If you’re looking for a way to learn Japanese online, you’ve probably come across JapanesePod101.
JapanesePod101 is THE big name in online Japanese lessons. They’ve been around for years, and they’ve delivered literally millions of Japanese classes!
But can they help you learn Japanese? Well, I’ve been learning with them for a few years now, so let’s have a look inside my premium members area and take a dive into some of the features.
Here’s my honest JapanesePod101 review (updated for 2018), plus a sneak look inside the premium members area.
By the way, this review of JapanesePod101 is pretty long, so here’s the contents in case you want to skip to a particular section!
- 1 What is JapanesePod101?
- 2 Inside a JapansePod101 Premium account
- 3 What are the lessons like on JapanesePod101?
- 4 What can I learn on JapanesePod101?
- 5 JapanesePod101 review: what’s good?
- 6 JapanesePod101 review: what’s bad?
- 7 How much does JapanesePod101 cost?
- 8 JapanesePod101 free account
- 9 JapanesePod101 basic vs premium membership
- 10 What is the JapanesePod101 $1 offer?
- 11 Is JapanesePod101 worth it?
What is JapanesePod101?
JapanesePod101 started out many years ago as Japanese language learning podcasts.
Now, their lessons are still based around a podcast format, but there are SO many extras on their site.
If you only listen to the podcast tracks though iTunes, you’re missing out!
JapanesePod101.com is now a huge Japanese language learning hub of video lessons, grammar lessons, quizzes, flashcards, printables, chance to interact with Japanese teachers and other students, as well as their traditional audio lessons.
There are new lessons every single week, and they cover every level, from complete beginner to advanced. In addition to the regular lessons, they are always releasing special themed lessons, such as seasonal or holiday vocabulary.
They also have various paid membership options, which come with a lot more benefits and materials.
Inside a JapansePod101 Premium account
I am a Premium (paid) member of JapanesePod101 myself, so for this JapanesePod101 review I thought it would be useful to give you a look inside the membership area at some of the premium features.
When I first started using JapanesePod101 several years ago, the main drawback was that it was hard to navigate. There are literally thousands of past lessons that you have access to as a premium member. There’s just so much material on there, it’s hard to know where to start.
One new feature that helps you choose your way is the ‘lesson paths’ section.
The ‘lesson paths’ show you a recommended course of lessons based on your goals and needs.
Are you learning Japanese for a trip to Japan? Do you need to know it for business? Are you preparing for the JLPT exam? Or do you just study Japanese for fun?
You can choose the best lesson path for you at one of these four levels:
- Absolute beginner
Let’s take a look at one of the suggested lesson paths for beginners:
Before You Travel: Survival Phrases
This is a selection of 100 lessons teaching you everything a beginner could need to know before going to Japan.
There are 100 lessons in this series, but you don’t have to take all of them! They’re arranged in order from the most basic and useful (how to say please and thank you), up to tricker situations (such as how to buy a pre-paid cell phone).
You can tackle the lessons in any order you want. You don’t have to start from 1, if you already know the basics.
Tap the big blue button at the top to add the course to your dashboard. This means you can find it easily the next time you log in. You can have several courses or lesson paths saved to your dashboard at one time.
What are the lessons like on JapanesePod101?
Each lesson on JapanesePod101 is based around an audio track. The audio lessons are 5-20 minutes long, depending on the level. You can listen to them on the website, through iTunes or through their app.
This video demonstrates some of the lesson features… or if you can’t watch a video right now, skip ahead to see some screenshots I took from my own account 🙂
Each lesson usually starts with a short dialogue in Japanese. Then they explain the new words and grammar points in the dialogue.
On the website, you can see lesson notes, a transcript of the dialogue, and lots of interactive features to help study the new words and phrases.
Let’s go into one of the lessons in our beginner path, Before You Travel: Survival Phrases, and have a look.
This lesson teaches you how to shop for souvenirs. Each lesson has a really slick interface. Those little buttons you see at the top have a load of useful functions. You can mark the lesson as complete, mark it as a favourite, add a note, download a pdf of lesson notes, or download the audio track.
Below you have the transcript for the main audio track. You can click on those tabs to switch between kanji, hiragana, romaji and English (see here for an introduction to the different Japanese scripts). So you can practise reading along, whatever your level!
This is a really nice feature that I like a lot 🙂
You can replay the dialogue line by line, so you can really take your time to listen, read, repeat until you’ve memorised it.
They also have this fun voice recorder function! I think this is great. You hear the native speaker on the audio saying a phrase, and then you record yourself saying the same thing. You can replay both tracks at the same time to hear the differences! This is such a great feature to improve your pronunciation and I’m really impressed with it.
Below, you can see all the new vocabulary words from the lesson. Again, you can replay one by one and you can try the voice recorder function to improve your pronunciation. You can also replay at half speed to get any tricky words.
You might be able to see the little tabs on the right. They show you example sentences using your new words. When you see a word in a sentence, I think it really helps you understand how to use it.
You can add any of the new words to a flashcard deck or a quiz to test your memory.
There are also grammar notes and explanations of any new language points.
You can get an idea of what the teachers and teaching style is like with one of their free YouTube videos, but keep in mind that the lesson structure is quite different on YouTube and you don’t get all the lesson notes!
What can I learn on JapanesePod101?
JapanesePod101 covers absolutely anything you could want to learn in Japanese.
There are courses for travelling, business, dating, living in Japan, doing a homestay, studying in Japan, and more.
And of course, you don’t need to study for a particular reason. There are general pathways too.
There are also courses for JLPT levels N5, N4, N3 and N2.
Here are some of the best bonus resources:
- Cheat sheets pdfs. These are fun downloadable pdfs full of pictures and words around different topics. These are perfect for printing out and taking with you when travelling in Japan. They are all kinds of topics relevant to every day life, from school to dating! (Actually, these pdfs are available free to anyone. You don’t have to have a subscription to access. Check them out for free here.)
- Free ebooks. JapanesePod101 has produced a number of ebooks to help with specific aspects of Japanese. Some are free, and some you have to buy separately. Check out the free kanji ebook here.)
- Hiragana and katakana printable writing practise worksheets (Download for free here!)
- Grammar bank. Is there a particular grammar point that’s been bugging you lately? Search the bank and find a full explanation, with examples. You can also browse by JLPT level.
- Videos. The video series are also great. JapanesePod101 even have their own mini J-drama! You can watch the videos, and then of course read along and learn new words with the full transcripts underneath each video, the same as the audio lessons.
JapanesePod101 review: what’s good?
Let’s take a minute to summarize some of the pros and cons of JapanesePod101.com.
First off, there is a lot to love about JapanesePod101. Here are some of the main advantages:
- Range of lessons. There are literally thousands of lessons, so you’re bound to find something interesting at your level.
- Community. JapanesePod101 has a lot of students all over the world. There is a good sense of community and the teachers are really involved with the students. You can leave a comment at the end of any lesson, like a blog post, and one of the teachers will get back to you and answer any questions.
- Fun. JapanesePod101 has a sense of humour! The teachers are always energetic and funny. You will learn jokes in Japanese and enjoy the lessons.
- Up to date. JapanesePod101 talk a lot about current Japanese culture and slang. You will learn more about ‘real Japan’ than studying from a textbook.
- Learning methods. With podcasts, online lessons, written lesson notes, an app, a YouTube channel, ebooks and more, you can learn in the format that helps you. This makes it easy to learn on the go and stick with your lessons, even on busy days.
- Extra features. I find I use the special features such as the grammar bank and dictionary for extra support even when I am not studying from the Japanese Pod 101 lessons (like when I’m studying from my JLPT textbooks).
JapanesePod101 review: what’s bad?
Here are some of the cons to studying with JapanesePod101:
- Too much information! It can be difficult to know how to navigate JapanesePod101. There is just too much available on their site, and sometimes it’s not well organised. It’s easy to miss some of the great features (for example, I only just discovered the video dramas while researching this review!)
- Aggressive marketing. Once you become a free member, they will email you a lot asking you to upgrade your membership. You don’t have to – you really do get a free lifetime account, with access to loads to features, without paying a penny! But the upsell can get a bit annoying. (Hint: don’t pay full price straight away. JapanesePod101 have frequent sales. They’ll email you a discount code if you wait a few days. Also, you can turn off marketing emails in your member section.)
- Subscription model. The pay-monthly model means that if you stop studying and forget to cancel, you’ll waste money. It’s much more cost effective to pay for 1 or 2 years up front. Very rarely – like once a year (I think the last time was Black Friday) – they will email you an offer for a one-off lifetime membership option. If you see this offer, and you’re serious about learning Japanese, this is worth snapping up.
How much does JapanesePod101 cost?
JapanesePod101 works on a subscription model. This means you pay each month for access to the site. They have a number of different payment options, depending on the level of access (basic, premium or premium plus).
You can pay monthly, or pay for 3, 6, 12 or 24 months in advance. The longer the period, the cheaper it will be!
I recommend always buying a 24 month subscription if you can, because it will work out a lot cheaper per month.
The JapanesePod101 price structure does get a bit confusing, because there are so many options. The best way to compare prices and plans is to check this chart.
As a rough guide, the cheapest you could get membership is the equivalent of $4 per month for basic membership (which gives you access to the full lesson archives, but without the extra study tools) when you pay for 24 months in advance. By contrast, the premium membership (which gives you full access to the archives plus all the extra tools and resources) is $10 a month when you pay for 24 months, rising to $25 a month if you’re on a monthly rolling subscription.
Even at the more expensive price of $25, I think this is a bargain for what you get. After all, an in-person Japanese class would cost at least that much per hour!
Again, see this chart for full details of the different membership levels and prices!
JapanesePod101 free account
JapanesePod101 often advertise that you can learn Japanese for free.
So is JapanesePod101 free – really? What exactly do you get with a free account? And if you can really learn Japanese for free, why would anyone pay for premium membership?
Well, JapanesePod101 releases 3 to 5 new audio and video lessons each week. These new lessons are completely free to all users. They remain free for 3 weeks.
Then, they go into the archives. Paying members can access the archives and listen to any lesson whenever they want. But free members can only listen to the last 3 weeks of lessons.
So, if you just study each lesson as soon as it comes out, maybe the free plan is enough for you.
If you sometimes take breaks from studying, or you want to study more quickly than new lessons are published, you might want to pay to access the full library of lessons, and study at your own pace.
Also, the free lessons are mainly suitable for the lower levels. If your Japanese level is already intermediate or advanced, you will find lots more appropriate lessons by subscribing.
Free members also get a lot of other benefits, such as free word of the day emails, and free word lists for special occasions such as holidays.
Here’s the full list of what you get for free:
- New audio and video lessons every week – 3-5 new, free lessons a week
- The first 3 lessons of every single series in the archives – 100+ lessons in total (so you can get a taster of different levels and courses)
- New Daily Dose of Japanese lessons – a new free lesson every day
- Japanese Word of the Day lessons – a new free lesson every day
- Throwback Thursday lessons – a free random lesson every Thursday
- The Innovative Language 101 App for the Android, iPhone and iPad
- The 100 Most Common Words List to get a head-start on learning vocabulary
- Vocabulary and phrase lists for topics, themes and holidays
- Bonus resources and mobile apps in the Japanese resources section
And here’s more information from JapanesePod101 themselves, talking about what free membership includes.
JapanesePod101 basic vs premium membership
Basic membership gives you full access to the audio and video lesson archives, plus basic lesson notes.
The extra learning tools such as full audio transcripts, line-by-line playback, flashcards and pronunciation tools that we saw above are only available to Premium members.
You get a free 7 day trial of Premium membership when you sign up, then it will revert back to a free membership.
Premium Plus membership gives you full access to absolutely everything on the site, plus one-on-one contact with a personal Japanese tutor! You get unique lesson plans designed just for you, and you can send over your questions any time you want.
It’s the most expensive of JapanesePod101’s services, but it’s still a steal compared to paying for a personal tutor.
What is the JapanesePod101 $1 offer?
Straight after signing up as a new user, you will have the chance to try a premium account for 1 month for $1. You can also get a free Japanese ebook of your choice from their shop.
I think this is a really great offer for the value of the free book alone!
All users get 7 days to try out premium for free without the $1 offer, but if you don’t have much free time, the 1 month offer gives you a lot more time to explore the site before making a decision.
After the month is up, your $1 membership will automatically turn into a $25 monthly premium membership UNLESS you unsubscribe. So be careful! If you don’t want to pay the full price, remember to cancel your subscription.
You can do that at any time in your account area.
Even if you do want to continue your subscription, remember that it’s cheaper to pay for 12 or 24 months in advance, instead of $25 monthly. If you pay for 24 months in advance, it costs the equivalent of just $10 per month 🙂
The $1 offer only appears once. If you don’t sign up when you get the chance, you’re out of luck.
As far as I know, there is no way to get a JapanesePod101 free premium account (other than the free 7 day access when you sign up), so this $1 offer is the closest you’ll get and gives you a lot more time to explore!
Is JapanesePod101 worth it?
I’ve used JapanesePod101 for years, and I can happily say yes – for me it’s worth it.
JapanesePod101 is a genuine, legit site to learn Japanese online with thousands of hours of lessons, and lots of other helpful resources.
For me, I love studying with podcasts because it’s the easiest way to fit Japanese into my day.
I listen to the Japanese 101 podcasts on my way to work and when I’m walking somewhere. Then, I come back and study the PDF lesson notes at home when I’ve got time. I also add the new words to the built in flashcard deck each day, and review when I can.
I also love the searchable grammar bank. I used this a lot when I was preparing for my JLPT exams.
The price of JapanesePod101 varies a lot, depending on the length of subscription, and if you use any coupon codes!
I always try to use a coupon code and buy the longest subscription available. (Hint: sign up for the free plan but wait a couple of weeks before upgrading. They’ll email you bigger and bigger coupons to try and sway you. They also regularly email out JapanesePod101 coupons around the holidays and all kinds of special occasions).
Coupons can get the cost down to less than $5 per month. Personally, I think this is amazing value, compared to the cost of taking classes or private lessons. Unlimited lessons for $5 per month!
Have you used JapanesePod101? What do you think?
Was this Japanese Pod 101 review helpful, or do you have any other questions?
Let me know in the comments!