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First of all, a disclaimer.   I have a sponsored link to Japanese Pod 101 on this website.  The occasional link to this service, if you think it fits your needs, might one day help me to pay my web-hosting fees and buy more Japanese books fuel a mighty financial empire. Click JapanesePod101.com – Learn Japanese with Free Daily Podcasts 🙂 The other disclaimer is that I have no authority to judge whether this service will make me fluent or not.  Otherwise, I would be writing to you in Japanese and getting ready to learn Spanish through Japanese materials.   These techniques are just the way, I have played with to learn more Japanese everyday.  It might help you think about any online learning materials or courses that you might be interested in picking up in the future.

Here’s the cheatsheet:

  • treat every lesson like a game and find something to challenge you–use your headphones for good!
  • play the money game
  • find the sweet spot–lessons at the level where you are challenged but still finding some comfort or review of material you already know
  • you can also go back to fundamental or basic lessons for review or go a few levels above you to just overwhelm your mind
  • use self-tracking tools–progress bars and other tools are great ways to keep track and also get the game factor going
  • find something to like about every online host or teacher
  • take it all a little bit at a time . . . . turtle power activate!
  • on the other hand, sometimes its good to add velocity to your game … go through the lesson and move on
  • don’t forget that the real game is the language/skill/game …. listen to real Japanese, listen and play real songs…what is great is when deliberate practice and real life reinforce each other

    There are 1,000’s of lessons on Japanese Pod 101. I prefer music and immersion but sometimes it’s great to get a little grammar. At the free level, you can listen to the lesson or watch the video. The basic level includes the PDF, and the Premium level includes a line by line transcript with audio, sample sentences with audio for new vocabulary, and a host of other features. It’s not the end all and be all and may result in “lessonitis” but it can also be fun.

Treat every lesson like a game and find something to challenge you

As a busy teacher and dad of two, I don’t have a lot of discretionary time.  I get my so-called exercise by walking to the writers room and school.  In those 35-40 minutes of walking I often listen to Japanesepod101.com lessons on my iPhone.  Most lessons are 15-20 minutes and include a short Japanese dialogue, vocabulary explanation, grammar explanation, and then a repeat of the dialogue. There are also line by line audio transcripts.  With a quick click I can listen to small chunks of the dialogue.   There are also sample sentences for the vocabulary and I repeat the sentences I hear out loud.  (If you have headphones and a phone you can get away with looking like a weirdo. Maybe 🙂   When I am at a desk or cafe and not negotiating traffic (do be careful), I read the PDF and count the lesson as finished. If I am not in the mood to do a lesson, I don’t push it.  I listen to fun Japanese podcast or music instead.

Play the money game

There are all kinds of pricing structures on Japanesepod101.com and there are sales and discounts throughout the year.  But I like to think in terms of, “I’m going to get $1,000 worth of value out of this $____ investment.  This is true with any online learning service.  I’m old enough to remember when Space Invaders moved into the pinball arcade.  Part of the fun was seeing how long you could make your quarters last.

Find the sweet spot

Play around with levels and hover between being completely lost and easy mastery.  These days I alternate between upper intermediate, lower intermediate, and beginner lessons (they also have absolute beginner lessons).  They also have some video lessons on animals that I’ve found fun to throw into the mix.  The advantage of Japanesepod101.com is that they love grammar and love explaining it.   With the higher level lessons I just listen through to get exposure to the grammar points but I don’t try to memorize the grammar points.    The lower level lessons help me solidify some grammar points that I have already been exposed through flashcards, immersion, etc.

Hit the Bars: use self-tracking tools–progress bars and other tools are great ways to keep track and also get the game factor going

I do go for long periods without studying Japanesepod101, because I am busy or doing more interesting stuff in Japanese. When I get back into it,progress bars are a low-tech game to keep you moving forward.

Sometimes it’s fun to just see a little bar moving forward, piling it up like monopoly money.  Yes, it’s a game but so is professional basketball.  Touchdown!  Japanese Pod 101 has progress bars that fill up as you finish lessons within each level and season.

Slow Down and Hurry Up!

There is no need to force feed yourself lessons in order to be virtuous or feel accomplished.   On the other hand, I sometimes like to speed up and get through a lesson, get a little exposure to the grammar and move the heck on.  What’s nice about Japanese Pod 101 is that as you go up in levels, the grammar and cultural points are explained using more and more Japanese.

Don’t forget that the real game is the language/skill/game

As I watched my daughters learn to speak, I noticed that they didn’t take any online or traditional course work.  Shame on them! 🙂  They listened to us singing and speaking to them, watched cartoons, sang songs, repeated what we said or just “babbled” in language practice.  Now my oldest daughter has to explain to me what she is saying in Japanese.   This is ajatt (Language is Like A Video Game) and antimoon stuff.   The pixie dust and nitty gritty of real life.  Keep it real, よ!