I have been learning Japanese for over 2 years now, but have great difficulty with listening.
My reading, grammar, and vocabulary skills are quite good, but I really, REALLY struggle with listening.
I know that in order to fix this, I need to do more listening practice, but I currently do this everyday. Whenever I listen to a new JapanesePod101 podcast, I only catch about 20% of the dialogue the first time through, which means I generally have no idea what is being spoken about.
I think everyone struggles with listening especially at native speeds just keep trying to listen to different kinds of Japanese media as often as you can. Try listening to the native speed part of the dialogues twice instead of just once before progressing to the slower version of the dialogues and see if you can catch more.
Listening is difficult. You need to do it at the speakers speed and you also need a large vocabulary. You need to be able to process different voices and ways of speaking. (even in English I can have difficulty with accents and it's my native language!)
Of reading, writing, speaking and listening I think it's the most difficult. It also gets neglected in favour of written work because that is easier to access in many ways.
I count myself lucky if I get 60% of what is being said to me. And it takes a LOT of concentration.
What I found helped me was talking to a native speaker. Although an hour or so is about my limit for "Japanese only".
If you don't have anyone local, you can use Skype to talk with someone living in Japan.
If they are good they can drop the level of their speech to nearer your level. They can repeat things and rephrase things. The topic can be something you know about and have a vocabulary for.
It's a slow process but eventually your ear will start to tune in to Japanese sounds and pick out the phrases you do know.
Part of listening skills with a second language is "getting enough". You don't have to understand everything, as long as you can pick out what you need. (Of course, understanding everything is better)
Another thing that can help with listening is Shadowing. This is where you repeat sentences in a recording. The ideal is to be able to do it in time with the recording. In early stages you'd use a transcript to help you understand. Although primarily an exercise in speaking, it helps train you to hold and process larger chunks of Japanese at one time. When I started single words were difficult, now I can often speak back sentences.
www.iknow.co.jp a site mentioned here recently, has an interesting dictation feature you might also find very useful. You type in a sentence that is spoken to you. It then highlights what you've gotten wrong and you try again. You get three tries in about 30 seconds or so. And it rates you, although not knowing it's criteria I can't say how accurate it is.
Listening to Japanese TV news magazine shows is good because an awful lot is subtitled, about half the screen is taken up with text. Or if you can get DVDs from Japan you can listen with the Japanese subtitles turned on. It's easier if you already know the plot or have watched it in English already. A single scene is probably enough to start with.
Belton wrote:Another thing that can help with listening is Shadowing. This is where you repeat sentences in a recording. The ideal is to be able to do it in time with the recording. In early stages you'd use a transcript to help you understand. Although primarily an exercise in speaking, it helps train you to hold and process larger chunks of Japanese at one time. When I started single words were difficult, now I can often speak back sentences.
I was going to mention this. If you put the dialogue only tracks on your MP3 player and do about 10 minutes of shadowing a day (or as much as you want over that), it'll become very easy to understand the words and structures when you hear them in other lessons as well.
It should help you get to that stage where you can break down sentences you're listening to and realise what words you do and don't know, rather than just getting lost completely. Other advantages it has are the effects on your pronunciation, intonation, and ability to reproduce the words/structures in conversation.
my suggestion is start speaking more. You say you know the vocab and grammar but still are having a hard time keeping up....I'm putting that into the category of your brain is still not accustom to japanese sentence flow/patterns
when I started learning japanese, i didn't have a clue what was being said, but through contexts/enviorments and picking up what little I could understand, you start to get the hang of it and almost guess what will be said. you build a base for understanding things, and then build from it.
find something you have an interest in, like maybe a tv program, and start watchin that on a regular basis. then after getting that listening practice, you need to start speakin more and at a faster rate. I personally think japanesepod goes a bit slower for the learning purpose even in the upper levels, but when it's just sort of free talkin or the upper intermediate, it starts getting into the normal pace to faster. Start repeating what they say, but make sure you're saying it at the same pace, perhaps try going a bit faster. You need to be able to comprehend it as well though, don't just start memorizing a text then seeing how fast you can say it. After 10 times of saying the same thing, preferably less, switch to a different text, because at that point you're not thinking about what your saying anymore.
your problem also might lie in the neccesatiy to understand as well. if you don't absolutely need to understand quickly what is being said, or have to being able to speak at a close to native pace, your brain might be jamming up your process. like one of the previous posters mentioned about skype or talking online, perhaps find someone that is willing to have a view converstations with you/be your conversation partner. and restrict your engllish speaking.
hopefully some of the things posted here help you out. good luck with your studies and enjoy it.