Why Women Should Not Get Angry at Men for ‘Hearing, Not Listening’

Listen. Just listen. —––Scratch that. I take it back… Only two “sentences” into this たまご and I’m already commanding your disregard?! Come on, ざっちー! Use the backspace key! Oh, Agent Jay, how I covet your flashy-thingy skills. Everyone, look at the little red light.


Hear. Just hear. You don’t even have to listen [all the time], as long as you’re within ear’s reach of the [Japanese] language. If you can do that, the future linguistics in you will be feeding you grapes while you lounge about on a chaise longue sipping wine from a golden goblet.

Now, let’s step back into a time when I was just beginning [for a second time]. When all my ears could make out was the simplest of はい’s. When the Japanese language was an utter blur from the moment a native ever-so-slightly parted lips.

At the start, legitimate comprehension felt inconceivable. Sure, I tried to decipher words and phrases, but that was all too soon followed by frivolous frustration. My base vocabulary was just not where it needed to be to make sense out of things I heard often enough. After a few ticks of that struggle passed, I decided to completely separate my listening from my studying [for the time being]. In language acquisition, there’s a time to study and a time to play, both of which end in the same result: learning. I stopped trying to pay attention to what was being said and shifted my focus to the picture and emphasis/tone. I looked at what people were doing, the pretty girls, how the people’s mouths moved, their reactions, the pretty girls’ faces; just the overall situation and environment [which, as far as visual media goes, 99% of the time includes: pg’s]. I allowed myself to phase in and out of the actual audio. I didn’t fret if I couldn’t pick out any words, although I was ecstatic when I did. [That’s when the studying portion of learning can pay off.] The only requirement was to have some Japanese playing at all times, or as much as possible; forget the rest.

A while later I was watching an elderly gentleman take a stroll through 東京 [Tokyo]. I phased my listening skills to ‘on’. Much to my surprise, I felt that what the old-timer rambled on about wasn’t complete gibberish. It actually sounded like he was saying words! Like he was speaking a language! Keep in mind; I still had absolutely no idea what he was saying other than the indications of the visual cues. Nevertheless, a ‘sudden’ jump in my listening occurred.

You know how the minutes seem to move slower when you’re watching the hands tick? I took my eyes off the clock. I didn’t focus on the gradual. That takes care of itself. Whether you’re looking or not, a minute’s duration remains immutable. It’s going to move forward regardless of your will. I focused on being entertained [in the language].

I’m not a master of chart-construction. I’m not even sure if it makes sense. But, hopefully, it gets my point across and helps you visualize what I’m talking about. The solid red line is constant. The comprehension will grow given time. The dotted green line represents phasing between hearing and listening. Basically, it is made up of miniature replicas of the constant that break the constant into smaller chunks resulting in what feels like faster, more sudden results.

I really have no idea what I was doing, but the jumps continued to happen and still do. My comprehension level is on the rise. Since giving my brain the time to become accustomed to the speed and enunciation with stress-free conditions, now, more-and-more, I can concentrate on the real listening without the overwhelming frustrations. And that makes the studying feel more like play!

Sometimes I listen. Sometimes I hear. Either way, my Japanese clock moves forward.



About ざっちー

Just a boy trying to find his way to Japan.
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2 Responses to Why Women Should Not Get Angry at Men for ‘Hearing, Not Listening’

  1. Listening and watching is so important. It’s the basis of understanding, which I believe is the foundation of learning a language (based on watching my 3-year-old son learn his languages). Going out in the field and just watching and listening to people is one of the best ways to train your ears.

    If you don’t do so already, I also recommend watching a lot of Japanese TV, especially the kind of shows that have a lot of action: the type of shows you could follow even if they were on mute. If you can understand what is going on even when the mute button is pressed, then understanding is there automatically. Then with the Japanese language background the language will just fall into place. My big breakthrough in Japanese was when I started watching a lot of TV (several hours every day).

    • ざっちー says:

      Good advice!
      Trust me, I watch A LOT of Japanese TV. It’s pretty much the core of all my “studying”. It’s the best thing you can do to get intimate with a language without actually being able to be in the country or physically speaking with a native.
      I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out plots without the dialogue in general. Even when watching English movies (which I don’t do often), I have Japanese earphones in and can figure out what’s going on while everyone else in the room is super worried about being able to hear what is being said.

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