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