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?
- 13 Rocking Resources to Learn Japanese with Audio
Can You Really Learn Japanese with Audio Tools?
Can listening to Japanese really help you speak it? Science indicates that yes, it 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.
13 Rocking Resources to Learn Japanese with Audio
Starting out with the right tools will help you to go a long way on your journey. Below are our top picks for Japanese learning audio tools, organized roughly by proficiency level.
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 pronunciations.
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.
Having access to authentic content with real-world language used by native speakers is key to learning any language. With hundreds of videos and audio clips available, complete with interactive captions, FluentU is an excellent tool to have in your language-learning belt.
No matter where your interests are—music videos, cooking, culture or science—FluentU offers language lessons tailored to you. With FluentU, even beginner learners can build their skills using authentic Japanese audio.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
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!
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 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 on interaction.
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 Fiction”
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 listening website with short news articles in simple Japanese, complete with transcripts. 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 120 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! Audiobooks are a great resource for listening practice, as they provide a natural flow of the language. 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 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!
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.