Pimsleur vs JapanesePod101 vs?

Hello again everyone! I’m back again with another newbie question :slight_smile:

I’m soon to be heading back to work, and with that comes a 2 hour per day driving commute. So, I’m looking for the most efficient way to continue my studies and not lose those 10 hours each week.

For some background info, I am a beginner. My WK level perfectly reflects the amount of vocab I know. I’m a few sections into Tae Kim’s, and that’s about it. I’m too new to understand anything from easy podcasts and such, but I would very much like to reach that point so I can switch to native content and just listen to that during my drives.

Anyway! What are your opinions on Pimsleur vs JPod101? Or is there another 100% audio source you would recommend for listening, speaking, vocab, grammar, or any mixture of them?

Thanks peeps!


I loved pimsleur but i don’t think i would be able to do it while driving. it constantly builds on itself and your brain doesn’t really get a break. Maybe it would be ok in the beginning :thinking:

I finished through level 4 and i did learn a lot which helped me not feel so lost when i started getting more serious about learning grammar from written materials. It makes things not feel so strange and a little more intuitive. It also lets you build your vocabulary without really realizing you’re doing so.

I did lessons while doing physical tasks, like walking the dogs, or gardening, but never driving. you could always just buy the first few lessons and see how it goes, but be safe! :grin:

I don’t know much about japanesepod 101 though.


Thanks for the response!

It’s a pretty laid back drive, and my brain will always switch to 100% focus-on-drive mode anytime things get hairy. I’m way too cautious to let anything really distract me too much, so chances are I’ll have to do each lesson more than once anyway :sweat_smile:


I used to listen to Pimsleur during my commute on a motorcycle. Because L.A. traffic is somewhat crazy, I had the tracks set to repeat once in case I missed something the first time. I wish they had more advanced programs. I still recommend it. And I think speaking, especially as a beginner early, is very valuable.


Thanks for the response! :slight_smile:

I really like Pimsleur, I also used it while commuting, although I used public transportation. I think I would be a bit overwhelmed if I did it while driving, but you should try it and see yourself. On their app, the first lesson is free. I would recommend doing it while doing household jobs.

I did up to level 3 and it helped me to ‘think fast in Japanese’. But I actually forgot a lot of stuff. I can only remember the content from level 1 properly. I am redoing it all right now and I’m taking the opportunity to make some Quizlet decks with the vocabulary in kanji - I only found decks in hiragana, and the app has a list of vocab but it’s not organized by level, so it’s super confusing. I think that it being an audio method is very good, but having no written reference is not very efficient for reviewing - sometimes you just don’t remember one or two words from the lesson, so that’s why I’m doing the decks.

Also, you should note that Pimsleur uses extremely formal language. I think it’s still useful, but this might be a drawback for some people.


From what I’ve read, it seems that some think it’s more of a phrase book than an actual learning tool. Have you felt that way at all?

I’ve done Pimsleur for multiple languages. It works really well building off of itself and helping you grow your speaking skills. The pronunciation practice is excellent. It will help you a lot. The language is very formal because it is for tourists and business people mostly. I would call this an advantage, because it helps you learn how to fluidly spit out long tongue-twisting Japanese verb constructions without pause in a formal mode of communication. It is way easier in my opinion to go more informal from there on.

JapanesePod101 is super duper crazy slow with a low amount of Japanese spoken for several levels of episodes. Around intermediate you start getting more Japanese dialogue iirc. The PDF files with exercises and transcripts to add to your Japanese library are what they do well though, and I mean really well. Still pretty slow though.

Another good thing to use is this set of Japanese Audio Flashcards. It is free, but you do have to give your email. The content is good. It is not organized into conversations per se, but topics, which means some “lessons” will be much longer than others. It does not do as much for your pronunciation as Pimsleur, but it does do more for your grammar. There are also notes breaking down the grammar points it goes over.

That’s all I have for you, good luck.


Excellent advice, thank you!

I haven’t tried Pimsleur, but I usually listen to JapanesePod101 while driving. If you start the absolute beginner series, you’ll be able to learn some new vocab and at the same time get an easy to understand intro to basic grammar. It would probably be a good way to review the grammar you already know, and they have more advanced content once you feel more comfortable. They also focus on vocab for everyday situations, which I think is nice.

Whichever you choose, it will probably help you a lot, though. Good luck :smile:

1 Like

Thanks! Do you think JPod101 has a decent progression from absolute beginner up to intermediate?

In other words, would you say following their lessons (along with other studies: WK, Tae Kim, etc) may be able to get me to the point of moving toward native content? I’m thinking along the lines of something like Nihongo Con Teppei.

I remember just a few years back when any time “Pimsleur” was mentioned, regardless, of the language forum, it was always in a negative light. Along with Rosetta Stone. I heard it called “basic”, “useless”, and “incredibly expensive”.

So to see a thread full of positive responses about Pimsleur is surprising for someone who has been out of the loop for a few years. Needless to say, I’ve never tried Pimsleur, because no one ever recommended it.

But I have listened to a few hundred or so podcasts from Japanesepod101, and I think they’re pretty good; especially with the value for money you get (assuming you don’t pay full price and buy during one of their big sales, which happen pretty often). It’s a cutthroat way to learn vocabulary, but there are quite a few interesting cultural and grammar tidbits I got from one of the beginner courses that I hadn’t heard before from Tae Kim, Imabi, Genki, or Tobira. Plus it’s entertaining, and you can get some good listening practice in.

Slightly off-topic, I would say that Tae Kim is a decent place to start, but once I got up to the Special Expressions & Advanced sections, it became very hard for me to understand due to the anemic explanations and lack of example sentences. I turned to Genki, a proper textbook, to learn the rest of the N5/N4 grammar fundamentals, which was pretty good (although it also didn’t cover some things and it didn’t go as deep as I wanted it to).

Imabi is a great site (entirely free, too) that has hundreds of detailed grammar lessons (including some on classical Japanese if you ever get interested in that) with tons of example sentences. If you find Tae Kim’s explanations lacking, Imabi is the place to go. When I want to really understand something in as much detail as possible, that’s where I go.

Although, I did find that Imabi was a bit difficult when I was a beginner precisely because of that detail, so I often turned to Maggiesensei for simpler (but equally detailed) grammar breakdowns. I found it really helpful to read explanations from different people on the same grammar point back when I was an absolute beginner.


I think so, though I haven’t listened to the more advanced lessons myself. I commute with a friend which had no previous knowledge for Japanese, so we began with absolute beginner. It was good because she could follow them without problems, and I got a repetition of grammar and vocab and occasionally learned new things. We moved up to beginner before korona, but of course nowadays we only have home office :sweat_smile:

1 Like

If you’re a complete beginner, then I recommend the Japanese From Zero series for grammar. There are accompanying videos on YouTube made by the author.

1 Like

It looks like the main NihongoNoBaka site with full reviews is gone, but I did find this mini version of the recommended path if you go for JPod101: https://www.amvhell.com/nihongonobaka/?jpod101

I loved JPod101 as a beginner, but the site is UTTERLY overwhelming. I followed this exact path and moved on to other listening somewhere around the lower intermediate zone. But those Newbie and Beginner seasons as recommended in the link above were exactly what I needed to ease myself into Japanese listening, and I highly recommend them. Just, don’t stray into the other seasons they have. Just don’t do it.


I use Pimsleur and find it quite useful. It is good for learning grammar and additional vocab but i think its primary usefulness is in speech practice and some listening practice, which is what I use it for because I dont usually remember the grammat points. Like @Time said, it is mostly business and travel settings so you will be using the formal forms of words, which is still useful.

I am not the biggest fan of their review system, specifically the online flashcards because it has no furigana so that can be a little frustrating with kanji you havent learned.

1 Like

Cop: Licence and registration please
Me: Is there a problem officer?
Cop: What’s in that brown bag, sir?
Me: It’s just my Pimsleur
Cop: Step out of the car please


I learned about Pimsleur from this Tofugu interview:

Then I rented a very old version from the library. I really liked it and would listen while I took a shower. But I’m sure the newer version is a lot better. The library version only had 10 tracks :frowning:


I never thought of it as a phrase book, but it kind of makes sense some people would think that, because, as mentioned here, the vocabulary is aimed at tourism and business settings. Also, they don’t go very deep into grammar explanations. But I think of it as a method, because it helps a lot with speaking in a way a phrase book could never. I also read somewhere (lol) that the content up to level 3 roughly matches that of Genki I and II.

I still read this quite a lot, specially on Reddit. It did use to be absurdly expensive - I would never purchase their courses for the original prices - but now, with the monthly subscription option on the app, I think it’s pretty reasonable. The most common complaint I see is that it’s too slow, but it really depends on where you’re coming from. I have tried it for Japanese, Korean, French and Italian and my native language is Portuguese. For Korean, I have to listen to the same lesson up to four times, so I really don’t think of it as slow. For Japanese, once or twice will suffice, and I feel it’s challenging enough, I’m always learning stuff. For French I thought it is very useful for pronunciation, even though my grammar and vocabulary are way above their material level. Now for Italian, I tried the first lesson for free and I just wanted to kill myself out of boredom because of having to spend 30 minutes repeating ‘Sì, signorina, io parlo italiano’.


i bought pimsleur lessons through my audible subscription and it ended up being way cheaper than buying through the pimsleur website, but i don’t think they had the monthly subscription yet when i first started stockpiling lessons.