Random Japanese study tip for N1 and N2 takers

Not to say that this tip is solely for N1/N2 takers—it’s more like, if you’re confident enough to take the N2, you should have no problem with this.


I’m talking about listening to radio programmes.

Hello, it’s Lydia again. I mentioned in the previous post that I’m an Arashi fan. I listen to their radio shows as well—there are three members that host radio shows every week—and it’s really done a lot to improve my ‘real-world’ listening.

Apart from Arashi, I also listen to TOKIO member Kokubun Taichi’s show, Radiobox. It’s hilarious, has a lot of audience participation and interesting topics even for non-TOKIO, non-Taichi fans. I highly recommend it.

First of all, let me laud this often overlooked medium properly by listing down its myriad merits:

1. It’s free.
You can find radio shows even on YouTube. Just search for the name, like ‘Kokubun Taichi Radiobox’ or ‘Bay Storm’. If you’d like to download an audio file, you’ll have to search a bit harder.

2. Transcripts done by fans are usually accurate, right down to the fillers.
There are blogs dedicated to radio transcripts—Google the name of the radio show followed by ‘レポ’ (repo; short for ‘report’) and there’ll be more than one option to choose from if you’re looking for a show hosted by a popular artiste.

(‘Fillers’ are like the Japanese equivalent of ‘uh huh’-s and ‘mm hmm’-s: words like ‘こう’ (kou; ‘like’), ‘へー’ (hee; something like ‘ooh’, I guess) are usually also replicated. I like the accuracy of it.)

If you’re an Arashi fan, or if you’re just hoping to casually listen to radio and don’t mind it being Arashi, and if by any chance you don’t mind Chinese text showing up along with the Japanese (I can read Chinese so it’s actually more of a plus for me), there are even clips timed with both Japanese and Chinese subtitles. I’m not going to link you up directly because I believe Big Brother is watching, so if you’re really interested, search the internet for ‘AR双语’. It streams from a Chinese site, just so you know.

3. With the available media, you can adjust your learning style.
If you find that learning aurally is too high a hurdle, you can pair it with the transcript, then slowly wean yourself off it if you want to challenge yourself.

4. Because it’s usually on the internet, you get to bookmark it and save it without paying for memory.
As opposed to if you own a DVR and want to store a programme—I like saving my favourite TV programmes onto Blu-Ray discs so I can watch them again. But these discs cost money. For audio files, it’s space and cost effective.

5. Because you’re just listening, you don’t have to use as many senses as you would if you’re watching TV or a movie.
This means you are free to do other things while listening to radio, like household chores or when you’re exercising. I listen to radio shows almost exclusively when driving. Sometimes I do it on the train, but there’s still a lot of ambient sound during train travel that interferes with the clarity of the audio.

6. Most importantly, it enriches your vocabulary in a way that other mediums don’t.
Compared to TV and movies, where people don’t usually take their time to talk, radio personalities really try to have a conversation with their listeners and/or their co-hosts. It isn’t as staged, and they sometimes even make mistakes. It’s strange to say this, but even how you correct your errors sometimes has to be learnt, if you’re trying to acquire a foreign language. At least, that was the case for me. Also, it can be as entertaining as any TV programme if the content is good. There are 放送作家 (housou sakka; [broadcast] writers) for radio as well, and they craft shows as well as the TV people do, in my opinion.

7. It’s very ‘digestible’.
A typical Japanese radio show runs for 30 minutes and are broken up into segments (コーナー; ko-na-, literally ‘corner’) that last no longer than 10 minutes, separated by songs. Usually, on YouTube, the songs are taken out of the recording for copyright reasons.

If you’ve taken the JLPT N1 Listening test, you’d know that the act of listening sometimes requires a fair bit of stamina. Radio shows aren’t anything like that audio marathon; even if you have a short concentration span, you’d be able to stomach the little segments. They usually involve audience participation in the form of letters and emails, so it’s not all about the host.

I can’t really think of any disadvantages to learning from radio, to be honest. Perhaps lack of motivation to listen, if you don’t already have vested interest in who’s hosting the programme, and the activities they engage in? Tons of artistes have their own radio shows, though. If you have a favourite artiste, you should Google their name and ‘radio’ at the back. They might be hosting a show you don’t know about. Ikimonogakari, for example, is on FM Yokohama at 5 PM every Saturday, for example. I only found out a couple of months ago by accident.

Oh, another disadvantage I can think of is, if the artiste whose show you want to follow isn’t very mainstream, the clips might not get uploaded, and there might be no transcripts either.

I’ll be interested to know if any of you tried this out. Let me know if you do! 😀

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *