Japanese Learning Podcasts

Podcasts can be a useful source for learning Japanese. Some of them are great for practicing your listening comprehension or for shadowing. Others try to “teach” you things, through explanations of grammar or vocabulary. I’m really not a fan of this “teaching” type of podcast, as I prefer to learn things like grammar through a textbook or web site where I can see things written down and take it at my own pace. But, I can understand that some people might be interested in that sort of thing.

I think a big problem with Japanese learning podcasts is that it seems to be rather difficult to make material that is interesting enough that you actually enjoy listening to it. There are a lot of podcasts that I feel have some nice content, but I find that I have stopped paying attention a few minutes in. If you aren’t really paying attention to what you are listening to, then it’s not going to be of much help. I realize that this is a totally subjective thing though, so some of the podcasts that would put me to sleep might actually be fairly interesting to someone else.

Here, I’ll introduce you to some of my favorite podcasts, ranked according to how entertaining I personally find them to be!

GoGoエイブ会話

GoGo Eibukaiwa is a casual, mixed English-Japanese conversation podcast. It’s just two dudes chillin’ and talking about stuff. One guy speaks in English and the other guy speaks in Japanese. The main reason that I love this podcast is that it is actually entertaining to listen to. A lot of other podcasts feel so boring, but this one is often funny and interesting. The guy speaking English keeps you from ever feeling lost, so it doesn’t require a lot of mental effort to listen to this one. The only downside I would say, is that its really more of an English-focused podcast than a Japanese-focused one. There are over 200 episodes as of this posting.

JapanesePod101

There is a lot of content here. They have been around for over a decade and are still putting out new lessons on a weekly basis. You can always get the newest lessons through their free podcast feed. If you pay for a premium subscription (or opt for a free trial) you can access the whole back catalogue of lessons, download the dialogues seperately from the lesson audio, get supplemental materials like vocabulary lists and transcripts, and access their “line by line audio” tool. Some of their lessons are pretty great, and some are pretty awful. I have written an article a while back on what lessons I think are most worth your time (I really need to go back and update this some time). They cater heavily to beginners but also have some content for intermediate and advanced learners. I still regularly listen to some of the older dialogues for listening practice.

LearnJapanesePod

I remember trying this a few years ago and not liking it much. I decided to give it another shot recently, and I like it a lot better now! It looks like it improved a lot when they started “Season 2”. They only put out about 1 podcast month, but the content is both useful and interesting, and you can download the dialogues separately for listening practice.

News in Slow Japanese

In theory, this is a great idea for a podcast. Listen to a short news article in both slow and normal-speed Japanese. The website also includes transcripts and vocabulary lists. There are over 300 free articles to listen to! There are additional lessons for premium subscribers. A lot of people seem to like this, so I don’t want to be too hard on it, but I honestly don’t think I could choose more boring articles if I tried! I wouldn’t even bother reading most of these articles if they were in English. I would love this podcast if it just had stories that were half-way interesting.

NHK Easy Japanese

This set of 48 lessons aims to teach basic Japanese. It all comes across very clinical and boring, basically reading out an explanation of every word from a dialogue and then talking about some grammar points. The website does have a lot of good supplemental content and the lessons are available in 17 different languages. They have recently begun a new series called “Easy Japanese: Step-up” which is being broadcast on NHK World television.

Free Japanese Readers

I recently came across an archive of free readers that I’ve never seen before, created by the Japan Foundation. They are quite basic and each one is very short, so they are good for beginners of Japanese. These aren’t as good as some of the ones that you can buy, but you can’t beat free. There are about 25 of them and they are licensed under creative commons.

KCよむよむ

Japanese Doll Stories

Recently while browsing around for YouTube channels aimed at Japanese kids, I discovered an entire genre of videos that I didn’t even know existed. There are numerous channels where people are creating original stories and scenarios using dolls and other toys. As these are typically aimed at children, the stories are fairly basic, and the language is usually quite easy and straightforward. The animation and visuals also help a lot with understanding what is going on.

Here are a few of the channels that I have come across. There are plenty of other channels like these out there, but these seem to be among the best, from what I’ve seen.

ここなっちゃん

The videos on this channel are fast paced, wacky and quite well-made. There are hundreds of videos here. The only potential downside is that the fast pace may make them a bit more difficult to follow the dialogue. I think this is a good channel to leave playing in the background, because it has constant talking with no pauses.

アニメハウス♡animehouse

Animehouse has over 1000 videos available, but most of them aren’t terribly interesting, in my opinion. They do use a wide variety of characters though.

ここあちゃんねる

Cocoa channel features short stories that are about 8 minutes in length, usually followed by a drawing tutorial that is about the same length. I do wish the voice acting could be a bit better, as it sounds like the actress is afraid to actually raise her voice. Hundreds of videos here.

あふろおねえさん

Afro-Oneesan also serves up some wacky and fast-paced videos. There are a couple hundred videos here at the moment.

 

 

Japanese Quest

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about any Japanese learning resources that I have found, but this one was so cool that I couldn’t pass it up.

Japanese Quest is a Twitch/YouTube channel that teaches Japanese through video games! It’s run by an actual Japanese Language teacher, and runs on a pretty solid schedule, so there is TONS of quality content getting pumped out. Now, this isn’t really a “Japanese from zero” course that will teach you all of the grammar and stuff that you need. But it’s really more of just playing through games, doing live translation, and mining the games for interesting words to learn. There is a spreadsheet and Anki deck of the words that are mined.

I think this is mainly ideal for someone that has been studying Japanese for a little while already and learned the basics. If you don’t really know how to mine words and phrases from native material, this will teach you how. If you have tried to mine words from native material but given up because it was too difficult, this might show you that it’s actually not as difficult as you thought. And if you just don’t really mine words from native material because you are too lazy, well then it doesn’t get any easier than this! It’s so easy to just sit back and watch, and then import the words into Anki later on.

So far he has covered several games including Xenoblade 2, Super Mario Oddyssey, Breath of the Wild, and others. Here is a map which I assume shows most of the games that he is planning to cover at some point (though it is subject to change, as he has already done several that don’t appear on here):

I really recommend checking it out, and spend at least 30 minutes or so with it to see if it could be helpful to you!

Japanese Quest – Twitch

Japanese Quest – YouTube

 

Hirogaru – Yet another source of beginner’s reading material!

I can’t believe how much reading material I have been finding recently. I remember my early days in Japanese, struggling to find anything at all that was on my level, but now I keep seeing more and more material becoming available. This latest resource is the newest website from The Japan Foundation. Called ひろがる、it launched in 2016 and seems to have at least 50-60 easy articles on it so far.

The level of the material seems to be aimed at those who have perhaps completed about one year of studying (able to pass JLPT N5, or completed the first Genki textbook), but may still be somewhat challenging for more advanced students as well, due to the diverse range of topics that the articles cover. Topics include:

  • Astronomy
  • Outdoors
  • Martial Arts
  • Tea
  • Sweets
  • Shopping
  • Calligraphy
  • Anime/Manga
  • Books
  • Temples
  • Music
  • Aquarium

Each topic generally contains about 4-5 articles that you can read. I believe that they may be adding new articles from time to time, but it does not seem to be at a very fast pace. Besides just the articles, there is usually a short video about each topic, as well as some short commentary from Japanese people saying what that topic means to them. For some reason, most topics also have a section containing pictures of food. There is also a comment section in each topic, which allows you to write a Japanese response to three different questions.

The articles are really the main attraction of this site, so let’s talk about those for a bit. Each article is fairly short, so that a beginner student could probably read it in 5 or 10 minutes. The articles are broken up into several paragraphs, and each paragraph has audio so you can hear it read aloud. At the end of each article you will find a quiz with a couple of multiple choice questions, to test your comprehension. At the top of the site, there are some controls which can assist you in reading the articles. One is a “Ruby” toggle, which turns furigana on or off for all of the kanji in the article. The other setting is an “English/Japanese” toggle. This seems to be poorly named, because it does not function how you might expect. If you set it to “English”, the articles remain fully in Japanese. The only thing that really changes is the navigation buttons, and also when it is set to English there will be a button under each paragraph that you can press to see a list of the difficult vocabulary. As such, I would recommend keeping it set to “English” at all times so you have access to the vocabulary words.

Overall its a nice site, and certainly worth spending some time on. My only real gripe is that the articles are kinda lame and boring (to me at least), but that’s sort of hard to avoid with these kinds of generic topics. But all in all, it’s a fantastic source of reading material at a level where such material has often been overlooked. Check it out!