Now that the test is over and done with and the year is starting to wind down, I’m moving more and more toward doing more practical studying. Trying to put down the drill books, walk away slowly, and try my best to go native with the language. Although I am still working way through some grammar, I want to break out of the grind and do something a little more freer.
One of the major resources that I turn to when I want something other than drill books is JapanesePod101. It has an immense library of material that just keeps getting bigger and bigger by the day. This makes it a great site to continue your learning or supplement your learning that you have already started.
They recently gave the site a much needed face lift and change some of the features to make a little easier to navigate. I tended to get a little lost on the old site, but the new site fixes a few of those issues.
I like how the new interface asks you what level you are, and then adds the appropriate lessons to your queue. This makes it a lot easier to stay focused on what you are studying and see where you are headed. JapanesePod101‘s greatest advantage and disadvantage is its huge library of content.
Advantage in the sense that there are multiple lessons that go over the same grammar point so that you can see it used in different situations, but a disadvantage in the sense that it is easy to get lost sometimes. The new interface fixes some of the disadvantages to some extent.
It still isn’t quite automatic yet. Some things feel a little clunky, like the fact that you have to check a box to show that you have completed a unit (you can’t have the system detect when you’ve listened to the unit?).
And, there isn’t a real structured way to setup review of the units. It would be great to see a SRS that queues up past lessons so you can listen to the dialog or review track (for premium members) again at a certain time in the future. This would help keep the mammoth library of material under control.
Improved Premium Features
JapanesePod101 has really been beefing up their premium offerings of late. One cool new feature that I have started to use more frequently since I took the test is the premium mobile site. It is basically a version of the site that is optimized for iDevices or Android devices.
You can listen to any of the mp3s that come with a particular lesson as well as read the PDFs and even line-by-line audio. This amazing for those of us that are not in front of our home computer that often.
The only downside to this feature is that you have to have a 12-month or 24-month premium subscription to unlock it. It seems like they could have made in available to monthly subscribers as well without too much trouble, but, oh, well.
JLPT Levels and Jpod Levels
A few of you have written me asking how JapanesePod101’s levels match up with JLPT levels. I think one of the many advantages of the JLPT is that when you go to buy books and use different kinds of materials you can easily see what is too high for you and what is too low for you.
If you have used Jpod101 for any length of time though, you’ll now that their levels don’t directly correspond to the JLPT levels, but here is a rough estimate of how they match up:
Newbie and Absolute Beginner Levels are N5
Beginner and Upper Beginner are N4 (although some units contain some more difficult grammar)
Lower Intermediate is around N3
Upper Intermediate is about N2, but uses some grammar points from N1 as well.
Advanced Audio Blogs have a lot of N1 vocabulary, but generally use easier grammar, also they don’t teach grammar in the lessons.
In general, a lot of the more complicated phrases used at the N2 and N1 level are not used in the lessons that much. A lot of the phrases and expressions that are in the grammar books for those levels are more often used in written Japanese. Since Jpod101 focuses more on spoken Japanese, these points don’t pop up as much.
I should note, too, that Jpod101 will usually introduce a new vocabulary word or two here and there that are more colloquial or specialized. In other words, they won’t be on any JLPT lists you have seen. So for example, sometimes I’ve listened to the beginner podcast and heard a word or two that I have never heard before, which is pretty cool.
Be careful though, Jpod101 uses some slang that (might?) be okay in Tokyo (since the podcast is written and recorded in Tokyo), but might not be so acceptable in other parts of the country. Here in the Kansai area some words that are totally fine are considered incredibly rude in Tokyo and vice versa. I recommend checking out new slang words you get from the podcast with a friend before using them around your Japanese boss.
JapanesePod101 is Good, but not Great
Jpod101 is probably the biggest source of audio material that is easily downloadable off the web. They have a pretty slick system that works well by delivering the audio right to you via a podcast, so that you don’t have to mess with a lot of details. It just automatically gets delivered to your iDevice or Android.
They are still sometimes a little disorganized and the site is little unintuitive in some places (although it has gotten a lot better). They also seem to have some of the worst marketing in the world, but if you can look past that it is a great source for lots of portable content.
What do you Think?
Have you checked out the improvements? Do you think they have improved the site? Let me know in the comments.
Here is a nice walk through of the new site: