Japanese Pod 101 Review 2021 – Hands on and In Depth

Average Score 3.75
3.75/5

Verdict

  • Japanese Pod 101 is a solid platform, with lots of content and good value for money, especially with the lower end tiers – which give you the meat of the content without fluff.

Overall Thoughts

  • Japanese Pod 101 has been going since 2005 as a Podcast, and this history can be seen in the product as it exists today. There is a bunch of content, 2950 audio and video lessons according to their website, that have been wrangled into some kind of order after the fact. To navigate, they have learning paths, subject areas and difficulty levels. These do an adequate, but not outstanding, job of guiding you through your learning journey. The content tends to read more like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure than a sequential novel in chapters.

  • This weakness is also a strength. Japanese Pod 101 is a living, evolving organism, where new lessons are being added on an ongoing basis. The podcast is still the platform’s beating heart.

  • For beginner to somewhat advanced students, Japanese Pod 101 is a really solid option for learning the language using an audio-focused approach.

  • Japanese Pod 101 is inlcuded in our list of Japanese Language Resources here.

Learning Efficiency

4/5

Price

3.5/5

Ease of Use

3/5

Amount of content

4.5/5

Other platforms you should consider:

New Pimsleur Logo 125x125button

  • Pimsleur Method – Most highly recommended for a systematic, listening and speaking focused program backed by a scientific approach

  • Rocket Japanese – For a systematic, wholistic course for begginner to intermediate students.
 

Other platforms you should consider:

  • Memrise – for a duolingo style app built around videos of real native speakers

 

 

 

How Does Japanese Pod 101 Japanese Work?

      • Japanese Pod 101 takes you through a series of Podcast-style audio and video lessons that usually run for around 20 minutes.
      • Content is arranged by level and by topic.
      • Extra features to go with this content includes flashcard modules, a word bank for saving vocabulary and chunked up lesson notes
Japanese Pod 101 on mobile

Listen to an interview with the founder Peter Galante

 

Things we like about Japanese Pod 101 for Japanese

Lots of Content

2950 Audio and Video Lessons.

Some lessons from Japanese Pod 101

Genuinely Likeable Presenters

Who tend to be bubbly, humorous and personable characters who also have advanced bilingual skills

Friendly teachers

Learning Topics Are Interesting

I find that I'm much more likely to actually learn if I'm interested in what is being talked about. Topics range from politics to music, from comedy to fashion and everywhere in between

Allows you to gain a deep understanding of culture

While you learn the language.

Up-to-the-minute content

The fact that the platform exists as a podcast means that there are always up-to-date topics being discussed

In-Built Flashcards

And wordbank features, means that your learning can be integrated and you don't have to switch back and forth between platforms as much. This being said, these features are not as robust as using a resource like Anki or Memrise.

Flashcards with audio

Reasonably Priced

The basic level pricing tier is very reasonable at around $5 a month.

Flexible Pricing

4 pricing tiers lets you flexibly choose your level of commitment

Advanced Content

Some genuinely challenging content for advanced learners, means that you can go a long way with the one platform. Japanese Pod 101 grows with you.

Advanced lesson contet

Content in a variety of formats, including a large selection of video and audio content. Video is king when you want to be fully engaged with conversational learning, but audio remains more convenient for learning on the go

A page from a PDF Book
 

Things we don’t like about Japanese Pod 101 for Japanese

Sprawling Content Structure

Due to the nature of the product having evolved over a long period of time without a "masterplan".

Too Many PDFs!

Much of the accompanying materials for the audio is only in PDF format when viewed on mobile. This makes it hard to select any of the words listed in the documents to , say, look them up in a dictionary for extra information, or look up a kanji, or add them to a word list for review. It all feels a little "this would have been very new and innovative in 2009".

PDFs on mobile feel out-of-date

Doesn't always give best meanings

Doesn't always give you meanings and explanations for the most needed words in a lesson. For example, I did one of their most challenging lessons that discussed the imperial abdication and contains a lot of rarely used and jargon words. When I went to the lesson notes, many of the words, including these ones: 世襲 heriditary 皇室 Royal Family, 典範 emperial law, 子孫 descendants, 王朝 dynasty, 統治権 soveirenty, were not listed. To add insult to injury, because the lesson transcripts and notes are all in PDF format when viewed on mobile, I was unable to copy and paste the words I didn't know into a dictionary. Its frustrating when the digital world, which should offer so many more possibilities than the physical world, functions with the same old limitations.

PDF text can't be selected on mobile

Some features are just "fillers"

Some of the extra features are a little bit "feature filler", which is to say, not that useful. The PDF materials are a case in point where the same content has cut up and repacked every which way, without providing any real extra value. The "record your voice to compare it to a sound wave image of a native speaker" feature is also pretty underwhelming.

Quizes demand only one translation

Teacher access a little underwhelming

The Premium Plus tier has as it's main drawcard access to native speaking language teachers who you can send questions to at anytime. This doesn't really seem that helpful. When I first read about the feature, I had thought that it would be access to real-time language lessons with native speakers via video chat. Which I thought would be a really great inclusion that would be worth the cash. Real time talking with native speakers is THE number one way that you improve your language, and really, the point of the whole exercise of learning a language. Unfortunately, the Premium Plus tier stops short of offering this service, and opts instead for the ability to send audio snippets to language teachers who send you back notes on how you could improve what you have said.

Interaction, but no conversation lessons with teachers

Sometimes Content is too quick for beginners

Sometimes there are not enough opportunities to repeat back words and phrases. At times, it feels like the presenters are more focused on coming across as fun, witty hosts at the expense of really giving the student the opportunity to learn.

Japanese Pod 101 has a range of pricing plans - click the image to see plans on Japanese Pod 101 site

Summary

Overall, Japanese Pod 101 is a great, deeply content rich platform that will take you a long way at a reasonable price.

Combine with these other platforms to create your own learning suite:

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About the reviewer

I’m Peter Head. I have succesfully completed the  highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1). I lived in Japan for four years as a student and on working holiday.  I have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.

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