How Long Should I Listen To The Same Material?

Creating your immersion ipod is creating your Japanese soundtrack to success. For the most part, it is a fairly straightforward task. Put the audio from all the Japanese material you are enjoying, and listen to it over and over again. You start off with a little, but slowly increase its magnitude.

How Long Should You Listen To The Same Material 1

But what happens when your immersion grows into the hundreds? What about thousands? More importantly, how long should you listen to the same episodes? 5 times? 10 times? 50 times? And then what? Do you just delete it?

A common and logical thought is:

Listen to an episode until you understand everything in it.

This makes sense, and will last you a long time. In the beginning you will pretty much understand nothing. Then something. Then a lot. Then everything. So when you understand everything, or near everything, why would you need it there anymore? The episode has played out it’s important role. Let it retire to a warm beach somewhere.

How Long Should You Listen To The Same Material 2

However my golden rule for immersion, and one that has allowed me to gain some pretty cool abilities, is as follows:

Keep listening until you don’t like listening to it anymore.

How long is that?

The replay value of TV shows, movies, etc. is far from equal. The background soundtrack, characters, voices, humor, emotion, and story all vary to infinity. Replay value is an individual feeling that is different for everyone.

To figure out whether you still like something, simply ask yourself the following:

When an episode comes up on my device randomly, do I have an urge to skip this track, or is there a smile on my face?

What happens when you follow this rule?

Your playlist grows to outstanding proportions. For example, to this day I have added around 3000 episodes of various things in total. Of those 3000, I currently have around 2000 remaining. These were added over the 8 years since I started immersion, but there are episodes that I have listened to in repetition since 2007 that still remain.

The reasoning

Most TV shows that go on my iPod these days I already understand around 99.99%, and am only occasionally introduced to new words. You will become similar as your levels go up, and your repeat listens expand.

The goal is different

While the primary objective of immersion is listening ability, the secondary objective is speaking. To reach fluency and beyond in speaking you absolutely need to turn your passive vocabulary into active. Just because you can understand something doesn’t mean you can say something. And just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you can say it well.

By re-listening passively to the same enjoyable material endlessly, you gain the ability to repeat what you hear, exactly as you heard it. When you are in a Japanese conversation, you can pull out a massive arsenal of language ownage in an instant.

You must’ve watched some movie or TV show as a kid so many times you wouldn’t stop repeating the lines to your friends at school. I think I could recite to you most of the 1990s best Simpsons or Army Of Darkness quotes. I can do the same things now with shows like IWGP, Kekkon Dekinai Otoko, Haken no Hinkaku, and Naruto.

What does your long term immersion iPod look like?

Do you delete shows once you understand them already? Or only when you get bored of them? What are some of the longest term episodes you have been listening to?

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


How Long Should I Listen To The Same Material? — 30 Comments

  1. I normally get rid of things after 5 play throughs. Maybe that’s my problem. I might try keeping things for a longer period of time.

    • I would definitely recommend trying the ideas in this article. You may be quite surprised at the difference it makes.

  2. Keep your content somewhere else so you can switch them out, like a folder on your computer! I had things on CDs at first since I didn’t have any devices, and would get bored of something in three months or so (I have a HIGH tolerance, love listening to stuff over and over again), and then come back to them a year later and be so amazed by how much more I understand and still can grow from after even more listening.

    3 months is a total ball park figure. I literally could listen to these things forever, with exception for getting bored of something once and a while and having to remove it for a little while.

    • Yeah I keep everything in a drama and anime folder. I guess the reason I get rid of the old stuff is because I think it might be counterproductive if i listen to the same stuff over and over I know it sounds crazy.

      • This can be your incentive to keep them longer!

        It’s definitely good to listen to new stuff too, but I think there’s so much value in repeated listening over a long stretch of time to see the real benefits of repeated listening.

        But I also think a constant flow of new content is good too! Personally, I just do whatever I’m in the mood for. I have podcasts that automatically upload themselves in the background for new listening, and my immersion playlist for repeated listening.

    • Isn’t it the best feeling when you re listen to something that you didn’t really understand before! Whenever I feel like I’m not making much progress I’ll listen to something really old that I didn’t understand at all the first time I heard it.

    • Since I have the option I love to keep them all in the same place. Saves time in thinking about what to move in and out. I don’t really know what I’m in the mood for until it starts playing. And having a random shuffle of 2000 brings excitement on what today will bring.

  3. “For example, to this day I have added around 3000 episodes of various things in total”

    so what kind of mp3 do you have?

    • Well currently I only have around 2000 (out of the 3000).

      Ipod Classic 160gb. As it is now a retired Apple product, I’m hoping it lasts a long time as the price has skyrocketed from sellers.

  4. I listen to some of the same things so many times. In fact, when I go to bed I always have pretty much 1 of the same 4 anime series playing out loud in my room.

    I’m pretty biased towards the same series when it comes to playing in the back, and within that, the specific episodes as well. To be honest, over the past 4 years of Japanese I’ve probably listened to episode 45 of Bomberman Jetterz over 300 times.
    Actually, for over the past week when I’ve gone to bed I’ve always had the same anime, Bomberman Jetterz, playing.

    Same thing with the movie 海がきこえる, over the 2 years since I’ve first watched it, I’ve probably replayed it over and over 300+ times as well.

    But I wouldn’t actually watch these things that many times over, they just play in the back, I don’t ever really get tired of them. In fact, when I go to bed it sort of seems like a ritual. I always stop whatever I’m watching and I set up probably Bomberman or something and that just keeps repeating as I lie in bed and fall asleep, and the first thing I hear in the morning.

    • Of course. This article is for passive listening. Listening to things that many times over actively would get boring quickly!

      I also have many episodes that have hit a replay value in the hundreds.

      Glad to see this has been working out so well for you also.

  5. This is a super-timely post as I’m just now building out my own listening immersion playlist, a mix of anime and NHK news broadcasts. It also makes tons of sense the way you’ve put it. This post is all win for me. :)

    • Best of luck putting it all together. This is what makes studying Japanese very personal and molds your abilities to your personality. Enjoy!

  6. Does anyone know if you can play iPhone videos while in lock mode. I can do this for YouTube but are there any third party apps that allow you to do the same for stored videos

    On a related note, My takeaway from the article is that passive listen material is worth listening to until you know everything or don’t enjoy it. That works for me as I’m so lazy I end up listening to certain episodes in the high digits

      • No I mean just playing actual video files on your iPhone as audio with the phone locked. Sorry for th confusion

    • Sorry if it wasn’t clear. That’s half right.

      My one absolute is: Passive listening is worth listening to until you don’t enjoy it.

      Enjoyable listening, even when you understand 100%, plays an important role in taking your Japanese from good to great to awesome.

  7. This is something I haven’t been doing. I usually stop listening to things after a couple of times. I probably could listen to some of my favorite variety shows nonstop however, so I guess I’ll try that.

    • Definitely worth a try. One thing I noticed though is variety shows seem to have lower replay value then Jdramas, anime, movies, etc. it might be due to the lack of story or soundtrack. So just keep that in mind.

  8. I typically watch / listen to things until I understand all of it. In practice though, understanding ‘all of it’ involves watching / listening multiple times using various strategies and techniques. First I listen with english subtitles to aid comprehension.

    After the initial run through I then extract and pre-learn any unknown vocabulary from japanese subtitles, create listening and reading comprehension cards using Subs2SRS and spend about a week reviewing the material.

    Having now completed my pre-learning, I then go back and watch/listen to the material using a local version along with a japanese subtitle file. The webpage allows me to use the subtitles in an opt-in manner, and alongside rikaisama allows for unintrusive glossing and re-listening if I can’t remmeber a word or I don’t catch something completely.

  9. I listen to stuff hundreds of times then delete them and put em back on a couple weeks later and always understand things i didnt get before

      • Yeah i just keep repeating that. Its a really good feeling when i add a show or movie back on my ipod after not listening to it for a month or so and understand way more words than i did last time i heard it

  10. I wanted to ask; where does everyone get there audio for listening material? I usually have to really on YouTube to take audio from.

    • A lot of people take the audio from there video files. You can rip DVDs or use more dubious sources. I own a lot of iTunes stuff and they don’t have drm on purchased stuff so it’s fairly easy to take the audio out using programs.
      I think it’s ok if you own stuff to get it by the more questionable methods.

  11. I just ripped one episode of an anime from a DVD and I’ve been listening to that on loop. It still amuses me. Do most people rip hundreds and listen to them on rotation? Or just one or two at first and listen to them until they get boring?

    • I think listening to a smaller batch is more beneficial. Ever watch a movie enough times you can quote it word for word? That’s kinda the idea here.

    • I rip “hundreds” and listen to them on rotation.

      But I don’t think my collection has reached a hundred yet. Somewhere in the double digits. I have to start over my playlist because I no longer consume media from illegal sources, so I only record the audio/rip things from legal sources. I got rid of a lot of stuff. I’ve rebuilt my playlist a bit, but I still have a lot to go. But this is another story.

      I think they get boring less fast when you listen to hundreds at a time. That way it gives you the opportunity to progress over a long period of time and as your Japanese grows, your understanding grows too.

      • Rachel is right. I like to get a small series (parasyte for example) and after actively watching it (always subtitles first when I was a lower level). However, I have heaps of media ripped/to rip. I think it’s good to then divide them into smaller batches (say 5 episodes of an anime) and play them till you get bored, moving on to the next batch and eventually finding your way back to the beginning in a nice big circle. I don’t think you should listen to anything 100s of times (not in succession anyway). Unless you don’t get bored of it. Listen to the point that it’s super familiar and before the point you get completely sick of it. Don’t let your enjoyment slip, immersion is fun!

        Though, I think you’ll find this is entirely subjective. And you should try everyone’s suggestions and see which works best for you. Happy listening :)

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