For reference, here’s my old review:
I met my girlfriend 3 years ago, and got increasingly interested in Japanese culture. I wanted to learn the language but didn’t have enough time or will to register to a brick and mortar language school in my city. Then I found JapanesePod101.com. Since then, I have made tremendous progress in Japanese language. Every time I go to Japan, I am thrilled to understand more of the conversations around me. Before going further into the review, I must mention that I’ve been a premium member of JapanesePod101 for a bit more than one year. Although the the premium subscription is more expensive than the basic, or even the free material, it gives access to more tools that have been tremendously helpful for my learning.
Audio Lessons and Accompanying PDFs
As the name JapanesePod101 implies, the website offers podcast in which the hosts go through a script (some mini-story with dialogue) and then explains the supporting vocabulary and grammar. I find it very practical to simply put the mp3 files on my music player and listen to it when I commute. This is very time-efficient as I have usually nothing else to do in public transportation! I am a visual learner, which means that I can memorize way more easily when I can see them. This is where I find the accompanying PDFs very practical, they contain all the dialogues, vocabulary and grammar discussed in the lessons. The dialogues are written both in Romaji, Kana and Kanji (3 versions!) to practice reading skills. Nowadays it is so easy to put those PDFs on a tablet and have them accessible wherever we are.
Flashcards are my personal favorite. Sometimes it can be difficult to learn new words presented in the audio lessons, and listening back to the lessons many times can be time consuming. The accompanying PDFs can help assimilate he vocabulary faster, but my weapon of choice is the flashcard! The flashcard system on JapanesePod101 gradually introduces new words. When you succeed to remember the meaning of a word, the system records your progress and will increase the time before the word is asked again. The emphasis is put on newer words that are not well known. When a word is still unknown, it may come back after 1-2 minutes in your flashcard session. When a word is mastered, it may be asked again only after several months. If you fail to remember a word that you used to know well, it will be asked frequently again. This emphasis of your weaknesses (spending time on words that are not well known) is really time efficient and allows to learn a lot of new words and fast! I am now working my way through the CORE2000, the 2000 most useful Japanese words. This form of study feels like a game and becomes addictive. So far, I’ve made my way through more than half of the 2000 words. I know I am making a lot of progress since I now recognize a lot of those words while listening to my girlfriend talk to her Japanese friends (yes, those flashcards also contain audio!). SEPTEMBER 2011 UPDATE: I’ve learned all 2000 most useful words already. I also removed the romaji cards (words written in latin alphabet) and stick to hiragana and katakana only, this way I learned to read Japanese fast using the flashcard system! I also built my own customized deck of Japanese word cards by taking words from the first season of the beginner podcast series. When I watch Japanese movies, I a thrilled to pick up more and more words from the dialogues!
Learning to write Japanese, Kana, Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji
The Japanese writing system can look quite complicated at first. JapanesePod101 does a good job at sorting this out! All characters come with audio and phonetic writing, with clear tables of Hiragana and Katakana (characters form words). The most common Kanjis (a character is a word), the characters borrowed from the Chinese writing system, are also clearly explained. Similar to the vocabulary flashcards, you can drill those Japanese letters on JapanesePod101 website. A very efficient way to learn characters is to try to read words you already know by their romaji writing. It is a slow process since it forces you to always go to the tables of katakana or hiragana but I found that such process fixes them in my memory better.
I hope this review was helpful to you. Again, this is my personal opinion on JapanesePod101, and its value may differ depending on your learning style. If you have any question, or want to share your opinion on JapanesePod101, please leave a comment below. Don’t forget that JapanesePod101 offers some free content and that you can sign up for a free account without any engagement, give it a try!