When I started out on my path to Japanese fluency, resources such as textbooks and audio courses on CD were the only realistic way to make progress with this challenging language. Happily, there are now a lot more choices when it comes to studying Japanese online.
The problem that students of Japanese now face is one of quality rather than quantity. So which solutions give you the best bang for your buck?
In my humble opinion, JapanesePod101 is one of the better online courses out there for people who are serious about making significant progress in the language. As promised, I’ve finally got around to writing a complete JapanesePod101 Review, so here goes!
Why Learn Japanese in the First Place?
Learning a new language is one of the most rewarding skills a person can acquire throughout the course of their life. It enriches the soul, unlocks new ways of understanding, and helps understand a different culture. It even deepens your understanding of your own language and culture.
Research has been done by universities around the world about the benefit that learning languages brings; and the results are immensely positive. A variety of University studies have even gone as far to suggest that learning new languages increases cognitive abilities in many other areas. The research is there, and a whole new world awaits for anybody looking to expand their horizons with new language skills.
Japanese is spoken by about 128 million people throughout the entirety of Japan and the Japanese diaspora. It’s a language that can be valuable in business; or if you’re just looking to understand your favorite anime or Japanese drama.
The problem is: Japanese is also one of the hardest asian languages to learn, and it has a reputation for being challenging amongst first time language learners and polyglots alike.
Japanese Pod 101 Review Summary
JapanesePod101 uses a combination of video and audio lessons to teach Japanese. The course provides supplementary written materials that go into more detail for each lesson. This audio + video + written immersive technique has a proven track record of success for students of many languages, and that’s why it’s used by JapanesePod.
What We Like Most About JapanesePod101
Quantity and Quality of the Content
When it comes to learning a new language, there are two things that are of great importance:
- QUANTITY – That is, listening to and reading a LOT of content.
- QUALITY – Choosing content that is interesting, engaging and challenging but still suitable for your current level of knowledge.
So how does JapanesePod101 shape up on the basis of quantity and quality? Well, first off, an incredible amount of content is on offer. At the time of writing, a JapanesePod101 membership includes 4593 video & audio lessons. Pretty incredible, as the staff continues to add high quality content regularly. The breakdown by learner level was as follows:
- Absolute Beginner: 1,456 video & audio Lessons and 64 assignments spread over 54 modules
- Beginner: 772 video & audio lessons and 77 assignments spread over 41 modules
- Intermediate: 933 video & audio lessons and 53 assignments spread over 29 modules
- Advanced: 261 video & audio lessons and zero assignments spread over 17 modules
- Bonus: 1171 video & audio lessons and zero assignments spread over 10 modules
That’s literally 10’s of thousands of hours of content which, if tackled systematically and mastered, would provide a solid base of Japanese proficiency. So it’s double thumbs up on the quantity front.
How about quality? The lessons are professionally recorded and engaging. Certainly above and beyond your average Japanese audio course. There was clearly a lot of love and effort put into the content.
Gradually Phasing Out English
I do like how English is used for the early lessons, but then gradually lessened and then later removed entirely. This is a nice way to wean you off English over time, until you’re learning 100% in Japanese.
Extremely Thorough Lesson Materials
Another cool aspect of the JapanesePod101 library is the level of detail they have put into the formats and resources provided. With each lesson, you get:
- The complete lesson (audio or video)
- Line-by-line transcript
- The Japanese dialogue only (No English)
- Lesson notes
- Kanji close-up
- Lesson checklists
In short, the resources provided are very thorough. With so many incomplete courses out there, it’s nice to see a provider that cares about its audience and covers all the possible bases.
Useful Extra Tools
To aid you in mastering Japanese vocabulary, various useful features such as flashcards, common wordlists, and even a Japanese dictionary are included among others. These are all nice to have and provide a good way of reviewing what you’ve learned in the lessons.
What We Didn’t Like About JapanesePod101
Assuming that you steadily learn the content and put in the necessary time, JapanesePod will give you a solid foundation in spoken Japanese. Period. However, no one language course can be 100% exhaustive. As I’ve written before, you should always use multiple resources to make progress in any language. With that said, here are some of the things that you won’t find included with this course:
Lack of Speaking Practice
JapanesePod101 is great for building up your passive vocabulary and getting used to hearing the language spoken naturally. What it won’t give you is improved speaking proficiency. At least not immediately. For that you need to actually speak the language with friends or, better, a private tutor. JapanesePod doesn’t provide this with the Basic or Premium subscriptions, but the PremiumPlus membership does include 1-1 teaching time.
I’m of the opinion that learning to speak Japanese doesn’t need to be rushed. This goes for double if you’re a beginner-intermediate learner and don’t live in Japan yet. Focus on building up your passive knowledge first, which will give you a wider vocabulary and overall grasp of the language. Once you are understanding a fair amount of the dialogues, you can upgrade your membership or jump online and hire a private tutor to get some practice hours in. But only when you are ready. Far too many people go too quickly, perhaps feeling obligated to start speaking immediately.
The Kanji Basics
Although JapanesePod provides extremely thorough lesson notes and introduces new kanji systematically, you’ll still need a grounding in the kanji to get the basics down before these notes are useful. There are a number of ways to achieve this, but studying on your own will produce faster results than any offline Japanese class.
I personally recommend the Heisig Approach (previously covered in this article) to get to grips with the kanji. Even if you don’t fully master all 2000 of the commonly used characters, the Heisig course will get you comfortable with the radicals and general concept of kanji.
What are the Lessons like?
- The audio-only lessons are informative, engaging, and are presented with an easy to use media player with pause & play functions, and other tools to maximize the value of each lesson.
- The video lessons are well-produced with nice graphics. The speakers are professional and concise in their dictation.
- Sometimes watching videos or listening to audio files doesn’t give someone all the tools they need to learn. Many people (like myself) need to read and study written material in order to best commit it to long term memory. Each and every lesson can be downloaded as an easy-to-read PDF.
- JapanesePod101’s user interface allows the user to create many different types of flashcard decks and customize based on your preferences.
- The mobile app acts as a mirror-image of the browser based application, providing all of the same content. Having it all accessible from your mobile device is a huge selling point as it means you can practice lessons and review flashcards from anywhere.
JLPT Practice Tests
- One great addition is the JLPT practice tests, so you can test your knowledge before the actual exam. Our only complaint is that they are only for N4 and N5.
JapanesePod101 vs. Competitors
When it comes to learning Japanese, there seems to be no shortage of content out there in the world to help you achieve this challenging feat. Whether you are a casual learner seeking to expand your horizons, a businessperson with connections in Japan, or an avid language expert, there are lots of options out there. How does JapanesePod101 stack up to its competition?
JapanesePod101 Vs Rocket Japanese
- Rocket Languages is a language learning company that has made it their mission to use technology to its fullest extent to help people learn languages. Their Japanese language program is very immersive and is offered at a competitive price to that of JapanesePod101. Their key selling point is that their content is offered at one price for life (They also offer a tiered membership level similar to JapanesePod101). The structure of the lessons is also similar to JapanesePod101 in that there is heavy emphasis placed on audio content. Read our Review of Rocket Japanese here.
JapanesePod101 Vs. FluentU
- FluentU is a language immersion company that has placed a big emphasis on video content to engage learners and teach 12 different languages. Their approach is unique in that they take videos from Youtube and add interactive captions. The concept is unique and interesting but one of the main complaints about FluentU’s platform is that they lack in content, and some of the content is from advertising/commercials. In a world where we are constantly inundated with advertising, the last thing we need is commercials in our language learning. Read our full review of FluentU.
JapanesePod101 Vs Duolingo
- Duolingo is great because it’s free! While they do offer a paid version that adds a few features and removes advertising from the site, the free version is great as is. From short lessons that focus on teaching Japanese from the ground-up, to gamifying your language learning effort to have you collect virtual currency; DuoLingo is a fun and interactive way to learn Japanese at your own pace. If you’re serious about learning Japanese you might want to look elsewhere, and use Duolingo as a sort of secondary service to reinforce the lessons learned in a more comprehensive program. Read our in-depth review of Duolingo Japanese.
How Much Does It Cost? Is it Worth The Money?
JapanesePod101 offers three levels of membership at different price points to help accommodate people of varying budgets. Anyone looking to sign up for a membership with JapanesePod101 should consider how serious they are about learning Japanese and also their budget.
The three tiers are branded as Basic, Premium, and Premium plus and the price points run at $6, $10, & $23 respectively. The basic membership offers the bare minimum of access to the sites extensive list of features, while the the Premium Plus membership offers everything you would ever need to have to learn japanese plus the kitchen sink! The $10 version offers a healthy medium of value and affordability, and would be our suggestion for anybody serious about learning Japanese.
JapanesePod101 Basic vs Premium vs Premium Plus: What’s the Difference?
The three tiers of membership are curated towards the interest and seriousness one has in learning Japanese. While the Basic Plan for $6 includes access to the thousands of lessons and their corresponding notes, there is plenty more content and features that are under ‘lockdown’ for premium memberships only.
The Premium membership, which starts at $10 per month, includes a wealth of features including, but certainly not limited too; HD video lessons, 1900 more core words and phrases, word banks, vocabulary slideshows, voice recording tools, and interactive lesson quizzes.
There is also a Premium Plus membership, and for $23 a month you can have a teacher assigned to you from JapanesePod101 that will custom tailor you a lesson plan and give you ongoing professional assessment, assignments, and curriculum for as long as you pay the monthly recurring fee. If you’re serious about learning Japanese, the PremiumPlus membership is for you.
Use Our Promo Code To Get 30% Off
We have a special deal going with JapanesePod101. If you sign up through our link, you’ll get 30% off the regular prices. At this price, I can wholeheartedly recommend getting a membership.
Here’s the link:
We’re not sure how long this one will last, so take advantage while you can!
The Secret Lifetime Membership Option (Up To 77% Off!)
For those that don’t like monthly payments, JapanesePod101 has a special secret package designed for those who want to make learning Japanese, and other languages, a lifetime pursuit.
They don’t really like to advertise it, but for a one-time payment of $599, you can purchase lifetime access to the ever-expanding JapanesePod101 content of materials at the Premium level. That means if you use the program for 5 years, you’ll be saving 60% off the regular price.
There are other deals too: an additional 2 languages for $999, and even the option to purchase the entire Language Pod curriculum spanning 34 languages and hundreds of thousands of lessons, all at a premium membership level.
This deal might be a head-scratcher for some. I mean: who really needs access to learn 34 languages? That said, there are people this might appeal to. For example if you are an avid world traveler and want to learn a bit of the language from every new country you visit, you could have one purchase take care of all of your language needs forever.
JapanesePod101 Review Conclusion: One of The Best Options For Self Study of Japanese
All said, JapanesePod101 is an excellent resource for learning Japanese, from beginners to advanced.For beginner to intermediate there are tons of lessons, that cover a wide range or useful vocabulary, topics and cultural learning. That said, high intermediate and advanced learners may find that there’s not quite enough material at their level to be worthwhile.
The teachers are entertaining and fun, which makes it feel less like a classroom, and the language used is both authentic and natural. The course creators are constantly creating new and interesting lessons that are actually useful if you live (or want to live) in Japan. I certainly would have made even faster progress with my studies if I’d had this course back when I started learning Japanese!
Have you used JapanesePod101 to further your own Japanese studies? How did you find it? Let us know!