JapanesePod101 Review – Absolutely Everything You Need To Know

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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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

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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:

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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.)

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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:

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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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

Forum

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.

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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

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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.

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Explore

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.

Really.

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.

Buy it?

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.

Sign up for your free account here.

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.

Your experience?

I know there are a lot of people out there who have or are still using it. What do you think of it?



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Adam

Adam

Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.

Comments

JapanesePod101 Review – Absolutely Everything You Need To Know — 18 Comments

  1. Great review! Very comprehensive. What are you thoughts on the audio lessons they offer? Are they worth your time or is it better to just listen to native immersion material on your mp3 player?

    • Beginner lessons: can be used as a source of J-E sentences (also since transcripts are included). And can be good for practicing speaking/pronunciation.

      If these are going to be added to your immersion material, the English should be edited out, and Coco provides a guide how to do this (See the first link in the article.)

      However this isn’t really a replacement for native audio immersion. Note though, that in the walkthrough, immersion doesn’t even start until the first 500 sentences and 950 kanji complete. With this beginner audio, it would be okay to use this straight from the beginning because you will be able to understand it. The reason native immersion audio isn’t used from the very first step is because it will have such minimum value then, and it is better to focus on getting started with RTK and J-E.

      Intermediate lessons:

      There is a lot more japanese, and I think going through these lessons are fine the first time, but it is better to use native audio immersion from here on out.

      Advanced lessons – yes it is all in Japanese. But if you were going to listen to a lesson, I personally would rather watch an anime. However there are some people who continually crave structures lessons no matter how good they get.

      And as for whether the lessons are good, and whether this would be a replacement for a beginner textbook, it depends on the learner. People that are really big audio learners would probably benefit from this a lot.

  2. Nice and fair review. I tried out a free account a while ago and thought that there was a lot of content but I didn’t really use any of it. Whenever I see hard selling and emails like that I can’t help but want to ignore whatever they have to say! I’m sure they put a lot of work into their site but I agree with what you said that it should be geared particularly towards beginner and intermediate learners.

  3. Oh, yeah, hello, do you remember me? It’s been a while.

    Problems at work made me fail at my challenge, and my motivation is lacking. But I’ll be back. I’m organizing my time to be back to Japanese as soon as possible.

    But if there’s one thing that I recommend is JPOD101.com

    I used my 100% off discount to buy the complete Japanese Audiobook, all levels. They are all loaded into my cell phone. Anytime I’m not working, every time I go to the supermarket alone or to do something else, I listen to it. I’ve finished level 1, and I’m at level 2 now, that’s the absolute beginner.

    They’re great. Peter Galante is motivational, you know? Knowing some foreigner could learn so much he can actually teach it, it’s motivating. And they’re so enthusiastic, they’re so great that even though I forgot half my Kanji (I stopped studying RTK and doing Anki, so I’ll go back from the beginning), I can’t forget the sound of their voices talking about something, like 電話番号 <- my computer corrected by itself. The first part I know it's right, but is the second one as well?

    Whatever, I got here because I was talking to a friend who want to start learning Japanese with his girlfriend, they don't understand English, so I saw how much limited material they got. And I remembered I can always have JALUP by my side.

    Great new layout, great text, and I'll be coming back more often now, 'till I make it daily, as it used to be.

    じゃあまたね!

    • Yes, of course I do. Glad to hear you are back!

      They did assemble a great team for the podcasts, and their energy is where they really shine.

  4. “warm and welcoming” – boom, you nailed it. emails, banners, etc. aside, there’s something amazing about learning with people that are enthusiastic about Japanese.

  5. What’s really great about JP101.com, besides their enthusiasm, is the fact that you can skip the lesson material and immediately listen to the edited dialogue clip.

    I definitely agree the downfall is the sheer overwhelming amount of clutter in the form of reviews and PDFs and flash cards and videos and and and…. Too. much. stuff. I also get turned off by the overkill amount of marketing when I’m already a subscriber.

  6. I signed up for the free section of the website, I don’t have a credit card and therefore couldn’t apply for the premium or even basic accounts. I found at first that there was a lot of good information for free even though I hadn’t signed up for anything, it’s beena bout two weeks and they’ve stripped it down to the bare minimum, no more free lessons or materials. I guess you just can’t learn japanese for free.

  7. As someone just starting out I have found Japanesepod101 very useful. I can listen to lessons at times when I wouldn’t be doing anything else useful – walking to work, doing the washing up and whatnot. I’m still at the RTK and <500 beginner sentences.

    The format is good. They have a dialogue with native voice actors at what I assume is native speed. I usually find it incomprehensible gibberish. Then they repeat it slowly, then they give it again with line-by-line translation. The hosts then spend some time picking out the vocabulary and explaining a grammar point. You then get the dialogue one more time.

    They provide the full lesson audio track, and a track which is just the dialogue. I listen to it on loop and find that after a few repeats I can totally understand everything. I get a real sense of progress from gibberish to full comprehension.

    A lot of the grammar and vocab is similar to the Jalup beginner sentences, so you get audio reinforcement.

    There is a bit of clowning around in English. Although not particularly useful, it does create a fun vibe, which makes listening a happy experience.

    Their recently added material is of a much higher quality than the very earliest lessons, which are still up there. The older ones just had the English host (Peter) reading stuff out and it's clear he was very new to presenting a show. The new ones are very slick.

    They also provide pdfs with the transcripts in Japanese (kana, kanji, romaji in different sections) and English. There seems to be a lot of other material too, which I haven't looked at.

    I cut up the dialogues with audio software and use the pdfs to make J-J Anki audio recognition cards.

    Bottom line, for a complete beginner, it is good. Don't be put off by the aggressive marketing which comes across like a scam-site for penis enlargement pills. I intend to stick with them for a bit. We'll see if it's still as good when I get better!

    • Great overview and feedback of your experience. It would be great if you could come back in several months and update this comment to show how it goes long term for you.

    • Six months on. I have moved on to listening to native immersion material instead. At first I really didn’t get the point of immersion. Now I know enough that I can pick out snatches – more every day – so it’s more fun doing this than listening to lessons.

      I didn’t give Jpod101 a fully committed trial. For example I could have devoted more Anki time to it rather than to Jalup, and I could have read through their notes far more than I did. I just used it as something to listen to when I couldn’t read or write anything.

      I think it served its purpose and was good in that role. I could have stuck with it, but I am enjoying doing other things more.

      The significance of this for others is to be cautious about signing up for one of their long-term offers that they will spam you with. Best to go with a month or two and see how you go.

  8. Thank you for this review! It gives a great in-depth look into the site and how useful(or not) it can be. I’m definitely going to give it a shot.

    Paul really hit the mark when he said it’s adds are like penis enlargement pill adds. I hope they end up changing the initial introduction video… I just made me feel like I was entering a porn site.

    Is the downloadable package that pops up before you can enter the site worth it?
    Thanks.

    • Yes. They need a new marketing team. Fast.

      You mean the download package and the free audio book? To me it was just standard PDF lessons with audio files attached, a lot of which seems repeated on the site.

      The site is already so massive this can just add one more to the “what should I do with it pile.”

      I didn’t really look at it enough in depth to know if it was worth the $1.

  9. If you want subscribe to JP101 don’t do it for their flashcard system because right now it is 3 month broken and stuff not event talk to customers.

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