How do you get into the habit of reading/listening more?

I watched Matt vs. Japan’s most recent video about the role of SRS earlier, and how important reading really is to learn a language. It got me curious, because I’d say my foundation in vocabulary and grammar is good for what it is (not the best, halfway through WK + Core 6k Deck, finished Genki, some Tobira, Shin Kanzen N4, and here I am doing Bunpro reviews for grammar points I’ve already learned) - yet I still still struggle to understand a lot of things I either read or hear. At about 4:10 in Matt’s video, he describes this issue pretty clearly regarding understanding texts for people who don’t read at all, both regarding grammar and vocabulary. He describes seeing a word and not remembering the meaning of it, along with seeing a word, thinking you haven’t seen it before, yet it’s something you’ve learned already, which is something I’m struggling with as well.

I also find myself not reading or actively listening much, but literally learning words/grammar from SRS tools, and not doing much else, which I’m very aware is a bad habit. As much as I want to break the habit, I just can’t sit down and say “Hey I’m going to read all of this”, or say “Hey I’m going to watch this show with only Japanese subtitles”, so I want to know about any tips any of you might have for anyone solely learning from SRS to break this habit, other than just ‘doing it’. I’ve never been the person to sit down and read or listen to something, but it’s something I’d like to start doing. Considering doing AJATT once I can get into the habit of reading and consuming native materials.


For listening, what about podcasts? You can listen to whatever while you’re out and about or doing something else.

I also used the シャドーイング 日本語を話そう for listening practice despite it being made for speaking practice. I think it really helped boost my listening skills because I could try to listen to what was being said, then read it in Japanese, then if I really didn’t get it, read the English translation. It’s natural Japanese with a gradually escalating level of difficulty and a lot of different sentences/conversation topics.

For reading you could always try some short NHK Easy articles or folktales. Read 1-3 each day and just gradually build a habit for reading more/longer from there.


For reading, I’d check out one of the WaniKani book clubs. With as much kanji and grammar you know, but without much previous reading practice, I’d recommend starting with the Beginner Book Club. They are going to start the manga 一週間フレンズ in a couple weeks. Being able to read with others and ask questions when needed is a huge motivator.


Twitter or Instagram? If there are any Japanese actors, musicians, sports figures, anyone! you like, try following their feed. Tweets are way shorter than news articles and manga, and they’ll even sometimes post videos/audio. (Just resist the urge to hit the “translate” button.)

The book club over at Wanikani sounds wonderful, but I am not a member (heresy, I know :sweat_smile:).


I find that J-podcasts through podcast banks are tough to come by or are low-quality; TBS Radio ( used to have a bunch of good ones, but they moved them all to their app, and if you’re outside of Japan, you can’t download the app from the Play/iTunes stores. But if you’re feeling brave and don’t mind side-loading an Android app (dunno about iPhone, never owned one), you can simply download the .apk file from any of the semi-sketchy app sites on the net (all I did to find it was google “TBS radio .apk”). All the sign-up/sign-in directions are in Japanese, but unlike trying to stream TokyoTV or TBS in the browser, their podcast app doesn’t block by IP location. There are tons of podcasts - news and commentary, entertainment, comedy, you name it, from all the affiliate TBS stations around Japan. I use the TBS app pretty much every day and listen to Session-22, After Six, and a bunch of the comedy podcasts.


You can just create a free account and join the book clubs. There are lots of people who don’t use WK but still participate in the community.


Yeah, we have at least a few members of the community that created WaniKani accounts just to participate in the book clubs. You don’t have to pay or be subscribed to join the community.


To not repeat what others have said, as far as getting into the habit–it doesn’t matter what you read or listen to, as long as you are interested in it and enjoy it.

For me, as an example, I’m a big Case Closed/Detective Conan fan, so getting started was a pretty easy transition for me. I was already given a Japanese copy of the first volume years ago (thanks dad :smiley: ), so I could start reading there. NHK is nice too, just finding news articles on topics you’d care about.

As far as listening goes, YouTube is fantastic. Any hobby or interest you have is likely available in nearly any language. Gaming, art, beauty, music, etc. Anime and dramas work too. I’m currently rewatching Inuyasha. It’s a story I loved as a kid and is one I’m familiar with, to help my understanding even more. :slight_smile:

Whatever you have a passion for is where I suggest you start. I think it’s common for people to give up when they’re bored, reading/listening/etc to something they don’t care about.


The reality is, some people can find a way to make immersing in the beginning enjoyable for themselves and some cannot, it depends on you and what you find enjoyable, it isn’t going to be enjoyable for everyone. You might just be the type of person who is not going to find immersing in the beginning fun, you can try to make it a little more fun, but overall, maybe you’re just the type of person who won’t enjoy it very much and that’s okay. However, it’s necessary for you to become functional in Japanese, so either you need to push yourself through it, or you’ll never get good at Japanese, it’s really that simple.

When you first start, it’s not going to be easy, it will be a little slow and awkward, period. You need to practice reading to become better at reading and you need to practice listening to become better at listening. When you first start reading, you’ll have to read really slowly, it will feel a bit tedious and so on, but the more you do it, the faster and more effortless it becomes.

It’s the same with most skills, when you first start learning guitar, you suck and you can’t do much so it isn’t that fun, but if you’re not willing to push past that, then you will never get good or get to the fun part. That is just something you need to learn how to do in life, how to push through discomfort and make yourself do things you dont feel like doing to achieve the results you want to achieve that you will enjoy later on.

Make no mistake, if you don’t immerse, you will probably never really become functional in the language at all. You probably wont sound natural at all when you output and you wont understand most natural real life Japanese when you hear it. In order to have conversations with people they will need to adjust how they talk to communicate with you dramatically. In day to day life, the kind of Japanese people speak casually is so different to the textbook Japanese and they speak so fast and quietly and unclearly, you need to expose your brain to enormous amounts of listening for your brain to start to understand it faster and more effortlessly.

So what I’m saying is that you probably just need to bite the bullet and force yourself to do it in the beginning and not wait until its fun or easy or for some magic solution that will suddenly make it not awkward or tedious. If you push through that hard beginning phase it can get more fun.

In terms of mentality, I find it useful to set rules. Like make a rule that you have to read Japanese for at least 15 minutes every day or something and it doesn’t matter what you read but you just have to do it, period. You can log the habit in an app or whatever helps you stay on track.


Like others have said, its about making it a (hopefully) daily habit.
Learning a language is a marathon not a sprint. Consistency is very important!

Just do something every day. Even if its for 1 minute. Its about trying to find a way to integrate Japanese in your daily life. Keep a journal or a diary to tick off daily activities (great for motivation).

Nobody is perfect :slight_smile:

For listening, YouTube and Japanese podcasts are a godsend.
Just put it in the background. That’s good enough for the most part.
For example there are 1 / 2 YouTube live Japanese News Channels like ANNnewsCH (just search for ニュース )

To start reading, NHK web easy is a really great start. The articles are really short and furigana to the rescue.

Later try, (the jp store not the global one) or
There are samples for (nearly) every book / manga.
Some manga / light novels are even free for a period :smiley:

Here is the free web novel website:
There are so many web novels like the rising of the shield hero.

For watching and then reading try these movies: 未来のミライ, バケモノの子, サマーウォーズ
They are movies but have light novel versions with simplified vocabulary and furigana.
Here is a link to a digital version of バケモノの子 :

Actually any book by 角川つばさ文庫 (Kadokawa tsubasa bunkou) has furigana :D.

Find things that you like and WANT to read even if its just for 1 min a day!


I think my best advice is two fold: find reading/listening close to your current level (whatever that level is), and preferably find things that are interesting to you.

So far I’ve noticed it is okay to read things that doesn’t interest me super much as long as they are short and at most only slightly above my current level. Because just reading Japanese is interesting in itself, so the content doesn’t have to be as interesting. However, I don’t expect this to continue forever.

Also don’t be afraid to only do smaller amounts. That is one of the things I really like with the WK book clubs. There is a specific amount to read each week, and then you’re done. You can do it all in one go, or spread out over the week; so that is useful to do with longer things. Another way is to find short things to read/listen to.


I think that’s a mindset thing. Easy for us to fall into, but I think it’s definitely possible to enjoy the more frustrating parts. Playing guitar for the first time, you might not be very good, but holy crap, you’re playing guitar, and that’s awesome! Starting out with reading Japanese, I was awful, but I was able to recognize things, and holy crap, I’m reading another language! Even if I’m slow and screw up a lot, how many other people can say they can do that? Celebrate the little victories. Anything can be fun if you think about it right :slight_smile:


One idea I haven’t seen mentioned: cut back on SRS. Make a goal on certain N material w/ SRS, then shift focus to reinforce everything you have worked on, whatever the material. Or not…at least that is my approach lately.

I prefer material that has audio for reading material so I can either read or listen (or both)…just repeat till it’s boring and do it again. If you can practice speaking , even better.

SRS is addictive but just a tool in the end. I watched the video, the reference was exclusive to Anki (I consider BP or WK a different SRS animal). I also keep a Jisho list for either new word or a word I already encountered but forgot.

One last thing…manga/anime hobbist, JLPT prepper, Japan survivalist, polyglot in training…similar training but worlds apart. You would know best your goals best on moving forward.


That’s very true and good advice but some people have a lot more trouble trying to do that than others. If your deeply ingrained habit is to think more negatively and you’re surrounded by people who reinforce that, even if on some days you can maintain a positive attitude through great conscious effort, kind of grinding against your natural grain, on other days you may not be able to.
You can try to make a conscious decision to try to think about things in more positive ways, but the way you think is also influenced by chemicals in your brain and conditions like depression so, if you have a lot of trouble trying to maintain positive thoughts, it may be more difficult for you to keep yourself in a positive frame of mind and in that case you have to try to just keep pushing, whether its pushing to try to keep the positive frame of mind or just pushing yourself through getting the activity done in general.


The hardest thing is to get through the first page and the first few unknown words or sentences. The first 3, or hardest three minutes in an anime or drama too.

Any book, manga or even drama/anime you pick up will have either a too advanced level where you struggle or/and a really beginner level where you don’t even need to think about it. No matter what your own level is, you should always expect that.

So I use a mix of the +1 method and getting acquainted to someone/something psychology.

basically, you take someone or something in this case, that you really enjoy, like detective stories and thrillers.

From there you either pick up something you already know or you don’t know but have a huge interest in.

Let’s say you already have seen Death Note’s anime version with english subtitles. Or read the manga in english.

Pat yourserf, you already did the getting to know part. And if you listen with japanese audio, you at least have a few entries in your brain for +1 words and other inferred sentences.

Now comes the hard part. Everyday, you pick up a volume of the manga (1 page per day, up to 3 max), or 1 episode from the anime/drama, either with japanese subtitle to practice reading and checking comprehension at the same time or without subs just for listening practice (3 or 5 or 10 minutes of said episode are all viable options, a whole episode is okay only once you know all the mini parts, to build fluency).

That one page, or these 3 minutes are your only challenge for the day. Pick up every thing you can from it, absorb it, review it or just decipher it the very first time. It’s okay to look 30 words in the dictionary, you just want to have a brain entry for them. Try to say the words and sentences out loud and hear yourself stutter. It’s okay too, your brain will get it to work eventually, but first it has to know the words and go beyond the fear of unknown factor.

All you need is to crush that one page/these 3 little minutes and then you are done for the day! pat yourself again. The goal is to be fluent in understanding speech so at the end of the episode, you should be able to re-watch it without any subtitles fairly easily.

The easy part is tomorrow, you wake up and do your things and then you go back to that b*tch page or these three f-in minutes and see how fluent you got on it ? then forget about it and repeat yesterday’s action for the next page or next 3 minutes…and so on until you got a chapter or an episode. Review that first page only if 7 days have past and you have not yet reach the end of the first chapter…will happen a lot with death note lol.

But when you reach that chapter’s end, that’s when you really want to try that first page again and then, Zimbalazim, you can’t stop reading, you fluently read most of the pages until the end of the chapter and you already are very familiar with the situation…you notice new things etc.

It gets a bit boring but also very exiting because now you really want to read the rest!!! congratulation, you got out of the fear of reading and even enjoyed the process (though you hated it at first).

Hope it helps and don’t be ultra lazy, flashcard the heck out the pesky words that you think will be useful, don’t think you’ll remember them easily…

Conclusion for TLDR:

With Manga (or a novel, start with manga, it’s easier, less words and more image to infer meanings):
-Read one page per day, out loud, in your head, look up everything, don’t need to learn it just to have a blue print in your brain.
-Review yesterday’s page before doing today’s page.
-If you reach the end of the chapter, review all pages from this chapter before moving on to the next.
-If 7 days have past and you have not yet reach the end of the chapter, review the first page only, and tomorrow the second page and so on until you reach the end of the chapter, then you just go through the step before this one.

-Same as manga but do 3, 5 or 10 minute sessions everyday.

After a while you’ll do more pages in one go, more minutes as well. but the first time is really slow so bear with it and really pick something you are very interested in, so you really want to find out the next day what happen.

Confucius: " The hardest step toward a journey of a thousand steps is the first one. "

Hope it helps, Good luck :smiley:


I just read your answer after posting mine. We’re saying/ doing the same thing and that’s awesome!

Glad to see it works for other people.

Good luck on your learning journey ! :slight_smile:


Thanks, and same to you. You wrote out in much more detail.

The way I started with reading was Graded Readers (I picked the Ask series), and I’ve read all the volumes of level 0 and 1 and I’m currently working my way through level 2 (if only I had more time). Graded really is a nice way to get into reading. And I also happen to enjoy reading fairy tales (which at least Ask have a lot of) and other short stories. So I really can’t complain about the content.

Then recently I also started reading with the WK book club, specifically the Absolute Beginner one. (I will admit I’m a bit intimidated by the beginner book club yet, but I’ll probably try the next pick that sound interesting there.)

I really can’t recommended graded readers enough. They are perfect for finding +1 material, and while reading all level 0 volumes was a bit overkill. Reading one of them will get help getting over the initial bump when starting to read (especially the not recognizing words you’ve learned through SRS). Then I’d go to level 1 or level 2 (or higher) depending on grammar and vocab knowledge. (I wouldn’t have started with level 0, except I’d only barely gone through N5, and for that level 0 was a bit easy, level 1 at the perfect spot to get comfortable reading, and level 2 is currently a perfect +1 after all that practice plus being further along in my grammar/vocab/kanji studies.)


Oh, of course. Sorry if I made it sound easy x’D That wasn’t my intention. Mental illnesses make processes like these much more difficult. But even if you can post a sticky note or something around your house as a little reminder, I think it’s helpful in the long term :slight_smile:


I remember reading level 4 part 3, which was fairly my+1, and it was really pleasant. I was lower intermediate at the time, now I’m higher intermediate.

Excellent for shadowing (it has audio) and increasing reading skills this way or hearing at native level speech speed.


I found it pretty distant to real life adulthood japanese though.

I knew most of the fairy tales in it and my hearing skills far outweigh my reading skills.

So in that sense, listening to the audio while reading, I felt like it was not as much a challenge as the seinen and other novels that are more native speaker and adult learner oriented that I was trying (painfully) to read…(even without audio actually, because it’s very easy to infer meaning in this serie and most fairy tales in general. They follow patterns so once you’ve heard enough of them, it gets much easier to understand the plot without knowing every detail).

But that is not my point. I just really felt it was more appropriate for children native speakers or up to a medium level of japanese for an adult learner in term of challenge and self progress.

So for a beginner up to lower intermediate I would definitely recommend the graded reader series as an introduction to reading, listening and culture.

I’d say N4 - N3 readers will be the most able to enjoy the content and progress with it.

Because it is a great way to start reading without forgoing the hearing part and just like you, I love fairy tales / horror stories so if anyone else like them, go for it! It was darn fun!

My favorite was “The woman without face” story…but no spoilers haha!

So like I said, the lack of challenge and novelty/ realism is why I quickly moved to manga and novels.

Mainly because it has no audio to rely on, has much longer and harder sentences, even has age-related content. That was much better suited for me by then, though I still struggle like hell reading them…

By age related content, I mean you can find the same volume of a manga with furigana for younger people and without furigana for adults. You can also find the same thing for novels. And the whole thing is genuinely targeted for native speakers or at least adult learners.

Though I really feel there is a gigantic gap between graded readers and even a shonen manga like Naruto or HunterxHunter where the politics gets heavy etc.

In that regard, shojo manga and classic teenage manga might be a tad less difficult to start with, especially romantic comedies like Kimagure Orange Road…which I feel is like dead on N3 (intermediate)…even the anime, you can understand almost everything without subs and you feel fluent but you are really not, it’s just a really intermediate friendly medium.

I have some novels with furiganas and others without. You just ask your japanese book store clerk and he’ll help you to the section that suits your needs best.

On top of that, I tend to buy books about drama/anime that I have already seen, liked and want to retrace as a native because I deemed the content close enough to something I would use in everyday life or just need if I had to watch a similar content with a japanese person and wanted to have a conversation about it afterward.

The hard part for me is news. Very specific vocabulary, mostly passive but very necessary (You hardly talk about earthquake until after they pass lol…but you are darn happy to know the word when the news flash hit your phone or TV the night before it happens!!)

I took pics for the ones interested in novels with and without furigana. The novel is “biblia koshodou no jiken techou”.

As you can see, vol 1 (left) has furigana over the kanji while vol 2 (right) has not.

The inside is a novel, so it’s mainly text and sometimes you’d have a picture after 10 pages for context or illustrative value, but nothing more unlike typical manga.

On the other hand, I’d like to propose a really easy manga to read. Only two volumes. Has a Heroine instead of the classic hero and is made by Tsukasa Hojo (City Hunter series). It’s called “Rash” (they meant “Rush” but who cares).

No furiganas, from the 90s but like I said, dead on N4-N3, only two volumes, lots of pictures and action and you can infer most of the vocab (to the point I almost cry when I realized I could understand something like that even without understanding or beeing able to read everything!)

And no, it’s not hentai…more like shonen for girls…(action packed, not romance packed)

About the books with furigana - added the 2020/03/04 -

This is a collection aimed at japanese natives from middle to high school. It’s made by Tsubasa Bunko which is also a website with tons of free literature for said middle and high schoolers (Has furiganas and has much more modern stories from famous series than it’s counter part, Aozora Bunko).

Check it out if you can !

Here you can check four links, including aozora and tsubasa bunko. The last one is a website where you can check the difficulty of a book you want to read compared to what your overall language ability :

You can also check site. It has some articles about reading japanese at different levels, a little app where you can also check your level against the overall vocab you know within the site or WaniKani (needs an account and to have either WK at your true level or at least started to learn some vocab on through their SRS).

Hope it helps !

By the way, I just got the JLPT N2 thanks to Bunpro, WK and Floflo, this February 2020.

I barely read but I still increased my score by 20 points compared to last year thanks to immersion and the really well made sentences on Bunpro ! I also read more online stuff like post from IG and Twits.

So thank you Bunpro and all of you for the motivation !!!

Hope you get some motivation too and aim higher this year ! Meanwhile i’ll be reading more and aiming for the N1 !!

Good luck !


Yeah you should be cautious about spending too much immersion time with graded readers. One of the primary purposes of immersion is to expose yourself to real natural Japanese kind of ‘in the wild’, ‘in the real world’, to start to develop the intuitive sense of the ‘feeling’ of words and how native speakers use them.

Graded readers are not natural real Japanese.

" Japanese Graded Readers (JGR’s) are written in easy and controlled language for foreign or second language learners of Japanese."

Ideally you should be trying to immerse as much as possible with material by natives for natives. Otherwise you will get stuck in the ‘textbook Japanese’ comprehension comfort zone. You generally wont find most conversational Japanese or slang and so on in those graded readers. They have a kind of fake version of Japanese for second language learners. You probably want to learn natural expressions and how Japanese people express ideas and thoughts.

I recommend watching talk-show type shows through clips that are uploaded to youtube like this:
You can find lots of other random videos linked off of that one. You can probably find some comedians or types of segnements or something that you find funny or cute or whatever. Japanese who wants to be a millionaire, anything. Theres a show where little kids go on their first shopping errand for the first time. Theres a show where people who work in the customer service industry write in to complain about rude customers and its re-enacted etc.

And I recommend starting with manga that is slice of life and has children main characters like Yotsubato.