Using Hulu to Improve your Japanese Listening

Use Hulu to Study Japanese Listening

I’ve been tasked with increasing my listening stamina.  Basically, I can understand things for about 30 minutes in Japanese pretty well.  Then, my attention starts to waver, and I can’t pick up anything else.  Of course, it doesn’t help that I sometimes have to endure some pretty boring meetings going over things that could have just been presented in a well-worded email, but this is the life I live.

And listening has always been a problem for me.  I could never focus through a lecture in college or high school.  I always had to interact with something or solve some problem.   I learn through making mistakes, and there is nothing I like to do more than to make lots of mistakes.  I can’t really do that listening to a lecture or at least, I can’t learn from those mistakes easily.

And of course good listening stamina and focus are important for passing the JLPT with flying colors.  If you have the knowledge that is.  So, how have I been increasing my focus?  Well two things actually, and I’ll just start by saying that this is not intense by any means.  I’ve got too much on my plate to be intense these days.


I’ve been listening to Tamamusubi, knot in Japanese.  It’s light radio talk show, that really doesn’t go into anything too deep.  They usually take a few letters from listeners on a particular theme and give some advice.  They have guests on to talk about a few topics of interest as well – very conversational and common topics, which makes it great material for JLPT.

Since August of last year, I’ve been using Android and discovering the healthy ecosystem of apps it supports. Podcast Republic is a great little app with a clean interface that makes it easy to slow down (and speed up) podcasts so that you can adjust more difficult podcasts to make them easier to listen to.

This feature is present in a lot of other podcast players of course, but Podcast Republic gives you a lot of granular control.  You can adjust it by tenths, so you can listen to a podcast at 0.7x speed, which makes it superior to iPhone’s default podcast app that just has 0.5x or nothing for slowing podcasts down.

The only problem with listening to podcasts is that Tamamusubi competes with all my other podcasts (and the occasional audiobook) I like to listen to.  There is so much great content out there to listen to.


On a whim, I thought I would try out Hulu here in Japan.  I am not that much of a TV watcher to be honest. But, I’ve fallen in love with Hulu.  It’s such an amazing piece of modern technology.  I could never imagine having so much content at my finger tips and ready to watch.

There is a huge library of Japanese content that you can choose from and you can rewind, re-watch the material until you understand everything.  That is a great way to learn Japanese and get exposure to native Japanese.

Even watching content in English with subs is good, albeit lazy practice.  When I’m eating or doing some other task that requires a little concentration, I can watch something in English and pick up a few phrases when I have time to read the subs.  Good listening practice?  Of course not, but some fast reading practice is better than no practice.

For other content that is dubbed, I usually watch the show in English with Japanese subs.  Then, re-watch the same episode dubbed and try to listen for every word.  I’ve been doing this lately with Friends.  Yes, it is, at this point, a pretty old TV show, but it is very nostalgic for me and easy to understand.

Now, it is pretty easy to record an audio stream, and you could use that to practice listening with it.  Unfortunately, that violates the usage agreement, which is too bad because you could pretty easily use a audiobook app like Smart Audiobook Player to slow it down.  So, whatever you do, don’t do that.

Instead, you could just stream the show on your phone and listen to it without actually watching it, so that you could practice listening to it while on a walk or waiting for the train or something.

What is truly amazing, and a weird quirk of living in Japan, they just got some of HBO’s major shows – Entourage, Sex and the City, Rome, Band of Brothers, and the granddaddy of them all, Game of Thrones.  Some of the older shows just have subs, but Game of Thrones and some others are dubbed.  Granted, GofT probably doesn’t have a lot of useful language in it.

How about you?

How have your studies been coming along?  Are you changing anything about how you study?  Let me know in the comments.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Chad March 29, 2016, 2:18 am

    It’s too bad they geoblock this stuff. While living in Japan, my wife and I struggle to watch the English-language content we want to watch. When we return to the US later this year, we’d love to be able to access something like the Japanese version of Hulu, but won’t be able to.

    What is it with these people being too stupid to take our money?

    • Clayton MacKnight March 29, 2016, 2:48 pm

      Well, yeah, it’s just your usual corporate bs. You know when they sit down to negotiate this kind of stuff, the last thing on their minds is whether someone in another country is going to want to see the content. I’m just happy we get HBO stuff. If HBO Go didn’t block their content here, that might not be possible.

      • Chad April 1, 2016, 7:14 am

        I agree. It is a solvable problem, but they just don’t seem interested. It seems like there are plenty of people who want cross-language content and are willing to pay. Even if they are only a few percent of customers, a few percent of several billion is a lot of customers!
        As for HBO, why, oh why do we live in the last country on earth where one can legally watch GoT? Outside of North Korea, maybe.

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