese then I suggest finding podcasts which are slightly above your level. These

But whether you pick a show that’s bellow, at, or above your level, you’ll probably find yourself learning a lot of new vocabulary that you don’t find in textbooks.

What are you interested in?

This is more for intermediate to advanced levels who have a strong understanding of basic Japanese, but there comes a point where you want to find podcasts that focus on things you’re interested in. These will be podcasts created for Japanese native speakers on topics such as food, music, economics, politics, science, etc.

You can search for keywords relating to these subjects and see what Apple or Spotify recommends.

I’ve listed a few monolingual podcasts (for all levels and a range of interests) here if you’re not sure where to start: Recommended Podcasts for Japanese Learners


1. Listen to an episode (without stopping)

You first want to listen to the episode the whole way through. Don’t worry about not understanding individual words or grammar right now. Try to gauge what’s being said in context and to grasp the discussion that’s going on in general.

This passive listening exercise is great because it forces you to use your ears and associate audio with meaning.

If you started by writing down every word you didn’t know and looking it up as your listened, then you won’t train your brain to understand the meaning through sound, but training it to need to stop to find out every word. This isn’t good because you can’t stop a conversation to look up a word, and audio sections of exams like the JLPT don’t stop or play again either!

Once you’ve listened to the episode once, feel free to listen to it another time or a few more times to help get a stronger grasp of the conversation.


【Tip!】Read the title and maybe the blurb of the episode before you start listening to it. This might seem obvious to some, but the title will help give you extra context to the topic of the episode. You can also look up useful vocabulary that will likely come up in the show.


2. Listen to the episode again (making notes)

Now it’s time to switch to active listening, which means you’re listening with more intent.

【Tip!】Set aside a place to do this and schedule the length of the podcast x2-3 for this exercise.

When you listen to the episode this time have a notepad with you and note down any words that you don’t know or are unsure of.

You can also make a note of the overall meaning of sentences and segments if you feel confident enough. Try to avoid “translating” though, because that can take a lot more work and time, and isn’t as useful for language study. A few words summarizing the meaning, or key points is more than enough to get your brain to associate the audio with meaning and improve your listening comprehension. (Such as “bus → town” or バス → town” instead of “I will take the bus into town”.)

【Tip!】Many podcast apps will let you slow the conversation down. This is very useful when you want to write notes while you listen.


3. Read the transcript (if there is one)

Many podcasts aimed at Japanese learners will offer transcripts of episodes. These are great because you can clearly see the words, phrases, and grammar you were unsure of. Looking these up will help give you a stronger understanding of the overall meaning.

I don’t advice studying and memorizing every single word you don’t know, though. Otherwise you might never move onto more podcasts! If you want to study at least some vocabulary then pick out maybe 5-10 words to learn. Something that’s easy to manage without overwhelming yourself. (If you do want to study every single word then feel free to, just know you don’t have to.)

【Tip!】Read the transcript as you listen to the episode to help reinforce your listening comprehension and reading comprehension at the same time!

【Tip!】Read the transcript out loud (maybe even while listening to the episode) to improve your speaking.

If you’re listening to a podcast that doesn’t have a transcript then you can use apps like XX and XX to convert Japanese audio to text files.


4. Listen to the episode again (without looking at notes/transcripts)

Now you’ve listened to the episode a few times and have a stronger understanding of some of the vocabulary and overall meaning of the episode. Time to listen to it again!

【Tip!】Leave some time between the active listening step and your re-listen. This will let information settle in your brain, and allow you to be reminded of words you might be forgetting in context.


5. Listen to new episodes but re-listen to older ones too

Once you’ve gone through the above four steps you can start again with new episodes!

But even if you listen to new episodes it can’t hurt to listen to ones you previously studied. Especially if it’s been a few months.


Additional Tips!

【Tip!】It’s OK to take your time

You don’t need to do all of these steps in a day. If anything, you’ll have a better time remembering new information long-term and improving your listening comprehension overall if you do these steps over a long period of time.

Focusing on one episode a week and doing a step each day will be more than enough.


【Tip!】Try not to pick anything that’s too long

You can find podcasts that run from anywhere from 3 minutes to 3 hours! The shorter the episodes, the easier it will be to use it for repetitive passive and active listening. But sometimes you might want to challenge yourself with a longer episode to help improve long-term listening comprehension.

I personally find episodes that are about 30 minutes long more than enough, but I’m also at an advanced level and am used to listening to Japanese. Anything longer than 30 minutes becomes difficult to study with due to a full-time job and having the hours in the day to do active listening study.


【Tip!】Improve your speaking by shadowing too

If you want to improve you speaking as well as your listening, then you can re-use the podcasts you’ve been studying to shadow.

Shadowing is useful for getting used to how things are said, training your mouth’s muscle memory, and picking up pitch accent and intonation.

Adding shadowing after step 4 would be ideal because at that point you should already have a first understanding of the episode, the meanings of everything said, and how the presenter talks.


There are a lot of fantastic podcasts out there for Japanese as a second language learners, and Japanese native speakers alike. (Here’s a list of them on Recommended Podcasts for Japanese Learners!)

If you want to hone your ears then podcasts are great tools to utilize in your study routine. I hope some of these tips help guide you to take better advantage of podcasts as learning tools!