Creating a Portable Immersion Device

The best method for creating a listening immersion environment is to put a ton of movie, TV, and song mp3s on your Ipod, or other MP3 player, and listen to it as much as you can throughout the day.  If you are already doing this, excellent.  This is one of the most effective methods to improving your listening and speaking skills at the same.  And remember, you won’t be listening directly most of the time.  Just having it on in the background makes all the difference.

Creating a Portable Immersion Device

However, not all listening material is created equal, and I’ve discovered a few things that should you should take notice of.

Perils and Pitfalls:

1.  Don’t put horror movies on your Ipod.  Nothing is more painful than hearing loud screams in your ears.

2.  Don’t put action/adventure movies on your Ipod.  There is usually very little talking, and a lot of noise.  The point of the Ipod immersion is for the dialogue.  If there is no dialogue, and minutes of nothing but silence or music, than it is helping you minimally.  Also these types of movies are a lot less enjoyable when you are only listening to them

3.  If you want to include anime, do not include the whole series.  Anime falls under the action movie problem, so choose episodes that are heavy on dialogue.

4.  Don’t listen too loud.  Yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard this one from your parents before.  But if you are going to be using your Ipod immersion environment constantly throughout the day, every day, you don’t want to slowly lose your hearing.

5.  Don’t listen to only songs.  Make sure to diversify what type of material you are listening to.  Songs are great, but dramas are better.

6.  Don’t include dramas/movies that involve constant use of another language.  This sounds obvious, and it is unfortunate because some really good dramas have constant use of English/Chinese/Korean

The High Ground:

1.  Include listening material with high replay value.  This usually includes whatever makes you laugh, cry, or moves you.

2.  Include material that has some kind of philosophical underpinning.  Every time you listen to it, maybe you will become a better person.

3.  Split up your movie mp3s.  2 hours is too long for one track, and usually you are listening to your Ipod with breaks in between depending on your daily routine.  Make it 3 parts, and enjoy the 3 parts separately.

4.  Constantly delete/update your playlist.  That comedy was great the first 200 times you heard it, but now when you hear it, it is a chore.  I usually have around 250 files at a time, and whenever new stuff goes in, old stuff goes out.

5.  Make sure you use a high quality mp3 converter.  When you are converting your video/DVD files to mp3 for your own listening, the sound quality is vital.  Nothing turns you off more than a hard to hear, tinny mp3.  There are plenty of free or cheap mp3 converters out there.  It is worth dishing out a little extra money for quality.

6.  Choose specific episodes from a series.  Not all episodes are created equally, and while you may have loved the series 結婚出来ない男, it may be annoying to listen to the one episode where all he does is interact with the dog.

I’m curious to hear other suggestions as well.  Leave a comment and I will happily add them to this post!



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Adam

Adam

Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.

Comments

Creating a Portable Immersion Device — 34 Comments

  1. Your posts recently have been quite interesting as of lately!!~~ Nice.
    Anyways i wanted your opinion on listening passive Japanese.
    What is your experience with JUST having it in the background all the time and NOT REALLY concentrating on the main speech or what is being said.
    Benifited you? no? yes? Also what do you think the effect of this would be on Begginers (or any level really..)

    Thnks, for the hard work at blogging keeping us readers informed!~

  2. What about podcasts? I’ve been listening to podcasts for like 3 months and they’ve helped me so much with my listening skills. I started listening to tokyo local (just to name one) when I started my blog, and back then I understood close to nothing. Now I can understand quite a bit, depends on what they are talking about. I also got used to listen to japanese spoken by young people and I can follow japanese speaking normal, fast.

    Dramas are great to, but they suck my MP3 battery really fast so…I just watch them at home, I reward myself at night with dramas :D (during the day is textbooks, anki, listening – podcasts, dramas, music-)

    Great blog!

    • I’ve never really listened to many Japanese podcasts, but as long as they are interesting, and you find them helpful then I’d say they are a great tool. The more listening the better.

      As for draining your mp3 battery, are you converting the dramas to mp3 format first? They should drain the battery no more than a normal song.

      It sounds like you have a great immersion environment setup. 努力は報われますよ!

  3. For anyone having trouble finding material to start out with: http://www.japanaradio.com
    All-day, nonstop Japanese music from a wide variety of sources (anime soundtracks are fairly popular, but there’s quite a bit on there). What I do is:
    *When doing stuff on my laptop, have Japan-A-Radio playing in the background (on headphones of course).
    *If there’s a song that really interests me or sounds fun, I copy the artist/album/song title into a text file set up specifically for this.
    *Later on, go search Youtube for the song. Usually “%album_or_series_title% – %song_title%” works best. If it’s a popular series or movie, there’ll probably be a lot of uploads. Listen to a few to find one that 1) is high quality, 2) is the entire song, and 3) isn’t just a rip from the show/movie with sound effects left in.
    *Use KeepVid to download the .mp4 of the video, then use the “Transcode audio only” command in MediaCoder to rip to .mp3. This method has always worked well for me, and preserves the quality and bitrate in most cases. To save time, do it in batch jobs (like find/download ten or so tracks, then transcode all at once).
    *Copy the new .mp3s to a folder on my 3DS’ SD card specifically created for immersion (the 3DS sound app is a great substitute for an iPod and I don’t want to deal with iTunes whatsoever, and it even counts my steps while I’m walking around listening to it :p The battery life leaves something to be desired though (since headphone-listening mode is a hybrid Sleep Mode, the battery drains at about 50% the rate of normal gameplay, which itself only lasts about four hours), but it works great overall).

    The method works for pretty much any audio source. Just find it on Youtube or a few other video sites (unfortunately, KeepVid doesn’t support Nicovideo), download, transcode, copy to SD, put in 3DS, profit.

  4. I use VLC to rip the audio. It doesn’t let you do batch converts [even though it looks like it…], but you can rip the audio from everything VLC will play.
    I’m on Ubuntu, but it should be the same on other OSes [maybe not OSX, but it’s probably the same on Windows].
    Media -> Convert/Save -> Add [go find the video] -> Convert/Save -> Browse [set a place to save the MP3] -> Start.

    After that, I pop the converted file into Audacity, adjust the volume levels and trim the ends [usually whatever intro/outro].

    Also, Miro seems to be good for grabbing videos off of Youtube to do this with. If you’re on Ubuntu and already have it and aren’t using their PPA, uninstall it, go to their site, and install the latest version, the 4.x version in Ubuntu’s repository is ancient and doesn’t work with Youtube anymore. The current version of this writing is 6.x or something.

    As for what to immerse with, I like Game Center CX. Near-constant commentary, whether by Arino himself or by the announcer.

    • Hey can I get your help? I tried this method to record to rip audio from my anime dvds, but whenever I do it it rips the english audio not the japanese audio? Or do you not use it from dvds only online websites?

      • I’m afraid I don’t know how to do this with VLC, but since no one else has answered yet maybe you’ll find this useful. I do my audio ripping with MPlayer. There are precompiled binaries available for a wide range of platforms. To extract the audio from a file I do

        mplayer -vo null -ao pcm:fast (filename)

        and to extract from a DVD

        mplayer -vo null -ao pcm:fast -chapter 7-12 -alang ja dvd://06

        You’ll probably need to change the chapter numbers and the number following dvd://, it’s also possible the syntax will be slightly different between platforms. In any case the “-alang ja” should pull out the Japanese audio from disks with multiple languages.

        This produces a .wav file, which you can then convert to mp3 using Audacity or Lame. Hope this helps!

  5. I use a Mac, but this is how I get my immersion.

    I personally rip the DVD’s to my desktop using a program called handbreak. It allows you to select diffrent sound channels etc.

    Once it’s on my desktop I just right click it and select encode file and select audio only. It then make a separate file with just the audio.

    I then worked out I have time or around 5 hours immersion a day which equated to about 3 DVD’s of audio. So I just add the 3 audio files I encoded, open then in audacity and join them together.

    I have a 5 hour file for each day of the week.

  6. For passive immersion, do you have any general recommendation as for how many different kinds of mp3 files you should cycle beteween? Do you repeatedly listen to like only 5 different mp3 files one day and then 5 another? 10? 100? Do you use all of those extensively for like x amount of weeks and then swap the playlist for something else?

    • Just listen to what ever you have already watched. (anime, drama, movies)

      You can either make lots of short files, or one big one. It doesn’t really matter. I personally prefer to have a few giant big files and just have them permanently running on my iPod, so when ever I have a few spare mins, i just put the head phones on and Japanese is already playing.

      Just listen to whatever you want as much as you want until it gets boring. When its boring replace it with something else.

  7. Great way if you want to have immersion on the go! But there is one thing I’m mostly concerned about. When and at what point will I start speaking fluently? Will this result from how much time (hours) I’ve been listening and reading Japanese?

    • Yes. It really does come down to the amount of listening an reading you do. Eventually it will all just start to flow out naturally. So the more you put in, the sooner it will come flowing out.

  8. I was wondering, is listening to something you’ve already watched important? I am lucky enough to have access to a Japanese TV station at home in the US and have it on basically all day and night. But is it important to be listening to things that I’ve already watched? Or is just hearing the language and half following along enough? Listening is definitely my weakest point in Japanese, I’m about 2000 J-J words deep, so reading is becoming a breeze.

    • Also, are you for or against watching with Japanese audio and Japanese subtitles. I used it for a while to help make some dramas a little more comprehendible (and therefore more enjoyable), and was thinking of returning to that method. Thanks! I love the site, I’m a long-time reader!

    • Everything doesn’t have to be what you’ve watched before, but I would try to fit in a good amount in.

      A few reasons:

      – It’s easier to tune out material you’ve never heard before (this is bad).
      – It’s easier to tune in and out listening when you know the story and what is happening.
      – You are more likely to pick up words and phrases you couldn’t before when you’ve heard it over and over again.
      – You are more likely to actually want to listen in because you repeat listen your favorite material, TV shows you loved and care about.

      As for Japanese audio with Japanese subtitles, I recommend having a nice mix of both.

      There really isn’t a “negative” to Japanese subtitles (it improves your ability to understand while still keeping everything Japanese). The only thing is that it isn’t as big a challenge for your listening ability. So while it still is helping your listening, it’s not as much as when you don’t have them.

      Regardless of your level though, it’s nearly impossible to avoid Japanese subtitles even if you wanted to because almost all variety shows have them (it’s part of variety show culture).

      Hope this helps. And thanks for following the site for so long!

    • I’ve found it massively beneficial to having the TV on a lot when I’m at home. However I also noticed that it was easy to tune out unfamiliar material so I try to switch away from shows and genres that I’m not familiar with. (For me this is the midday police, lawyer, and period dramas.)

      On the flip side I was able to learn lots of vocabulary by tuning in and paying attention when I heard certain topics. For example if I heard the news talking about Abe I would start paying attention look up at least one unfamiliar term especially if they repeated it more than once. This has worked well for me for news, commercials, and variety shows, but never for dramas or movies.

      At your level I think you would get massive benefit from just having the TV on especially if you can keep it tuned to stuff you might have a passing interest in.

  9. I’ve been listening to podcasts for a while and have been starting to find them boring. So recently I took your advice about ripping stuff from videos you’ve already actively watched liked dramas… It’s so much more engaging!

    My favourite thing to listen to is interviews with the band, Scandal. They are very funny and I find myself trying really hard to understand them – though there is some occasional girly screaming when they find something too funny.

    It’s really great to have watched the content before, because it allows you to picture the exact scene – really immersive!

    • Glad to hear it’s working out so well for you. It really makes a major difference when it’s fun, already watched content.

  10. Even though this is quite an old article I just wanted to throw in my 二円 (2 cents :P)…

    I have only just reached world 4 and am starting to enter the immersion realm. I found it a bit difficult to get started on making an immersion playlist but then got an idea. I don’t know how it will work out yet, since I’m just getting started, but I wanted to share it with all of you lovely JALUP’ers, if anyone like me is out there feeling intimidated by this whole immersion world.

    I am really lazy and spending time making my study materials really isn’t my thing. I use premade decks for Anki (Lazy Kanji deck, JALUP RTK deck and JALUP Beginner deck) since I tend to end up quitting when I have to make my own material whereas if the material is just here waiting for me it is way easier to convince myself to study a little even on bad days. And study a lot on good days.

    My first thought of immersion material was Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood since I already watched it previously and would like to watch it again. So I rewatched the first episode and then proceeded with ripping the audio of the episode and started filtering out crash-bang and silent scenes. Half-way through I was already exhausted and about to give up. I ended up only removing the silent scenes, the opening and ending themes and the most obivious noisy scenes. I won’t be doing that again anytime soon, too much work.

    Later the same day I searched YouTube for a Japanese dub of Harry Potter (since I love those movies and have watched them plenty of times in English) and the result was the interesting part. Small clips from the Japanese dub ranging from 1 to 5 minutes. Easy to engage with actively since it is such a small amount of time and I already know what is going on because I know the story. Ripping the audio from YouTube is also very easy, there is a ton of online services out there doing just that. And when I feel like it I simply find another clip and repeat the process. No large amount of tedious work, just simple small tasks with instant payoff – total win :D

    That ended up as a huge wall of text >.< ごめんね… I will try and come back to this comment in a few months when I have used this method more and write something about how it turned out for me.

    • I used to edit any silence longer than a few seconds and it does get boring and tiring fast. Now i just fast forward through silence, fighting scenes, english music in dubs etc. It saves a lot of time and boring work in the long run

    • I personally actively watch all my materials (usually with JP subtitles). Then just rip the audio directly and don’t bother editing out anything. The couple of minutes I lose on theme songs isn’t as bad if they are in Japanese and you take the time to learn the lyrics for each of them. The fight scenes are actually pretty fun to listen to in my opinion, and i forget they are even on half the time. Maybe I’m just going deaf. The only time I get annoyed with loud noises is on my surround sound, normalisation is not its strong suit.

    • Since my level is still pretty low, I usually watch one time with English subs, then I rip the audio and listen to it over and over. Then on the weekend I find a new episode. I don’t edit anything out of the episode, as I’d rather just listen to silence/music etc than go through the extra steps of removing that stuff.

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