How to Watch Japanese Dubs on Netflix to Practice Listening Comprehension

Even though I’m still a beginner, I like to practice my listening comprehension as much as possible. One of my favorite things to do is watch Japanese television; it’s great for when I don’t feel like actively studying but still want to expose myself to the language. A lot of people caution against watching anime for pronunciation (because the acting isn’t natural) or vocabulary (since the subject matter is often fantasy or sci-fi), but I like to watch it anyway — keeping all that in mind.

I do have anime shows I keep up with for fun, but practicing with the subtitles on is not as useful, and I’ve found being too invested in the story detracts from the listening part. So if I’m watching the show for exposure or study time, I watch without subtitles and choose shows I’ve either already seen or am not heavily invested in. I’ve also found that shows rated Y7 are best for my level, but I’ll watch pretty much anything; it’s all about input, and that’s the secret to fluency, according to polyglot Luca Lampariello.

A friend of mine who studied Chinese also suggested that I watch television shows in English with Japanese subtitles on. She said this was super helpful when she was learning Chinese to get used to reading the characters.

Because Netflix has a good selection of anime and other Japanese television, I decided to make a profile exclusively for studying to keep our watch lists clean and organized. I was adding shows and movies that were either in English with Japanese subtitles or had Japanese audio to my Netflix watch list when I made the most exciting discovery:

Many Netflix Originals have a Japanese dub.

I felt like I won the lottery** and I’ve been watching shows in Japanese ever since. 楽しいです!

The sound being out of sync from the lips is a bit distracting since I often watch people’s mouths as they talk (this helps me understand them, though I’m not sure why), but you eventually get used to it. It’s also not as distracting if you’re watching dubbed cartoons for kids, which as I said before, I highly recommend.

You can change the audio in each individual show, but I found that you can change the default language for each profile. This was a more efficient way to check if a selection had a Japanese dub because the preview will play in your default audio. If the preview plays in English, I know right away to move to the next one instead of having to open it and check the settings for Japanese audio manually.

Change the preferred audio on your Netflix profile

To change the preferred audio language on your Netflix profile, sign in to your account on a computer and follow the steps below:

  1. Click the profile photo in the upper right corner of your Netflix screen.
  2. Select Account.
  3. Scroll down to find the Profile & Parent Controls section.
  4. Click the down arrow next to the profile you’d like to update.
  5. Click Change next to Language.
  6. Scroll down to Shows & Movie Language. You can also change the Display Language selection in the section above this, but that will change your menus as well. I’m not advanced enough to do that yet, but if you are, go for it!
  7. Check the box next to 日本語。Your Display Language will automatically be selected (and cannot be deselected) in this section.
  8. Click the Save button at the bottom left.
Screenshot of Netflix language options taken by author

**When I tried to watch last night, all of the shows I added to my list the night before were missing the Japanese dub option. I thought I had mistakenly added a couple movies, but when every single thing on my list was missing the Japanese selection, I suspected something was up. A quick Google search showed that the Japanese audio disappearing had been a bug back in 2018, and Netflix had it fixed pretty quickly. I thought if it had been a bug back then, it could very well be a bug again in 2021. I watched something else for maybe an hour or less and checked again. Sure enough, the Japanese dub was back. So if you’re looking for Japanese audio of Netflix Originals or Japanese shows and don’t see any, try again in a couple hours.

Have fun!

Teena Merlan