Ear training

Most days I listen to online radio stations in a variety of languages – at the moment I listen mainly to Scottish Gaelic, Irish and Welsh, and also to French and Czech, and occasionally to Mandarin and Cantonese. This keeps these languages ticking over in my head, and helps me learn more of them. With the exception of Czech and Cantonese, I can understand them all well, or at least fairly well, and can often guess the meanings of unknown words from the context. Even with Czech and Cantonese, which I don’t know as well, I have a basic idea of what they’re talking about.

Yesterday I decided to listen to some Japanese and fired up the radio player on NHK, the Japanese national broadcaster. To my surprise what came out of the speakers was first Spanish, then Indonesian, Vietnamese and Burmese. I checked the website and discovered that they cycle through 17 different languages in their international broadcasts. In each language they have news from Japan and around the world, and it’s possible to get some idea of the stories they’re covering even in completely unfamiliar languages from the names of places, people, countries.

So if you feel in need of a good linguistic workout, have a listen to NHK World or a similar multilingual radio station. Also, after listening to languages you haven’t got round to learning yet, the ones you’re studying will seem much easier to understand.

This entry was posted in Japanese, Language, Language learning.

12 Responses to Ear training

  1. Jurčík says:

    Why you don’t understand Czech? It’s the easiest language in all the world!
    Excuse me I made a mistake, not in all the world, but universe 🙂

  2. Simon says:

    Jane – rozumím trochu česky, ale mluvím špatně.

  3. André says:

    SBS News Australia’s radio programs also have broadcasts in an extensive amount of languages, and the programs can be downloaded.. at least for me here in australia…

  4. Jurčík says:

    If you want to help with Czech-let me know.

  5. Yuko K says:

    I’m really glad that you found Japanese NHK website really useful.
    I also like NHK’s educational language programs on TV and the radio
    and listen them almost every day.
    Here is the information of the website which covers all the programs on NHK.
    It might be too easy for you but I hope you will enjoy it!


  6. d.m.falk says:

    There should really be an effort to include live (online) radio stations (or on-demand programs) in their respective languages (website and stream, if applicable) whenever possible (and if known, for that language). For example, for Irish Gaelic, BBC Radio Foyle, RTE Raidio na Gaeltachta and Raidio Ri-Ra, and for Welsh, BBC Radio Cymru. (For Navaho, there’s KTNN, and for Inuktitut, there’s CBC Radio One, Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada.)


  7. Kevin says:

    I too enjoy listening to live streaming radio in different languages but — for all that NHK World Radio is to be congratulated for making programmes available in so many foreign languages — why can’t I listen to NHK’s *domestic* radio services on line? It seems incredible to me that the public-service broadcaster of such an “electronically connected” country as Japan doesn’t make its radio services available on line (I don’t know of any other advanced country where this is the case). Or have I just been unable to find them? I think not, because I wrote to NHK about a year ago about this and all they could offer me was links to their World Radio output.

  8. Simon says:

    Kevin – you can listen to NHK news in Japanese at: http://www.nhk.or.jp/r-news/

  9. d.m.falk says:

    Kevin: There are only a couple dozen broadcast radio stations in all of Japan that even have live streaming, so it isn’t just NHK that doesn’t stream its domestic radio programs live, and the reason may surprise you: JASRAC, the copyright clearinghouse that’s Japan’s equivalent to America’s ASCAP & BMI, have an unusually tight control on whether broadcast content (TV or radio) can even be on the Internet, and consider it an entirely separate medium. Having a broadcast license doesn’t automatically mean they have the right to stream online. Most of the rest of any live online streams coming from Japan are either created specifically for internet streaming or it’s personal internet broadcasters a la Shoutcast, through Livedoor.com’s “Ladio” system.

    NHK World also has a streaming TV channel, but it’s in English only.

  10. Kevin says:

    d.m.f: Many thanks for that explanation.

    What a curious situation though! So are computer users even in Japan compelled to have a separate radio set switched on if they want to be able — while browsing the net, say — to listen to NHK radio services they have paid for via their licence fees?

    I’ve just had a pleasant couple of hours listening, while doing other things on my computer, to Czech and Greek public radio stations …understanding only a very tiny amount of course, but it all helps to build up the ear’s familiarity with a language. Such a pity one can’t do the same for Japanese — except for the news (and thanks for the link, Simon), but sometimes what one wants to be able to do is simply listen to ordinary people talking.

  11. Cham says:

    I used to do a similar exercise with Vatican Radio, who report and give the days’ prayer in a number of languages.

  12. d.m.falk says:

    Kevin: Yep. Same thing with the other (commercial) radio networks in Japan, sadly. It’s so VERY different from, say, South Korea, China, even the BBC in the UK and CBC in Canada, or Radio France (I listen to France Bleu as I’m typing this) or the Dutch Omroep.NL (all the national channels EXCEPT Radio Netherlands), or RTE in Ireland, or RNE in Spain (and EIRB in the Basque Country, as well as CatRadio in Catalunia), or any of the Swiss public stations (including Radio Romansche.)

    But not Japan. 🙁

    And yes, CRo in the Czech Republic is very good, and it’s been a while since I’ve listentd to ERA from Greece.

    Most of the ones I mention have their own apps for the iPhone/iPod touch, which I use– Including CRo. (THAT’S the way to do a radio app, I say!)


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