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A Overview of JapanesePod101.com


You possibly can’t construct a powerful language basis with out dedicating time to all 4 of the essential abilities — studying, writing, talking and listening. However a few of these abilities are admittedly more difficult 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 could be daunting. Fortunately, the big range of podcasts for Japanese learners have made this course of a bit bit simpler.

JapanesePod101.com is one such podcast for Japanese language learners with a very huge archive. Because it launched in 2005, they’ve created a whole ecosystem of language-learning podcasts and movies, a web site with language instruments, observe workout routines, and extra; all out there by way of subscription on a variety of totally different platforms. With the again catalog, there’s a bit one thing for everybody, although navigating the library could be complicated.

What units JapanesePod101.com aside from the competitors is the format. Reasonably 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 and marketing makes it appear, and is finest 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 selecting the correct plan could be complicated.

On this article, I will discuss concerning the construction of the programs and the teachings themselves, the hosts and voice actors, in addition to the bonus content material and options out there on their web site so you possibly can resolve if JapanesePod101.com is best for you.

What’s JapanesePod101.com?

screenshot of the dashboard showing the user's profile information and pathways

JapanesePod101.com is a Japanese language studying podcast that since its launch in 2005 has grown to not solely tons of of hours of audio content material, however movies, and a variety of different language-learning instruments out there on their web site. By a dad or mum 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 have been launched again in 2019, and in 2020 they added a brand new voice recording software to the web site.

JapanesePod101.com was based on the concept that 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 way of call-and-response sections that encourage you to repeat phrases aloud, and a voice recording software 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 are the namesake and essential focus of JapanesePod101.com.

How the Episodes are Organized

Repeatedly publishing new content material for over fifteen years has led to a ton of episodes, however it’s not all the time really easy to seek 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 the direction of JLPT N5 learners, as much as “Superior,” which is suited to N2 learners. Sure sequence, notably the primary ones comparable to “Decrease Intermediate,” are sometimes damaged down additional into totally different “seasons.” There are additionally sequence that cowl extra specialised matters comparable to 四字熟語 or yojijukugo, four-character idioms.

I’ve stated it earlier than, however it bears repeating: the library is very large. Most seasons are hours lengthy. For instance, getting by way of all six seasons of the “Decrease Intermediate” sequence will take you over forty hours to finish.

screenshot of the lesson library with the filter set to intermediate

By the web site and the app you possibly can type classes alphabetically, by most up-to-date, or by hottest; or filter to indicate solely audio, solely video; or deliver up episodes which are a mixture of classes comparable to dialog, studying and writing, vocabulary, grammar, and even tradition. Moreover, there’s the “basic” mode button, which exhibits classes organized in keeping with their unique listing order earlier than the 2017 reorganization — extra on that quickly! It is truthfully a bit complicated, however you need not fear about it an excessive amount of. I will speak about this later, however most learners can be simply effective 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 don’t seem to be excellent. For instance, I might love to have the ability to filter or seek for episodes with particular hosts, because the host performs a giant half within the high quality of the episode. Additionally, most sequence are tagged with the identical classes, so filtering would not actually assist slim down your selections. Lastly, there is no choice to filter by manufacturing date — other than sorting by current, and the basic mode toggle — and most of the earliest sequence are beginning to present their age.

You Could 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 is not fairly as full or direct a studying technique. One instance of that is how matters do not fairly cumulatively construct on each other, however as a substitute are typically repeated, both with overlapping or equivalent matters, 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 sequence of tags. For instance, an episode known as “Who’s That Japanese Particular person?” which focuses on noun-modifying clauses, often known as relative clauses, is a part of “Degree 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 may probably run into this similar episode again and again in other places on JapanesePod101.com.

screenshot of the lesson page for 'Would you Like a Japanese Gift or Not?'

Past classes showing in a number of locations, totally different sequence will typically cowl the identical grammar factors. That is an intentional characteristic relatively than an oversight, because it’s meant to assist reinforce your understanding, or deepen it by way of added nuance, nevertheless it is one thing to notice. JapanesePod101.com would 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 sequence do construct on one-another, however the identical ideas is likely to be coated in different sequence afterward. Moreover, the main focus is on newbie to intermediate-level Japanese learners, which contributes to the repetitiveness. JapanesePod101.com will not be a textbook substitute, however extra of an enormous library of supplementary audio content material. So long as you are clear about what you are signing up for, it may be a helpful useful resource.

Reorganization and New Pathways

JapanesePod101.com has a repute for being troublesome to navigate, a cost they’re effectively 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 way of “Superior” ranges.

These new studying pathways should not 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 relatively than being interactive, which means they’re all about enter and do not essentially immediate any output. With none means to place what you’ve got been studying into observe, it is onerous to gauge how efficient the method is. By including a proper technique for analysis, JapanesePod101.com places the ability within the arms of the learner to guage any weak factors and reinforce what you’ll want to evaluation. Their tutoring service, which I will speak about in a later part, displays the identical goal at autonomy.

screenshot of the pathway for Level 3 Japanese

For many college students, each newcomers and veterans of JapanesePod101.com, relatively than the outdated playlists, these new pathways like “Degree 3 Japanese” are going to be what you need. In case you bump into a lesson or subject in a sequence that you simply’d wish to discover additional, you possibly can try different associated sequence 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 be certain that to decide on this except you are on the lookout for a deep-dive on a selected subject on JapanesePod101.com.

A Typical Episode

Now that we have talked a bit about how the positioning is organized, let’s check out what a typical JapanesePod101.com lesson is like. Whereas there are some classes with extra particular goals, basically they observe an analogous format, and all are typically round 15-20 minutes lengthy, which makes it simple to seek out time to fit them into your day.

Like I discussed, that is fairly a distinct format from a lot of the standard Japanese language studying podcasts. In my expertise, podcasts are inclined to deal with 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, then again, is way nearer to the form of lesson you may discover in a newbie textbook like Genki — with a fastidiously structured pedagogy protecting a scripted dialogue, then introducing vocabulary, and eventually grammar.

1. Introduction

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 possibly can deal with what’s being stated and the language used.

2. Dialogue

Subsequent is the dialogue itself, carried out by actors relatively than the hosts. These must be acquainted to college students who labored by way of a textbook sequence comparable to Genki, although after all in JapanesePod101.com, the primary focus is on the audio (a duplicate 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 and be goofy, however the audio high quality is de facto clear, and I am not embarrassed to say they’ve made me chuckle infrequently. The dialogue is performed at pure velocity first, after which with an English translation following every line. A few of the lower-level sequence additionally embrace a model with slower Japanese, in the event you’re having hassle understanding the full-speed model, however the higher-level sequence go away this out.

3. Dialogue Dialogue

After this, the hosts return for a little bit of a chat concerning 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 usually all in Japanese, so you need to be in your recreation to observe alongside.

4. Vocabulary

screenshot of a table of vocabulary with columns for kanji, reading, meaning, and characters

Subsequent, they go over the vocabulary. They decide key phrases from the dialogue, present the studying, a definition or two, and sometimes even cowl pitch accent. They transcend simply studying a easy listing, nevertheless. After the overview, they bounce right into a extra in-depth look, which could cowl how the phrase is used, or the way it’s differentiated from related phrases.

5. Grammar

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 provide examples from the dialogue in addition to new examples as an instance 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 inclined to ask one another impromptu questions, offering much more element.

6. Wrap-Up

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 one more time. I actually admire 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 a bit boring having most episodes observe this common format, however I feel the consistency makes it more practical learning, and that is what makes JapanesePod101.com particular.

Various Hosts and Actors

Now that a bit about how most episodes move, let’s speak about who you will 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 may have the identical hosts, they don’t seem to be essentially the identical hosts from the remainder of Decrease Intermediate. Whereas everybody on employees speaks Japanese, sequence are inclined to have at the very least two hosts, with one being a local English speaker, and one being a local Japanese speaker enjoying the position of the instructor. A few of the native Japanese audio system solely converse 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 fluctuate of their Japanese means. Everybody does a very good job speaking, however sometimes an accent could make comprehension a bit troublesome, just like the Scottish Kat, or New Yorker Peter (who often jokes concerning 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 probably develop your individual private preferences for who you want listening to essentially the most.

Even so, there is a extensive variance, and like the rest you will probably develop your individual private preferences for who you want listening to essentially the most. This is usually a good or a foul factor, as typically an episode or sequence you need to take heed to has a number you may not like. Likewise, with the brand new studying pathways, the hosts change very often relying on the place the episodes have been pulled from — this fashion, you are not often caught with anybody you do not desire, however you possibly can’t fairly settle into the host’s rapport as effectively.

Personally, I grew to actually like listening to Naomi, one of many native Japanese audio system who acts as instructor and host for most of the episodes. She does an amazing job explaining ideas and writes a lot of the dialogues, so she will be able to 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 relatively than too critical, but when something the heightened emotion could make the narrative simpler to understand. Some sequence have narratives that proceed throughout the complete season, or at the very least recurring characters. Actors change roles between sequence although, so somebody who may’ve been an trade pupil in a single season might turn into a instructor within the subsequent.

The dialogues aren’t restricted to the voice appearing, both. They may 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 is likely to 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 will have few complaints with the audio.

Bonus Content material

After all, JapanesePod101.com is not solely audio. There’s a variety of various PDFs, from full transcripts to remoted explanations of the grammar coated in an episode, which you’ll be able to entry on each the app and web site. Over time JapanesePod101.com has added a variety of new instruments and assets to the positioning, comparable 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 out there on the web site or the app. The dialogue is transcribed, and on the web site you possibly can play every line individually, or observe talking with the voice recorder software 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).

screenshot of lesson notes for embedded questions

Subsequent is the grammar rationalization, which is once more similar to a textbook format. They clarify a grammar level, listing 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 possibly can 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 need to observe alongside. I discovered this to be a good way to evaluation the extra pure, unscripted Japanese because the hosts are talking offhand, or to verify what I might heard. Whereas the main focus is clearly on the audio, having every little thing out there in writing to observe together with concurrently is a big profit. Past this, the fully distinctive grammar write-up separate from the grammar rationalization within the episode or transcript makes JapanesePod101.com a really complete useful resource.

Movies

Along with audio and textual content, JapanesePod101.com additionally has a big video catalog. Along with what’s out there on their web site (filterable and categorized in their very own sequence), there’s additionally a considerable YouTube channel, which I wrote about for our Japanese Grammar YouTube Channels for Freshmen article.

These movies cowl numerous totally different matters, from tradition, to detailed grammar explanations, to easy vocabulary lists. The standard is often excessive, with wonderful graphics that complement live-action recordings. Sadly, the movies really feel like one thing of an afterthought. They are not 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 could be particularly fascinating, it is actually extra of an add-in than a serious 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 price goal, most of the instruments have notable downsides, so learn on earlier than you spring for one of many higher-tier subscription plans.

Audio Recorder

In the beginning is the line-by-line audio and audio recorder, which you will hear the hosts promote on many episodes. This lets you play again particular person traces from the dialogue, in addition to document your individual voice repeating these traces to test towards. It is a pretty easy characteristic, and works effectively. Nevertheless, because the dialogues are typically dramatic or goofy, JapanesePod101.com would not all the time make the very best shadowing materials in my ebook. In case you simply observe mimicking what you hear, you’d in all probability find yourself sounding fairly bizarre. As an alternative, it may be a very good useful resource primarily for training studying aloud.

Wordbank and Flashcards

Then there’s the wordbank. That is merely a listing of phrases you’ve got 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 other than sending them to JapanesePod101.com’s flashcard system. This is likely to be helpful in the event you wished to easily to look by way of each as soon as and some time as a refresher, however I did not find yourself utilizing it a lot.

screenshot of the 'My Flashcards' page showing the user's three decks

Talking of flashcards, let’s speak about their flashcard system. JapanesePod101.com has an enormous listing of various flashcard decks you possibly can 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 comparable to the most typical 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. After all, there’s loads 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 out there on the web site, and never by way of the app, which makes reviewing them much more restricted. If you would like to drill flashcards, and are prepared to cope with the constraints in trade for the convenience of use, this is likely to be a very good choice for you.

Quizzes

There are additionally quizzes to place what you’ve got been studying to the take a look at in a manner in contrast to every other language podcast. Some quizzes are a part of their built-in tutoring service, which I will discuss extra about within the subsequent part. It is a welcome addition, as with out one thing to test your progress, I feel it might be simple to persuade your self you’ve got discovered a subject coated merely since you’ve listened and understood a lesson. This manner, you possibly can ensure you fill in any potential gaps.

Tutoring

All the best way within the highest tier, Premium Plus, JapanesePod101.com presents its greatest characteristic: My Instructor, 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 and marketing.

The “My Instructor” characteristic is the aim of the Premium Plus subscription tier, and when you enroll, you are given entry to a level-assessment take a look at to assist personalize your expertise. The take a look at is fairly fast, with a couple of questions in several classes that cowl numerous language domains, comparable to vocabulary, grammar, studying, listening, and writing. It took me a couple of half hour to finish, at which level I used to be given a direct grade based mostly on my outcomes, with a confirmed grade by way of e-mail checked by a instructor.

Private tutoring is carried out by way of a textual content messaging web page the place a instructor offers suggestions and corrections.

After this, you are assigned a instructor, and despatched a PDF outlining how JapanesePod101.com intends for this characteristic to work. As you might need been in a position to inform, this instructing expertise is not fairly the identical as a lesson over Zoom. As an alternative, the vast majority of the expertise is carried out by way of a textual content messaging web page the place you possibly can ship textual content, audio, movies, and photos to a instructor, who will present suggestions and corrections based mostly in your conversations, just like the corrections carried out in a language trade app like HelloTalk.

The intent right here is that the instructor can present an much more personalised suggestion on related podcast episodes and movies from the JapanesePod101.com archive, after which complement your studying with assessments (usually 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 document a self-introduction), and answering your questions on the fly as they arrive up.

There’s numerous worth find a instructor to assist together with your research, however I would not advocate this explicit 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 instructor you possibly can 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 value ranging between $23 a month all the best way as much as $47 a month based mostly on how lengthy you subscribe, I feel your cash is finest spent elsewhere.

I do imagine there’s numerous worth find a instructor to assist together with your research, however I would not advocate this explicit service. As an alternative, try my article on discovering a Japanese instructor for another choices.

The Unhealthy: Complicated Group and Value Construction

Whereas JapanesePod101.com has loads to supply Japanese learners, it is not all roses. I feel the primary drawback customers will encounter is that it is sophisticated. There’s simply an enormous variety of episodes and sequence, and even with the revised pathways it is simple to get misplaced. The web site would not provide a lot in the best way of steering both, with the connection between elements just like the episodes themselves, the wordbank, and the flashcards a bit obtuse.

Even the subscription plans are complicated, and in a manner that feels deliberately deceptive. Customers are inspired to improve their subscription tier at seemingly each flip, and costs fluctuate based mostly on the length of your subscription. For instance, the very 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 best way as much as $47 a month for a month-to-month plan. You actually should know what it’s you need to buy and the way lengthy you plan to make use of it, in any other case it is simple to make a mistake.

screenshot of the subscription plans with basic, premium, and premium plus options

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 and marketing strategy on high of this complicated pricing construction can really feel underhanded, and is a giant turn-off for me.

Moreover, a lot 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.

Conclusion

Total, JapanesePod101.com is an efficient useful resource, however it’s not the one-stop-shop it makes itself out to be. I feel for a sure sort of pupil, one who’s already learning from a main textbook beneath the steering of a instructor, it is an amazing supplemental useful resource, although you need to know what you are on the lookout for and the way you plan to make use of it. Having stated that, JapanesePod101.com stands aside from many different Japanese language-learning podcasts, working extra like a textbook in audio type, albeit a particularly lengthy one. JapanesePod101.com’s finest content material is fairly good, however numerous it would not keep a excessive commonplace.

Personally, I’ve loved listening to JapanesePod101.com in instances when it might be in any other case troublesome to review, comparable to whereas strolling my canine, doing my laundry, or going for a run, and in conditions the place I need to work on my listening comprehension with out having to focus as intently as I do whereas immersing. For this, I feel the essential plan (which is $6 a month or much less, relying on how lengthy you pay upfront) 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 finest spent elsewhere. At $6/month, you are gaining access to a very big library of audio content material; the truth is, if something, an excessive amount of.

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