Japanese Reading Practice with Advanced Audio Blogs

by on March 4, 2012

Japanesepod101 Advanced Audio BlogWhen I first started studying Japanese, it was pretty easy to pick out material to learn from because I hadn’t done any of it before. It was all new to me, and I never ran the risk of going over material I’ve already done and getting bored, or felt like I had just plunked down a little too much buck for not enough bang.

But, as soon as you get to the big leagues, and by big leagues I mean being able to ‘get around’ in Japanese. It becomes more and more difficult to find material that is suited to your level and isn’t something you’ve already been through.

The JLPT helps out a lot in this area by providing somewhat standard levels to gauge yourself against and help you decide what materials to start on next. That is definitely a huge advantage to having a system like this in place in my opinion.  It just makes selecting level-appropriate textbooks that much more easier.

But, when you get to a higher level, you need a lot of input. And I mean an avalanche of input from all sides to simply add the sheer number of vocabulary words that you’ll need to get through the test. You also need to have ample practice with that vocabulary and grammar in order for you to be comfortable with it enough to answer a bunch of questions about it.

Advanced Blogs

So there is definitely a need to have a lot of good healthy intake of vocabulary and grammar to keep you going. You could pick up a few native books and hammer your way through them, which really isn’t such a bad idea. That’s how I picked up and used a lot of the vocabulary I have now. It is pretty painful and a little bit of a struggle at first, but once you get the ball rolling it can be a pretty good experience.

You could also try to do SRS (Spaced Repetition System, like Anki) with all your necessary grammar and vocab points packed into it. This is another great idea, because it feeds you the words and grammar at exactly the time you start forgetting them. But, that is kind of boring, and on top of that it doesn’t give you a lot of context.

The 3rd option is that you can use material that falls kind of in between true native content meant for native speakers and material that is meant for learners. The Advanced Blog Series from Japanesepod101 fits snugly in there between these two areas. One big advantage is that you can take a look at it for free.

How to do it freebie style

JapanesePod101 actually allows you to listen to their past episodes on their site. The icing on the cake for the Advanced Blog series is that they post the transcript of the blog in the first comment of every episode so you can have a try at the blog before you listen to it.

My recommendation is to try to read the blog post first, because the wording and vocabulary used is written Japanese. You are most likely going to see this in a book, not hear it out loud on a TV show, so it is best to read it not listen to it.

Try to go through it once and get the general idea of what the passage is about. On your first try, go for a speed read. Give yourself only about 2 or 3 minutes to read through the entire thing and get the general idea. Write that first guess down along with any details that you picked up.

Then, go back for a more in depth read of the material. On this second round, don’t be afraid to use rikai-kun for Chrome or rikai-chan for Firefox to help you with any kanji you can’t read. Take as much time as you need to fully understand the text before moving on to the next part.

After you think you’ve got a good idea of what is going on. Give the podcast a listen. Try to read the text as you are listening to pick up on the pronunciation of the kanji. This is a good way to link the sound to the visual word.

The Advanced Blogs differ from the other podcasts in that there is no English translation in the podcast at all. That’s why it is a pretty good idea to try to understand as much as you can about the text before you start listening.

Also on the podcast there will be a short unscripted discussion about the text by two native speakers. The transcript of this conversation is not in the comments though unfortunately.

What if I Spring for the Basic Subscription?

If you sign up for the basic subscription, you get the handy pdf, which will among other things gives you the English translation if you were having a hard time guessing at some of the meanings. This is something that is especially handy if you are studying on your own and don’t have someone you can ask questions to.

Another advantage to the pdfs is that it will give you a list of new vocabulary along with some more example sentences that they don’t go over in the audio lesson. This is to give you more context and a better feeling of what the word is like and how to use it.

Another bonus, is that they’ve recently started including the transcript of the discussion of the two native speakers after the podcast. This has been a huge help for me because I can see the words they use and follow the discussion a lot easier. So, the podcast serves two purposes, reading and listening practice.

Japanese Pod 101 Basic Subscription

What if I Spring for the Premium Subscription?

Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to see the difference between basic and premium, but the premium can definitely be worth your while if you are looking to make JapanesePod101 your primary source for learning because it just makes things a lot easier for you to practice.

First off, something that I’m just now starting to get into is the vocabulary cards. After you are done with a lesson you can simply click a button and the cards are added to your decks to practice. You don’t have to export a list and import it into something else. If you are used to using another system to review vocabulary then you might still prefer to export things, but if not this can be pretty handy.

It also includes a list of all the vocabulary words and their example sentences with sample audio to practice with. Pretty useful for practicing your pronunciation. It of course has pronunciation for all the vocabulary words as well.

Another added benefit is the separated tracks, so that if you want to you can save some time by just listening to the blog post and not the whole lesson. This can be a huge convenience if you just want to do some review and not listen to all the introduction.

Japanese pod 101 Premium

What do you think?

Have you checked the advanced audio blog series out? It’s free to try out, all you need to do is sign up for a free account and listen to the lesson on the site. Let me know what you think of the series in the comments below.

P.S. Do you think Audio Blogs are the bomb?  Me, too! Sign up for the newsletter!

P.P.S. Could you do without an Audio Blog?  Then try joining my Facebook Page for all the latest updates.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Igiri February 2, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I think JapanesePod101 is probably good at beginner’s level, but I’m somewhere between Intermediate and Advanced and I have been disappointed. I need much more systematic practice of both grammar and vocabulary, and for the differences between the spoken language and the written language to be pointed out. The Advanced Audio Blog didn’t work for me, because it’s essentially someone reading a piece of written Japanese. The discussion by native-speakers that followed the audioblog was potentially useful, but was not well exploited as a learning device. I think it would have been better if the blog had been treated like a piece of conventional reading comprehension material, supported by help with grammar and vocabulary. The spoken discussion section could then provide reinforcement of key points, and when appropriate demonstrate differences between the written and spoken language. Also, I didn’t find the flashcards very helpful for kanji and vocabulary learning. For these latter, I have come across a good program, Read the Kanji (readthekanji.com), which introduces kanji in context level by level, using an algorithm to provide systematic practice, and the program also gives feedback on progress. I think JapanesePod101 could learn a lot from the Read the Kanji approach, and make a really valuable contribution to computer-based language learning. I should add that I’m an independent learner, based in the UK, and I have been trying to find useful language-learning websites to help me revive my Japanese which I learned more than 40 years ago. Any help is welcome!

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Clayton MacKnight February 4, 2013 at 6:45 am

I definitely like readthekanji.com. It is an amazing little tool for learning vocabulary quickly and smoothly. You also don’t have to worry about dealing with an IME as well.

I think jpod101 has a hard time being the catch all for digital Japanese practice. They always want to keep pretty standard so that everyone benefits, but then if you keep to the path you aren’t able to focus on specifics like you said. Great background material though. I still listen to the advanced audio blogs from time to time because it is more convenient while I’m walking around or riding the train or something.

If I have time to sit down, I’ll read an essay or something to practice my reading.

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