The dilemma

One of the biggest obstacles when learning Japanese is finding new content to learn from — especially for Japanese listening practice. Going over previous content is certainly beneficial, but memory will begin to play a part once it has been studied. This actually applies regardless of whether you are practising your reading or listening skills; instead of honing these skills more every time, your memory starts to take a more active role without realising, therefore detracting from its usefulness.

To that end, finding content that is constantly new or refreshed regularly would be ideal. But where would you find such material without also regularly paying for it?

Enter the world of free 24 hour live-streams. 

Japanese listening practice solutions

24 hour coverage of various topics have become common in the modern world, mostly in the form of news coverage. 

Japan also has these.

While intended to be viewed by a Japanese audience, they also offer great variety and opportunity for Japanese language learners, what’s more, the three that I am going to cover in this post are easily accessible on YouTube. This means no hunting around on Japanese sites and no need for a VPN as a workaround. 

Ordinarily, what makes these popular are the ability to drop in and out whenever it suits the viewer. If you’re learning Japanese, this means you can get in some practice when you have some free time in your day knowing new content and material is always available to you. 

The three channels are:

  • ANN news 
  • Weathernews Japan 
  • QVC Japan 

All three channels offer something different in terms of language learning and it is certainly worth spending time on each to get a good variety of content. 

It’s worth noting here that this is not necessarily about understanding everything you hear; it’s all about practice, picking up on the words and sentences you do know, understanding the context of what’s happening, and improving Japanese listening abilities. If you do understand everything you hear then you’re well on the way to becoming fluent in the Japanese language.

ANN news

ANN news (All-Nippon News Network) is a 24 hour Japanese news coverage program. In truth, there are often several live-streams happening simultaneously covering both domestic and international news coverage. 

Being a news channel you can expect the anchors to speak in formal Japanese, similarly to how many Japanese students learn in the early stages of the process. This makes Japanese listening practice a little easier; you won’t find many incomplete or abbreviated sentences or colloquial terms, but you will encounter easily distinguishable ‘ます’ endings. You may also notice a somewhat slower and clearer speech pattern than is perhaps commonplace in Japanese society. 

One other benefit that my other two options don’t have is the option for substantial reading practice also. During coverage, lots of written explanations of events appear on-screen as well as Japanese subtitles. So whether you are better at reading or listening, either way you may be able to get the jist of what is happening. 

Weathernews Japan

As mundane as weathernews sounds, you’ll find that it is not often the case. While there is a definite focus on the Japanese weather; featuring forecasts, expert analysis, and map projections, there is also a light-hearted feel and many off-topic tangents. 

Once again you’ll find a degree of formality in the anchor’s speech but with a few differences. There are times when sections are filled with ad lib or off-script discussions in which speech will become more casual, with Japanese onomatopoeia, shortened sentences etc. There is also a more natural speech pattern and not as much emphasis on clarity. 

These are all good things. It’s a more natural feeling presentation and perhaps slightly more advanced than ANN news for that reason. The comments section is often very active and could be worth checking them out for some casual reading practice too. 

QVC Japan

Here is a little deviation from news broadcasting. QVC is a famous shopping channel that currently operates in seven countries — including Japan. Shopping channels are about trying to sell products all throughout the day, by continuing talking about and explaining the products at length; by doing so in Japanese, it creates a great opportunity for some listening practice.

What’s nice here is that QVC will expose you to some different vocabulary as opposed to the other two. The language is kept formal here too and at a native speed and feels like very natural speech, that’s because there is often no script to follow on shopping channels and requires presenters to ‘just talk’. 

What makes this a great resource is how, due to the nature of shopping channels much of the information will repeat throughout a section. This means if you miss something on the first pass there is a chance to catch it again a bit later. As well as this, the vocabulary is seemingly kept quite simple too, making it very friendly towards learners.

Final thoughts

Being able to practice your Japanese listening skills at a moment’s notice is an incredibly useful tool. As Japanese learners we often go over the same material until it’s well past its usefulness, while progressing onto something new can cause the fear of not understanding anything. Spending just a little time every day on something like 24 hour streams, where everyday the conversation is new, will do absolute wonders to improve your Japanese listening skills.