Welcome to the Japanese Journals series and the second part of the Japanese Pod 101 focus. I apologise for not getting this post out to you sooner. I became quite busy with the looming holidays and some health concerns, and I didn’t want to write the post unless I could give it my full attention. If you aren’t sure what this series is, and would like more information, please visit my introduction post.
In the first part of the Japanese Pod 101 experiment, which I shared about two and a half weeks ago, I went over the basics of signing up, cost comparisons, and how the website fairs versus the Japanese Pod 101 YouTube channel. Today, I will be looking at how the videos are structured and what makes them stand-out when compared to other language learning videos I’ve tried using, some of the other features of having a paid membership, and finally if I feel the monetary investment is worth the content offered.
** Please note: This post IS NOT sponsored. The discussion based here is entirely of my own experiences with no affiliates or anything else. Thanks. **
The interface for when you’re watching a video is straight-forward. There’s the section with the video playing, your typical options for volume control, closed captions, HD, and the playback speed. If you have a paid membership, there will also be an arrow on the video’s taskbar for downloading the video for offline access.
Some of the things that I liked about the interface is the small bar beneath the video that indicates the total number of lessons, or videos, and how many of them you have completed thus far. I’m very much a visual learner and I like visual aesthetics when I’m keeping track of my progress, no matter the subject I’m learning. It helps me feel accomplished during the learning process and being able to quickly see it is a nice little reference that I appreciated.
Other titbits on the interface page include the option to mark the video as “Complete” once you have finished watching it, or mastering the information of that specific video; downloading a transcript of the video; downloading PDF copies of the lesson; sharing the video; and if there’s vocabulary from the video, adding it to your stack of flashcards to study later.
Everything is very neat and organised, which for me as an OCD person, is another aesthetic feature that helps me to focus more on the lessons without feeling cluttered. My brain functions far more efficiently when things aren’t messy or overwhelming. These are most-definitely going to be relative to the person who’s learning, but I like the little details.
Video Structure & Content
Once I started to watch the videos, one of the very first things that I noticed was that they have both an English-speaking host and a natively Japanese-speaking host. I feel that this works very well for a couple of reasons. The two different speakers work together to help emphasise the major differences between English and Japanese during the lessons that works to really put certain core principles into perspective, such as the basic grammar structure of the sentences, for example. The Japanese-speaker also helps ensure that Japanese words are pronounced properly, similarly to how a native speaker would pronounce them. This adds to the authenticity of the lessons and certifies that students will get the right sort of education.
As someone who grew up speaking multiple languages—Hindi and Urdu—that had similar words but with distinct fluctuations to set them apart, accurate pronunciation is an extremely vital aspect for me when I’m trying to comprehend new tongues. Those pronunciations are also quite important when you take different dialects into account. J-Pod 101 is one of the first resources that I have encountered that takes that extra step towards genuine language learning.
The first language learning video that I watched was an introduction on Japanese grammar as that tends to be my biggest trouble areas, next to memorising Kanji. It broke down the basic word order for English with a rather simple sentence [I ate (an) apple.] and then used the same sentence to highlight the word order for Japanese. I have had teachers before who have described Japanese word orders, but they never simplified it in such a way as to be as accessible as it was in this video. The explanations they give tend to be convoluted, but that really doesn’t work when a person is trying to gauge the true basics, or foundation. As you can see below, the video used bright colours to highlight where the shifts in order and focus are, making them wonderful for visual learners. Everything is then explained in simple text for those who much prefer textual learning rather than visual learning. The downloadable PDFs are also superb for folks who learn better by taking notes and writing things down, as they are easy to print out and interact with.
Another aspect in the grammar video that I watched, along with a conversational video I watched shortly afterwards, is that there are three versions of the sentence/words/exchanges, etc. on the screen most—if not all—the time: Japanese, Romaji (Romanised Japanese), and English. Absolute beginners may become a tad bit frustrated with the Japanese portions as it does include Kanji, but when you begin basic Hiragana lessons, the Kanji is shown with is furigana (the hiragana beside the Kanji for reference). Lastly, most of the videos will show the different parts of a sentence, and then provide an allotted amount of time to allow the viewer to put the sentence together themselves before it gives the answers. This sort of forces you to figure out sentence structure the same way that you would a simple puzzle. It’s an excellent way to train the part of your brain that utilises memorisation for cognitive language functions as speaking languages is mostly about what you can remember.
Other Tools Offered
As I mentioned above, there are various other tools that are available to premium members. There are two that I find most beneficial for me. The first is the downloadable PDF versions of the lessons. I like to print them out and keep them with me in the same binder or folder that I use for my Japanese classes. This feature is a marvellous way to help supplement Japanese learning via a classroom or private tutoring. They work as extra notes and reference materials that may go into more details, or give better examples, of the things taught with your teachers and tutors.
As you can see below, the sentences are clear and very easy to read. My only gripe with the lesson plans is that they are poorly formatted, which drives the grammar-perfect (well, as much as my dyslexia allows me) part of my brain a bit batty. If you don’t mind putting in the extra effort, you can always copy the contents into a word document and manually format it so it’s a bit neater. That is entirely up to the individual and what will help them the most. In all honesty, it is a minor gripe in the grand scheme of its potential.
The second one that I adore are the flashcards. They can take some getting used to as there are stacks that are pre-fabricated based on lessons you have completed, and then you have the option of creating your very own. They can become quite large if you don’t keep an eye on it, and it’s best to stay on top of studying them, or you can find yourself overwhelmed with a bunch of unstudied flashcards (600+).
In addition to vocabulary that is found in your studies, the website offers pre-created lists by some very specific subject matters. Most of these lists don’t take your fluency level in account when you browse through them, so beginners can be faced with Kanji heavy words or phrases. However, there are lists that focus precisely on one Kanji radical or another. I am so grateful for these lists as Kanji radicals can become very intimidating the deeper that you delve into Japanese.
I’ve shared some screenshots of the more basic vocabulary lists down below. Similarly, to video pathways (discussed in Part 1), you have the option of adding the selected words from these vocabulary lists to your own repertoire of flashcards to study later, or for reference.
I mentioned in Part 1 that there is no strict guidelines or course outline for cohesive learning of Japanese with J-Pod 101. If you aren’t in any classes or working with a tutor(s), and if you have difficulty self-motivating or doing independent study, then this may not be the best investment for you as it is quite heavily independent. You must be willing to stay aware of your own progress and you need to hold yourself accountable to sticking with the lessons and studying.
With that said, I adore this website for independent learners of the language of Japanese. It is sensationally resourceful, depending on which tier of the subscription that you sign up for. The video lessons, which is the core of the program, is the best part. The break-downs of complicated grammar, sentence structure, adverbs, and more is astounding and highly engaging and interactive. It made me feel excited and enthusiastic about learning this complex and sophisticated language rather than drowning in a pool of intimidation and helplessness that most other programs I’ve tried put me in.
If you are a student working with a professional educator in any setting, then I would recommend this to you even more because, as I’ve mentioned many times before, it is a remarkable supplement. I have been using this in conjunction with the Genki I: An Integrated Course in Japanese textbook and I have found my memorisation improving as well as my understanding of the core concepts.
No matter what route you choose, it will require hard work and dedication either way. Learning languages requires patience and diligence and honestly, based off my own experiences, the reward of that patience and labour is almost always worth it.
I went over the cost comparisons of the different programs in Part 1, and I believe that if you have the time to invest in learning Japanese with your full attention, as well as the money, then the price is most-definitely worth it. The type of subscription you sign up for will be heavily dependent on your learning needs. The absolute basic version is great for students who just want added video references; the middle tier (premium) for students looking for more tools aside from simple video watching; and the premium plus subs may be the perfect investment for individuals who want access to more strictly personalised lesson plans, grading, and availability to online tutors for chatting (people who don’t have access to classes or tutoring outside for whatever reasons), and people who are highly motivated, self-starter types of learners.
The price is steep though and can become quite costly depending on the subscription type and tier, so the monetary investment will have to be a personal decision based on an individual’s situation/circumstances. For example, I don’t have a lot of money at all due to medications that I have to pay for regarding myself and my kitty, so my possible investment in the medium tier is one that takes a lot of consideration. It really depends on how you prioritise learning Japanese with the rest of things that are going on in your life.
Thank you for joining me on my experiments with Japanese Pod 101. I hope these segments have been beneficial for you! My next Japanese Journals post will be up within the first two weeks of January and I shall be going over some book materials that I have used to supplement my learning of Kana.
With J-Pod 101, my trial subscription ended last week, and I will be signing up again for the medium tier plan (premium) when my Spring semester at uni begins because I want to ensure my success in the course and do the best things possible to help improve my speaking and writing comprehension of the language for my future career goals.