If you’re like me, chances are you spend a number of hours of your week in transit, whether you are driving yourself or you are taking public transportation. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that these hours can be put to excellent use for your Japanese study! There are many things you can do to further your study of Japanese while in transit but in this blog post I’ll talk about one of them: listening to Japanese podcasts. This really has two meanings: there are podcasts that offer Japanese lessons or are otherwise geared towards the Japanese learner and there are podcasts intended for a Japanese-speaking audience. In this post I’ll be trying to include a bit of both, but first let’s go over some basics.
Podcast? What’s That?
Podcasts are Internet radio/TV shows, amateur or professional, distributed as a series of files (audio or video) that can be subscribed to via RSS or Atom, or downloaded directly from the web. It’s a portmanteau (combination) of the words “iPod” and “broadcast”, as Apple’s iTunes was the first podcatcher. However, even if you don’t have an iPod, you can still subscribe to many podcasts via software for Windows, Linux, and Android, and download the newest episodes to your media player of choice to take with you when you’re out and about.
The iTunes Store is probably still the best consumer experience for subscribing to and downloading podcasts, so it makes a good starting point to browse around if you want to dip your toe into the world of podcasting. If iTunes absolutely won’t work for you or you just don’t want to use it, there are many podcast directories on the web. Try subscribing to shows about your other favorite things and see if listening to podcasts is a habit you can make. If so, read on to see some of our recommendations for Japanese podcasts.
Podcasts for Japanese Learners
I couldn’t write a post about podcasts for Japanese learners without giving a mention to JapanesePod101. The site actually hosts a number of podcast series divided up by level and in total contains over 1700 audio and video lessons. Don’t be put off by the very thick marketing you’re greeted with when the home page loads up. It may look like they’re selling “learn Japanese fast” snake oil here but rest assured the lessons are all very high quality and come with well-made supplementary materials to help you retain what you learn.
If you subscribe to only one of the podcasts we mention here, make it this one. There are paid accounts that give you access to much more material and the ability to customize your own subscription(s). We’ll let you decide if you think it’s worth the money but I personally find the customized feeds feature to be very useful.
The Japanese Learner
It’d be really difficult to write a post about podcasts without mentioning our very own. Our podcast takes a different approach from many other podcasts for Japanese learners in that instead of giving lessons, it is a series of discussions on how to go about learning and retaining various aspects of the Japanese language. If you’ve just started following the blog, I highly recommend you check out the podcast episodes.
It has been a long time since we’ve recorded new content but as I mentioned near the beginning of the year, I’m planning to produce at least one more season of the show this year. I look forward to producing more great material for you to listen to, with my fabulous co-host (and tireless maintainer of the Facebook page), Kimberly Fraser.
Podcasts in Japanese
Reading the news is great for intermediate-to-advanced reading practice but if you want to give your ear for Japanese the same kind of exercise, try the Japanese NHK Radio News podcast. It is updated a couple of times per day and each update is around 10 minutes long.
I personally find these a bit difficult to follow but I rarely read the news in Japanese as well. If you’re having trouble listening to these, you might get some mileage out of reading the news on the web for some time first, to build up vocabulary, and then trying the podcast. If you’ve got any other tips for listening to the news in Japanese, please leave a comment!
If the Japanese iTunes Store is a no-go for you, podcastrank.jp might be able to help. It’s one of the first Google hits if you search for “ポッドキャスト” (the Japanese word for “podcast”) and it’s quite a large directory. Through this site, I found a pretty interesting anime/otaku podcast to subscribe to. It was actually fun listening to a couple of guys in a studio gushing about Nichijou and other shows that I like to watch.
You can search by keyword or by tag, but it is hard to tell from the results what is fresh and active and what hasn’t been updated in a long while. You’ll get quite a few results for most common things, but the results may be hit or miss. If you find a really interesting Japanese-language podcast through here, please let us know!
The world of podcasting is quite huge, although I’m not sure it has taken off in Japan the same way it has here. However, there’s still quite a lot to explore and hopefully you’ll find many things that you’re interested in listening to.
As we find more podcasts about particular topics, we’ll be updating the Facebook and Google+ pages, so stay tuned!