Give your listening comprehension a boost with Japanesepod101

Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

Studying Japanese as a self learner is a long journey. Especially when you have a full time job or full time studies which demand your full attention. I’m learning for two and a half years now. On and off with very busy months learning Japanese (and completely burning myself out over this) and months where I can’t even keep up with my Wani Kani studies. But it’s probably the same for most of us. Learning Japanese is a hobby which can be a pretty time consuming one. Which is frustrating at times when you don’t notice any real progress but which can be super sweet when you’re finally able to get a couple pages of Yotsuba& without any interruption.

But for me it’s still a hobby and I set my expectations reflecting this. My main aim was to read manga in Japanese, to read some magazines and to get through in Japan when I’m visiting. I never had any illusions of becoming fluent or anything like that and didn’t even try to get better at my speaking/listening comprehension.

That was a mistake I noticed pretty early on and it’s quite obvious if you think about it. The main reason a language exists is to communicate and if you don’t absorb the unique “rhythm” of the language you’re learning, you will have a pretty hard time to understand written texts as well. At least that’s been the case for me. It’s all about the rhythm.

When I tried to brush up on my grammar skills I used TextFugu a while back. I’m not too enthusiastic about the website itself (even if the motivational part is awesome and always seems neglected by Japanese study books) but when I signed up I got a 25% off coupon for Japanesepod101. A website I already heard a lot about but never really looked into. After browsing their site I pretty quickly decided to give it a try. Not only because I really trust the tofugu team and their recommendations. These guys were exactly offering what I needed to complement my rather stale Wani Kani + Genki routine. Some good old fashioned listening comprehension. (And the 14days free trial gave me the final push)

The website, the app and tons of content

When I first clicked the link to head over to Japanesepod I was a bit skeptical . The website somehow looked a little sketchy to me especially because of all these different languages to learn which are advertised in the lower right half of the landing page. Reminded me a little too much of Rosetta Stone and we all know how great their Japanese “training” is. All this “learn Japanese fast” talk didn’t sound very trustworthy to me and the “polished” subscription prices did the rest. When they are talking about 4$/month for their basic subsription this only applies if you instantly pay the whole amount for one year. If you want to get on a monthly payment, the price doubles. 8$ is still alright and a good price for the huge amount of content they’re offering but still. Make the prices more transparent. Otherwise it gives most people a bad feeling right from the start even if the actual product is pretty awesome.

When. I first signed up for Japanesepod101 about 1,5 years ago you could only use their podcasts and notes with a computer or tablet. Or let’s say comfotably use. Nobody really wants to handle a cluncky website on their phones, not when trying to learn as well. Another negative point in this reagard was that I love listening to podcasts on the go which wasn’t possible without an internet connection before.

But all that changed with the “recent” release of their App. You were now able to comfortably download the podcasts on your phone so you wouldn’t require a steady internet connection to listen to them.

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The different podcasts are categorized after difficulty of content and for ever learning stage there is already a huge amount  of material available. I’m still listening my way through the Beginner podcasts but I’d say there are a couple hundred podcasts in total.  I just received my new Phone and am downloading two Beginner levels. 5 and 5 to be precise. Both consist of 25 episodes but earlier levels contained much more than that and occasionally surpass the 100 episode mark per level.

_-3

And that’s how it looks inside an “episode”. When you’re feeling super diligent you can read along the dialog with the lesson notes. I’m just paying for the basic subscription (which is more than enough for me. Just want the podcasts)  that’s why I can’t comment on the review and dialog track features which are still locked.

_-2

But now, let’s finally talk about the most important part. The podcast itself

And hands down. It’s awesome. Each episodes is around the 15 minutes mark and very well scripted. It’s always a small dialog with two different speakers which is discussed afterwards. There is usually a specific grammar point used in the dialog which will be explained in the discussion as well as the vocabulary of each lesson. And that’s what I really like about Japanesepod101 that they’re talking about the small Japanese dialog as if a Japanese newbie would be in the room with them but without trying too hard.

The speakers for the dialogues are always Japanese natives so their pronunciation is  flawless but the discussion is led by the man behind the podcast, Peter Galante. He is fluent in Japanese and as a big bonus, as an English speaking native, you will get perfect explanations of all the different grammar points and vocabs.

I’m currently listening to the Beginner level where he is usually having the discussion part with Natsuko Kawamoto. It’s great to have her giving explanations of Japanese words and grammar points and to make things perfectly clear Peter sums things up in between. Every speaker so far has done an incredible job. What’s so great about this mixture is that you get some “inside knowledge” about the Japanese language and learn how you would really express something but also why another expression wouldn’t be used in a specific context in Japan. It’s the same in every language. You can learn a lot of vocab but without having any experience how people are talking in the country you couldn’t possibly know which term to use casually and what’s been “the shit” five centuries ago.

Really, consider me a Japanesepod fan. The episodes are scripted throughout, there are no holes in the conversations but nonetheless it’s still a very “light” conversation with an occasional joke in-between. I just feel comfortable listening the podcast and virtually hang in’ out with the team.

Using Japanesepod101 alone and expecting to learn Japanese from it would be a little naive but as a supplement to have among Wani Kani and Genki, I can absolutely recommend it. And you should know by now that I only recommend the stuff that I absolutely love and really use on a daily basis. Or better: Would love to use on a daily basis

Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

The link above contains an affiliate link, so if you want to support the site just make your subscription using the link. It’s always highly appreciated and really helps to keep the site running.

Subscribe here


Please let me know your thoughts about the podcast. Are you using it as well?

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  • Wikzo

    Nice, that’s great to hear. Have been considering it for some time now (been listening to a few of the free podcasts), but I think you just gave me the final push.

    When I sign up, I will of course remember to use your link. Keep up the good work with this website! :)

    • Thanks a lot for your support Wikzo. Try the podcast, I’m sure it’ll help you a lot with your Japanese studies. Especially if you have a long commute or just like to listen to some podcasts regularly it’s a great way to complement your Japanese studies.

      How are things going at your end, have you ordered some manga?

      • Wikzo

        Thanks. It’s going okay here. Been too busy with university stuff, so I am mostly keeping up with kanji learning on WaniKani :)

  • GreenTeaLeaf

    Thank you for the review. I have been on and off subscriber of JapanesePod101. The website is huge, has a lot of different information about possible different situation in Japan. I like some content a lot, except… Way to much time wasted on introduction of Peter Galante. I mean, I understand they want people to recognize that the podcast is from JapanesePod101.com, but… there should be some limit. From the podcast time, half of the podcast is explaining what the website is about, how many different languages it has, and how I should subscribe because it is so great. There is no need to introduce the members of the podcast, honestly, who cares? All I want to hear is the dialog in Japanese and explanation. And if the authors want to be mentioned, why not just leave it at “About our team” on the website? Anyway…
    It’s just my 5 cents regarding way too much marketing on the website, and that made me to unsubscribe from them. So, if they put so much energy in the premium content and advertise it so much, what about having premium content without advertising the premium content in the premium content? :)
    I agree with you about transparency. The website and the concept is great, but their marketing strategy is a failure in my humble opinion. :)

    • I think it’s nice to have a small introduction each time so you always know who the speakers are and get the feeling that you know the persons a little when you’re listening to the podcast a lot. Which lessons have you done maybe the introduction-part gets more? But so far I wasn’t bothered by it at all. Sorry to hear that it put you off.

      But yeah, the marketing in general can be a bit annoying. I never tried their free stuff and honestly, wouldn’t really know where to look for it. Are you maybe using something else to get some listening comprehension? I’m pretty pleased with Japanesepod101 and think their podcast is awesome but it never hurts to try out alternatives.

      • GreenTeaLeaf

        I don’t think they have free stuff? I tried the premium membership a while ago. Introduction is nice, but if you listen 10-20 podcasts at a time, then it gets a little bit too much.
        I use listening exercises for JLPT N3 nowadays + Graded Readers and NHK Easy News. Hopefully after getting to know N3 vocabulary, I can watch tv shows and etc. :)

  • Baptiste Deneufbourg

    Hi Jakob,
    always a pleasure to read your recommendations !
    As I’m not a native english speaker and you neither (or maybe I’m wrong ?), I would like to know how much the english used is difficult. I mean I’m not really afraid by basic conversations, but grammar explanations might be a sensible point. Anyway I’ll try it to answer myself.

    • Sorry for the late reply, just arrived back home from vacation.
      I’m German but don’t have any problems to understand any of their explanations and I’m sure you won’t have any either. Everything is kept very simple and if you read the lesson notes as well (which I think is necessary to get the most out of the podcast) you will even get a written explanation of everything.

  • For beginners there is no better podcast that this one. I subscribed for 6 months I think in the beginning. But after a year or two, I recommend stepping it up to REAL input! Movies, manga etc. At first it will be hard, but you can do it!

    • You’re definitely right. You won’t need Japanesepod101 forever but it’s a great tool in the early stages.

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  • Another great write up pal. I’ve been on the fence about this service for a couple of years, but this write up has me leaning towards finally giving it a go!

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  • Ashley

    Here’s a fun fact . I met the new owner of Chinese Pod last year. He told me a story of how awhile ago some “investors” from Japan came to China to look at “investing” in Chinese pod and went around scribbling lots of notes… Anyway a few months later Japanese pod began and no…they never invested. Lol! What’s always put me of Jpod is their hard sell, you sign up for free and get bombarded to death with up grade e mails that I always end up putting their mails in the spam folder. It’s always puts me off. Anyway I may try them again one time in the future as I just use IKnow.

    • It’s worth to try their premium podcast but I completely understand that you#re put off by their selling tactics. They should just make the whole pricing more transparent and stop overselling their product. But definitely give it a try. Really helps to get a feeling for the language and the episodes are really well produced.

      Thanks for sharing that anecdote. Never knew that there was a Chinese original behind the whole idea.

  • Assirra

    So this looked interesting and i checked the price. I was not happy. I either have to pay for a whole year to get at the amount they say or pay like 25/month. As interesting as this looked, this is a disgusting practice i will not support.

    • Why don’t you just choose the regular subscription for 8$/month. I think that a pretty reasonable price. At least for me it was well worth it.

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