Clozemaster Review

I strongly believe that studying with sentences is an effective way to learn new vocabulary. If this is something you are interested in, I recommend checking out Clozemaster – a website and app that is built around this concept. It is designed to complement the use of other sentence based language learning apps like Duolingo.

There are a huge variety of language pairs available, with new ones being added all the time!

The “cloze” of Clozemaster relates to a cloze deletion test, where you are given a sentence with a missing word and you need to identify what the missing word is. Cloze tests are therefore a great method of learning to use words and grammar in context.

 

How does Clozemaster work?

Each language has its own bank of sentences, the number of which does vary depending on the language pair. For many of the popular languages, you can follow the Fluency Fast Track, which is designed to cover the most frequently used words in that language.

As I mentioned above, Clozemaster is all about filling in the correct missing word from a sentence. These sentences then have the most common word within that sentence missing, which is what you have to fill in. You are given a sentence in Japanese, and the clue for the missing word will be in the English translation of the sentence below the Japanese. In the free version, clicking ‘PLAY’ above, will start a round of 10 sentences to review.

You have the option of multiple choice or text input before you start each round. If you are in text input mode and get stuck, just click on the “?” button to the right of the Japanese sentence to view the 4 multiple choice options. Writing the correct answer earns you points – the closer you are to mastering the word, the more points you earn. Text input gives you twice as much points compared to multiple choice, so this is what I choose unless I only have a very short time to practice.

At the end of each round, you get some quick stats on how you did:

As you can see from the image above, you can set yourself a daily points target and email reminders to get in your daily practice too. My daily goal is 200 points currently, but I normally aim for 500-1000 depending on how much time I have.

Studying using the Play button is for learning new words (although some words that you have encountered before will appear too). For words that you have seen before, you will want to click on Review instead.

The Review function is based on spaced repetition intervals like those used in Anki and Memrise – the more often you answer correctly, the longer it will be before you see that same sentence again. Reviews tend to earn you a lot more points than studying new sentences.

Clozemaster also has a listening practice feature called Cloze Listening, as shown above. To access this, click Play and then choose “Listening” from the drop-down menu (the default is vocabulary). Cloze Listening is where you hear the sentence first, then have to fill in the missing word in the sentence. I think this makes for great listening practice as well as for learning vocabulary in context. Unfortunately, having a free account only allows you to do one round of 10 sentences to do every day.

The points you earn from your study sessions allow you to level up. Every time you do level up you get a fun little gif as a reward, which never fails to put a smile on my face! There are two types of levelling up – one for your whole account and one that relates specifically to each of the language pairs you study.

Every language pair has its own set of leaderboards, where you can try and score the most points for that week. I didn’t think that I would care about scoring highly on the leaderboard, but if there is someone I am close to in terms of points I tend to get motivated enough reviews to overtake them!

 

The Clozemaster App

I tend to use the web version of Clozemaster, but there are apps available for iOS and Android. I have used the Android app and I do not have much to say about it. I mean that as a good thing – because I have not had any issues using it at all. The fairly plain style of the website translates well into an app, and having the app is really convenient for a quick study session. It is synced to your account, so it is easy to switch between the website and the app if you need to.

Make sure you have some sort of Japanese keyboard installed though!

 

About Clozemaster Pro

Clozemaster is another freemium site – it is free to sign up and practice any language. However, you need the Pro version to do things like:

  • Customise the number of reviews you want to do in each session and control how often you review new words.
  • Get unlimited access to cloze listening practice
  • Download the Fluency Fast Track sentences or sentences you mark in your Favourites for offline study.
  • View more stats related to your study sessions
  • The ability to click on any word and search for the meaning using Google Translate
  • Get access to additional features such as Cloze-Reading, Cloze Collections and Pro Groupings.

Cloze-Reading is designed to help you boost your reading skills. This is where there are several missing words from a native piece of text in your target language which you then need to fill in.

The Cloze Collections function is in beta currently, but allows you to curate your own bank of sentences. This can be a mixture of sentences from within Clozemaster and sentences that you add yourself. I think this would be especially useful for language pairs that do not have a large number of sentences already on Clozemaster.

Pro Groupings allows you to break down the large bank of sentences into smaller ones. For Japanese, Pro Groupings gives you the ability to focus your learning on words from different levels of the JLPT.

 

My thoughts on Clozemaster so far

After using the free version of Clozemaster for a couple of months, I have found it to have more pros than cons:

Pros

  • A huge range of languages to choose from
  • Sentences use words in order of frequency, so you learn important words first
  • Able to expose yourself to a range of sentence patterns
  • Can practice both reading and listening skills
  • Review intervals are spaced to help you retain vocabulary
  • If you’re competitive, the leaderboard will motivate you to get your score as high as possible

 

Cons

  • Japanese sentences and English translations are taken from the Tatoeba database, which is known for not being 100% accurate.
  • You have to type most vocabulary in kanji (as opposed to hiragana), which might be difficult for complete newcomers to Japanese.
  • No audio for Japanese within the vocabulary review section yet (this does exist for the most common language pairs)

 

I’m sure that the cloze deletion sentences can be replicated in something like Anki easily, which is what I would recommend to people who like a high degree of customisation. There are also excellent websites such as Delvin Language and Supernative which are specifically for Japanese and do have audio to go with their sentences.

However, for me Clozemaster is great because of the gamification aspect, as well as the fact I can practice on the go via the app. I would also give Clozemaster a go if you are learning (or maintaining proficiency in) a number of languages, as it is super simple to switch between languages and track your progress in each.

I really like Clozemaster, but I am not sure that for Japanese the features are fully fleshed out enough for me to justify the subscription cost of $8 per month at the moment. Having said that, there are new features being built into Clozemaster all of the time and I will certainly keep an eye out for any which might change my mind.

The good thing about Clozemaster is that you do not even have to sign up to try out the site – just choose a language pair and click Play to get started (which is what I did for a few days before even signing up)!

Whether you find that Clozemaster is useful for you or not, one thing I recommend checking out is the Language Challenge of the Day (or LCOD for short). These little challenges are fun ways to use your target languages in different ways every day.

Do you use Clozemaster? Do you find the website/ app useful? Please let me know in the comments!

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Subtitles and language learning

When I’m watching Japanese TV, I try to make use of Japanese subtitles instead of English subtitles as much as possible. But until recently, I had never given much thought to whether native-language or target language subtitles are better for language learners.

The following is a list of what I think are the main pros and cons for using native language and foreign language subtitles:

 

Native language subtitles

  • No matter what your level, foreign language content is accessible, which is great for listening practice. This is good for themes requiring specialist knowledge and/or vocabulary.
  • You can begin to make associations between words in your target language and words in your native language. I find that this is most likely to happen with everyday vocabulary.

 

Target language subtitles

  • Helps you to recognise common sentence patterns and vocabulary. For example, with Japanese, I found watching TV really helped me to understand more casual types of speech. Since we only studied polite language (ます/です) in class for quite a while before learning the plain form, this made things much easier when it was introduced.
  • You can focus on how certain situational phrases are used. This is especially good for phrases that don’t really translate to English, such as 失礼します (shitshurei shimasu) and お疲れ様でした (otsukaresama deshita) in Japanese.
  • It is much easier to recognise the words that you do not understand (and then look them up in the dictionary). Even in our native language, we often mishear things, and when we use native language subtitles it is easy to overlook words that we don’t know the meaning of.

 

As the above shows, both types of subtitles can have their own benefits. The choice between target and native language subtitles often depends on your language level and familiarity with the source material.

One way to make have the best of both words is to watch something without any subtitles, then again with target language subtitles, and then with native language subtitles. Fortunately, YouTube, Netflix and Viki make switching subtitles pretty easy.

Viki is especially good as dual language subtitles are available using the Learn Mode. This feature already exists for Korean and Chinese and is now in beta mode for Japanese.

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You can click on any word from the target language subs to get the English meaning – really useful!

My experiences with Learn Mode so far have been very positive and you get both benefits of native and foreign language subtitles.

 

Transitioning to target-language subtitles

As you progress in your language learning, you will be able to benefit even more from target-language subtitles. Here are my tips on moving towards using them over native language subtitles:

  • Choose something that you are really interested in, especially if you plan on watching it multiple times.
  • Try to choose something that is not too complicated. I recommend starting off with shows that closely relate to everyday life – because choosing something on a niche topic unrelated to something you already have knowledge of will only succeed in leaving you demotivated. Cultural differences can exacerbate this problem too.
  • Doing a bit of homework in your native language before watching anything helps a lot. This could be:
    • Reading the synopsis of a film in your native language
    • Reading the original book if you plan to watch a film adaptation (and vice versa).
    • Watching the trailer before watching the film
    • Reading a (spoiler-free) review

I might even write down names of key characters and locations. I find that doing this helps a great deal when you are actually watching a TV show. It means that you are not wasting precious time trying to remember the name of the main character’s sister!

  • Break shows down into smaller chunks. It’s much easier to watch TV series rather than films because TV episodes are shorter.
    • Watching without native language subtitles requires a high level of concentration which is hard to sustain for a 90+ minute film.
    • TV shows also have the advantage of being much easier to follow as you get used to how characters speak.
    • If you do choose a film, try watching it over a number of sessions to build your confidence.
  • Have a notepad handy and make a note of words and phrases that you didn’t understand or find interesting. I then look these up at the end of my listening session and add to my vocabulary list to review later.

 

…and if I get stuck?

Don’t beat yourself up if there is a phrase you just don’t understand. It is highly likely as a learner that you will encounter:

  • A slang word/ phrase
  • An idiom or saying
  • A word pronounced in a strange way (or said in different accent)
  • A pun
  • Words that merge together when spoken quickly
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Keep calm and carry on, even if you are feeling like this!

When you come across things like this, you could record a clip of what is being said and ask a friend or language partner to explain what is going on.

In some cases, I find that continuing to watch the show can help – later developments in the story might fill in gaps from what you missed earlier.

If you can turn on English subtitles, don’t be afraid to turn them on. Just because you do not understand something right now, doesn’t mean you will never understand it.

Obviously, the ideal situation is not to have any subtitles at all. Becoming too reliant on subtitles is unlikely to improve your listening or reading skills in your target language. One thing I try to do is to read native language subtitles as quickly as I can so that I can focus on the spoken language.

Sometimes you have to take the plunge and watch things without any subtitles – how much you do understand might just surprise you!

 

What is your stance on this? Do you go for native language subtitles, target language subtitles or none at all? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

You need to be careful with おまえ – the potential pitfalls of pronouns in Japanese

Japanese has a lot of pronouns in place of first-person pronouns (‘I’) and second-person pronouns (‘you’) in particular, the choice of which is dependant on the relative status of who you are and who you are talking to. In English, we use pronouns all the time and when talking to a superior we tend to change our phrasing rather than vocabulary to show respect.

So when we hear words such as in TV shows and anime, it is easy to think that pronouns such as 私 (watashi) or 俺 (ore) for ‘I’, and お前 (omae) or あなた (anata) for ‘you’ are largely interchangeable.

A case that came up in the news recently goes to show why the choice of pronouns in Japanese is so important. The incorrect use of the pronoun お前 led to the resignation of Ryoichi Yamada, a superintendent in Niigata prefecture.

In June 2017, a boy committed suicide as a result of school bullying. On the 11th October, Mr. Yamada arranged a meeting with the boy’s family to offer his apologies and discuss what can be done better going forward. Unfortunately, during this meeting he referred to the father as お前 when asking a question. He did later apologise for using the word, but the damage had been done and he tendered his resignation the following day.

 

Why was using お前 inappropriate?

お前 is a highly informal word meaning ‘you’. As you would expect for an informal word, you would only use it . Even so, a close friend could take offence at being referred to as お前. It is more often used used amongst males than females. With this in mind, it is not hard to see why there has been outrage over his choice of words.

In this case, Mr. Yamada had taught the boy’s father in the past. This is the reason why the superintendent may have thought using お前 would have been acceptable. However given the situation, one would expect the superintendent to be using extremely humble language, and so the use of お前 was highly insensitive.

I would be very wary of using words like this, especially as a beginner to Japanese. Part of the following video by Japanese Ammo with Misa explains from a Japanese perspective why learners should refrain from words like omae.

Note: the whole video is great, but I’ve set it to start from the part where she talks about Japanese pronouns.

 

Tips on using pronouns in Japanese

Pronouns are generally not used often in Japanese, as the context indicates who the topic of conversation is. For instance, if I say:

魚が好きです。

さかながすきです。

It is assumed that I am the one who likes fish even though I didn’t use the word 私(watashi).

Therefore, it is more natural not to use pronouns at all.

If you do need to refer to a specific person, it is better to refer to a person using their actual name:

小原さん、いつアメリカに来ましたか。

おはらさん、いつアメリカにきましたか。

Ms. Ohara, when did you come to America?

 

You can also refer to someone using their occupation or status. Words can be used in this way include 先生, 課長, 博士:

先生はいつアメリカに来ましたか。

せんせいはいつアメリカにきましたか。

Teacher, when did you come to America?

 

お巡りさん、東京駅はどこですか。

おまわりさん、とうきょうえきはどこですか。

[Police] Officer, where is Tokyo station?

 

If you are interested in knowing the different words for ‘you’ in Japanese, this video on second-person pronouns explains the contexts in which you can and cannot use various words.

Pronouns are a tricky thing to get used to, and there are also gender and regional differences in usage too. I recommend sticking to the above tips until you’ve been exposed to the language enough to get a feel for when certain pronouns should be used.

‘Appy Mondays: Ohayou App Review

Welcome to ‘Appy Mondays, my series of app reviews relating to Japanese language study. Today’s app review is of the JLPT listening practice app Ohayou.

Appymondaysblog

 

How the Ohayou app works

When you first log into the app, you have to create an account with an email and password or link the app to a social media account. I decided to go with the first option – whichever you choose, the app should automatically log you in whenever you access it after this.

The listening tests are grouped by JLPT level, and on the far right there are non-JLPT specific listening exercises too. Each JLPT level has a number of tests, which have to be downloaded before they can be accessed. Downloading is usually very quick.

There are various types of language questions, which correspond to the types of listening questions you will encounter in the JLPT:

The above table, taken from the official JLPT website, shows the different types of listening questions included at each level of the exam.

Depending on the level of the JLPT you are working towards, the types of listening questions you get in the exam will vary. Fortunately, the Ohayou app has you covered and has pretty much all of the listening question types you will need to practice for the test. The non-JLPT listening exercises include practice for hiragana and katakana, as well as counting and calculations in Japanese.

Once the test has been downloaded, you can jump into listening practice. Each test has 20 questions which follow the format of the JLPT test. That is to say, you will be given a question and four options from which you need to select the right answer. For lower levels of the JLPT the answers may be pictures, but they will be entirely in Japanese otherwise.

Clicking the ‘Check’ button after listening to the question will tell you if the answer you chose was correct or not (you will be shown the correct option if you do get it wrong). You can then choose to listen to the question again or continue on to the next one. You can also rewind or fast forward 10 or 20 seconds using the arrows, which is really helpful if you need to hear a particular sentence again.

 

My thoughts on Ohayou

Ohayou is a very convenient app for JLPT listening practice and is a great app to help build confidence for the listening section of the exam. For all of the listening exercises I tried, the audio was very clear too.

The listening comprehension tests are the same as those you find in the JLPT so anyone preparing to take the test (especially for the first time) will find this very useful for getting used to the type of listening tasks to expect. At all levels, there tend to be questions where more than one of the answers is mentioned and careful listening is required to ascertain which one is correct.

The non-JLPT exercises were a bit of a mixed bag for me. I thought that the hiragana and katakana tests were good and would most likely be useful for those who had just finished learning the scripts and want to test their listening skills. I tried the tests relating to counters, which I think are useful especially for reviewing common but irregular counters like ひとり and ここのつ, but the audio quality was not as good as the JLPT tests. It sounded as if the audio had been recorded from someone’s TV or perhaps had been recorded with the TV on in the background. Needless to say, this kind of distracting noise could just as easily happen in a real-life situation, but I found it a bit disappointing.

I need to mention that whilst the app is free to use, additional features can be bought with for money, although these features can be ‘paid’ for using points you gain by using the app.

Screenshot_20180923-112705_Ohayou

You can pay 400 points (US $2.99) to remove ads permanently, and 1000 points (US $4.99) to view all transcripts and access to one-click definitions of any word. For once, it is nice to come across a freemium app that does not require a monthly subscription!

Completing the tests for the first time earned me 2 points each, so at that rate earning enough points to unlock the premium features in full is probably near impossible without paying for them. There was also the option to earn 5 points by watching a video ad, but despite watching a couple of ads my points total never increased.

In the app’s defense, it is possible to purchase the transcript for individual questions or tests. So if there is a particular test that you are struggling with, you can spend 15 points to purchase the transcript. I would be wary about becoming overly reliant on transcripts for listening practice, as you will not have that benefit in the actual test. Generally, I found that if I got any answers wrong, listening to the question a couple more times made it clear where I went wrong.

I can’t really see the value of paying the $2.99 to remove ads – I didn’t think that the ads were intrusive enough to justify it. Having access to all transcripts for $4.99 could be useful, especially if you are planning on taking all levels of the JLPT in turn (and so would be using the app quite a lot).

If you are interested in checking the app out, it is available in the Apple store and Google Play store.

Have you tried this app out? Are you aware of a better alternative? Let me know in the comments!

15 Japanese Songs to help you learn Japanese

So you’re studying Japanese, but you don’t really know how to get into Japanese music. There is no doubt that songs are a great way to spice up your Japanese studies, but knowing where to start with Japanese music can be a bit of a minefield. Or perhaps you often go to karaoke, but never know what songs to pick that everyone is sure to know? Well look no further – here is a list of 15 Japanese songs to get you started!

The songs on this list have been chosen because they are popular songs which also have relatively clear lyrics for Japanese study. I’ve tried to include a mix of older and newer songs on the list, but it has been incredibly difficult to pick just 15. There really is a wealth of great songs from Japan (although it can be hard to see past the idol music sometimes!), so hopefully this list will be a helpful starting point into discovering all sorts of Japanese music.

  1. 上を向いて歩こう by 坂本九 // Ue wo Muite Arukou by Kyu Sakamoto

This is the oldest song on the list but a definite classic. Known as “Sukiyaki” in English (I’m not sure why this is because it has no connection to the lyrics!), this is one of the best selling singles of all time. It is also one of the few foreign language songs to reach the top of the US Billboard Top 100 chart. The upbeat track belies the sadness of the lyrics, which tell the story of a man who looks up and whistles to stop tears from falling. The lyrics are simple and repetitive, which makes it a great choice to study with!

   2. 世界に一つだけの花 by SMAP // Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana by SMAP

The recently disbanded boy band SMAP were very much a national institution, having a career spanning almost three decades that expanded into acting and one of the most popular variety shows of all time, SMAPxSMAP. Their biggest song (The One and Only Flower in the World) was released in 2003 and was an instant hit, selling over a million copies. The song’s simple lyrics and pacing make it a karaoke favourite even today.

3.手紙〜拝啓十五の君へ by アンジェラ・アキ // Tegami ~ Haikei juugo no kimi e by Angela Aki

This single by singer-songwriter Angela Aki was released in 2008. Originally featured in a NHK documentary, it became popular again after the March 11 tsunami disaster and is still heard at graduation time today. I think it perfectly encapsulates what a lot of us would write a letter to our 15 year old selves It’s a song with a great message and certainly one to listen to when you’re feeling a bit down.

By the way, 拝啓 (はいけい/ haikei) is how you traditionally start off a letter in Japanese.

4. First Love by 宇多田ヒカル // Utada Hikaru – First Love

Utada Hikaru is one is Japan’s most famous contemporary artists – it was tricky to pick a song from her many albums. First Love was Utada’s third single, taken from the album of the same name which went on to over seven million copies in Japan. That’s not bad considering she was just 16 years old at the time! This ballad has a mix of Japanese and English, but the Japanese is pretty simple.

5. PONPONPON by きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ // PONPONPON by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is the stage name of Kiriko Takemura. Takemura started as a blogger and model before entering the music industry and her 2011 single PONPONPON was the first of her singles to become a viral hit. The catchy beat is the invention of famed producer Yasutaka Nakata, who is also the creative force behind pop trio Perfume. The song and music video are the epitome of cute – together with the simple lyrics makes this a very easy song to get stuck in your head (you have been warned!).

6. ありがとう by いきものがかり // Arigatou by Ikimonogakari

Ikimonogakari are a pop rock band that have been around since 1999, although they are currently on hiatus. The band’s name refers to the group of children assigned the task of looking after plants and animals in Japanese primary schools. Arigatou is a song they released in 2010 and is about treasuring a loved one. The lyrics are very sweet, and the tempo of the song makes it a good choice for singing at karaoke!

7. ORION by 中島美嘉 // Orion by Mika Nakashima

Mika Nakashima is a singer and actress from Kagoshima prefecture who debuted in 2001. As an actress, she is probably most famous for her role in the live action adaptation of the shojo manga Nana. Her single Orion was released in 2008 and is one of her many popular singles. In this song, Mika sings wistfully about a past love – the lyrics here are slow and not too difficult which makes it a nice song for Japanese learners.

8. リンダリンダ by ザ・ブルーハーツ // Linda Linda by The Blue Hearts

The Blue Hearts were a punk rock band popular in the 80s and 90s. Linda Linda is one of their most popular singles and remains a karaoke favourite. Originally released in 1987 the song was a key part of the film Linda Linda Linda (2005), where 4 high school girls form a band which cover several songs by The Blue Hearts.

9. 恋に落ちたら by Crystal Kay // Koi ni Ochitara by Crystal Kay

Crystal Kay is a singer hailing from Yokohama, who released her debut single at just 13 years of age. Koi ni Ochitara was her seventeenth single released in 2005 and was the theme song for a drama of the same name. This pop ballad is probably the least well known on the list, but it has simple but sweet lyrics perfect for karaoke!

10. 涙そうそう by 夏川りみ // Nada Sou Sou by Rimi Natsukawa

is an Okinawan phrase which means “large tears are falling” (in standard Japanese this would be 涙がポロポロこぼれ落ちる) and tells the story of someone looking through a photo album of someone who has died. The original song was performed by Ryoko Moriyama, but it is Rimi Natsukawa’s version released in 2001 that steadily became a hit song. It was so popular that broadcaster TBS made two dramas and a film between 2005 and 2006. The song is sad but beautiful and certainly a Japanese song worth knowing about.

11. KARATE by BABYMETAL

Babymetal have a unique blend of metal and idol style music (now known as “kawaii metal”) which has won the band fans from all over the world. Babymetal formed in 2010 and consists of three members: Suzuka, Moa and Yui. The group’s 2016 song Karate is from their second album Metal Resistance and is all about never giving up in difficult times. A lot of the main phrases are repeated and overall the lyrics are not too tricky, which would make it a crowd pleaser at karaoke for sure!

12. Monster by 嵐// Monster by Arashi

I don’t think it is possible to escape Arashi – the boyband has been dominating the charts for years now and each member is involved in TV hosting and drama acting. Released in 2010, Monster was the theme song for the drama adaptation of the manga Kaibutsu-kun which starred member Satoshi Ohno. The lyrics are straightforward- if you are in the mood for a Halloween pop song then this is for you.

13. Best Friend by Kiroro

Kiroro are a duo who released their first single in 1998. Both members Chiharu and Ayano are from Okinawa, but the name of the band was actually inspired by words in the Ainu language after a school trip to Hokkaido. The song Best Friend was released in 2001, and was the theme song for a drama called Churasan. It is a popular song to sing at graduations, as the song relate to appreciating close friends.

14. キセキ by Greeeen // Kiseki by Greeeen

Greeen (the 4 e’s represent the four members of the group) are a pop-rock band originating from Fukushima prefecture. Kiseki was released in 2008 as the theme song for the baseball drama Rookies, and quickly became a bestseller. The title kiseki has the dual meaning of 奇跡 (meaning “miracle”) and 軌跡 (meaning “path, track”), which is why it is written in katakana rather than kanji! The lyrics aren’t too difficult and emphasise how important it is to treasure each moment and to keep moving forward.

15. 恋するフォーチュンクッキー by AKB48 // Koi Suru Fortune Cookie by AKB48

[Note: there are options to have Japanese or English subtitles on the video!]

AKB48 are a massive girl group with several best-selling songs to their name. Named after the area where the group are based (Akihabara), the idol group is split into teams that hold performances there every day. Released in 2013, the message of Koi Suru Fortune Cookie is to try positive about the future, because you never know what will happen tomorrow. I am not the biggest AKB48 fan but you cannot deny that this song is incredibly catchy, upbeat and has a fun dance to learn too!

It’s always good to have a well known song in your arsenal when going to karaoke and hopefully this post has given you a few ideas (it was certainly fun writing this post). If in doubt, you can’t really go wrong with good old Disney songs in Japanese!

What is your favourite Japanese song? Let me know in the comments!

Podcast Recommendation: Manga Sensei

Today’s podcast recommendation is the Manga Sensei podcast, a podcast that offers great Japanese lessons in just 5 minutes each episode!

The podcast is hosted by John (Manga Sensei) who is our helpful guide to the Japanese language. Most of the Manga Sensei episodes are language-focused, where each episode covers a different grammar point.

Grammar point focused episodes will provide an explanation of the grammar point – for example, how to conjugate it and when it used, alongside a few examples.

Outside of grammar study, the Manga Sensei podcast also has interviews with people who regularly use Japanese, normally people who live in Japan and/or write about the Japanese language. There are also episodes that focus on helpful language learning tips for Japanese (or any language) such as bridging the gap between intermediate and advanced (episode from May 14, 2018).

 

Why I like the Manga Sensei podcast

One of the best things about the podcast is how much John sensei manages to cover in a relatively short period of time. Somehow in just five-minute episodes, he has been able to fit in some interesting insight on how grammar points are used, without it feeling too overwhelming. Not only that but with over 250 episodes, there is plenty of content to listen to – new episodes are also uploaded on a daily basis! The type of Japanese covered in the grammar episodes includes more informal speech and is generally more natural than what you might get from a textbook.

In addition, in every episode, John comes across as an enthusiastic teacher who really wants everyone to do the very best with Japanese study. The Manga Sensei ethos is all about knowing you’ll make mistakes and doing it anyway, which I think is the best way to approach languages.

The episodes have not been produced in order of grammar difficulty so you may find yourself searching around for a little while if there is a particular grammar point you are stuck on (if you are a beginner to intermediate Japanese learner, he has most likely covered the grammar point in an episode already!).

 

Who I recommend the podcast for

I think that this podcast is good for anyone studying Japanese, as the grammar points covered range from the basics up to more sophisticated aspects of the language.

I always like to hear about the same grammar points explained in different ways (as I think it helps to really deepen your understanding of how certain aspects of the language work), and so I think the podcast is a nice compliment to someone who is taking classes or self-studying using a textbook. I also find that the interview episodes are really fun and perfect for when I need some study motivation!

You can find the episodes on the Manga Sensei website, or via any podcasting app (just search for “Manga Sensei”. There’s also a Youtube channel with a handful of videos too.

I definitely suggest checking out The Manga Sensei site. Every week there are short manga posted on the website that are designed to help you learn Japanese.

I’d probably recommend these short manga to upper beginners as there is no furigana on the manga itself, although each panel comes with a vocabulary list and helpful notes on the language used.

If you are intending to read manga in Japanese at some point, these notes are pretty useful – you’ll note that the language used is closer to how Japanese is spoken rather than what you might learn in a formal setting.

Aside from that, the website’s blog has a number of posts on the Japanese language (expanding upon a lot of the topics covered in the grammar episodes) and culture, which is all very useful for learners.

Have you tried this podcast? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Podcast Recommendation: Learn Japanese Pod

Today’s podcast recommendation is Learn Japanese Pod, not to be confused with JapanesePod101!

The podcast was established by Alex, a Brit living in Japan who started the podcast as a way for himself to work on his Japanese skills. Fortunately for us, the podcast has turned out to be a useful resource for us Japanese learners too!

In each podcast, Alex is joined by a native Japanese speaker – regulars include Asuka and Ami – to help explain key points and offer insights on each topic.

Each episode is about 30-40 minutes and are usually based on a certain situation you might find yourself in living in Japan, such as losing your wallet or ordering food at a restaurant. Others focus on ways to express yourself in Japanese (topics have included how to talk about one’s personality and how to express your opinions). The episodes are usually structured around short dialogs, which are then broken down and explained in more detail. These explanations are really useful as they often include cultural information or show examples of how certain phrases are used.

There also episodes called Fun Fridays, where the presenters discuss a topic in relation to Japan and Japanese culture, as well as interviews with those involved with the world of Japanese language learning.

First and foremost, I recommend this podcast because it is enjoyable to listen to. Sometimes with language learning podcasts, the content can feel overly structured and therefore a little bit boring at times. Fortunately, this is not the case with Learn Japanese Pod, despite the length of the episodes. There’s a really good rapport between the presenters which I think really helps to keep each episode as engaging as it is informative.

Another thing that I really like about the podcast is that they are full of useful expressions that reflect Japanese as it is actually spoken. For this reason, this is a great podcast for those who want to build their spoken fluency or focus on expressing themselves more naturally in Japanese. Similarly, as the podcast is dialogue focused, the episodes are great for shadowing.

I also recommend taking a look at the Learn Japanese Pod website, which has downloadable show notes for each episode containing all of the dialogues.

I think that this podcast is especially good for beginner to intermediate learners, who might be taking formal classes. As classes might not always cover ‘real’ Japanese, this is a great complement to the stuff that gets taught in a classroom setting.

You can find the episodes on their website, via any podcasting app, and on the Learn Japanese Pod YouTube channel.

Have you tried this podcast? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!