The Ultimate Review of Japanesepod101

Review of: Japanesepod101

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

I Like

  • Over 1,200 podcast lessons
  • Free content and affordable price
  • Lessons are fun and interesting
  • Great for busy people

I Don't Like

  • No speaking required
  • Limited community features

Japanesepod101 Review Summary: 

More than just a high quality podcast, Japanesepod101 is a massive language learning hub, where you can find everything you need to learn Japanese. While it's audio lessons make up the bulk of the content, there are also a ton of other features and resources available too (such as a Japanese to English dictionary, a spaced repetition flashcard system, downloadable pdf cheatsheets, kanji and kana charts, and a lot more.


The podcast lessons teach grammar concepts and vocabulary. Because there lessons are in audio format they are also well suited for developing your listening and pronunciation skills. There are many lessons dedicated to reading and even writing Japanese too.

A free lifetime account gives you access to some podcast lessons and many of the bonus resources, but you need a paid subscription if you want to get the full website experience.


A premium account is available through 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.

The website and app offer different subscription levels with the most basic starting at $4 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 language learning tools can be hard to come by. Japanesepod101 stands out as a great resource for beginner and mid-level Japanese learners (more advance students may find it less helpful).

In addition to the traditional online website, Japanesepod101 is of the best apps to learn Japanese. Their app comes at no additional cost and allows you to access the lessons and content from your phone.


It’s free to create account and become a member. 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 take a look at Japanesepod101 before paying for a subscription.

If Japanesepod101 isn't the best way to learn japanese, it's pretty darn close. Read more of our Japanesepod101 review to find out why.


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

What does Japanesepod101 offer?

Podcast lessons

It's hard to write a Japanesepod101 review and not mention its flagship feature: the Japanese audio lesson podcasts. All the way back in 2005, Japanesepod101 started out as a simple podcast to help listeners learn Japanese online. Since then it has grown into the ultimate one stop shop for learning the Japanese language. The simple podcast has grown into over 1,200 lessons. Japanesepod101 sorts their podcast lessons into five levels: absolute beginner, beginner, intermediate, upper intermediate, and advanced (these levels are called learning paths). There is also a fifth category of bonus lessons in addition to the difficulty levels. The learning paths are set up sequentially, but you are free to jump from one level to the next if you want. Within each difficulty level you will find a large collection of podcast seasons. Each season is essentially a mini course. Each season focuses on a specific learning goal. For instance in the absolute beginner level there's a 20 lesson season on conversational phrases. There's also a season which provides a intro to Japanese writing, and another which gives an intro to reading. There are seasons which teach a solid foundation in Japanese grammar and vocabulary. There's even one that covers body language and hand gestures within Japanese culture. All this and more in just the first level of podcast lessons.

Anatomy of a Japanesepod101 podcast lesson

A podcast lesson on Japanesepod101 can be anywhere from five minutes to around 20 minutes long. Each lesson features an audio track of a conversation between two native speakers.

Each lesson also has a host (often there's two hosts). The hosts introduce the lessons, provides important info about the grammar and vocabulary in the conversation, and shares cultural insights. The hosts are great at keeping things fun and engaging. They also works your personsal teachers, making the conversation in the audio track easy to understand.

While the audio track is the backbone of each lesson, there are also a lot of important secondary features. Each lesson has full transcriptions in English, kanji, romaji, and hiragana. There are also individual recordings of each phrase from the lesson dialogue.

You can play back each phrase by itself, and even record yourself repeating the phrase and compare it to the original (this is great for accent reduction). You can also add any of the phrases from the lesson to your flashcard deck (another feature on Japanesepod101), so that you can review them later. There's even a quiz option which will test your knowledge on the vocabulary and kanji used in the lesson.

Features
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. The whole point is to teach you Japanese that you can use in real life. You won't find any of the dull and useless word lists that many more traditional learning methods use.

Lessons are engaging and interesting

As I mentioned before another great thing about the podcast are its hosts. They are personable and do a pretty good job of keeping you engaged as a listener (as almost any Japanesepod101 review will tell you).

Before and after the lesson’s conversation they often segue way into personal stories, interesting facts, or jokes (some jokes are better than others). This helps humanize the podcast and make it fun. There some language learning audio courses out there what make you feel like you're listing to a robot, Japanesepod101 isn’t one of those.

Bonus features

PDFs galore

Japanesepod101 offers a ton of downloadable PDF files. Each pdf file is a mini lesson and worksheet that helps you learn Japanese vocabulary. Each pdf file focuses on a specific topic like occupations, romance, Japanese verbs, and more.

Resources for writing Japanese

Anyone serious about learning Japanese knows that the Japanese language has one of the most difficult writing systems in the world. The folks at Japanesepod101 know this too. That's why they created an array of free lessons and resource dedicated to written Japanese. There's free ebook for learning kana, and another for learning kanji (they include worksheets to practice with!). There are also free charts for learning katakana and hiragana. There's also a huge collection of video lessons on how to write and read both kanji and kana.

Grammar and kanji banks

There is a grammar bank on Japanesepod101 which provides you with quick examples and explanations of grammar rules. They are basically mini grammar lessons. The website and app also feature a kanji bank and a kanji dictionary.

Conjugation charts

If you've dabbled in language learning before, then you've probably heard of a grammar concept called verb conjugation (if you haven't head of it yet don't worry). Japanese verbs change according to who or what is performing an action. These conjugation charts will give you an easy to understand list of all of a verb's forms, as well as audio so you can remember them and learn to pronounce them correctly too.

Pronunciation guide

There's also a free pronunciation guide on Japanesepod101. This guide is a mix of video lessons and downloadable worksheets which give you everything you need to train your tongue to pronounce Japanese. The guide covers individual sounds, and pays close attention to sounds that are different from ones found in English.

Tools and Resources

Along with their podcast Japanesepod101 gives you access to a fair amount of tools and resources. 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. If you've ever used Anki you know that building your own flashcard decks can take hours. Japanesepod101 saves you the trouble.

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.

Slow playback and self record features

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 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. It allows you to pick out difficult sounds. You can even record yourself repeating the recorded tracks from the course. This means you can easily compare your pronunciation and phrasing to that of a native speaker.

Lesson notes

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. 

Is Japanesepod101 any good for learning Japanese?

Learners of all levels will find value in Japanesepod101. However the bulk of the podcasts are for beginner and intermediate students.

The thing I love most about Japanesepod101 is that even though it's primarily an audio based course, there is no aspect of the Japanese language that isn't covered. Naturally Japanesepod101 is a great way to practice your listening comprehension skills. It's is also a great tool if you are still learning 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. This makes new vocabulary more memorable, and also gives you a better sense of how and when to use new words.

Japanesepod101 is also a great option for learning on the go. All website 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. There's nothing on the website version, that you won't find on the mobile one.

How much does Japanesepod101 cost?

Subscription levels

Japanesepod101 is available in 3 different monthly subscription options: basic premium, 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 premium plan includes the entire podcast library plus some other less significant features like lesson notes and checklists. The lesson notes are one of the most helpful features in my opinion. The lowest pricing plan per month for basic is $4 per month.

Japanesepod101 provides well structured lessons around difficulty level and subject

The premium plan 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.

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.

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 the most costly option. 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 private video lessons with teachers on Italki. In my opinion the lesson quality of an Italki class is better than the feedback from Japanesepod101's teachers. But to each his own. Perhaps for you the premium plus plan will be worth it.

Free lifetime account

Not every Japanesepod101 review mentions the free lifetime account option, so we thought we'd point it out here. It's one of the best free options for learning Japanese available.

Is Japanesepod101 really free?

Yes. The Japanesepod101 account really is free, and with it you'll be a member for life. All you to need to signup for it, is give your email address. You don't need to submit any sort of payment information, so there's no sneaky monthly subscription to worry about.

With a free account you won't have access to the bulk of Japanesepod101's audio lessons. Also some of the bonus features won't be available either. Even so there's still a lot of value in a free Japanesepod101 account.

What you get as a free lifetime account member
  • Free weekly audio and video lessons.
  • Access to the first three audio lessons in each podcast series (across the different learning paths that's over 100 free lessons)
  • Pronunciation guide
  • Writing lessons
  • Downloadable kanji and kana ebooks
  • Access to the full library of pdf downloads


Japanesepod101's limitations

A Japanesepod101 review would be lacking if it didn't point out some of the short comings of the site and app.

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. You can record yourself on the app and the site, and play back your recoding to compare it to the original, but this more pronunciation practice than speaking practice. As awesome as Japanesepod101 is, remember that you will have combine the site with some actual speaking practice. It's best to take what you learn from the lessons and practice with a friend or language exchange partner.

Lesson structure

Japanesepod101 was designed a the ultimate way to learn Japanese online. With Japanesepod101 users can walk down the metaphorical aisle and pick and choose what they want to learn that day. While a lot of learners like the freedom that comes with this kind of learning platform, others don't.

While podcast seasons are sorted under a difficult level (which are called lesson paths), there's no guided path through the Japanese lessons. You the user must decide which seasons you listen to, and which you skip. If you're looking for a step by step or systematic way to learn Japanese, then Japanesepod101 might not be your cup of tea.

Podcast seasons themselves aren't really sorted in any order. Under each of the lesson paths 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. 

This can be especially confusing for beginners who aren't sure where to start. 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 there.

No community

Japanesepod101 is a fairly popular site. It’d be awesome to see any kind of feature that would connect learners. Even just a discussion board would be nice. Though I think they do have a forum, it would be great for them to add a way for users to practice with each other. Of do what Duolingo does and allow you to compare your progress with a friend.

You can ask the Japanesepod101 teachers questions in a public mini forum under each lesson.

Best way to use Japanesepod101 to learn Japanese

We wrote this Japanesepod101 review because it's is easily one of the most popular Japanese learning tools on the web. There's a good reason people have used the course: it’s a phenomenal resource! As great as it is though it won’t be enough on its own to get you fluent.

Like any other language learning tool it’s simply just that...a tool. Use it to add to your regular studies. It’s a great way to learn grammar, vocabulary, and listen to the language as it's spoken. 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 a new language, normal native speech can feel like you're listening to a pile of mush. It can be hard to hear 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 to help you learn pronunciation. 

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.

As we already mentioned, 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. 

Once you feel comfortable, try role playing the conversation. You can use the audio or the lesson notes to ask and answer questions, as if you were one of the speakers in the dialogue.

This process will help your accent and listening skills grow leaps and bounds. It will also help you remember the phrases from each lesson, and how and when to use them in conversation.

Squeeze more language practice into your day

Because of Japanesepod101’s mobile app you can practice 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.

Take advantages of the flashcards

Spaced repetition are a powerful tool for language learning. Japanesepod101 makes it easy to add word directly from a lesson to your flash deck. Even just spending ten or fifteen minutes a day reviewing flashcards will help you remember and retain what you learn in the lessons. Flashcards are also a great way to memorize kanji. In fact the only sure fire way to learn how to read Japanese, is to memorize kanji. Most veteran Japanese learners recommend using Anki to create your own kanji flashcards. Anki is an awesome and powerful flashcard system, but it's also not the most user-friendly sometimes. Japanesepod101 lets you create a kanji flashcard with the click of a mouse. It doesn't get more convenient than that!

Use all of resources for written Japanese

Japanesepod101 has a lot of lessons and content dedicated to learning kanji and kana. Use all of them. Learning how to read will be the hardest part of learning Japanese. So it's a good idea to make full use of every resource available. There are video lessons which teach you how to write kanji characters by hand. They take you step by step through the correct stroke order. While writing Japanese by hand isn't absolutely necessary to reach fluency, it does make kanji more memorable. Don't be afraid to experiment and have fun with the writing lessons too.

The ultimate review tool

Even intermediate and advanced learners can get complacent. Not matter how long you've taken Japanese lessons your new language isn't your native one, and it's a use it or lose situation when it comes to proficiency. Unless you're a native Japanese speaker, you never get to a place where you don't need to review the basics.

One thing I like about Japanesepod101 is that the lessons on Japanesepod101.com are perfect for review. The audio lessons and lesson notes will reveal any gaps you might in your language learning, a specific grammar point or vocabulary word.

Alternatives to Japanesepod101.com


Rocket Japanese

Rocket Japanese in a comprehensive Japanese course that will take you from absolute beginner to intermediate level in Japanese. Rocket Japanese shares a lot of similarities with Japanesepod101. Like Japanesepod101, Rocket Japanese is built around high quality audio lessons with real Japanese conversations. Rocket Japanese is also accessible through their website or their mobile app.

The biggest difference between Rocket Japanese and Japanesepod101, is that Rocket Japanese offers a systematic step by step teaching style for learning Japanese; where Japanesepod101 leaves people to sort of bounce around their content and learn on their own.

Rocket Japanese also splits up it's course into two lesson types: one which focuses on conversational phrases, and one which focuses on grammar. You take the two lesson tracks in tandem. The goal of this teaching method is to get you speaking with conversational lessons, but also providing you with a balanced understanding of grammar as well.

Rocket Japanese lessons aren't available through a monthly subscription, instead you pay once upfront for the whole course.

Pimsleur 

Pimsleur is a Japanese online audio course and app with one goal: to get you thinking and speaking in Japanese. Their audio lessons teach you phrases word by word and syllable by syllable so that the user can master pronunciation and listening comprehension. After that you're prompted to answer and ask questions in Japanese without using English. This approach trains your brain to start thinking in Japanese, versus having translate everything in your head from English.

The Pimsleur experience is similar to the kind of language practice you get, when you talk with native Japanese speakers. Pimsleur also includes a reading section where you learn kana and some kanji.


Duolingo

Duolingo is a freemium language learning platform, that has become the most popular app for learning Japanese. While Duolingo works great for a language like Spanish or French, it has tougher time with languages that have little in common with English. Japanese students often complain that Duolingo glances over grammar without explaining the many nuances, leaving you to guess for yourself what a particular translation means. Also the app struggles to teach kanji. Many questions are so easy to guess right that the kanji you do learn, doesn't stick.

Still Duolingo isn't a bad way improve your language skills by learning basic words and phrases, and fundamental grammar. The app is mostly free to use (with adds). There is a premium plan which removes adds and gives users unlimited access.

Conclusion

Japanesepod101 isn’t a perfect app, or an 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 lack of 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. Also some users will like the lack of structure and prefer to take a more independent approach to learning.

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) to take a look and see if it's the best way for you to lean Japanese or not.. If you're serious about learning Japanese then it's worth it.  That concludes this Japanesepod101 review

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!

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