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Wednesday, September 28th
Innovative Language Learning offers lessons across many target languages, usually under the "Pod 101" or "Class 101" moniker. You'll find that their Japanese Pod 101 lessons can go the distance and always keep you learning, even if you're a more experienced student.
Less emphasis on the sales pitch, if you don't mind
To get set up with Japanese Pod 101, you're going to have to jump through a few hoops - all intended to get you to subscribe to a paid plan, of course. First, you'll give them your email address and click to confirm when you get their message in your inbox. As you set up your account, you'll get several "today only" and "get all this for just $1" marketing pitches. If they sound useful to you, go for it - but you can also skip it all and move on to making your user profile. When we did ours, we got a free week of Premium features without paying a dime, and we didn't have to provide any credit card information either.
5 levels of Japanese lessons
While getting established on Japanese Pod 101, you'll specify your current fluency level in Japanese. That might be entry level, known as Absolute Beginner: just starting out, but perhaps you have a few basics under your belt like introducing yourself or saying arigatō. Or, maybe you're a rockstar and you can already read about 600 kanji, have mastered passive-causative forms, and you're ready to learn primarily in Japanese? Set your level to Advanced! Regardless of your initial level choice, you can change it as needed at any point in your studies.
What can you expect?
Japanese Pod 101 starts out differently from any of the other Innovative Language Learning courses we've evaluated: with a downloadable PDF! We're not sure why they couldn't just make it a readable page on their website, but it provides a good overview of their lessons, like what you'll be able to do by the end of the course and how to proceed through the program. Once you mark that as complete, your next task will be the Level 1 Diagnostic (if you're starting at absolute beginner). We've evaluated a lot of Pod 101 courses, and we're still baffled as to why they insist that noobs muddle through 30+ questions they have little chance of getting right. (But at least you can click "I'm not sure" until you get through them all. Shockingly, our educated guesses gave us a score of 14/36.)
Addresses all aspects of learning a language
Your next lesson loads automatically to your student dashboard. Most Japanese Pod 101 lessons are presented in this format: Audio Lesson (don't overlook the Play button triangle at the top of the page!), Dialogue, Vocabulary, Lesson Notes, Lesson Transcript, and Student Comments. The very first lesson walks you through a dialogue on how to greet someone formally and informally, which you can then view as kanji, in English, in romaji, in hiragana, or all at once.
We appreciate that this program lets you use any characters that you prefer: some days, you may need the boost of reading in romaji to work on your pronunciation, while on others you could be ready to tackle your recognition of written Japanese. The choice is always yours. There's no voice recognition software, though: you'll listen to native speaker clips, record yourself, and then compare the two. That's not as automated as some competitors' Japanese lessons, but some experts say it's better to do it on your own than to rely on software that might over- or under-correct your accent.
A virtually-endless supply of Japanese content
Not only can you study the Japanese lessons provided in your lesson pathways, you can also take advantage of a ton of extra content. Look in your dashboard and you'll find audio and video lessons to supplement your studies, such as vocabulary lists for going fishing or essential music terminology. Japanese Pod 101 has free monthly gifts as well, which often include PDF cheat sheets, audiobooks and apps, and so forth.
What's in a paid membership?
There are three fee-based plans to consider if you want full access to the Japanese lessons and study tools here. First, a Basic subscription costs $5/month and gives you the ability to use all of the lessons...and that's about all. To use all of the study features, like spaced repetition flashcards and transcripts of the audio dialogues, you'll need to upgrade to the $25/month Premium tier (which is what you'll get in your 7-day free trial, as a reminder; you may not even realize what features you're missing until that trial ends and the tools you were using are locked all of a sudden). At the highest membership tier, Premium Plus, you'll spend a steep $47/month - but you'll have your very own Japanese teacher to personalize a learning plan for you, offer feedback on your assignments, and monitor your progress towards fluency in Japanese. We're not 100% sure that it's worth the extra money, but a generous 60-day money-back guarantee lets you decide for yourself at no risk.
Great options for most learners
Even though Japanese Pod 101 can feel a little overwhelming at times, it provides enough material that you'll never need to find any other Japanese lessons as you progress in your language ability. We wish the company would scale back the marketing tactics as people sign up for their program, but other than that we recommend this platform as a solid foundation for learning Japanese.
Lots of people ask that question because Japanese is the fifth-most studied language in the United States! What's driving its popularity? It'll come as no surprise that many learners develop an interest in Japanese because of manga, anime, and video games. Others realize that speaking Japanese can offer significant advantages in the worlds of technology and business. And, of course, many travelers like to learn at least the basics before spending time in Japan - to better appreciate the culture and to communicate more effectively in-country.
No matter what your reasons are, studying Japanese can be challenging. Because it uses a writing system that's completely different from what you already know from English, learning it can take much longer than mastering languages that use the Roman alphabet (like Spanish or German). You might even need to figure out how to use your keyboard differently!
Also, it used to be tricky just to find Japanese lessons. If you didn't live near a university or in an area with a significant Japanese-speaking population, your chances of finding classes were pretty slim.
Not anymore! Today there are many ways to take Japanese classes online, from traditional grammar lessons and flashcards for memorization, to live video sessions with a personal tutor who can help you master a flawless accent. Whether you need an app you can use on-the-go to sneak in study sessions or you have plenty of time to sit at a computer and practice, you'll have no problem finding Japanese lessons that match your availability and your budget.
As you start to explore the possibilities for taking Japanese lessons, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. How can you determine which program is right for you? You may find it helpful to keep the following criteria in mind as you consider your options:
To help you get the most out of your language studies, Top Consumer Reviews has tested, evaluated and ranked the best options for online Japanese lessons today. We know this information will give you all the info you need to choose the best program for your learning style and schedule.
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