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Archive for the 'Success Stories' Category

Aspiring Manga Creator

Yuri sent us an e-mail last week about why she’s studying Japanese.  Being half-Japanese and growing up outside of Japan, she told us she really wants to improve, but has trouble picking up the language.

“I am half-Japanese on my mother’s side. Although she wasn’t taught Japanese growing up she encouraged me to learn, and as I got older I began to want to learn the language myself. I have used many resources over the years but never have I found as great a listening comprehension resource as Japanesepod.

When I found Japanesepod I had already studied for several years, and so was able to jump right in at the intermediate/upper intermediate levels. I also greatly enjoyed Miki’s Blog because it was at just the right level for me, with the bonus of learning a lot about Japanese culture.
I don’t think I have a favorite section — I really am enjoying the onomatopoeic section, though 🙂
I love sound-words. And as an aspiring OEL manga creator, I just wish English had more of them!”

For those who don’t know, ‘manga’ are Japanese comic books. They’re often turned into full length animated shows called ‘anime’. OEL means “Originally English Language”, so Yuri hopes to create Japanese style comic books in the English Language.

Good luck with that Yuri, I hope you do well!

I’m a big fan of the manga One Piece.  It’s a long, but casual and fun story about pirates.  To study and practice Japanese I used to translate chapters for other fans.  Does anyone have a favorite manga series? Let me know your favorite series or why you’re studying the language!

Surprise Your Pen Pals

Have pen pals?  Lars wrote in to tell us since using JapanesePod101 his pen pals have been quite surprised with his Japanese.  He also told us about how he first decided to learn the language and why.

“I’m Lars (38) from Germany and I have a relationship to Japan for many years. I like Japanese sports and culture. And finally I have decided to start to learn this beautiful language Japanese.

Lars, avid listener of JapanesePod101! I went to at a local public high school and noticed soon that the style of the textbook does not really cover current daily Japanese language. Additionally there are not many chances to practice conversations in a big class. So I went on looking for other options.

My search ended with

I like browsing through the podcasts and listen to them on the train every day. With access to daily spoken Japanese, useful grammar exercises and learning videos I can really see how my Japanese gets better and better.

Meanwhile I also have Japanese penpals and I am happy to surprise them with many natural phrases and words that I have learned from”

Pen pals are a great way to practice your Japanese.  I had two while going to college and they really helped me with learning natural, conversational Japanese and gave me interesting opinions which really taught me more about the culture and the Japanese perspective.

Does anyone have any experiences with pen pals?  Send us your story to, subject line: Mail Bag or discuss in the comments below.

Teach Your Dogs Japanese!

Today we’d like to share another story from the Mail Bag Contest we did recently from Nathan Mittelman of Sydney, Australia.  What do you do while listening to the podcast? Nathan walks his dogs and has even taught them commands in Japanese!

Here’s his full story:

“On my first trip to Japan I was sure I would pick up Japanese easily.  I had the wonderful opportunity to work at Tokai University Hospital for a working holiday.  Although I had no previous experience with the Japanese language, I had been able to pick up European languages quickly and easily, and so smugly I thought Japanese would be a pushover.  I bought a phrase book at the airport in Sydney and spent a few hours reviewing it on the plane.

The problems started immediately on arrival.  

Avid Listener of JapanesePod101!

From trying to read the kanji on a train ticket automatic dispenser, to a simple query for a direction, I was lost.  I was supposed to go to a hotel in Akasaka, but while I was on the train I looked at a map and became confused with Asakusa.  Everything sounded the same!   I got off at the wrong stop and because the train had stopped under a department store I couldn’t find my way outside. I just kept on going up into the department store. No one seemed to understand my frantic “Where is the exit?” question. If it wasn’t for the kind help of a passing ‘gaijin’ I probably would still be lost in the Daimaru kimono department.

I had to admit that simply ‘picking up’ Japanese was going to be impossible.  My Australian accent was a real obstacle and so real communication was very limited.

Two months time flew quickly and I fell in love with Japan.  The kindness and patience of the Japanese people led me to enjoy a magical time and I was certain I would return. Secretly, I made a resolution that I would speak Japanese on my return.

In Australia I looked for Japanese courses at the university or adult education classes, but I couldn’t find a course to suit me.  The classes were at inconvenient times, difficult locations and too expensive. I also knew that my preferred study style was to learn at my own pace.

How was I going to learn Japanese?  It was then I received a wonderful gift of an mp3 player and discovered podcasts.

Before long I found and within minutes I was in business.  Not only did it teach Japanese, but it was also light hearted, positive and fun.  Now I was able to study in my car on the way to and from work and have the occasional laugh.  How convenient!  I didn’t need to travel to classes and share a teacher with lots of other students.  I have my own personal teacher in the car!  I could learn at my own pace and listen over and over again until I felt that have mastered the new vocabulary.

My next trip to Japan was so much easier.  Not only was I able to communicate, but my Japanese friends were impressed with my ability.  I heard, “日本語が上手ですね!” repeatedly from my Japanese friends, but this time they seemed genuinely surprised by my quick progress. The lessons had been perfect for ‘real life’ situations and I was able to ask directions and speak to shopkeepers.

I have continued with and find the best feature is its convenience.  I can study when or where it suits me.  I continue to study in the car, but also when I do the supermarket shopping or while walking my dogs.  Even my dogs now respond to ‘Sit’ and ‘Come here’ in Japanese!

I find listening to native speakers at normal and slow pace very helpful.   I can identify each syllable separately and clearly and learn the vocabulary before reading notes to consolidate my writing skills.

My Japanese is improving daily and I am looking forward to my next trip to Japan where I can ‘show off’ my new Japanese skills to my friends.  Thank you so much JapanesePod101 for teaching me Japanese! 


I think Nathan’s story sums up what the first trip to Japan can be like for just about everyone.  I know it’s very similar to my own when I landed in Fukuoka.  It’s nice to see Nathan didn’t back down from a challenge and is preparing for round 2 of Japan!

“At first I was skeptical. Boy was I wrong.”

Congratulations to Jenni from Southern California on winning the GRAND PRIZE of Mail Bag Contest II!

Jenni is in high school currently and absolutely LOVES Japanese!  Much like many of our other listeners, she became interested in the language and culture first through Japanese media like anime and  manga.  She was a bit discouraged when she first thought of learning Japanese, but toughed it out and is moving along and learning quickly!

Have a look at the mail she sent us:

“My name is Jenni and I’m a junior in high school. I am 16 years old going on to 17 this year. I became interested in Japan through anime and manga. That soon developed into a greater passion for the Japanese language, its people, and its culture. 

I started trying to learn Japanese on my own in the 8th grade.  My local high school offered Japanese classes but, sadly, they were going to be removed the year that I would be entering that high school. 

So, I set off to learn Japanese on my own through the easiest and cheapest way possible, the Internet. For the first year and a half I learned through many websites what I could, but none of them were well structured or explained things very well. I was starting to give up hope on ever learning Japanese. 

My parents just didn’t think I would stick with the language so they didn’t bother getting me a teacher. “What will you ever use Japanese for?” is what they would constantly tell me. “It’s almost impossible to master.” In a way they were right. It was difficult to master. But that wasn’t going to stop me. It only fueled me to try harder and prove them wrong. 

Jenni at school, avid listener of JapanesePod101 and fan of anime and manga!

Then, thank God, I came across Japanesepod101 last year. At first I was skeptical. I thought it would be just like every other ‘learn Japanese’ website out there.
Boy was I wrong. 

I learned SO much within just one month of listening to the pod casts, just with the free content. It was so useful it turned into my own little class on Japanese. I have hosted Japanese students before and they were surprised when I knew how to use words such as ‘zenzen’ or even knew about places like the ‘suicide forest’ at the bottom of Mt. Fuji(thanks to your culture class). I of course told them it was all thanks to Japanesepod101. 

My parents have been really impressed on how much I have learned since I started learning Japanese. They are still very unsure on whether or not it is a good idea but at least they are a bit more accepting of it. They never thought I would learn even the basics. Now, me and some of my friends use Japanesepod101 as a teacher. We meet twice a week for a few hours and go over a lesson each day. We only use the free content since our parents won’t pay for a subscription, but we still learn a GREAT deal from it. That’s how well structured and useful this website is. 

JapanesePod101 has honestly become a life saver to me. I cannot go a day with out listening to a lesson. I just want to tell you how thankful I am and how much I appreciate what you guys are doing. You are great teachers and from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU :]” 

That’s truly inspiring, Jenni!  Despite not getting much support, you really tried your best and searched for the best tools you could afford to aide your studies.  On top of that, having group lessons at school during your breaks?  素晴らしい!  And that’s why we’ve decided to pick your story as the Grand Prize.

Have a great story to share?  Share with us yours in the comment field on any of our current posts or e-mail us.

How does a Japanese Translator study? was created with the intent to help people study, but we’ve found out some people even use our tools as a reference for work!
One such individual is Darryl, age 59, from Oklahoma.  He works for Hitachi as a technical Japanese translator, a true veteran in his field!

Since my job at Hitachi is to translate technical drawings, procedures, reports, operating instructions and email communications between our office here and the headquarters office in Japan, I have to use my Japanese-language skills everyday.

Darryl, Technical Japanese TranslatorIf JapanesePod101 was a store, I would call it a “One-Stop Shop” because it provides ALL the tools you need for learning the Japanese language.  That’s why it is now my only reference tool. I used to read and listen to Japanese news broadcasts over the internet and look up words in my electronic dictionary when needed (a lot !). Though I will still listen to news broadcasts every now and then, I basically use JapanesePod101 exclusively since it provides all the tools I need for improving my ability in the Japanese language.  No other tool or software is needed.”

He translates technical drawings, procedures, reports and operating instructions?! I’m sure that takes quite a vocabulary to do that!

Does anyone else use Japanese on the job? Send us an e-mail and let us know!

How Do You Escape the Expat Bubble in Japan?

Konbanwa Listeners!

This evening I thought I’d bring you a story about a foreigner living in Tokyo, but finding it difficult to practice Japanese.

In Tokyo many Japanese speak basic English or the store clerks have mastered simple phrases to conduct business with the many foreigners living here.  This is great for the newly arrived or confused traveler, but for those trying to speak the language it can be quite frustrating!  There are also many people who speak only English at work and have no contact with Japanese. This makes learning even more difficult!

This week’s story comes from Julie Mitchell  in Tokyo.  Julie shared a story with us about this difficult to escape “expat bubble”:

Julie from Tokyo in a beautiful kimono,

“Why am I studying Japanese?  I ask myself that question every month when I need to pay for my Japanese lessons.

Of course, it is helpful to know Japanese, but as an obvious gaijin, the Japanese people are very accommodating to English speaking foreigners.  And when you live in the “expat bubble” you can actually survive quite well not knowing a word of Japanese…

So why do I pursue this endeavor?  I think its fun to learn another language, difficult and challenging too, but since I’m arafo (a woman around 40) I need to keep my mind active and Nihongo is good brain food.    

 The problem with studying Japanese and living in the “expat bubble” is that I don’t always have the opportunity to use my emerging skills.  I’m able to say many phrases in Japanese but I’m not able to understand the response spoken back to me. has been a huge boon to my listening comprehension.  I try to eavesdrop on the train and on street corners, but I think it would be rude if I told my victims, “Mo ichido, yukkuri itte kudasai.”  Your dialogues politely fill that void. I can listen as many times, even slowed down, until I understand!

 I just started listening in November of 2008 and I love the topics, grammar points, cultural info, and the pop culture too.

Because I have a “Type A” personality I want to catch up on all the episodes I’ve missed.  On Monday, I listened for about four hours on my daughter’s iPod; I stopped only because the ear buds hurt my ears. That’s why I’ve told countless people about your site because I’m feeling a need to form a support group because of my recent addiction!

Your site is a great value and if someone didn’t have access to Japanese instruction this would give them an opportunity to study.   I’ve used Rosetta Stone and other resources, but your site is BY FAR the best instruction I’ve come across so far!


Keep trying hard Julie!

Any suggestions for those times when it’s hard to practice Japanese because your native language is so comfortable? Send us an e-mail!

‘Never Too Late to Learn!’


I’m sure everyone is waiting in anticipation to hear who the next Mailbag Contest winners are, but until we decide the final results I’d like to introduce another listener.

This week’s story comes from Richard Murabayashi, age 71 in Hawaii.  Murabayashi-san shared a story with us about how he started studying Japanese and how he currently studies.

“I’m a soon to be 71 year old nisei and sansei, born and raised in Hawaii.
Though I picked up some Japanese as a child, after the war broke out I didn’t have
a chance to study any longer. After that it was one thing after another, and
Japanese was on the back burner until I retired at age 64. I started with 3
adult education classes in Japanese.
And that was right about the time I also started listening to your podcasts.
Thanks to your podcasts, I think I’m up to 700-800 kanji and think my
vocabulary is up to about 2000 words.
I like to listen to your podcasts for entertainment value, if nothing else.
I especially liked some of your intermediate lessons, such as the one where
a teacher was talking to her class about preserving the environment. I went
over that one several times to learn the new kanji and vocabulary.
Unfortunately, I don’t have anyone to converse with, so I’m mainly
concentrating on listening and reading. That’s what is so great about your
I’m happy with the level of Japanese that I’m at now, but will try to keep
learning because everything else will be gravy.”

Murabayashi-san has quite a fascinating journey in learning the language!  Studying Japanese certainly is a lifelong task and so that makes me feel really great to hear that he can continue studying with the podcast and also get a kick out of the team and their antics 😉

For those of you who may not know what the terms “nisei” or “sansei” mean, it refers to the generation of Japanese born outside of Japan. So “nisei” would be second generation and “sansei”, third generation.
Keep those stories coming!

Mail Bag Stories – Learn Japanese with Your Classmates!

Konnichiwa listeners!


Welcome to the new section of our blog, The Mail Bag. This is where we’ll share stories from our listeners about their endeavors with Japanese. We hope stories from fellow students can help motivate and inspire you to learn Japanese with or give you that extra needed push and renewed sense of strength when you think it’s impossible to get become more proficient in Japanese!


This week we’d like to introduce you to Jalees, the winner of  the Mail Bag Contest and recipient of a free 1 year Premium subscription.  She had this to say about her Japanese studies:

“My Japanese story is as simple as this.  I felt like my brain was MELTING!

Why, you may ask? Well to make a long story short, I’m a stay-at-home-HOMESCHOOLING-mom of 5! I home school my children from pre-K up to seventh grade.  Before I decided to home school, I was a biology major in university.  So I was used to my brain functioning at a pretty intense level ( I hope ).  As of today, I’ve been on hiatus from school for about five years 🙁  I only need 4 more classes to graduate. Last year, after 8 years of ABC’s and 123’s over and over and OVER again, I thought I was going to lose my mind!

One night as my husband and I were watching an old Japanese movie, I realized that I could actually understand some without reading the subs!  The idea just came to me out of the blue….I”M GOING TO LEARN JAPANESE!  I’ve always loved Japan and Japanese culture since I was very young.  I watched anime,  read manga, and watched all the old samurai movies and without realizing it I must have picked up on some of the language!  I don’t know why I only realized this last year but better late than never, I guess.

I started searching the web for free sites where I could learn for free because in this economy, I don’t have the money to pay for classes and with 5 children, and all of their activities, I definitely don’t have the time to go to a class!

So first I started learning from some videos that someone posted on Youtube, Let’s Learn Japanese Basic I, and I went through that whole series. Soon after that, my sister gave me her old ipod. I eventually learned about podcasts and searched for a podcast that taught Japanese and guess who popped up? (*^_^*)

I subscribed, listened to the the first lesson, and I’ve been hooked ever since!  I cannot express in words how much you all have literally saved my sanity!  Itsumo doumo arigatou gozaimashita!

This past November marked my 1 year anniversary of studying Japanese. My study time became, and still is, my sanctuary!  I began to feel more relaxed and calm and a happiness that I had been missing from not being in school myself.

Jalees and child - Avid listeners of JapanesePod101!

Last year is the first time I’ve been through the entire first half of the Newbie Series with Naomi-sensei and Eric-sensei, and the first half of the Beginner Series with Peter-sensei and Naomi-sensei.  I enjoyed them both immensely and learned so much that I’ve started teaching my 4 year old some Japanese!  He has a very good ear for the sounds and he loves the fact that he knows something that his older brothers and sisters don’t.  I hope to continue on with you all and when my husband and I finally make it to Japan, I hope to be able to communicate with everyone in fluent Japanese.Thank you all so much and I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn in 2009!”

Wow, that’s truly amazing. Jalees uses her Japanese studies as stress relief of sorts!  We’re happy she has a hobby that she can enjoy while taking care of her kids at home yet still connects her to another country and culture.


The Mailbag is an ongoing project, so please share your stories! You may send these to with the subject line: “Mailbag Story.” Our favorite stories will win one month of free premium service and be posted here to be shared with others!


Until next time, Ganbatte Kudasai!