You possibly can’t construct a powerful language basis with out dedicating time to all 4 of the fundamental abilities — studying, writing, talking and listening. However a few of these abilities are admittedly tougher to observe by yourself. In my view, the toughest to observe is listening comprehension. Japanese is among the many quickest spoken languages on the earth, and discovering content material that is suited to your stage with out feeling intimidating will be daunting. Fortunately, the big range of podcasts for Japanese learners have made this course of just a little bit simpler.
JapanesePod101.com is one such podcast for Japanese language learners with a really huge archive. Because it launched in 2005, they’ve created a complete ecosystem of language-learning podcasts and movies, an internet site with language instruments, observe workout routines, and extra; all accessible through subscription on plenty of totally different platforms. With the again catalog, there’s just a little one thing for everybody, although navigating the library will be complicated.
What units JapanesePod101.com other than the competitors is the format. Fairly than simply casual chatting, episodes of JapanesePod101.com are structured like textbook classes, with a scripted dialogue, vocabulary, grammar factors, and extra. Nevertheless, in contrast to different textbook audio assets, JapanesePod101.com is not an all-in-one answer to learning just like the advertising makes it appear, and is greatest suited as an audio complement to an already-established plan of research. Moreover, with three totally different subscription tiers known as “Primary,” “Premium,” and “Premium PLUS,” all with barely totally different options, and the fixed push to improve, even choosing the right plan will be complicated.
On this article, I will speak in regards to the construction of the programs and the teachings themselves, the hosts and voice actors, in addition to the bonus content material and options accessible on their web site so you’ll be able to resolve if JapanesePod101.com is best for you.
JapanesePod101.com is a Japanese language studying podcast that since its launch in 2005 has grown to not solely a whole lot of hours of audio content material, however movies, and a variety of different language-learning instruments accessible on their web site. Via a mother or father firm, they’ve additionally branched out into dozens of different languages and have continued to develop and refine the product. In 2017 they restructured all their classes, new streamlined lesson plans had been launched again in 2019, and in 2020 they added a brand new voice recording instrument to the web site.
JapanesePod101.com was based on the concept talking lies on the coronary heart of any language. With this in thoughts, they use the podcast format to supply listening comprehension and talking observe by means of call-and-response sections that encourage you to repeat phrases aloud, and a voice recording instrument on their web site.
Whereas the content material on their website is wide-ranging, on this article I will be concentrating on the podcasts which might be the namesake and major focus of JapanesePod101.com.
How the Episodes are Organized
Constantly publishing new content material for over fifteen years has led to a ton of episodes, but it surely’s not at all times really easy to search out what you are on the lookout for. Let’s check out how the episodes are organized so you do not get misplaced!
Classes are grouped into 5 issue ranges starting from “Absolute Newbie,” which caters in direction of JLPT N5 learners, as much as “Superior,” which is fitted to N2 learners. Sure collection, notably the principle ones equivalent to “Decrease Intermediate,” are sometimes damaged down additional into totally different “seasons.” There are additionally collection that cowl extra specialised subjects equivalent to 四字熟語 or yojijukugo, four-character idioms.
I’ve stated it earlier than, but it surely bears repeating: the library is huge. Most seasons are hours lengthy. For instance, getting by means of all six seasons of the “Decrease Intermediate” collection will take you over forty hours to finish.
Via the web site and the app you’ll be able to type classes alphabetically, by most up-to-date, or by hottest; or filter to indicate solely audio, solely video; or convey up episodes which might be a mixture of classes equivalent to dialog, studying and writing, vocabulary, grammar, and even tradition. Moreover, there’s the “basic” mode button, which reveals classes organized in response to their authentic checklist order earlier than the 2017 reorganization — extra on that quickly! It is actually a bit complicated, however you need not fear about it an excessive amount of. I will discuss this later, however most learners can be simply wonderful leaping proper into their new curated pathway tailor-made to your stage. You will discover them featured on the highest of the web page as “Your Really useful Pathway.”
Whereas the filtering controls are good, they are not excellent. For instance, I would love to have the ability to filter or seek for episodes with particular hosts, because the host performs an enormous half within the high quality of the episode. Additionally, most collection are tagged with the identical classes, so filtering does not actually assist slender down your selections. Lastly, there is no choice to filter by manufacturing date — except for sorting by latest, and the basic mode toggle — and most of the earliest collection are beginning to present their age.
You Might Run Into the Identical Content material (Over and Over)
As I discussed earlier, regardless of the format of JapanesePod101.com’s episodes matching a textbook, it isn’t fairly as full or direct a studying technique. One instance of that is how subjects do not fairly cumulatively construct on each other, however as a substitute are typically repeated, both with overlapping or an identical subjects, or episodes repeating in several playlists.
Since classes can seem in a number of playlists, clicking on a lesson will present you which ones playlists the episode belongs to, like a collection of tags. For instance, an episode known as “Who’s That Japanese Particular person?” which focuses on noun-modifying clauses, also referred to as relative clauses, is a part of “Stage 3 Japanese,” the curated pathway for the Intermediate stage, in addition to “JLPT N4 Really useful Course,” “Decrease Intermediate Collection, Season 6,” and “The Path to Superior Japanese,” amongst others. Noun-modifying clauses is a fairly widespread idea, and you will doubtless run into this identical episode again and again somewhere else on JapanesePod101.com.
Past classes showing in a number of locations, totally different collection will generally cowl the identical grammar factors. That is an intentional characteristic moderately than an oversight, because it’s meant to assist reinforce your understanding, or deepen it by means of added nuance, nonetheless it is one thing to notice. JapanesePod101.com does not have the linear construction of a language textbook that is meant to construct on the information of earlier classes. Typically the teachings in a collection do construct on one-another, however the identical ideas could be lined in different collection in a while. Moreover, the main target is on newbie to intermediate-level Japanese learners, which contributes to the repetitiveness. JapanesePod101.com will not be a textbook substitute, however extra of a large library of supplementary audio content material. So long as you are clear about what you are signing up for, it may be a invaluable useful resource.
Reorganization and New Pathways
JapanesePod101.com has a status for being tough to navigate, a cost they’re nicely conscious of. Over the previous few years, they’ve made strides to appropriate this, reorganizing all the teachings, after which creating new curated pathways for his or her “Absolute Newbie” by means of “Superior” ranges.
These new studying pathways aren’t merely new playlists, however as a substitute are redesigned and considerate programs, with quizzes and assignments for anybody within the premium subscription tier or above. By nature, podcasts are sometimes meant to absorb moderately than being interactive, that means they’re all about enter and do not essentially immediate any output. With none means to place what you have been studying into observe, it is exhausting to gauge how efficient the method is. By including a proper technique for analysis, JapanesePod101.com places the facility within the fingers of the learner to judge any weak factors and reinforce what it’s essential evaluation. Their tutoring service, which I will discuss in a later part, displays the identical purpose at autonomy.
For many college students, each newcomers and veterans of JapanesePod101.com, moderately than the outdated playlists, these new pathways like “Stage 3 Japanese” are going to be what you need. Should you encounter a lesson or subject in a collection that you simply’d wish to discover additional, you’ll be able to try different associated collection for a deeper dive.
You will discover these new pathways featured as “Your Really useful Pathway” on the high of the Lesson Library web page, so ensure that to decide on this until you are on the lookout for a deep-dive on a particular subject on JapanesePod101.com.
A Typical Episode
Now that we have talked a bit about how the location is organized, let’s check out what a typical JapanesePod101.com lesson is like. Whereas there are some classes with extra particular goals, generally they comply with the same format, and all are typically round 15-20 minutes lengthy, which makes it simple to search out time to fit them into your day.
Like I discussed, that is fairly a special format from many of the standard Japanese language studying podcasts. In my expertise, podcasts are likely to give attention to immersion, with native audio system chatting or following a script they’ve written. Typically, they restrict the grammar or vocabulary they use to make listening simpler for newbie Japanese learners. JapanesePod101.com, alternatively, is way nearer to the form of lesson you may discover in a newbie textbook like Genki — with a rigorously structured pedagogy protecting a scripted dialogue, then introducing vocabulary, and eventually grammar.
Episodes open with the hosts giving the title of the episode, and establishing the situation for the dialogue that follows. They clarify not solely the state of affairs, however what number of audio system there can be and who they’re, in addition to the formality stage of the Japanese spoken. That is useful, as as a substitute of attempting to spend the primary bit merely parsing who the audio system are and what the state of affairs is, you’ll be able to give attention to what’s being stated and the language used.
Subsequent is the dialogue itself, carried out by actors moderately than the hosts. These ought to be acquainted to college students who labored by means of a textbook collection equivalent to Genki, although in fact in JapanesePod101.com, the principle focus is on the audio (a replica of the script and a few notes are additionally included, each on the web site and on the app; extra on this later). The dialogues are typically a bit over-dramatic in an try to be goofy, however the audio high quality is absolutely clear, and I am not embarrassed to say they’ve made me chuckle now and again. The dialogue is performed at pure pace first, after which with an English translation following every line. A number of the lower-level collection additionally embrace a model with slower Japanese, when you’re having bother understanding the full-speed model, however the higher-level collection depart this out.
3. Dialogue Dialogue
After this, the hosts return for a little bit of a chat in regards to the dialogue, giving listeners much more listening observe. Whereas hosts will sometimes provide an English translation for a vocabulary phrase right here and there, that is typically all in Japanese, so you need to be in your sport to comply with alongside.
Subsequent, they go over the vocabulary. They choose key phrases from the dialogue, present the studying, a definition or two, and infrequently even cowl pitch accent. They transcend simply studying a easy checklist, nonetheless. After the overview, they leap right into a extra in-depth look, which could cowl how the phrase is used, or the way it’s differentiated from related phrases.
Subsequent, the hosts transfer into grammar. Every lesson goals to cowl a definite grammar level, from one thing as broad because the causative type, to a single particular expression. They offer examples from the dialogue in addition to new examples as an example nuance. Whereas the reasons aren’t fairly as in-depth as one thing like A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar, they’re greater than sufficient to offer you an understanding of the utilization throughout a couple of eventualities. The hosts additionally are likely to ask one another impromptu questions, offering much more element.
Lastly, there is a little bit of a wrap-up part, the place the hosts may joke round or chat a bit extra earlier than enjoying the dialogue yet another time. I actually recognize this facet, as having gone over all of the vocabulary and grammar could make it much more understandable the second time round, which in flip makes it significantly better research materials.
It would sound just a little boring having most episodes comply with this basic format, however I feel the consistency makes it simpler learning, and that is what makes JapanesePod101.com particular.
Various Hosts and Actors
Now that you realize a bit about how most episodes movement, let’s discuss who you may be listening to. JapanesePod101.com has a large pool of hosts and actors, and every season has a few devoted hosts that seem in each episode. So whereas each episode of Decrease Intermediate Season 6 could have the identical hosts, they are not essentially the identical hosts from the remainder of Decrease Intermediate. Whereas everybody on employees speaks Japanese, collection are likely to have at the very least two hosts, with one being a local English speaker, and one being a local Japanese speaker enjoying the function of the trainer. A number of the native Japanese audio system solely communicate restricted English, which is nice for observe, however that additionally means leaning on the English speaker to assist make clear among the extra complicated factors.
The native English-speaking employees additionally range of their Japanese means. Everybody does an excellent job speaking, however sometimes an accent could make comprehension a bit tough, just like the Scottish Kat, or New Yorker Peter (who incessantly jokes in regards to the high quality of his Japanese speech). Different English-native hosts, like Chris, talk so successfully in Japanese that it lifts the standard of the entire episode.
You will doubtless develop your individual private preferences for who you want listening to probably the most.
Even so, there is a huge variance, and like anything you may doubtless develop your individual private preferences for who you want listening to probably the most. This generally is a good or a foul factor, as generally an episode or collection you wish to hearken to has a bunch you won’t like. Likewise, with the brand new studying pathways, the hosts change very incessantly relying on the place the episodes had been pulled from — this manner, you are hardly ever caught with anybody you do not want, however you’ll be able to’t fairly settle into the host’s rapport as nicely.
Personally, I grew to essentially like listening to Naomi, one of many native Japanese audio system who acts as trainer and host for most of the episodes. She does an amazing job explaining ideas and writes many of the dialogues, so she will clarify a few of her reasoning or present extra nuance if want be.
The dialogue actors handle to maintain issues entertaining but simple to know.
The dialogue actors additionally handle to maintain issues entertaining but simple to know. Like I discussed earlier, the script writing and efficiency tends towards goofy or over-dramatic moderately than too critical, but when something the heightened emotion could make the narrative simpler to grasp. Some collection have narratives that proceed throughout the complete season, or at the very least recurring characters. Actors change roles between collection although, so somebody who may’ve been an trade scholar in a single season may develop into a trainer within the subsequent.
The dialogues aren’t restricted to the voice performing, both. They could have sound results or background audio when relevant, which makes them sound a bit extra pure than simply one thing learn in a sterile studio. The goofy or tacky tone could be a little bit of an adjustment in comparison with the extra straight-laced tone of the Genki dialogues, for instance, however when you get used to it, I feel you may have few complaints with the audio.
Bonus Content material
In fact, JapanesePod101.com is not solely audio. There’s a variety of various PDFs, from full transcripts to remoted explanations of the grammar lined in an episode, which you’ll be able to entry on each the app and web site. Through the years JapanesePod101.com has added plenty of new instruments and assets to the location, equivalent to flashcards, and even a tutoring service. Let’s check out what options JapanesePod101.com presents past the audio episodes.
Full Transcripts and Grammar Explanations
Every episode additionally has accompanying textual content both embedded on the web site or PDF obtain accessible on the web site or the app. The dialogue is transcribed, and on the web site you’ll be able to play every line individually, or observe talking with the voice recorder instrument in case your subscription permits. Equally, vocabulary is listed with check-boxes that allow you to add phrases to a “wordbank” for additional evaluation (once more, relying in your subscription tier).
Subsequent is the grammar rationalization, which is once more similar to a textbook format. They clarify a grammar level, checklist sentences from the dialogue and outdoors examples, and break down components like conjugation, particles, or use. There’s additionally a listing of references, so you’ll be able to refer again to earlier episodes for a extra detailed evaluation of sure ideas.
Lastly, there is a full transcript of the episode that extends even to the hosts’ chatting, do you have to wish to comply with alongside. I discovered this to be a good way to evaluation the extra pure, unscripted Japanese because the hosts are talking offhand, or to substantiate what I would heard. Whereas the main target is clearly on the audio, having the whole lot accessible in writing to comply with together with concurrently is a large profit. Past this, the utterly distinctive grammar write-up separate from the grammar rationalization within the episode or transcript makes JapanesePod101.com a really complete useful resource.
Along with audio and textual content, JapanesePod101.com additionally has a big video catalog. Along with what’s accessible on their web site (filterable and categorized in their very own collection), there’s additionally a considerable YouTube channel, which I wrote about for our Japanese Grammar YouTube Channels for Newcomers article.
These movies cowl lots of totally different subjects, from tradition, to detailed grammar explanations, to easy vocabulary lists. The standard is often excessive, with glorious graphics that complement live-action recordings. Sadly, the movies really feel like one thing of an afterthought. They don’t seem to be included in any of the revised pathways from what I can inform, which could let you know a bit about their superfluous nature. Whereas they’re good to have, and among the cultural movies will be particularly fascinating, it is actually extra of an add-in than a significant a part of the expertise.
Relying in your subscription tier, there are a variety of instruments on the web site to make JapanesePod101.com extra of an interactive studying expertise. I just like the idea behind many of those instruments — discovering methods to extend participation in podcasts, that are often extra of a passive studying technique. Nevertheless, whereas it is a value purpose, most of the instruments have notable downsides, so learn on earlier than you spring for one of many higher-tier subscription plans.
Before everything is the line-by-line audio and audio recorder, which you may hear the hosts promote on many episodes. This lets you play again particular person strains from the dialogue, in addition to file your individual voice repeating these strains to verify in opposition to. It is a pretty simple characteristic, and works nicely. Nevertheless, because the dialogues are typically dramatic or goofy, JapanesePod101.com does not at all times make the perfect shadowing materials in my guide. Should you simply observe mimicking what you hear, you’d in all probability find yourself sounding fairly bizarre. As an alternative, it may be an excellent useful resource primarily for training studying aloud.
Wordbank and Flashcards
Then there’s the wordbank. That is merely a listing of phrases you have chosen from the vocabulary from numerous classes. You possibly can type them into totally different teams, they usually’re listed with their studying, an audio studying of the file, and a definition, however no context from the sentences within the dialogue, and never a lot else you are able to do with them except for sending them to JapanesePod101.com’s flashcard system. This could be helpful when you needed to easily to look by means of each as soon as and some time as a refresher, however I did not find yourself utilizing it a lot.
Talking of flashcards, let’s discuss their flashcard system. JapanesePod101.com has an enormous checklist of various flashcard decks you’ll be able to research from. They vary from themed decks like “Japanese Phrases to Use When You are Offended,” to customized lists from a dictionary or your wordbank, to frequency lists equivalent to the commonest 100 or 2000 Japanese phrases.
Actually, the flashcards are a really related system to many different flashcard apps. It is good that they are all set, so you do not have to fiddle with formatting or settings, they usually all embrace audio from what I can inform. In fact, there’s rather a lot much less flexibility with one thing like this in comparison with one other system like Anki, with solely a “Appropriate” or “Incorrect” button to regulate how lengthy till you are proven the flashcard once more. Moreover, the flashcards solely appear to be accessible on the web site, and never by means of the app, which makes reviewing them much more restricted. If you would like to drill flashcards, and are keen to take care of the restrictions in trade for the benefit of use, this could be an excellent choice for you.
There are additionally quizzes to place what you have been studying to the check in a approach in contrast to every other language podcast. Some quizzes are a part of their built-in tutoring service, which I will speak extra about within the subsequent part. It is a welcome boost, as with out one thing to verify your progress, I feel it might be simple to persuade your self you have realized a subject lined merely since you’ve listened and understood a lesson. This manner, you’ll be able to ensure you fill in any potential gaps.
All the way in which within the highest tier, Premium Plus, JapanesePod101.com presents its greatest characteristic: My Trainer, which guarantees private tutoring to fit your schedule. Nevertheless, like a lot of JapanesePod101.com, the truth is not fairly as rosy because the advertising.
The “My Trainer” characteristic is the aim of the Premium Plus subscription tier, and when you enroll, you are given entry to a level-assessment check to assist personalize your expertise. The check is fairly fast, with a couple of questions in several classes that cowl numerous language domains, equivalent to vocabulary, grammar, studying, listening, and writing. It took me a few half hour to finish, at which level I used to be given an instantaneous grade primarily based on my outcomes, with a confirmed grade through e-mail checked by a trainer.
Private tutoring is carried out through a textual content messaging web page the place a trainer offers suggestions and corrections.
After this, you are assigned a trainer, and despatched a PDF outlining how JapanesePod101.com intends for this characteristic to work. As you may need been in a position to inform, this educating expertise is not fairly the identical as a lesson over Zoom. As an alternative, the vast majority of the expertise is carried out through a textual content messaging web page the place you’ll be able to ship textual content, audio, movies, and footage to a trainer, who will present suggestions and corrections primarily based in your conversations, just like the corrections finished in a language trade app like HelloTalk.
The intent right here is that the trainer can present an much more personalised advice on related podcast episodes and movies from the JapanesePod101.com archive, after which complement your studying with assessments (typically quizzes just like the type you may discover in an app like Duolingo), particular person assignments (like the primary project you are given upon signing up, being requested to jot down and file a self-introduction), and answering your questions on the fly as they arrive up.
There’s lots of worth find a trainer to assist along with your research, however I would not suggest this specific service.
As I discussed in my HelloTalk evaluation, I feel it is good to have the ability to get corrections and ask questions from a trainer you’ll be able to belief, however with none form of formal one-on-one lesson, it is solely helpful to an extent. Actually, half the expertise appears to be form of a concierge to the JapanesePod101.com program. And with the worth ranging between $23 a month all the way in which as much as $47 a month primarily based on how lengthy you subscribe, I feel your cash is greatest spent elsewhere.
I do consider there’s lots of worth find a trainer to assist along with your research, however I would not suggest this specific service. As an alternative, try my article on discovering a Japanese trainer for another choices.
The Unhealthy: Complicated Group and Worth Construction
Whereas JapanesePod101.com has rather a lot to supply Japanese learners, it isn’t all roses. I feel the primary downside customers will encounter is that it is difficult. There’s simply an enormous variety of episodes and collection, and even with the revised pathways it is easy to get misplaced. The web site does not provide a lot in the way in which of steering both, with the connection between parts just like the episodes themselves, the wordbank, and the flashcards a bit obtuse.
Even the subscription plans are complicated, and in a approach that feels deliberately deceptive. Customers are inspired to improve their subscription tier at seemingly each flip, and costs range primarily based on the length of your subscription. For instance, the best tier subscription, Premium PLUS (which presents the tutoring service), is listed as $23 a month, however provided that you join a two-year plan. Past this it jumps all the way in which as much as $47 a month for a month-to-month plan. You actually need to know what it’s you wish to buy and the way lengthy you propose to make use of it, in any other case it is easy to make a mistake.
Even merely signing up for an account on the web site is a problem, with a number of prompts to improve your account earlier than you even get an opportunity to strive it out. Their aggressive advertising method on high of this complicated pricing construction can really feel underhanded, and is an enormous turn-off for me.
Moreover, many of the added options unlocked within the larger tiers actually do not add a lot to the expertise or support you within the studying course of any greater than listen-in classes. Other than maybe prompting you to be extra diligent in your research, JapanesePod101.com will not be the all-in-one Japanese studying useful resource they make it out to be, and actually not a textbook substitute both. As an alternative, it is a huge library of high-quality audio classes, with some notable limitations.
General, JapanesePod101.com is an effective useful resource, but it surely’s not the one-stop-shop it makes itself out to be. I feel for a sure sort of scholar, one who’s already learning from a major textbook below the steering of a trainer, it is an amazing supplemental useful resource, although you need to know what you are on the lookout for and the way you propose to make use of it. Having stated that, JapanesePod101.com stands other than many different Japanese language-learning podcasts, working extra like a textbook in audio type, albeit an especially lengthy one. JapanesePod101.com’s greatest content material is fairly good, however lots of it does not keep a excessive customary.
Personally, I’ve loved listening to JapanesePod101.com in instances when it might be in any other case tough to review, equivalent to whereas strolling my canine, doing my laundry, or going for a run, and in conditions the place I wish to work on my listening comprehension with out having to focus as intently as I do whereas immersing. For this, I feel the fundamental plan (which is $6 a month or much less, relying on how lengthy you pay prematurely) ought to cowl most college students. The subsequent tier will get you instruments like quizzes, the voice recorder, and flashcards, and the ultimate tier provides tutoring, however I feel for many college students that cash is greatest spent elsewhere. At $6/month, you are gaining access to a really large library of audio content material; actually, if something, an excessive amount of.
JapanesePod101.com has rather a lot to supply the Japanese learner, however the expertise is marred by lots of bloat and confusion. For learners with some spare time of their day on the lookout for an enormous library of grammar classes accessible anyplace, there’s lots of worth available, however sadly little or no of the extra content material is value your cash. Nonetheless, it’s discovered a spot as a part of my research habits, and one thing I come again to now and again. Should you’re the kind of scholar that JapanesePod101.com is fitted to, I feel you’ll get pleasure from it; simply don’t count on to develop into fluent by means of it alone.