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Japanese Pod 101 Review

Wednesday, September 28th

2022 Japanese Lesson Reviews

Japanese Pod 101 Review 4 Star Rating

Japanese Pod 101

4 Star Rating
  • Five levels of Japanese instruction, from Absolute Beginner to Advanced
  • Several paid plans to choose from
  • 60-day money-back guarantee
  • Content refreshes regularly
  • 7-day free trial of Premium features
  • Get one-on-one help from professional teachers with Premium Plus membership

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.

Best Japanese Lessons


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.


  • Free access to thousands of lessons
  • Basic membership: plans range from $8/month to $96 for two years
  • Premium membership: plans range from $25/month to $240 for two years
  • Premium+ membership: plans range from $47/month to $549 for two years

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.

Where Can You Find the Best Japanese Lessons Online?

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!

The Best Japanese Lessons Compare Japanese Lessons Compare Japanese Lesson Reviews What are the best Japanese Lessons Best Japanese Lesson Reviews

Japanese Lesson FAQ

Japanese is in the top 10 most widely spoken languages in the world, with over 130 million people who use it. 99% of those speakers live in Japan, but there are over a million people in the US, Brazil and Guam who also speak fluent Japanese.
Yes, but you probably won't encounter anything beyond Standard Japanese unless you travel throughout Japan itself. The Japanese you learn will be understood throughout the country, and differences are mostly related to accents and some vocabulary. It's not unlike what you find between speakers from different regions of the US, or between people from England and Australia.
If we're being completely honest, we'd say that Japanese is one of the hardest languages you could attempt to master: even the US State Department ranks it with Arabic, Korean and Chinese as one of the four most difficult! Part of that stems from the fact that Japanese has three separate writing systems (Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji). However, if you've got the grit to work hard and be patient with your studies, Japanese shouldn't be out of reach for you to learn.
You're going to need to wrap your head around the three Japanese alphabets: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. You'll find all of them as you learn the language! As you learn the alphabets, start memorizing basic vocabulary for how you intend to use Japanese, whether that's for business use or just to understand your favorite anime! Speaking of TV, it's a great way to pick up the accent and pronunciation naturally, especially if you don't have the chance to talk with native speakers on a regular basis.
There's no need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for a one-semester Japanese class at a university when you can get on-demand instruction for much less. You may not even be able to find in-person classes near you, but there are always options online that let you learn Japanese as quickly (or as slowly!) as you desire.
You need to take a few extra steps to enable the Japanese language on your computer. The steps differ if you're using a Mac or Windows-based PC, and you'll have to search for the instructions based on your operating system. There are also online Japanese keyboards that let you click on characters without modifying your settings.
They're very affordable. You can get month-to-month subscription plans for less than $25/month, or make a one-time purchase of a Japanese lessons package for under $500. Either way, you'll get much more for your money than if you were paying for a semester or two of college courses.
You'll want to read the terms and conditions of any language platform you're considering. The subscription plans typically allow customers to cancel at any time but don't offer a refund of previous payments. The Japanese lesson packages that are one-off purchases may have a 30- or 60-day money-back guarantee. We suggest that you use all of the free resources that the language program has to offer - such as a sample lesson, or a trial period - so that you will already know how it approaches instruction and if it's a good fit for your preferences.
Compare the Best Reviews

Continued from above...

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:

  • Teaching Style. Japanese lessons can be delivered in a variety of ways, such as game-like apps, one-on-one sessions over video, and exercises that help you speak, read, write and understand the language. Pick a platform that feels like a natural fit for the way you learn best.
  • Free Trial. It's hard to know if a language program is a good match without giving it a try! Take full advantage of any sample lessons, limited-time access to the student dashboard, or any other opportunity to use the Japanese lessons before you purchase a package or subscription.
  • Levels of Difficulty. Most Japanese lessons are suitable for beginners, but what about as you advance? Choosing a platform with plenty of content across fluency levels - beginner, intermediate, and advanced - means that you won't have to start the search over again as you become more proficient in Japanese.
  • Satisfaction Guarantee. Once you've paid for a membership or bought a lesson package, can you get a refund if you change your mind? Read the terms carefully, especially if you're using Japanese lessons that are subscription-based.

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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