19 Japanese Audio Tools and Resources to Help You Learn the Language
There are so many helpful Japanese audio tools out there that you can train your ears for fluency right from the start.
Whether you’re just starting out or a near-fluent speaker, there’s something for you here.
I’ll take you through a diverse collection of Japanese audio tools that you can use to boost your skills and prepare for real-life interactions with native speakers.
- Can You Really Learn Japanese with Audio Tools?
- 19 Rocking Resources to Learn Japanese with Audio
Can You Really Learn Japanese with Audio Tools?
Science indicates that yes, you can.
For example, one study showed that when it comes to language learning in adults, the ability to understand spoken language was highly correlated with the ability to understand written language.
This suggests that developing listening comprehension skills—the primary focus of Japanese audio materials—is linked to overall language comprehension.
Audio tools also have more immediate benefits, like exposing you to a range of Japanese accents or getting you accustomed to the cadences and rhythms of spoken Japanese.
Plus, as you’ll see below, the wide variety of Japanese audio tools available not only demonstrates a range of genres and speaking styles, but also helps keep your studies fresh and diverse so you never get bored.
19 Rocking Resources to Learn Japanese with Audio
Starting out with the right tools will help you to go a long way on your journey. Note that many of these tools are appropriate for a range of learning levels, so you can continue to use them even as you advance.
You may be familiar with Rosetta Stone, which is a good option for a comprehensive start to Japanese learning.
You’ll get sequential Japanese lessons along with speech recognition technology so you can hear and imitate correct pronunciation.
Just be aware that Rosetta Stone does put a lot of emphasis on word repetition, so you’ll see words multiple times. This may or may not benefit you depending on your particular learning style.
It also requires some interaction with the software, so you won’t be able to listen passively while you drive. On the plus side, the interactivity does encourage you to practice active listening. Check out our full review here.
It naturally and gradually eases you into learning Japanese language and culture. You’ll learn real Japanese as it’s spoken in real life.
Just take a look at the wide variety of authentic video content available in the program. Here’s a small sample:
You’ll discover tons of new Japanese vocabulary through these great clips.
Don’t worry about your skill level being an issue when it comes to understanding the language. FluentU makes native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts.
Tap on any word to look it up instantly.
You’ll see definitions, in-context usage examples and helpful illustrations. Simply tap “add” to send interesting vocabulary words to your personal vocab list for later review.
FluentU even uses a learning program which adapts to your specific needs to turn every video into a language learning lesson and get you to actively practice your newly-learned language skills.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)
Another good option for basic audio practice is JapanesePod101.
This resource aims to provide engaging, culturally relevant audio and video lessons that’ll hold your attention.
There are more than 2,500 lessons and counting, which come with PDF notes if you want to read along with your audio.
You might find that kind of reinforcement helpful to your learning process! Check out our full review here.
For more nitty-gritty audio practice, check out the pronunciation tool Forvo. Just type in a word and you’ll get a range of pronunciations from native speakers. You can also get translations of the words.
There are more than 14,000 Japanese speakers contributing to the platform, with over 153,000 pronunciations available.
This is a great audio tool to supplement your other studies—for example, if you come across an unfamiliar word in your Japanese textbook. Just be aware that it’s most useful for looking up individual words, not phrases or entire sentences.
News in Slow Japanese
Podcasts like News in Slow Japanese will give you complex sentences and thoughts, but at a manageable pace so you won’t get overwhelmed.
This particular podcast is a great option for intermediate to advanced learners of the language who are trying to get a grip on the day-to-day speech in Japan.
It has the added benefit of presenting current events and Japanese culture from a Japanese perspective, so you’ll be rounding out your cultural knowledge as well.
Japanese Listening Advanced
When you’re ready to speed it up, give Japanese Listening Advanced a try.
This podcast will get you comfortable speaking Japanese while giving you real-life context for the language.
You’ll hear native speakers having real-world conversations and you can pick up a lot of handy tricks.
Plus, the podcasts come with transcripts so you can read along for boosted learning. Although this podcast is no longer being updated, you’ll still find its Japanese audio useful!
Read Real Japanese
If you’re looking for a good story, you can try “Read Real Japanese Fiction: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers.”
This is a physical book, but it comes with an audio CD with narrated versions of the stories.
Since short stories only take small bits of time to consume, they can fit easily into your study plans.
If you prefer non-fiction, then you can also try the “Read Real Japanese” essays collection.
If you have a specific Japanese text that you’d like to hear, RhinoSpike is a unique resource that’ll connect you straight to native speakers who can read it for you.
All you have to do is submit an audio request and wait for it to be picked up by a Japanese speaker—then download their recording!
This is a perfect tool for advanced speakers who may need to hear more niche or specialized Japanese speech that isn’t easily found online. You’ll get audio files that you can download to your computer or mobile device to take your audio practice anywhere.
To bump your audio request up in line, you can submit readings in your own native language.
This website designed for JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) takers has a wealth of resources to get down to studying Japanese.
It offers flashcards, grammar lessons, vocabulary lists, kanji and yes, listening materials! These audio tests are based on JLPT levels, with N5 being the easiest and N1 being the most difficult.
All of the tests have answer keys and vocabulary lists at the bottom of the page—an excellent way to check and see what you need to improve on. If you’re studying for the JLPT, this is a must-use website!
CosCom is a beginner-oriented website with tons of audio material and Japanese learning resources. You can hear the weather forecast, news and audio pieces on Japan and Japanese culture.
It also offers resources for learning vocabulary, grammar and basic conversation, all with audio accompaniments by native Japanese speakers.
While its full library does require paid access, there are plenty of free resources, including its most recent news articles.
Let’s Talk in Japanese
This podcast is run by a Japanese instructor, who designed his courses for Japanese learners bored with traditional classroom methods.
His show covers a wide variety of interesting topics, from sports to pop culture to Japanese customs, speaking in natural yet easy-to-understand Japanese.
Each podcast is rated based on JLPT difficulty (the same system mentioned previously), and with over 140 episodes, there’s plenty of material for all levels of learners.
He also takes requests for future episodes and seeks to develop a friendly listening/learning atmosphere. Transcripts of each episode are available on his website.
Amazon’s popular audiobook service is available in Japanese! Better still, you can get your listening practice in while enjoying thousands of engaging titles.
If the Audible Japan website is too intimidating, you can search Audible Audiobooks on the English version of Amazon Japan and get the same results.
If you’re new to reading, getting started with children’s books is a low-stress way to become familiar with written Japanese. Also, if you happen to own a text copy of the book (hard copy or digital), you can read along with the speaker, providing another layer of learning!
NHK Easy Japanese
The NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation, has a wealth of materials to help new learners to Japanese.
This series called “Easy Japanese” teaches basic grammar and expressions through audio-based courses.
Each lesson contains a short dialogue by native Japanese speakers with cute graphics, followed by a detailed explanation of each line of the script.
Transcripts of each lesson are available, complete with a thorough breakdown of covered grammar points. It’s hard to believe these comprehensive lessons are completely free!
YouTube is one of the first stops to make when hunting for Japanese audio. You’ll find everything from Japanese lessons to TV clips to cooking lessons to NHK documentaries.
If you’re a beginner, simply typing “日本語” (nihongo) into the search box will bring up a long list of Japanese lessons.
For intermediate and advanced students, “料理” (ryouri) will bring up cooking shows, “NHK” will bring up full-length shows from the TV network, “アニメ” (anime) will bring up anime, and so on.
Obviously, you can get more specific with your searches. I even managed to find full-length episodes of “Death Note,” one of my favorite anime series.
Niconico is a wildly popular Japanese video hosting site. You’ll be exposed to slang, informal speech patterns, different dialects and so on.
Naturally, it has lots of cat videos and other random clips that may not be too helpful, but there’s also plenty of native Japanese to listen to.
One thing that surprised me when I first visited the site was how many live streams the site has. Though YouTube has live streams, they don’t seem to be nearly as popular.
You can hop on to a live stream, chat with the host with your keyboard or on video, host your own live stream to practice your speaking and more.
A website like italki is a great place to find a professional language tutor.
Not only will they know how to speak at your level, so that you can understand them and learn new things, but they’re also going to be experienced in listening to students, picking up on mistakes and giving useful feedback.
They can even help you practice your listening skills with the resources mentioned above. This kind of targeted practice is virtually guaranteed to improve your conversational Japanese skills.
There are tons of tutors to choose from, so you can look around until you find the perfect one for you. For more info on it, check out our full review here.
Yes, there are Japanese people outside of Japan! Good places to find native speakers are at Meetup groups, which are now both in-person or online.
Speaking with Japanese people is one of the primary goals of anyone studying the language. So the sooner you can dive in, the better.
Other Meetup groups might be centered specifically around language practice, so you’ll meet others just like you!
Yes, it may seem overwhelming at first, but don’t get discouraged. Just keep supplementing your real-world practice with other structured studies and it will all start to come together.
CD Japan is a good place to find Japanese music. Shipping charges do apply if you order from them, but they aren’t completely outrageous.
If you have musical talent (or even if you don’t but like karaoke), then music is a great way to practice listening and speaking (well, singing) because it helps you with vocabulary and it can be more entertaining than just reciting boring textbook phrases.
And if you enjoy something, you’re more likely to remember it. An added benefit is that you’ll be able to participate in karaoke sessions when you hang out with your Japanese friends.
Also, check out our posts on learning Japanese through karaoke and how to find Japanese song lyrics.
JA Sensei is a comprehensive, popular Japanese language-learning app that has a listening section. You can listen to three levels of difficulty for one situation.
Plus, you can record your own voice and compare it to native speakers! There’s also a phrasebook, kanji practice, vocabulary builder and more.
It’s made by Japan Activator which has tons of other resources you would need to sign up for. There’s also information on Japanese culture and forums as well. For more Japanese learning apps, check out this post.
With time and dedication, you’ll learn to understand Japanese better with these audio tools. They provide a great way to make the most of otherwise dead time, like driving in the car or waiting in line.
Just remember to be patient. The process of coding audio into your brain doesn’t happen overnight. If you feel the urge to give up, give yourself a break and start again during your next study session.
Of course, not every audio tool is right for everyone. So don’t be afraid to mix, match and experiment until you’ve built an effective and engaging audio study plan.