JapanesePod101 (The Ultimate Review) - Live Fluent

JapanesePod101 (The Ultimate Review)

Review of: Japanesepod101

Use: Japanese learning site/app set up around audio podcast lessons. Japanesepod101 also provides tools and resources in addition to their audio material.

Effectives

Engaging podcasts help you learn words in context. But you'll have to practice speaking on your own

Price

Free content and monthly plans at $4 to $47 per month

Time Commitment

Each podcast is around 15 minutes long.

Ease of Use

Digital immersion without the tedious work

Structure

Podcasts are sorted by level of difficulty and subject.

I Like

  • Over 1,200 podcast lessons
  • Free content and affordable price
  • Lessons are fun and interesting
  • Built in flashcard system

I Don't Like

  • No speaking required
  • Limited community features

Summary: Japanesepod101 provides Japanese podcast lessons as a monthly subscription site. The podcasts include lessons for the most basic beginner up to material for the advanced learner. You have the option of going through the podcast sequentially one by one or simply choosing any level or lesson you find interesting.

An account on Japanesepod101 is free and gives you access to a some lessons, but you need a paid subscription if you want to get the full site experience.

The site offers different subscription levels with the most basic starting at $4 per month and the premium level costing as much as $47 per month. The higher premium levels have more features than the basic. We recommend the basic level, by and large it provides the most value for the price.

Solid Japanese learning tools can be hard to come by. Japanesepod101 stands out as a great resources for beginner and mid-level Japanese learners (advance students may find it less helpful).

It will help introduce you to new grammar concepts and a vocabulary, but it’s real strength is in developing your “Japanese ear”. Because of it’s audio format the site is well suited for developing your listening and pronunciation skills.  

In addition to the traditional online website, Japanesepod101 also has a mobile app, which comes at no additional cost. The app allows you to access the lessons and content from your phone.

It’s free to create account on the site. Upon signing up you’ll automatically receive a free 7 day trial (No credit card required). Even without the trial there will be some basic content you will be able to use. Both are great way to try out the site before paying for a subscription.

Subscription plans starting at $4 per month (Free plan available too)

Is Japanesepod101 right for you?

Beginners and intermediate Japanese learners will get the most out of Japanesepod101. More Advanced students may also find some value in the site. However the bulk of the podcasts are for beginner and intermediate students.

Japanesepod101 is primarily an audio based course, so if you want to practice listening to native Japanese speakers then this product is a good option. The site is also a great tool if you are still learning Japanese grammar and vocabulary. The lessons are set up so that you learn new words and concepts in the context of a scripted but natural conversation.

If you’re looking for a way to practice Japanese while on the go, then Japanesepod101 is also a great option. All site content is available via their mobile app which you can use at no additional cost. Their app is available on Iphone, Ipad, and Android devices.

Features​

Podcast episodes

The flagship feature of Japanesepod101 are it’s Japanese learning podcasts. Most episodes run somewhere close to 15 minutes long and feature a Japanese conversation. The conversations are designed to emphasize either a grammar rule, useful phrase, or maybe a cultural topic.  

Japanesepod101 provides well structured lessons around difficulty level and subject

Lifelike situations

The designers of Japanesepod101 try to keep the conversations and material grounded in real world situations. Often they center on a given scenario like chatting with a friend over lunch or running into someone at the supermarket.

Lessons are engaging and interesting

A great feature of the podcast are its hosts. They are personable and do a pretty good job of keeping you engaged as a listener.

Before and after the lesson’s Japanese conversation they often take short segways into personal stories, interesting facts, or jokes (some jokes are better than others). This helps humanize the podcast. There some language learning audio courses out there what make you feel like robot, Japanesepod101 isn’t one of those.

​Tools and Resources

Along with their podcast Japanesepod101 gives you access to a fair amount of tools and resources for learning Japanese. They include hiragana and katakana practice, kanji dictionary, pronunciation guide, word lists, and verb conjugation tables. 

There are also three tools more exclusive to Japanesepod101 that are also notable: their flashcards, slow playback feature, and lesson transcriptions. (I do want to point out that these features are only available to premium and premium plus members).  

Flashcards

Japanesepod101’s flashcards work a lot like Anki or Memrise in that they use a Spaced Repetition System when you review them. The benefit of using Japanesepod101’s in site system is that it’s quick and easy to build decks from the lessons.

All you need to do is select a word and add it to your cards and Japanesepod101 will create a card with script and audio. This takes a lot of the pain of making your own flashcards in other the systems.

Slow playback feature

There are plenty of Japanese audio courses out there, but not very many let you playback words at a slower speed. In each podcast episode you can pick any Japanese word and listen back to it at a reduced or normal speed.

This can be a godsend if you’re trying learn correct pronunciation or if you have trouble understanding native speakers.

Lesson transcripts

You can find full episode transcripts on the site which is a great way to review afterward or get a feel for the Japanese writing system. Transcripts are available in kanji, English, romaji, and hiragana. 

Price

Subscription levels​

Japanesepod101 is available in 3 different monthly subscription options: basic, premium and premium plus. Just as with other monthly subscription sites, the more months you pay for upfront the more money you save per month.

The basic level includes the entire podcast library plus some other less significant features like lesson notes and checklists. The lowest pricing plan per month for basic is $4 per month (24 months) up to $8 per month for a single month subscription. 

The premium level offers you everything from the basic level along with the full range of tools and features on the site. Pricing plans start at $10 per month (24 months) and end at $25 per month (1 month).

Next comes the premium plus option which has all the content from the prior two levels with the addition of personal advice and instruction from a teacher. This level is the most costly with plan as low as $22.88 per month (24 months) all the way up to $47 per month (1 month). 

Which subscription should I buy?​

From a pure value standpoint the basic plan is a great deal. In the end the podcast episodes themselves are enough to improve your Japanese. If you prefer the lesson transcripts and other added content then the premium is also a reasonable purchase.

It’s really the premium plus that stands out as a bad deal. The actual value of the involvement of a teacher is questionable, especially at the high price point. For the same price you could purchase a basic plan AND book 2 Japanese lessons on Italki.

Japanesepod101's limitations

No speaking needed

Japanesepod101 is an audio based approach to learning Japanese. As a result you don’t actually need to speak Japanese to use it. The site can be an effective learning tool but remember that you will have combine the site with some actual Japanese speaking practice. 

Confusing lesson structure

This is the biggest gripe I and others have about the site. The folks behind Japanesepod101 have made several batches of lessons over the years. Generally the newer lesson groups (called seasons) are better than the earlier ones.

The earlier ones have a lower audio quality, are less interesting, and worst all they aren’t taught as well. What makes the site’s lesson structure so confusing is that there is no distinction between older and newer lessons. 

Under each difficulty level you’ll find a list of lesson seasons. But the season numbers don’t indicate the order in which you should listen to each season. They only represent the order the seasons were made it.

For example you don’t necessarily have to work through season 2 at the beginner level after Season 1 or before season 3. “Season 2” just means it was made after seasons and before the following season. 

Guide to lesson structure:

​This can especially confusing for beginners who could easily get turned off by the earlier but inferior lessons. Luckily Alan from nihongonobaka.com has worked through most of the lessons and put together a guide on which lessons you should listen to first and which you should avoid. You can check it out here.

No community​

Japanesepod101 is a fairly popular site. It’d be awesome to see any kind of feature that would connect Japanese learners. Even just a discussion board would be nice. Though I think they do have a forum.

Best way to use Japanesepod101​

​Japanesepod101 is easily one of the most popular Japanese learning tools on the web, and for good reason. It’s a great resource. As great as it is though it won’t be enough on its own to get you fluent in Japanese.

Like any other language learning tool it’s simply just that...a tool. Use it to add to your regular Japanese studies. It’s a great way to go over grammar, vocabulary, and listen to spoken Japanese. Just make sure you go the necessary mile and practice speaking with real Japanese speakers. 

Using the site for listening & pronunciation​

When you’re first learning Japanese normal native speech can sound like a pile of Japanese mush. It can heard to keep and recognize the words you know (not to mention the ones you don’t).

Japanesepod101 is a valuable resource for breaking down native speech into smaller chunks so that you mimic and listen to a conversation word by word. 

Using the site’s play back features you listen to the audio at a slower speed. When you do this concentrate on each syllable you hear versus each word. Take each syllable one by one and do your best to imitate what you hear.

You can also record yourself and play it back to compare your accent with the native speaker’s. Once you get a handle on each syllable try to connect them together, using the same intonation you hear the native speaker use. 

This process will help your accent and listening skills grow leaps and bounds. 

Squeeze more Japanese practice into your day

Because of Japanesepod101’s mobile app you can practice your Japanese pretty anywhere and at anytime throughout the day. Use the site to make the most of of your time.

Even with a busy schedule there’s a lot of moments throughout the day where we’re waiting in line, getting somewhere, or simply have time to kill. Use these times to work through an episode or two of Japanesepod101. 10 minutes here, five there. Before you know it, it all adds up. You could add an extra couple hours per week to your language practice. 

Conclusion

Japanesepod101 isn’t a perfect app, or all inclusive Japanese learning course. But if you use it right, it can be a powerful tool in your Japanese learning arsenal. The complaint I have about is its wonky lesson structure, but this can be overcome by either working through the guide at nihongonobaka.com, or by previewing each season an episode at a time to see which you like the best. 

The site is probably the most valuable at the basic level subscription, but the premium level is also worth checking out to. The site overs a free 1 week trial of its premium features. All you need is an email (no credit card required), so it's definitely easy to try out the site and see for yourself if it’s right for you. 

About the Author Chris J

I'm definitely an unlikely language learner. I failed Spanish in high school. I started learning German as a hobby while studying abroad. Long story short...and a couple languages later...I love language learning!

Leave a Comment: