JapanesePod101 Review: An Overview
Price: Free Lifetime Starter Membership. Basic Membership $8.00/month. Premium Membership $25.00/month. Premium Plus $47.00/month
Japanese Level: Absolute Beginners to Low-Advanced
Conversational Japanese Materials: Audio Lessons with Accompanying PDF files. Video Lessons, Common Word Lists, Japanese and Kanji Dictionaries, Vocabulary Lists, Flashcards, and Other Resources
JLPT Materials: Grammar Patterns for All Levels. JLPT Prep-Courses for Levels N5-N3
Worth it?: Excellent. Tons of materials and lessons are more enjoyable that most other programs. Highest Recommendation
*Review Updated: June 7th, 2020
- JapanesePod101 Review: An Overview
- What is JapanesePod101?
- Is It Worth The Money?
- Japanesepod101 Review: Pros vs. Cons
- What Makes Japanesepod101 Different from Everything Else?
- Lesson Content
- The New Format of Lessons
- Reading and Listening Comprehension
- JLPT Study Materials
- Smartphone Apps to Study on the Go
- Super Discount! 65% off a Premium Membership by Signing Up Through TheTrueJapan.com!
- Click Here to Get the 65% Instant Discount
- Premium Plus Membership: Personal 1-on-1 Access to Your Very Own Teacher
- Click Here to Save $117 off a Premium Plus Membership
- A Secret Membership Option
What is JapanesePod101?
If you have ever searched online for ways to learn Japanese, there’s a good chance you have come across Japanesepod101. The Japanesepod101 website offers a comprehensive collection of audio, video, and written lessons ranging from an absolute beginner to advanced levels. In this Japanesepod101 review, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the pros and cons of their website.
In addition to the audio and video lessons, there are many other resources for improving all aspects of your Japanese. There are resources to study for the JLPT, learning how to write Japanese (katakana, hiragana, and kanji), vocabulary lists covering many different topics (including the 100 and 2,000 most common words in Japanese), a forum to ask questions and communicate with other members, and much more.
You can sign-up for a free account and try some of the features out, but you’ll have to pay a monthly fee (a lifetime membership is now available) to use all of the resources.
If you’re thinking about paying money to subscribe, the two most important questions are: Does it work? And is it worth paying for?
I have been using their materials for years now, and while it’s not perfect, I think it is still the best resource to learn Japanese out there. So let’s jump right into my Japanesepod101 review so you can see what I love and hate about their program.
Is It Worth The Money?
Quick Japanesepod101 Review: Out of all of the materials, classes, and programs I have used, Japanesepod101 taught me the most useful and real-world Japanese. Language learning can be very difficult, but most of the lessons on Jpod101 are fun, and does a great job at explaining the material in an easy to understand way.
I wish I knew about it sooner, because I would have saved a lot of money by not buying other crappy programs and books. The material on Japanesepod101 would have easily replaced 75-85% of the books and programs I bought.
If you want to become fluent in Japanese, Japanesepod101 will help get you there. I suggest signing up for the free membership and trying some of the lessons to see how you like it.
Okay! Let’s jump right into this Japanesepod101 review and go in-depth about the good, the bad, and what to avoid.
Japanesepod101 Review: Pros vs. Cons
- Learn Japanese for the real-world with NATURAL expressions that you will actually use to communicate.
- Excellent teaching makes it clear and easy to learn new Japanese words, grammar, expressions, and culture.
- The audio lessons are very entertaining. They often have lessons with multiple stories, like a mini-drama series.
- Very well structured and organized. The lessons are categorized into these categories: absolute beginner, beginner, intermediate, advanced, with lots of bonus lessons.
- The speakers on the audio lessons teach more than just the target grammar pattern or vocabulary. In each lesson, they give insights about natural Japanese, culture, nuances, and much more. I found this to be best part about the audio lessons.
- Tons of other resources: JLPT study resources, an active forum to communicate with other members and even the staff, dictionaries, vocabulary lists with the most commonly used words, and much more.
- Option to have 1-on-1 personal access to a Japanese teacher. They can correct your writing, work on your pronunciation, and help you with any questions that you have.
- I LOVE the new format of their lessons. It makes studying and learning the material very easy and efficient. The dialogue, vocabulary words, written explanation, grammar audio explanation, lesson transcript, and kanji can all be found on the same page (on a desktop computer).
- The app for listening to audio lessons on a mobile device is simple and works really well.
- The biggest con for me is that some of the grammar explanations in the audio lessons were short. The teachers did a great job creating a fun and entertaining dialogue that uses the grammar naturally in a conversation. Their explanation of the grammar is clear and easy to understand, but is often short. To learn the details and exceptions of the grammar being taught, you are instructed to read the written explanations in the lesson notes. The lesson notes are very good, but it would be nice if they provided more details of the grammar in the audio lessons as well.
- Each level of lessons are taught by different people with different personalities and teaching styles. While all of the lessons were easy to understand, I found some of the lessons more dry than others. You’ll probably like certain teachers more than others as well. This can make language learning more difficult since you might not enjoy some instructors or lessons.
- So many different resources on the website that it will take a while to see all of the features they have to offer. (I’ll try to highlight their major resources in this Japanesepod101 review).
- While the 1-on-1 teacher option is good for asking questions or getting feedback on written work, most questions are done via text, with no live conversations. To work on your pronunciation, you send voice recordings to your teacher. If you want to become good at speaking Japanese, this option won’t help you at all.
- Premium Plus service (1-on-1 teacher access), costs an additional $22.00 per month. This option is only good if you don’t have much time to study, want advice about how learn Japanese, or have lots of questions about the content in the lessons. It’s not worth it to me. If you have more time to study, finding an online tutor to have live conversations is a much better option.
Here are some things that are either good or bad, depending on how you look at it:
- Some of the lessons have multiple part stories, just like a TV series. So if you get into the story, you’ll have to listen to the next few lessons to hear the conclusion. Most people find this exciting and makes them excited to study more. However, if you’re busy and can only study once every week or two, you might forget what happened in a previous episode and need to go back to get back into the story.
- Peter, who I believe is the founder of Japanesepod101, is also in some of the audio lessons (particularly the lower intermediate lessons). In the lessons, he often jokes around and can go off topic at times. Some people find this annoying, while others love the lighthearted humor and questions he brings to the lessons. I personally enjoyed his commentary. There are some lessons where he does joke around a lot, but it made the lessons more fun for me. Since he isn’t a native Japanese speaker, his pronunciation can be a little suspect at times. However, I liked this too since I could hear the difference between the native and non-native Japanese speakers.
What Makes Japanesepod101 Different from Everything Else?
JapanesePod101 gives you the freedom to study at your own pace in the comfort of your home, or anywhere in the world that has an connection to the Internet. The Japanese lessons are explained very well and are easy to understand. The material they teach is very practical. You can immediately apply what you learn in real life Japanese conversations. The lessons are also very entertaining, which makes them fun to listen to and study.
The high-quality lessons, tons of resources, and regular updates makes JapanesePod101 the #1 choice by far.
While there are lots of good video lessons for students of all levels learning Japanese, the heart of the JapanesePod101 website is their audio lessons. These lessons are usually 10-20 minutes, so it’s easy to finish one or more lessons per day without getting overwhelmed. Each lesson usually focuses on a specific grammar point or topic. Along with the audio files, there is a PDF or word file that explains the grammar/lesson in more detail.
These audio lessons are worth their weight in gold. The PDF files does a great job teaching you the target grammar and vocabulary for each lesson. The audio lessons show you how to APPLY what you learn in everyday situations.
That being said, I wish they provided more details found in the lesson notes in the actual audio lesson. Most lessons consisted of an example dialogue that the teachers would break down. They teach you vocabulary words and any useful phrases used in the dialogue, as well as how to use them naturally in conversation. They also talk about Japanese culture and gave insights into Japan.
Usually at the end of the lesson, they would talk about the main grammar pattern used in the dialogue. They teach you what grammar means, how it’s used by naturally, and show you how to use it. However, the explanation of how to use it is usually very short. They then tell you to check the lesson notes for a more detailed explanation.
The written explanation is great. It’s easy to understand and gives you enough details for you to learn the grammar with no problems. However, I think it would be nice if they talked about these details in the audio lessons as well.
The best part of the audio lessons is that they teach you something that most books don’t. They teach you real-world Japanese and how to use it naturally. This makes it easy for you to use the what you learn IMMEDIATELY. The native Japanese speakers give very useful insight on speaking natural Japanese. They also talk about Japanese culture, Japanese words and phrases commonly used in daily life, expressions, and much more.
They also teach you natural expressions so you can sound like an expert Japanese speaker in no time. I liked that they talked about the situations in which you would use the words or grammar being taught in the lesson. I found these insights to be EXTREMELY helpful in improving my Japanese. I have studied so many words and grammar only to be let down when I found out that Japanese people didn’t use the words I studied.
The teaching is also top notch. There is usually a native Japanese speaker(s) and a native English speaker on the audio lessons. This means you get to hear native Japanese being spoken that will have a natural translation from the native English speaker. The dialogues are interesting and make learning Japanese quite fun. The explanations are very clear and easy to understand, but they can be a little short at times. The text files (PDF or Word) go into greater detail of the grammar, but it would be nice if some of the details could be explained in the audio section as well.
There are also transcripts of the audio lesson and a list of kanji used. You can listen to the audio files directly from the website or download it to your computer. You could also have the lessons update automatically into your podcast.
The New Format of Lessons
The new format and design of their website makes learning the material much, much easier and efficient.
The audio and video lessons load quickly, and have everything you need to study on one page.
The audio lessons are especially great.
When you press play to start an audio lesson, it will open up a player on the bottom of your browser (I use Google Chrome). On that same page, there is the dialogue of the audio lesson, so you can easily follow along. You can also choose to display the dialogue in kanji, hiragana, romaji, or the English translation. If you scroll down, you’ll find the list of vocabulary words used in the dialogue. With a click of your mouse, you can hear each vocabulary word being said by native speaker in normal speed or slightly slow down. You also have the option to record yourself to practice your pronunciation. You can add any of these vocabulary words to the flashcard system on their website and even take a quiz to test yourself.
If you scroll further down the page, you’ll also find the lesson notes which provides a detailed explanation of the grammar with example sentences. There is also an audio clip that talks only about the grammar point (taken from the full audio lesson). You’ll also find the lesson transcript and a list kanji for your to study.
Having all of these materials in one place makes it very easy to study and learn from.
For mobile devices, their Innovative Language app makes it easy to access their audio and video lessons. The app starts up quickly and runs very smoothly. It’s a great way to learn Japanese while you have some downtime (waiting in line, taking public transportation, etc.).
Reading and Listening Comprehension
The Japanesepod101 is always adding new material to their website. When I was going through their lessons this past week, I found a few things I’ve never seen before (there’s a lot of material, so maybe I missed it before).
There are lessons dedicated to reading, listening comprehension, and even learning Japanese through songs. They also added a lot of lessons teaching words for specific subjects (Japanese words to use on social media, holiday words, questions and answers, etc.).
The listening comprehension section is good, but I really love the reading lessons. They have an audio lesson to accompany the line-by-line text, as well as tons of other options to help you learn. You can change the display of the text to kanji, hiragana, romaji, or English. You can listen to the audio playback of each line of text, which makes it convenient to practice. There is also an option to record your voice to check your pronunciation. All of these options make these lessons one of the best ways I have seen to improve your reading.
JLPT Study Materials
If you’re reading this Japanesepod101 review to see if there is JLPT study material on their website, you might be a little disappointed.
While Japanesepod101 does have resources to study for the JLPT, the best thing about their website is their audio lessons,which teaches useful, real-world Japanese that you can us right away. The JLPT resources they provide are meant to be used with the audio lessons.
There are basically three resources to study for the JLPT on the Japanesepod website:
- JLPT kanji lessons (JLPT levels N5 – N1)
- JLPT multiple choice assessment quizzes (JLPT levels N5 – N2 only)
- JLPT master course (levels N5 – N2 only)
1. The kanji lessons are actually pretty good. There is a short, but informative video for each kanji lesson. In the video, you’ll learn the reading of each kanji, and common word(s) using that character. Any new vocabulary/kanji in the lesson can be saved to a flashcard deck or your word bank for future studying.
2. The multiple choice assessment quizzes are very short. While they can be useful to review material you are studying, I feel that it’s missing a lot of information you would need to pass the JLPT.
3. However, the real magic is their JLPT master courses. There is no new information contained in these JLPT master courses. These “courses” are just organized lists of their audio lessons, combined with the multiple choice assessment quizzes mentioned above.
Having all of the audio files organized according to JLPT level makes it very easy to study. All the grammar you need to know for each level of the JLPT (N5- N2 only) is right there at your fingertips. You can just jump straight to each audio lessons to learn that grammar pattern and more new kanji.
In my honest opinion, the resources on Jpod101 can help you learn Japanese to pass the JLPT…but only if use other resources to help you study.
For levels N4 – N2, I would still recommend that you purchase JLPT study guides and ONLY use the Japanesepod101 lessons as a supplement to gain a deeper understanding of the material. While it seems that most of the grammar and kanji are taught on the JPod 101 website, I feel that the JLPT material on their website isn’t enough to pass the test. I highly recommend you get a good textbook for whatever level of the test you will be taking. What Japanesepod101 will help you with is teaching how to use the grammar in real life conversations, as well as providing insights about the nuances of certain phrases and words.
N1 is the exception however. Since the JLPT N1 uses older grammar patterns that are more common in writing than in conversation, you won’t find some of these grammar on the Japanesepod101 website. This is because Japanesepod101 focuses more on useful Japanese you’ll hear and use in everyday situations. The last time I checked, there were 19 grammar patterns being taught on Japanesepod101 for the JLPT N1 level. So you definitely need to purchase JLPT books/study guides if you are planning to take the N1.
For the JLPT N2, I recommend the Sou Matome and Kanzen Master books. But both these companies make books for all levels of the JLPT. I have also used both the Sou Matome and Kanzen Master series for the N1.
Also check out the “How to Pass the JLPT N2 on Your First Try” post. While this posts talks about the JLPT N2, the tips given are applicable to any level of the test.
Note: If you want to learn Japanese to become fluent, I usually recommend NOT studying for the JLPT unless it is necessary to pass the test (for a job, school, etc.) or if you use it as motivation to study. Concentrating on the audio lessons to learn Japanese would be your best bet to improve your skills.
Smartphone Apps to Study on the Go
What I really love is that they just came out with a free app for your smart phone called “Innovative Languages.” You can access all of lessons on your smart phone so you can study Japanese wherever you go, easily. I would listen to the audio lessons on my commute to work every day.
It is absolutely free to sign up for a lifetime membership. At the free level, you will have access to some of the audio lessons and resources like vocabulary lists, Japanese key phrases, Japanese dictionary, and much more.
The basic level is $8.00/month (becomes cheaper with multiple month subscriptions), includes all of the audio lessons in their archive as well as a printer friendly option for their lesson notes and kanji writing lessons.
The premium level includes all of the lessons plus access to all of the resources available on their website. I highly recommend this level as it is only $25.00/month and has everything you need to become an expert in all areas of Japanese.
For those of you who would like 1-on-1 access to a teacher (through text, but unfortunately no live conversations), you can sign up for the Premium Plus membership. This costs $47.00/month. If you know you will ask a lot of questions (that can’t be answered on the forum or lesson comments), then you should go with this option. If you are just starting out, it’s probably better to start off with the Premium membership and then upgrade to the Premium plus if you still want a private tutor.
Super Discount! 65% off a Premium Membership by Signing Up Through TheTrueJapan.com!
If you were on the fence about trying out Japanesepod101, now you can get a 65% discount off of any qualifying subscription. I am both a member and an affiliate of Japanesepod101, which means I get a small commission on a sale. However, I have been using this service for years and truly feel it is one of the biggest reasons for me learning how to speak Japanese. I will NEVER recommend anything that I don’t believe in.
This is by far the BIGGEST discount you’ll find anywhere. I want to thank you for reading my Japanesepod101 review and for visiting the The True Japan website. Thank you! As always, please drop me a line if you have any questions about learning Japanese or anything at all.
Also, I can offer special discounts to anyone who signs up through this website. They also offer a 60 – day, money back guarantee. If you don’t like the material or even if you are not satisfied in anyway, just let them know and you’ll get a refund. *Important: If you do get a refund, you’ll only get a refund for the remaining days left on your membership. So if you get a 1 month membership and are not 100% satisfied, its better to cancel right away instead of waiting one day before your membership expires. Their customer service is excellent though, so you can always e-mail or call them if you have any questions or comments.
Premium Plus Membership: Personal 1-on-1 Access to Your Very Own Teacher
The 65% discount above only applies to a Premium membership, which includes all the material and lessons on Japanesepod101. However, if you wanted to have 1-on-1 access to a Japanese teacher, get a personal assessment of your Japanese level by a specialist, and a personalized study plan tailored for your specific needs, the Premium Plus membership is the way to go. By signing up through this website, you can get a $117 discount off a Premium Plus Membership.
Having private access to one of their amazing teachers means that you’ll be able have any questions about Japanese answered right away. You can also have get help with advice on the best ways for you to learn Japanese, and getting feedback on your written Japanese. Having a personal teacher can quickly improve your Japanese.
However, there are two things I don’t like about this feature.
First, you don’t get to have live conversation practice with your teacher. Except for the initial personal assessment of Japanese level (done by talking to Japanese teacher via Skype), most of your communication is done via texting (via the website or the mobile phone app) or e-mail.
This is great for getting help with written work. You can submit short pieces (less than 750 characters) via text, or by e-mailing your longer works to your teacher. They will correct it for you and give you good feedback on it. But nothing beats having live conversations with native Japanese speakers to improve your Japanese quickly.
The second negative about this option is the price. The normal premium membership cost $25.oo for 1 month (without using discounts like the ones below) while the 1-on-1 teacher premium plus option costs $47.00 for one month. This is almost double the price.
In my opinion, the normal premium membership is amazing, and will give you all the tools you need to become good at Japanese. If you have time to study, I would get this cheaper membership and use the money you saved on a online tutor. You can find great Japanese online teachers at sites like italki. Having live conversations with native Japanese speakers is the quickest way to improve your Japanese. You can also ask these online tutors for help with any of the material you study on the Japanesepod101 site.
However, the premium plus 1-on-1 teacher option is good in some situations. If you don’t have much time to study and can’t find 30 minutes to an hour to have conversation practice with an online tutor, then the premium plus option might be good for you. You can ask questions anytime via texts, so it’s quick and easy to get help with material that you’re having difficulty with.
The premium plus membership is also a good option for people who want to work on their written Japanese. You can send short texts or longer works via e-mail to your private teacher. They will make corrections and give you feedback on it.
Another situation in which the premium plus membership is a good option is for people who are shy. It can be a little nerve-racking to speak to a stranger in a new language. So communicating by text and e-mail is a much easier and less intimidating way to get help from a native speaker.
If you want to try out the 1-on-1 private teacher option, be sure to sign-up with the link below to get the discount.
A Secret Membership Option
They don’t openly market this (probably cause it makes them less money but saves you a lot), but Japanesepod 101 offers a lifetime membership option. If you are serious about learning Japanese, this subscription will probably save you a lot of money in the long run, especially if you are at a beginner to low intermediate level. The only downside is that they only offer a lifetime membership for the Premium membership, so you’ll have access to everything on their website, but you won’t have access to private, 1-on-1 lessons like the Premium Plus membership above.
I was a member for over two years paying the fees on a monthly basis. There were a few months that I was so busy that I didn’t have much time to study Japanese. So I pretty much wasted my money during those months.
Now I that I have the lifetime membership, I never have to worry about paying each month, and I am free to take breaks whenever I need without wasting my membership time. The amount I paid over those two years was enough to pay for a lifetime membership. I couldn’t even find a way to access the lifetime membership sign-up page from their website. But after some in-depth searching, I found it. If you’re interested you can access the sign-up page here: Lifetime Membership Option
JapanesePod101 has my highest recommendation. I really enjoy listening to the audio lessons and I learned so much from them. The teachers have a talent for breaking down difficult Japanese grammar and make it easy to understand. The best part about the lessons was not just learning new grammar…it was the advice on HOW and WHEN to use it that was the most valuable to me. It does a great job teaching you how to speak natural Japanese that you can use right away with native Japanese speakers.
If your goal is to learn to Japanese and attain fluency, Japanesepod101 can make your journey a lot easier. It was one of the best decisions I have made for improving my Japanese. You can always create a free account to check out some of their lessons.
If I missed anything in this Japanesepod1o1 review, drop me a line and I’ll try my best to answer all of your questions.