There are a lot of resources out there that you can use to improve your Japanese. One of the best ones that we have available is audiobook. You can of course buy audiobooks online and in stores, but today I wanted to talk about some places where you can get free Japanese audiobooks.
First let me talk a little about why using audiobooks are a good idea when you’re learning Japanese and then I will share three different places where you can go and listen to Japanese audiobooks.
Why Audiobooks Are Great
Improving your listening comprehension is one of the hardest things to do in Japanese. There are different tactics that you can use, but in the end it really comes down to spending a lot of time listening to Japanese and slowly getting better.
But the big question become, what should you listen to?
Audiobooks are a great choice for a couple of reasons. The first one is because they are, what Steve Kaufmann calls, “word dense materials.”
If you watch a Japanese show, and therefore listen to what the characters say, you will probably encounter 1500-2000 words per episode depending on how chatty they are. This usually takes a little over twenty minutes.
If you listen to an audiobook however, that same twenty minutes will expose you to 3000-4000 words. That’s because in a show, there is a lot of time devoted to things other than talking. Explosions, tense moments, people just walking through the part, etc.
But in an audiobook, it’s just the person reading to you the entire time. This makes a big different in the amount of Japanese that you take in over the long run.
Listening to 100 hours of anime or show would probably get you about 450,000 words. Listening to 100 hours of an audiobook would probably get you about 900,000 words. That’s almost half a million more words in the same amount of time!
Of course these numbers aren’t exact and really depend on the specific shows or audiobooks, but there is not doubt that you get more words from listening to audio books.
Furthermore, the range of words is much greater in audiobooks than it is in shows. The reason is because shows are mainly focused on conversational vocabulary.
This is great if your goal is primarily focused on being able to speak well, but if your goal is to be able to read and listen to anything in Japanese and understand it, then you’re going to need a large vocabulary and books + audiobooks are the best place to get it.
In a show, the character might look shocked and then say “I can’t believe it!” but in the book the entire scene will be described to you which then exposes you to more words and different words than if you only watch a show.
Audible is perhaps the most well-known company for providing audiobooks. I think a lot of that has to do with Amazon owning them and combining their products, but I digress.
It’s probably not a surprise that they have a large collection of Japanese adiobooks on their site, but not only are they hard to get a hold of due to Japan’s digital rights laws, but you also have to pay for them!
Well, as I am sure you are aware of, most people are staying at home right now due to the craziness that is going on. A lot of companies are doing things to help people get through these difficult times, and Audible is no exception.
What they have done is made a selection of their books absolutely free for anyone to listen to!
There is a fairly sizable Japanese selection that is growing every time I revisit it. Currently they are at over 50 books and have some fantastic Japanese literature, as well as some classics that from English that have been translated into Japanese.
Such titles as The Wizard of Oz, Arabian Nights, and even the first Harry Potter book!
I don’t know how long these particular audiobooks will remain free, so be sure to check them out while you can.
It’s probably no surprise that you can sometimes find Japanese audiobooks uploaded on YouTube. There are a lot of things on that site that somebody shared that they perhaps shouldn’t have.
That being said, there are actually some situations where an author themselves have shared the audiobook version of their story so that people can enjoy it and might consider also purchasing the book.
For example, David Downie is the author of the David and Jacko series and he has had his books translated into other languages besides English. One of those languages is of course Japanese, and if you go to his YouTube channel you can see that he put it up for people to enjoy.
Here is the video now:
One strategy that you can use to find audiobooks on YouTube is to type their name into the search bar and see if you can find it.
Another strategy would be to copy and paste in any of the following words:
These are the Japanese words used for “audiobook” so you might find some new titles that seem interesting by taking this approach.
The last site that I wanted to share with you for free Japanese audiobooks is called LibriVox. This is a really cool website that is dedicated to sharing books that have entered the public domain.
What that means is that the copyright on these books has expired and now anyone can download them for free and do whatever they want with them.
This is really cool as it allows you a lot of freedom with the material if you want to share it with others, modify it, or just use it for yourself.
The only downside is that these books are pretty old. They are ones that were originally written in the 1950s or earlier, so there is a pretty good chance that some of the vocabulary will be different from modern Japanese.
Not a lot different, but something to keep in mind when listening. You would actually see a bigger difference in the book version since the kanji used would have a lot of changes, but that’s a topic for another time.
What Are You Going To Listen To?
Getting your hands on good Japanese materials can be tricky sometimes, so I hope that this post has been helpful in getting you some good listening materials.
Be sure to check out each site and look for something that genuinely interests you so that it captures your attention while listening.
Another good tip would be to get a copy of the book (digital or physical) so that you can actually see the words that you are hearing which will allow you to easily look up and new words or phrases.
That being said, I’d like to hear from you now!
Do you know of any other good sites to get audiobooks from? Which story are you going to listen to first? Thanks!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: