Why and how to use podcasts for learning Japanese

Podcasts and language learning go hand in hand. You don’t have to sit at a desk all the time, you can learn wherever you are with your smartphone. If you have a busy day or lack the motivation to study, you can use your early morning or bedtime to get to grips with your target language. It’s not just about learning, it’s about staying motivated and inspiring new ideas.

As you can see, it’s easy to point out the benefits of podcast itself, but how do podcasts fit in with learning Japanese?

How can podcasts help learn Japanese

According to the “Survey of Overseas Japanese Language Institutions” conducted by the Japan Foundation every three years, the most common motivations for studying Japanese are “interest in Japanese culture (modern and historical)” and “interest in the Japanese language itself”.

(Copyright: Japan Foundation)

It is a curious phenomenon, that people living outside of Japan have the opportunity to become interested in Japanese culture before they understand the Japanese language. In other words, the Japanese language is probably already a familiar part of life in your country, before it is deliberately acquired through learning. Needless to mention about anime and manga, you may already be familiar with the names of Japanese companies such as Toyota and Nintendo, and words with Japanese roots such as Ninja, Tsunami, and Kaizen. It’s always better to make use of existing knowledge in your learning. Podcasts allow you to gain a comprehensive knowledge of a language without having to separate worlds for cultural understanding and formal language learning. After all, the podcast is an effective way for learning Japanese online.

In the next section, I will introduce my Japanese podcast that can be used for learning regardless of age or gender. If you haven’t used podcasts to study Japanese yet, or if you haven’t found your favorite Japanese podcasts, I hope you will find this useful as a starter. 

How to pick the best Japanese podcasts for you

Please check my podcast on my profile. I started this podcast at the suggestion of one of my students. It was originally distributed on an external website, and I started uploading it on italki from episode 12. I talk about my daily events in about 3 minutes, using natural expressions commonly used by Japanese people. The content is aimed at intermediate learners, and each episode comes with a transcript and an English translation (due to the character limit in the italki community, please see my website for the full transcripts and translations: japanesemayuna.com). I upload a new episode every week.

Many language-learning podcasts, like my podcast, consist of chats or lessons by a single host. Some podcasts have more than two hosts or have a different guest to interview each time, but if you are not an advanced level learner, I recommend a podcast with no more than two fixed hosts so that you’ll be able to get used to the flow.

Another important factor in choosing a good podcast is the frequency of updates. The newer the information, the better. If the update schedule is regular, you can use it as your learning schedule. The length of an episode is also important. For example, a podcast that is more than 60 minutes long, no matter how great the content is, may be difficult to focus on if you are often interrupted by urgent work or children. Think about when and under what circumstances you will be listening to the podcast, and examine the length that best suits your lifestyle, without causing you strain. That’s the key to continuing.

Here are some really good Japanese podcasts (and YouTube channels) which I recommend. Some of the hosts are online Japanese tutors you can book lessons with: 

Nihongo Con Teppei – Japanese Podcast for Beginners, Japanese with Noriko, YuYuの日本語 Podcast, Japanese Ammo with Misa, Let’s Ask Shogo

Are you ready to start using podcasts to study Japanese? Even if you’re already using them, try the tips in the next section to make podcasts more effective for language learning.

Tips for learning Japanese using podcasts

Here are some of the most effective ways of using podcasts that I have heard from my students in lessons:

Listen while you walk

One of my students said that she is able to concentrate better if she listens while walking outside rather than sitting still in her room. The positive effects of serotonin and exercise on the brain have been highlighted by many experts, so it’s worth a try. If you’re too busy working or studying online to exercise, getting into the habit of listening to podcasts while you walk can help you get outside more effectively. By improving your lifestyle, you will not only improve your concentration but also your motivation to study.

Listen repeatedly

Another method is to listen to the same episodes incessantly without concentrating on the content as if you were listening to music until you can recite them. This may seem pointless, but it is actually a very effective way of developing your sense of rhythm and syntax. Once your sense is developed, you will start to feel uncomfortable when you see unnatural Japanese sentences. In fact, my student, who taught me this method, is very good at making sentences. Even when he learns a word for the first time, he can immediately come up with a natural way of using it.

Listen in your native language

Just because you are learning Japanese doesn’t mean you have to choose only native Japanese podcasts. There are many non-Japanese hosts who know the language better than native speakers. If they share the same mother tongue as you, they will have a greater sense of empathy for learning Japanese and may be able to pick out the most common mistakes of yours. They may sometimes give incorrect explanations, but from a learning point of view, it’s not a waste of time. It gives you the opportunity to check the truth by yourself and ask questions in the lesson.

Conclusion

Do you usually use podcasts for your Japanese learning? Or maybe you’re already tired of wading through vast information on the internet to find the best podcast for you. If so, try to find a teacher who hosts a podcast, and join their class. Podcasts hosted by the teacher you usually have lessons with must be a special learning source that has been personalized for you from the outset.

Electronic reference:

Japan Foundation. “SURVEY REPORT ON JAPANESE-LANGUAGE EDUCATION ABROAD 2018” (2020), Objectives of Japanese-language learning, [https://www.jpf.go.jp/j/project/japanese/survey/result/survey18.html]

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