If you are learning a language in a class, you have somebody to talk to and a way to hear the language spoken on a regular basis at a level that is appropriate for you, but what if you’re learning the language on your own?

If you’re learning Japanese, you can wander around YouTube looking for videos, you can listen to Japanese music, you can watch Japanese movies and anime…and I’m not saying those are bad things.  If nothing else, it can help get your ear attuned to the sounds of the language, but you need something you can listen to that is at an appropriate level for you, whatever that level may be.

That’s where Japanesepod101 comes in.

First, the bad news:  in order to get full access, you have to pay, and they don’t let you pay by the month.  You have to shell out for several months worth of access all at once.

Now the good news:  you can get access to a lot of audio for free, and, anyway, the site is actually worth the cost if you have the money.

They have a ton of audio at all kinds of levels.  Here is the layout of a typical “Beginner” lesson:

After the theme song, they say hello to some country or state, and then the speakers for that lesson identify themselves.  We always get “Peter, here,” since Peter is our English speaking host.  We then get anywhere from 1 to 3 native Japanese speakers who identify themselves.  Everyone then exchanges greetings in Japanese, and we get a dialogue.

The dialogue is conducted at normal conversational speed.   It is then repeated slowly.  It is then repeated again at full speed but with Peter providing an English translation.  After that, there is a breakdown of the vocabulary, often including grammar explanations.  The dialogues typically involve everyday experiences but are entertaining and often funny.

Some of the lessons include the informal version of the dialogue as well, as a seperate audio track.  The lessons include a dialogue script in English, Romaji, Kana and Kanji and a vocabulary list.  It also includes links to more detailed grammar breakdowns.  A typical audio track runs 15 – 20 minutes in length, and the tracks are available as a podcast. The site includes various video tracks as well, but the audio tracks are their bread and butter, and there must be well over a thousand lessons up there as of this writing.

No matter what your Japanese level, you can find something on here that will be helpful to you, and the monthly price isn’t bad.  Now, if only they would let up pay by the month instead of having to purchase several months of access all at the same time…then it would be perfect.  (Yes, I know I already complained about that, but that’s how much it bothers me.)  Don’t forget, you can get the audio lessons as a podcast.  But you don’t get access to all the written materials and detailed grammar breakdowns for free.)

Tune in, give it a listen, and see if it works for you.  I tend to listen to the podcasts while I’m driving.  It turns drive time into study time, and that’s immensely useful.



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