If you've started learning Japanese recently, you may be looking for something a bit more entertaining than the pages of your average textbook.
If you already enjoy listening to podcasts, why not delve into some series aimed at Japanese learners?
Podcasts can be a great way to learn, and personally, I like to put one on while doing something else like cooking dinner or going for a walk. Even if I'm not always paying full attention, having a bit of Japanese on in the background helps keep me in touch with the rhythm of the language while picking up the odd new word or phrase.
There are loads of podcasts out there to choose from, so in this post I've narrowed it down to five top choices that I'd recommend any beginner to check out. In my experience, a lot of Japanese learning materials aimed at "beginners" aren't really suitable for those just starting out, so I've tried to pick podcasts I think would be appropriate for complete beginners.
As you'll see, some of these choices are less about picking up Japanese conversation or grammar and are more about learning "about" Japanese and how it works as a language. Both types of podcast are a great way to get your teeth into things, so I hope this is useful to anyone out there looking for more ways to keep learning.
(Good luck/do your best!)
This 48-episode podcast is a great place to start for anyone looking for some practical dialogues to help get them around while travelling in Japan. As well as practical dialogues ("What is this?", "Can I use a credit card?", "I'm lost"), the podcast includes handy cultural tips - all explained in English!
If you check out the list of lessons you may find some of the titles (e.g. "Lesson 5: They are my treasures") a bit confusing at first, but don't be deterred - it's definitely worth exploring nonetheless.
As this podcast is made by NHK (Japan's equivalent to the BBC), some of the language is a bit more formal or stiff than what you might see in YouTube videos etc made by younger speakers (one example being the use of "kochira" rather than "kore" to mean "this"). However, especially if you're visiting Japan for travel or business, you're unlikely to go wrong by being too polite!
Finally, if you check out this podcast, don't forget to download the handy PDF textbook that accompanies it.
Hosted by Dr Asuka Tsuchiya, FUN Japanese Listening takes a dive into some topics that are helpful to anyone starting out with Japanese, including how to start learning kanji, an introduction to the structure of Japanese (particles, word order etc) and how to improve your listening skills. There are also episodes on things like cultural events and more specific language points such as the particle "de" and how to use te-form.
Asuka-sensei does a great job of explaining the topics in an accessible way, and I recommend this podcast to anyone looking for a bit of guidance or extra explanation about the Japanese language and how to go about learning it.
A great feature of this podcast, which is suitable for beginners but would also be useful to those up to around intermediate level, is that many of the episodes (e.g. Convenience Store Japanese) come with specific clips of the relevant Japanese dialogues, complete with transcripts below. Some of these may be a little overwhelming if you're only just starting out, but even if you can just pick out one or two handy phrases it's still worth it!
Another thing I like about this podcast is that the hosts also include conversations about parts of life in Japan that those outside the country might not otherwise hear much about, as in The Best And Worst of Life in Tokyo and Japanese TV Shows.
As a sidenote, the Learn Japanese Pod website also has a few more handy resources for beginners, including an amazing wee game called Kana Invaders! Definitely take a look if you're working on your hiragana or katakana.
Our fourth podcast today is a wee bit different from the ones above. Rather than covering specific language points or tips for learners, Sakura Tips instead provides a consistent stream of steady-paced content that, in Mari-sensei's words, is "good for just listening to Japanese".
While the language used in Sakura Tips is in fact closer to intermediate than beginners level, I would still recommend this podcast to anyone keen to get their ear used to the act of simply listening to Japanese. Even if you only understand a handful of words per episode, you may be surprised by how many words you then recognise in the next episode, then the next again as your ear gets used to it! My suggestion would be to just try putting it on in the background while you're doing something else - you don't have to sit fully focused to get something out of it.
Finally, what I really like about Sakura Tips is that each episode is under four minutes long, which is a great length to squeeze in as part of your daily routine. Mari-sensei also uploads at an amazing rate (every day at the time of writing!), so you'll never run out of content - plus, many episodes come with a transcript.
5. Tofugu Podcast
Finally, no Ippo Ippo student will be surprised to see something from Tofugu on this list!
If you've not come across Tofugu before, it's a brilliant resource for Japanese learners, billing itself as "the Japanese teacher we never had". Indeed, their website is full of info that many learners will wonder why they were never taught in the classroom, and naturally, the Tofugu Podcast is much the same, diving into all sorts of topics that learners at all levels will likely have questions about.
As the podcast covers a huge range of subjects - from grammar to pronunciation tips, first person pronouns to whisky in Japan - I recommend scrolling through till you find one that tickles your fancy.
The podcast's chatty, slow-paced style may not be to everyone's taste, but similarly to the FUN Japanese Listening podcast above, I'd recommend giving it a go if you're interested in learning more about the Japanese language and its various ins and outs.
You've reached the end of this post! I hope you enjoyed it.
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