Interested in JapanesePod101, the Japanese podcast apparently sweeping the Japanese podcast listener nation? You’ve probably noticed this little Jalup recommend icon on the right sidebar of this site.
Jalup recommends. Those are strong words there. Yet besides the occasional mention of it by some of the writers on this site, there really isn’t much talk of it. And why do I recommend it? Could it be due to the solid gold bars (encrusted with diamonds) that they hand deliver by Japanese maiden every time one of you signs up for account. It could be…
I feel like it’s time to show you what it is about. Because people are using it. And you may want to use it to. So what happens when you click that button and the gold bar signs light up in my eyes wherever I am:
You are brought to a registration screen, an intro video, and some information on who they are and why they believe they are freaking awesome.
I don’t like the intro video. I think they need to redo it. It’s cheesy, dull, and lacks any kind of real punch. I can see that turning off some people.
It’s not her though. She seems friendly enough, and there are many people who like Hiroko, who was apparently made the visual face of JapanesePod101. You can see some of her Japanese mini-lesson videos on YouTube:
But let’s look past the video. In McDonaldian-esque way, they brag 200,000,000 lessons (served). Which as I said above, equates to a lot of people using it. Or maybe there is one guy who has a lot of free time (no it’s not me… crap…)
So choose a level (I’ll be setting up a new account using Beginner level for this post), enter your e-mail, and get in there.
Click register and you get a feature request:
I like this. Because it acts as a daily reminder that you should be studying Japanese. You get a sentence and a picture to go along with the vocab word, so you could add it into Anki. Small things build into bigger things, so I’d say yes.
Get your activation e-mail.
And get your free bonus? You weren’t going to tell me about my free bonus? If I don’t activate the account I won’t get my free bonus?! Did I mention this article was going to be rampant with sarcasm and cynicism?
Click to activate. In? Not quite yet.
They do aggressively sell a lot, before you even get to see anything. Especially with the whole “do it now, or you lose your chance.” Which I understand can sound a little annoying. But from what people have said, and after my own careful Jalup analysis, this starter package is fairly generous and does provide a lot of good material. And if you don’t want to buy it now, but decide later you do, at worst it is going to cost you $10-$35 depending on what you want to buy. The information about this package continues for a few pages.
The “free, but actually $1,” is a bit confusing. But the reality is simple in the way many free offer subscription services work. You set your credit card up with the account, and you are automatically renewed every month past the first free month. You can unsubscribe so you won’t be billed past the first free month, but it’s good to know this. It tells you in the intro e-mail, that you will be billed unless you cancel and it is very easy to cancel once you get to your account:
So I give my $1 for now.
Cue welcome e-mails pouring in.
Intro e-mail to anyone joining, regardless if they buy the $1 package
This is nice and reassuring, and I’m sure what everyone wants. You want to be able to try the service, with near full features, for free. Then you can decide if you like it and whether they deserve your hard earned cash. So you can try 7 days premium for free. And even if you like the service, but not enough to pay money, the free membership still provides plenty of material to keep you around.
And for those who got that $1 bonus package:
It lays out everything you are getting pretty simply.
Core Japanese Lessons
To be honest, I didn’t like the whole, we need $1 for bandwith, so it’s free, but it’s not. But then I downloaded the file. And it is fairly massive at nearly 600mb. So I forgive them (for now.)
Throughout these folders are audio and PDF lessons on Japan’s culture, pronunciation, writing, grammar, etc. It provides a large introduction to everything as a whole.
The Free Store Product
So what does this mythical store have? While it can’t be as good as the Jalup store (note: I give myself gold bars when you buy things from here), it has a large number of audio books:
So I chose Audiobook Japanese – Level 1. Unfortunately you have to create another account to buy from this store, and re-enter your info. But it was free, true to the advertisement’s word. And similar to the other material, it contained many audio lessons. Sorry for the lack of suspense.
Actually Getting Started
Finally to the interface. I like the clean look, modern, easy to navigate look. Except for the glaring, savings banner that rotates at the top. I’m hoping this is just a temporary sale to provide savings to users on the site. But I don’t think it’s good to sell users who are already paying in such an eyesore way.
A lot of info
This site has been around since 2005 I believe, and it shows.
This is the site’s greatest asset, but at the same time, also one of its problems.
There’s too much.
An easy solution is just not to use it all (you couldn’t even if you tried). But sometimes being giving too much material makes you feel like you should use it, and mentally it can be kind of draining. Imagine the Jalup Beginner 1000 deck was the Jalup Beginner 28,531 deck.
Audio lessons, video lessons, pronunciation, writing, dictionary, vocab, grammar, JLPT, kanji, quizzes, tests, apps, flash card, forum, blog. You’re loaded.
The actual lessons
This is what you are here for. They are split up into absolute beginner, beginner, intermediate, and advanced, and you can change your level whenever you want. Changing your level sets up your account slightly different so that it makes it easier to access the lessons that were meant for you. This is good.
There are multiple people that provide the lessons, and many are professional voice actors and really put their heart into it.
This is a major step up from typical lessons. If you are going to be listening to people for hours, they better be entertaining.
Lessons cover an infinite wide range of topics. Beginner lessons have a lot of English, but as the levels go up the English disappears, leading you to all Japanese at mostly natural pace in advanced.
There are a lot of lessons. Thousands upon thousands. And they don’t need to be done in order. This gives you some nice selection. Start listening to a lesson. Don’t like it? Skip it. Skip another. Listen to lessons on topics that interest you. And all lessons have transcripts, and review materials, so you can add them to Anki.
I don’t like forums. That’s fine. Many people do though. And it looks like there is a fairly active forum here. Since you have to be a paying member to use the forum, this helps narrow it down to people who actually are there to study the language, and not just discuss and be cocky about it.
Nice Search Feature
The entire site, with all of its lessons and features are nicely tied together in the search function on the site (which is a live instant search). If you want to find a lesson that contains a word you are confused about, or want to look up that word, or want to find everything imaginable related to that word, this search tool appears to be quite valuable.
Test search with に
Create your own personalized feed
While the service sets itself up depending on what level you put in, you can further personalize it by creating a feed. Depending on what you check off, the feed gives you exactly what you want, every day, every update.
It would be impossible to cover everything (change title: JapanesePod101 – Absolutely Everything You Need To Know That Can Be Fit Reasonably Into One Post), so it definitely takes some time to wander around and find what suits you.
Who is this for?
While it is advertised for all levels, I really think it’s for beginner to intermediate. Anyone higher than that should be using native materials, and shouldn’t rely on created lessons.
How should you use it?
At first glance, it looks like it would last you for your entire Japanese learner lifetime. But don’t be fooled. It really is just one tool. Regardless of the depth of it, there is too much other stuff out there. Especially when it comes to native material. There is no more powerful tool to learning Japanese then native material, so this is still an assistant tool.
Why do you recommend it?
This was the original question. And if you got down this far, you may still be wondering the answer. This doesn’t follow any of the methods on Japanese Level Up, there is a lot of English, and they are just lessons.
The major reason I recommend it is because it is warm and welcoming.
Wait. Don’t laugh just yet.
Studying Japanese can be lonely. You have all your textbooks and your Anki, and you work hard at your Japanese desk (made of some kind of legendary oak tree wood) every day. But you are going at it by yourself. These types of podcasts contain the following:
– People extremely enthusiastic about the language.
– People having and showing a lot of fun while talking about and in the language.
– People who you grow together with as you follow their conversations.
And the videos contain lively visuals and friendly faces.
I know it sounds corny. But this makes a difference.
Might as well try the free membership out. Spend a few hours, see if it provides that missing support you need, and decide from there. If this resource existed when I first starting studying, I would’ve definitely tried it.
And think about it like this: if you like it, and buy it, you are also supporting Japanese Level Up. Because yes, in addition to gold bars made by Edward Elric (what happened to the Japanese maidens?!), we do get a commission. And that commission goes towards creating more awesome stuff here. Which is for you. So it’s all win. And win is good.
I know there are a lot of people out there who have or are still using it. What do you think of it?