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Let's something we haven't done in quite a while-an interview! I had the pleasure of talking with Peter Galante, the founder of Japanesepod101.
In this fun-filled interview, we get to know the person behind a useful Japanese product. We have an in-depth discussion about living in Japan, learning Japanese, how Japanesepod101 came about, and more. Peter gives some practical, actionable advice on improving your Japanese right now.
Whether you're new to learning Japanese or not, you'll get something valuable from this interview. You won't want to miss this one: click play & enjoy!
Donald: What's up everybody this is Donald and today we're doing something a little different. I know some of you listening are already JapanesePod101 users just like me, and maybe some of you have never even heard of it. Either way though, I think you'll really enjoy today's interview. I had a wonderful opportunity to sit down face to face, voice to voice with one of the real people behind a really useful Japanese product. So let's dive in.
Donald: All right, so we have a mystery man right next to me. So for my audience who isn't familiar with you yet can you tell us who you are and what you do.
Peter: Sure but first, thank you so much for having me on this show. It's a real pleasure, I'm a big fan.
Donald: And I'm a fan of yours too. So thank you so much for coming on I appreciate it.
Peter: Okay so my name is Peter Galante. I am the founder of JapanesePod101, and the co founder of innovativelanguage.com. And what we do is, we like to think we make fun and engaging lessons in many different languages, specifically for Japanese and Japanese languages, audio and video format.
Donald: Wow, I didn't realize you were the co founder of Innovative Languages too, that's amazing. So I want to get into a little bit into your background, because I want to show people that there's a real person behind JapanesePod. So tell us, so Peter where are you from originally?
Peter: Donald can you tell by the accent, or is it watered down? Has it been watered down that much?
Donald: All right, I'm getting a North Eastern feel. North Eastern US maybe?
Peter: That's spot on.
Donald: New York?
Peter: Yeah I think, when you said Boston, I think that you researched it, and then intentionally said that because you know I'm from New York.
Donald: New York, New York. That's yes. And I have never been. I have never been to New York. I am American and I have never been there, and it's one of my biggest regrets to this day, but hopefully, I'll get a chance to go.
Peter: Great city and Boston is a great city.
Donald:Right. You just don't want to have the Boston accent.
Peter: Boston is a wonderful city.
Donald: It is, it is.
Peter: Bostonians are wonderful people.
Donald: Of course, of course. And how did you end up in Japan?
Peter: It's a great question. Is spite a good answer?
Donald: Real ... how so?
Peter: So for many people interested in coming to Japan the JET program, the Japanese Exchange Teacher Program, is one of the most appealing ways to come. It's a very well run program. You're very familiar with it-
Peter: Right Donald?
Donald: Yep. It was one of the ones I applied to but ended up getting AEON first. So that's why I ended up coming through EON instead of JET.
Peter: Exactly and I also wanted to come for JET and I didn't get it. So unlike Donald who had another option first I got my rejection letter saying, no.
Donald: I see. Okay.
Peter: After that I was like, "You know what, you're not going to keep me out." So that's what motivated me to come to Japan.
Donald: So there you have it guys, spite is a wonderful reason to come to Japan and stay.
Peter: Yeah helpful motivator. Helpful motivator.
Donald: Okay, so you got here in, because I did a little research, so you got here in 2005, is that?
Peter: Close? 1998.
Donald: Oh goodness, okay. I guess my facts were wrong. So 1998.
Peter: Again I think you did it on purpose to make me feel older. Donald you're tough.
Donald: Oh my goodness. Wait, 1998 so it's ... and this place has had to have changed to much. Japan has to be so different when you got here, that's-
Peter: So different, but one of the things that's so interesting is that we both started in Ibaraki.
Donald: Yeah, absolutely. Okay it was Tsukuba for me. Where were you in Ibaraki?
Peter: Further north, Hitachi. Have you ever been?
Donald: Hitachi, I have only once. You actually had to do, like teach some lessons out in Hitachi, but only for a few days. But, wow okay. And how long were you in Ibaraki for?
Peter: So Ibaraki for half a year, then Mito for about a year and half.
Donald: Mito, natto country.
Peter: Natto country.
Donald: Natto city that's wow. Okay.
Peter: Are you a fan of those?
Donald: I eat it almost everyday. Wow, how about you?
Donald: And most people aren't. natto doesn't smell so good guys. I think that's one of the main ... well and it's kind of slimy so a lot of people don't like it. But, it's good for you and the taste grows on you. So if you like eating slimy socks, if you can get used to that, I think you will be fine.
Peter: Yeah, I think fermented soy beans is it?
Peter:And yeah so, it's an acquired taste, but I think a lot of people who are very health conscious and into their bodies, really appreciate the product.
Donald: True. Yeah and that's why I got into it because I heard of the health benefits. So, yeah I will have you guys look it, I'll show you, and natto is a little bit maybe on the YouTube channel, okay.
Peter:Yeah, I think that could be really good. That will be a great video.
Donald:There you go, there you go.
Peter:You know what, if you do a video, maybe I'll do the video with you and the natto eating challenge video. Now that's a good video.
Donald: Wait, so it would just be an all you can eat. Like see how many boxes of natto you can get through?
Peter: I don't want to ... I mean, not the competition, but that would be really-
Donald: Like a spoonful. Yeah and if you don't like it though, I think you'd be out after maybe one box Peter. So I won't do that to you man, I won't do it. Oh goodness. So 1998.
Donald: And did you plan on staying in Japan as long as you have?
Peter: No. So for some of your younger listeners, a little background. In late 80's, early 90's the Japanese economy was very strong.
Donald: Oh yeah.
Peter: Positioned to overtake the US. So being from New York, there were a lot of Japanese companies, so I thought by coming to Japan for a year, learning some Japanese and coming back and getting a job in New York, that was a sound strategy.
Donald: I see.
Peter: And one that my mother seemed to really would have appreciated.
Donald: Oh okay, wow. That's really interesting. So teaching english wasn't necessarily the ... I mean it was the way to get here but not necessarily the goal.
Peter: Exactly. I think, good news, if you're interested in coming to Japan, I think things are actually changing. I hear that many people who want their visas are getting now five year visas.
Peter: And Japan has a labor shortage. So if you're interested in coming to Japan, this is probably a great time.
Donald: I think so too.
Peter: 20 years ago, not so much. So much like yourself, right? You came as an english teacher. This was kind of a gateway job.
Peter: And one of ... comparatively one of the better gateway jobs compared to some of the other people from other countries who are coming here.
Peter: We're fortunate in that way.
Donald: I think so too. And okay, so you got here and you've been here for an extended period of time. So what made you stay in Japan? So what kept you here?
Peter:So I'll give a quick timeline, so much like you I came as an english teacher, I was teaching english and going to Japanese schools. So at 9:00 am in the morning, Japanese school finished at 1:00 pm, then to my english teaching job 1:30 to 9:00 pm. Repeat for half a year. That was very intense.
Peter: So for about two years, taught and went to Japanese school. Then I got a research assistant position at the university, Ibaraki University.
Peter: From there I got into a masters program in Tokyo. Three years later I got into a PhD program in the same university. And about three years into that, I started the business failed, and then two years later we started JapanesePod101.
Donald: Wow. Fast forward ten years from that, Peter Galante is now the prime minister of Japan. Congratulations Peter. That's amazing, that's quite a journey, like I ... wow just stair stepped your way up, that's incredible.
Peter: Yeah. For much like yourself I mean, I've been following your website and the content you've been making for a while, and I'm so impressed. I think you've done some things that really helped ease other peoples lives here. And when you make good content like you do, it really ... it's not only satisfying, but it's appreciated.
Donald: Man. Well thanks for checking them out, I really do appreciate that. And I definitely do my best, but like you, yeah it's once you get here, it's just you start by teaching but it's a gateway to so many other things. You see ways that you can help people. Things that you can do, things that you're interested in and you really, you have the opportunity to go forward if you want to, and that's one of the beauties about living here, I think.
Donald: So completely with you there man, that's amazing.
Peter: So let me sort of go back and now answer your question.
Peter: Basically, and I think you might be able to relate to this, coming to Japan, you start out with nothing.
Peter: There's no connections. You know, your parents didn't set something up for you. It wasn't a friend of a friend that got you something, everything you build here is on your own merits.
Peter: Is that something you can-
Donald: That's so true. That's so true. Actually my sister used to live here before I did.
Peter: Oh wow.
Donald: But even at that, like it's a lot of the people that she knew had already gone back to the US so it's ... I got here and it's like a lot of stuff that you just have to do and understand for yourself, you have to fend for yourself. I didn't speak any Japanese when I got here, but you have to learn, you have to pick it up. So it's so true and it's a merit based way of living and I love that. And some people do, and it seems like you're one of those people too.
Peter: It really is in it's way it's sort of rewarding to know that. I mean, look at you, you've built a following. You have fans, you've made it to Tokyo much like yourself from Ibaraki [crosstalk 00:09:46] and we're now in Tokyo together. We're here in the studio and so fun to build these connections. And I'm always happy to help everyone I can, but it's so rewarding. It gives you that self confidence that this is what you built.
Donald: Yeah, absolutely. And so you've been in Japan for god knows how long Peter. And you were saying earlier that you were going to a Japanese school from 9:30 to 1:30, and then going to-
Peter: I like the phrase better, it's a shade under 20 years, or a little more than 10 years. That's a good one.
Donald: You've been here for just a shade under 20 years Peter.
Peter: I don't like that he does-
Donald: Wait okay.
Peter: A few years over 10.
Donald: Okay, yeah you've been here for a little while.
Peter: That's what I like yeah.
Donald: You're a young man, you've been here for just a little while, and seems like you've really got ... you've become accustomed to culture. You've spent time studying Japanese. You were teaching english here, so when you were studying Japanese, like where did you develop that passion for learning languages in the first place?
Donald: Because not everybody who comes here goes to Japanese school and teaches, but you made that extra effort to do so. So where did that passion come from?
Peter:So I like to think it come from exploring the culture and exploring your environment. My wife thinks it comes from the fact that I'm a control freak, and I need to be in control.
Donald: It works too, it works too.
Peter: So a little seriousness in that but I like your ... I think it kind traces back to this. I think language is a tool. And a tool is something you use to facilitate something, to create something you want. And what I kind of wanted the most, and out of learning Japanese was to build deeper relationships with the people I met.
Peter: And it's a powerful motivational goal. Of course I wanted to improve my everyday life, but one of the richest things you can have is friends, good friends.
Peter: And being able to communicate with them on a deeper level is a powerful motivator. We have a series called Inner Circle on JapanesePod101, and we kind of go through what motivates someone to learn a language. And living in a country is of course a powerful motivator. More than that is if you have partner or a family member who speaks the language. And if you build these bridges, we call them anchor points. If you create these anchor points, the chances of you succeeding grow that much. Like grow exponentially.
Donald: I see. Okay and so let me ask a follow up to that, so let's say that you're more of a loner, okay, and you don't necessarily have a ton of friends, what would you say would be another anchor for someone who's trying to learn the languages, and is really trying to invest more time into it? Because I completely agree, that's when the language becomes more real to me, is when I actually have something to anchor it to.
Donald: So what would you recommend for somebody who's a little bit, less social I would say, or maybe doesn't have a family yet, what would you tell them?
Peter: Super easy, number one; find a restaurant. Because when you're the customer, customer is king in many places especially in Japan. So pick a restaurant that you like and go there three or four times a week, and if you're trying to learn the language, most likely they're going to take an interest in you. And especially if you're patronizing their business, and for the business they also like 常連客. So these are regular customers.
Peter:If you get to that status, they're going to treat you really, really well. And it's super easy to do, and if you find the restaurant, you go in and they're not interested in you, go and find another restaurant. Because there are plenty of restaurants out there who are going to take an interest in you.
Peter: Sit at the counter. Lots of places have a counter. And just by doing this, if you're going to pay for a Japanese lesson, for the private tutor, it's going to be, I don't know, 2,500 Yen or something like this. You can eat a very good for that, have some conversation ask a few questions, and then they get to know you.
Donald: That's true.
Donald: It's really good advice. I'm going to have to try that. I wouldn't say I'm a loner, but-
Peter: I was just about to say, so-
Peter: Okay maybe a little bit, maybe I was trying to ask for myself, but-
Peter: If you need a friend, come here buddy, come on lets-
Donald: Oh thanks Peter.
Donald: That's amazing advice, that's incredible and I guess you can kind of feel that passion that you have languages and you can here it even in the Japanese Pod lessons and that's what makes so interesting and that's why I'm still a member to this day, because there's just something about your voice and just, you can tell. Just your interactions with your staff, you can tell that is something you enjoy.
Peter: Actually Donald, I did a quick search before you came and your subscription expired so, I take cash.
Donald: And Donald reaches into his wallet to pay forever lessons. There you go.
Peter: Everyone's having a great time.
Donald: And speaking of JapanesePod101, how did it actually come about?
Peter: Really great question. First creating something like this, it's very hard to do by yourself. It was a series of events I met someone who was willing to support this cause. I met someone who introduced me to a studio. So we're recording in this studio right now, and before that we tried to record on a laptop in a room, and the sound quality was so different.
Peter: So someone showed me that was a recording studio around the block. So we would go there, and if you know about music, the drums were in the room. So we have to cover the drums with a sheet because of the reverb, it was very funny.
Donald: There's a place like that in Nakano actually, it might be a chain?
Donald: Yes like studio space you can rent out, nice. That's a good idea, okay.
Peter: So basically it was a combination of things, we didn't have a regular cast. So I would come into work, and was working at Transition company, and on that day, whoever was not busy would join me in the studio. So we never knew who was going to be on the show. But it was great. To be honest it was so much fun.
Peter: But, what I really wanted to do in these lessons, is I wanted to show, and kind of pull back the curtain a bit and my friends that I made over the first year in Japan were kind of wild and crazy, like some of the friends I had back home, and it was so radically different than the way Japanese was presented in the classroom.
Donald: I see.
Peter: I understand that the classroom, the way they teach Japanese is you don't want to ruin a relationship by not being polite, but once you get past that polite stage, or find people like yourself, most of the time you're not using polite Japanese. And that's what I really wanted to do. And I think it really resonated with people, because I think, Donald, how was your experience?
Donald: Yeah, I'd say it's something very similar so, a very big difference between classroom Japanese and real world Japanese, and I think for me, that's another way that Japanese sticks. So when you get around your buddies, because for me some of my first exposure to real Japanese was being in the Kyokushin Dojo, in Ibaraki. So doing Karate and seeing these guys drink. And these Kyokushin fighters can drink and drink and drink. And once they do, all the barriers come down.
Donald: So you just hear things that you would not hear in a classroom, and it's amazing so it's a ... I definitely second them. And it's something that you have to experience, so having those relationships completely changes the Japanese that you run into. And that's why like having something like Japanese Pod is cool, because you get to see more of that.
Donald: And in the classroom I guess the stuff didn't stick as well. And even now, like I still take classes here and there, but that's not the stuff that sticks for me. So yeah that's great. So wild and crazy works.
Peter: Wild and crazy works. You know you brought up a great way to learn too. Again, what we're doing here is we're talking about some of these advantages you have when you're doing immersion learning. We're here in the country, we can walk down to the restaurant. Joining a sport karate, or some of the other sports, Japan's amazing because there's always a club, American football, or any sport you play someone is doing it here in Japan.
Peter: What I think was kind of unique, what we were doing when we first started with JapanesePod101, and we were reaching the people outside Japan who didn't have such easy access like we did.
Donald: Right, absolutely. All right so we have a better idea of how JapanesePod101 came about, and there are other people that start Japanese products, or try to come up with things to teach, how did you end up growing Japanese Pod from zero into what it is today? Because it's definitely, if not the most popular product on the market it's one of them. So how did it get to be as big as it is?
Peter: So when we first started, we measured high level metrics and cross referenced ... I'm just kidding. It really comes down to a lot of luck.
Donald: Right, right.
Peter: So I think much like, I really think looking back that timing is probably one of the most important things in having something become successful. I think we were in the right place, at the right time with a good product.
Peter: So we just started podcasting when podcasting was becoming a thing and that became the vehicle. So, a lot of luck came into it. A lot of timing, and then once you have those two things kind of going for you, I think really then the hard work matters. And we took a lot of feedback from the listeners, we implemented a lot of things that community members would like.
Peter: Originally my background is more economics. So it's not as strong, and I was teaching for many years, so I was very familiar with certain concepts, but not high level university, doctorate level concepts for learning a language. So it took several years before we started to implement those things at the program but continually investing into the product, I think, really allowed us to accelerate the timing. The good fortune we had in the timing and luck.
Donald: That's amazing, timing is everything. Timing is everything. And now that you have this user base, so in an ideal world, what would you like to help those members do, so somebody taking JapanesePod101, what would you like to see happen for them?
Peter: So I think we go back to these anchor points and the things we talk about, and lot of it comes down to what you want out of the language. And we've been working very, very hard on addressing the different reasons why someone is learning a language. If you're learning for self growth, which is a very popular reason to learn a language, then I think we're a very good fit. And I think our strength is, that each lesson now, probably for 15 minutes that you're listening, or 10 minutes that you're listening to, there's probably 10 to 15 man hours, or people hours that went into that product.
Peter: Meaning, pre production we're writing scripts, we're thinking about what to include in it and the recording time, we have the voice actors come in. And then after it the post production, we edit down, we make it nice and clean. We make it very listenable, we take out a lot of the mouth noise, and the clicks that just come from recording.
Peter: And then finally we package it into a very ... We add the lesson notes. We add other things to it, and then we make it easy for you to access through a website or, one of our applications. So, in a busy, busy world, you're getting the most out of the 10 minutes. If you only have 10 minutes to invest in studying a day, you can use flash cards, you can use different things, but I think we present a very strong package because you get the language, you get the culture, you get behind the scenes.
Peter: And now a lot of these academic ideas are reinforced so you're actually practicing and kind of using the best of the tools out there, in the most condensed format. And I think that's what makes us a compelling case.
Donald: And another thing that I really enjoy about it, and I mentioned this to my audience before, is some of the real world applications. Like I remember, it's actually one of the lessons I like, is ordering a pizza. It's just something simple, it's so simple, but that's my favorite food. So I would absolutely to know how to that, if I'm Japan. They have Dominoes here, so I want to know how to order pizza.
Donald: It's things like that, that you can listen to on the go and be able to connect it when you get home. So if I'm hungry when I get home from work, oh yeah, I learned this on Japanese Pod so let me go ahead a pizza. I can tell what the crust is. I can tell my address, I can do those things. And now because, of Japanese Pod I can order a pizza very easily.
Donald: Simple stuff like that but stuff that's very, very powerful. So for these members, so if a person was coming fresh off the street Peter, and they're starting JapanesePod101 for the first time, honestly what do you think some of the challenges would be for them. What are the challenges a new user might face?
Peter: One of the biggest challenges, we are facing right is we've doing this for 14 years. Our library is thousands of lessons. There are multiple teachers. Probably we've had 20 plus teachers hundreds of voices, and some of the original stuff was course based, so you start with lesson one and you're progressively taught. I think these, well from what we understand, things are changing and people want to be able to access certain abilities without going in order.
Peter: For example, if you're coming to Japan just to travel, you might want to know how to order sushi.
Peter: And the way traditional text books would approach that maybe is like, okay, we're going to start with greetings, we're going to start with numbers, now we're going to do days of the week, and before you even get to a piece of sushi. You probably have to put in, ....
Donald: True. So true.
Peter: 40, 50, 60 hours. So, I think what's changing is sometimes a learners demands are, we would like to be able to do a specific skill right away. Or at least even if you're going to do an interview after a few years, I want to refresh my skills, so we're trying to change our library and make it so that you can find things based on ... we call them can dos. So you can order a pizza. Can do an interview.
Donald: Nice, so it's like just in time learning for Japanese. That's incredible. Wow. Okay, well thank you for that Peter, that's amazing. And-
Peter: You know, it's funny though, you brought out something that's really interesting.
Donald: What's that?
Peter: Well, how language changes. How many years have you been here Donald?
Donald: So just over 11 years for me.
Peter: How come you put that nice little just over ... but not for me ....
Donald: I changed it. I changed it so it was ... you're a young man.
Peter: So a long, long 11 years.
Peter: Wow I want to hear that voice again. Do that again.
Donald:昔々. That's the long, long ago. It's how most of the fairy tales start in Japanese so that's what we'd say ... well we're not going to say that. For somebody, not Peter, but for someone who's been an extremely long time, we would say 昔々. And then we'd just start the story, but Peter hasn't been here that long though. I mean-
Peter: Man Donald you play it rough. Where are you from Donald?
Donald: I'm from Atlanta.
Peter: I don't think New Yorkers ... have a thick enough skin to make it down there.
Donald: Southern hospitality man, we're ... some of our hospitality down in LA.
Peter: Oh man.
Donald: This is great.
Peter: Do we have a bad wrap, oh boy, Atlanta.
Donald: Check you off of my two goals list. So funny, that's so funny.
Peter: So this kind of dovetails into what we're trying to do. When you came to Japan, just a tad over 11 years ago, what kind of phone were you using?
Donald: Wow, you know I think I had a flip phone but I was phone less for quite some time. I remember using pay phones a lot when I first got here. But, it was definitely this old style flip phone.
Peter: And how about now, what kind of phone do you have now?
Donald: I definitely upgraded since, and I am using an iPhone, but an iPhone 5S. So I think I'm like ... wait, they have a 10 now, I know they have iPhone 10.
Peter: I think it's a 10, yeah.
Donald: Yep, so I'm like five iPhones behind. But I'm going to upgrade soon, I promise guys.
Peter: The iPhone 5, that's the one with the string attached to the top.
Donald: Probably. Probably, yeah. I think that's the same one. That's exactly the one.
Donald: Yep and I've drawn some buttons on it. And it just happens to work out.
Peter: So the reason I bring this up is that, when we first started our lessons, we didn't have many lessons on applications, or texting and things like this, but as time goes by a lot of the communication is text based and also you need certain reading skills for applications. So we've also made sure to be inclusive of these other skills, not just speaking and listening, but also reading and writing in the form of entering in text.
Donald: That makes so much sense. Yeah I guess the ... I mean, technologically the world's always changing, so why wouldn't the Japanese change too? So of course you've got to be ready to adapt to those changes. Makes a lot of sense. Okay, and just me playing devil's advocate here, like it's not me, again Atlanta is a place of hospitality, so this isn't me being mean, but there are lots of Japanese products on the market, so why would somebody use JapanesePod101 instead of just downloading another app, or just going to their local book store and grabbing a text book? What makes a person choose Japanese Pod over that stuff?
Peter: Well, I think a learner should use and try multiple things. I think going to a text book, going to the store and buying a text book is a great idea. I think trying other products is a great idea. I think, as I said, each learner is different and unique. Each learner has their own specific goal. And it's always hard to provide something for everyone.
Peter:Again, I think what we do well is we provide a lot of content and there's a massive library. I think one of the strongest things we have are pretty much thousands of conversations that you can listen to with different voices. We also put in background noise to give it a closer simulation to a real conversation. Because, people ask what's fluent?
Peter: I like to define fluent as being able to participate in a multiple person conversation. Right, Donald when you first start Japanese and you have a one on one conversation with a friend or a partner, you have the ability to control that conversation.
Donald: True, true.
Peter: But when you sit down with even three people. All over sudden your domination goes off the rails and you have to try and hang on. When a topic changing like left, right.
Donald: Yep. And it's still hard sometimes for me but I manage. I definitely manage. That's yeah, I didn't think of that as a definition for fluency, but it make a lot of sense.
Peter: So I think a lot of our elaborate conversations are really, really strong for helping you build that listening and being able to hang on. In addition, as I mentioned, so many multiple hours go into these. So if you only have a limited amount of time, you have to remember, there's a lot of time that went in to maximize the language you're going to learn. The cultural understanding you're going to walk away with, the vocabulary, and basically giving you the most return on your time investment.
Peter: So think that's what makes us compelling, but at the same time when I learn a language, I get a text book I like the physical feel in my hand. I don't think there's one, all. I think if you use one product, you can use many products.
Donald: Very true. And who is your ideal JapanesePod101 user?
Peter: You Donald. I think we try our best to really listen to the community, and one of my favorite stories is we got a message, "Love your show. Hate that guy with the New York accent." It took me a little while to figure out it was me. I was like, "Did we hire another New Yorker?" Oh no.
Peter: But listen, if you're evoking emotions it's good. Because, if someone hates then someone loves it's kind of good. But the listener, they're totally entitled to their opinion. And what we tried to do was after Peter was the host, we brought on a different host. One from Australia. Then some people from England wanted an English host, we brought in an English. So we did our best to really, hopefully you can find a host that you can relate with.
Peter:Because we each learn, and we each bring different things to the table.
Donald:Because I like the New York accent Peter, I think it's great.
Peter:Oh man. Again man why do you-
Donald:I'm trying to make up for earlier.
Peter:You guys play it rough.
Donald:I like it.
Peter:I showed up ... Donald man. Man I've got to go train in mental warfare in Atlanta you guys whoa.
Donald:That's so funny.
Peter:Interesting rest of the story, did you ever listen to that, the rest of the story.
Peter:Two years after like I sent the mail, we had different hosts on, and we got a mail from him again and he said, "You know what, I kind of miss that guy from New York."
Donald:There you go, there you go, see. He didn't know what he wanted, he didn't ... that's amazing.
Peter:Using the platform to provide for different voices and different insight I think is one of our strongest things. So it's not just me in all these lessons, even though I had a contract that said I would. Even though ... I mean quite a few, we have many other hosts. Many different presenters, many different teachers.
Peter:And another funny story, so one of the teachers went through the stuff that I wrote and he was like, "Listen I don't want my name on this."
Peter:"The methodology here is ..." And she created her own Japanese teaching centric series, and so if you're more of a linear learner, that's the series for you. But that's what we have to do a better of showcasing all of these different things-
Donald:I see, I see .
Peter:Which is such a big library.
Donald:Wow, okay. So we know who your ideal JapanesePod101 user looks like, who isn't your ideal user?
Peter:These questions are so challenging because you can get philosophical and say, "It depends on the time and the person's."
Donald:Yeah of course.
Peter:Again timing, right? That the guy who didn't want to Peter two years ago, all over sudden is like, i kind of want to here Peter.
Donald:That makes sense.
Peter:Again, I don't think there is a typical learner, and even if there is, things change, tastes change. And our product has changed, it was so audio centric 14 years ago and now it's becoming more and more video centric. And some of the videos we're producing are really, really well done. Again trying to maximize what you get out of a lesson for the 10 minutes that you can put in, because people are so busy. The key, for me, the key to learning a language is finding the time.
Peter:And then making that time part of your routine it's a two step process. You know, Donald, I can't tell if you lift or not, and for those of who cannot see, go check a picture of Donald, like he's like double my shoulder width, he's very, very, very big. So for weight lifting, I mean, do the same kinds of principles apply that you have to find the time and then make it part of your routine?
Donald:Absolutely, I almost don't feel right during the day if I don't have that time set aside where I can go to the gym for at least an hour to an hour and a half. And I try to make sure I'm consistent with that three to four days a week. And started trying to tie my Japanese practice to that. So that way, it just, it's the best way forward. Consistency is king and I think that's with weight lifting and I'm definitely going to say that's the case with learning Japanese too, at least for me.
Peter:And in such busy world with so many amazing things out there, and it's so hard to get off Netflix.
Donald:Oh man, Stranger Things.
Peter:We've always fundamentally tried to make the content interesting so that it's a tough choice like, "Oh you know what, let me just do a little Japanese then I'll watch Netflix." Because in that way you're fighting for someone's time. And if someone can find the time, then they can make it part of their routine. And if you can do those two steps, you're going to get better.
Donald:True great advice, great advice.
Peter:If I can give a little more advice, Donald, the right side looks a little smaller than the left side.
Peter:You might have to-
Donald:Yeah, I'll do some one handed push-ups to kind of balance that out. Thanks for that, thank you.
Peter:Here to help, here to help. Sometimes to here the truth is good.
Donald: Great that's right, I need it. We all need a little truth in our lives people, that's the case. All right, weird question, well not weird but, I'm going to throw a little curve ball at you here, okay, so as a creator, as a JapanesePod101 creator, what are your top three favorite JapanesePod101 lessons of all time and why?
Peter: I like that, the last part the smoldering voice.
Peter: Have you seen the new movie Jumanji?
Donald: I've not, somebody told me I need to watch it. I want to see it.
Peter: More smoldering.
Donald: Okay, all right.
Peter: It's a very good question, so I did a little research on this, and when we first started, a little pull back the curtain, back in 2005, again, I didn't know who would be my host. So I was living about an hour outside of Tokyo so I'd get up in the morning and I would write down kind of an outline of what we would teach that day.
Peter: And we were producing a lesson everyday.
Peter: And we had one full time worker, me.
Peter: And I didn't know who the cast was so, a lot of the stuff is very improv in the studio. and we wrote a series it's an intermediate season one series. No way this would ever get okayed now, now we have a system where we have an academic advisor that has to write off on this, the vocabulary is a little controlled. And it's a story about like total chaos.
Peter: And for me what was interesting in it, was I'd something in the paper and then I would include it inside of the story. For example, there's a word, have you heard of the word and very obscure, 血祭り.
Donald: 血祭り？ No.
Peter: So 血 means blood and 祭り means-
Peter:So it translates roughly it's like a "blood bath."
Donald:Wow folks, there you have it 血祭り blood bath.
Peter:You know an opportunity to use this obscure word.
Peter:It's like zero.
Donald:I know right.
Peter: Unless like, you're hanging out in prison. And chatting with your friends, I mean-
Donald: Relationships are important everywhere Peter.
Peter: I got to go to Atlanta. But, for me what's always so interesting, is, when you use a word like 血祭り with someone response is, "Wait, where did you learn that." And it keeps the conversation going, I call it a talking point.
Peter: So if someone says, "Okay, how was your weekend?" And you're like, "Oh it was fun." It's like yeah. You know that's kind of where the conversation peters out, right?
Peter: And I was like, "Hey how was your weekend and then like, "Yeah so a 血祭り." It was like a blood bath. It's like, "Whoa, whoa, what happened? Where did you learn that? What happened? Grab a sit, let's get a coffee. I've got to understand, where are you learning Japanese?" And I think that's what these original lessons were about. Like trying to make it engaging, or make it curious, like sometimes using obscure language is so fascinating and so different that people take an interest in you and then you build these relationships, these anchor points.
Donald: Wow. Okay, does that lesson still exist.
Peter: Oh yeah, you can find it.
Donald: Okay, I'm going to have to dig through to find this one guys, that's great.
Peter:So I think that series is kind of fun. The first lesson is always kind of fun to go back and listen to the first lesson compared to, some of the more polished stuff. The Nihongo Dojo, was written by one of our best academic teachers. And it's such a solid course.
Peter: So there's Nihongo Dojo and if you listen to the first lesson, and you listen to that lesson, the structure of the lesson, the controlled vocabulary, it's very powerful. It's one of these higher people our inputs.
Donald: Now Nihongo Dojo for those who don't know, is that at every level? Is that going just a beginner series or?
Peter: That's a beginner series.
Donald: Nice. Okay Nihongo Dojo, great. All right, now to wrap this all up Peter, can you I'm going to back flip off the stage and sit in the student's chair right now.
Peter: I want to see the back flip first. Get up there and let's see.
Donald: It has been a long time since I've done one of those. At this weight, probably not the best of ideas.
Peter: But I think your left side can do it.
Donald: That's right. I've go to train my right ... yeah I need the balance so maybe I need to work on one side first. But can you teach us, a useful bit of Japanese, just for us to nibble on before we go today. Something that we can take with us.
Peter: So we talk about language changing, so when did this ... Sometimes I get asked this question and 10 years ago my answer would be どうも it's like a Swiss army knife, it can mean, thank you. It can mean hello. You can use it ... if there's only one word. You're better off going with どうも.
Peter: But now, I would argue that スイカで.
Donald: スイカで (SUICA de).
Peter: It's probably a more useful phrase so スイカで means, スイカ is a payment, electronic payment method and [Foreign language 00:40:54] means with, so with SUICA I want to pay.
Peter: I mean think about it, you go into the convenience store, you pick up the stuff you want. And the only thing they need to know is how are you going to pay? With スイカ. You're in a taxi, スイカで. Train station, you know your スイカ runs out and-
Donald: スイカで. That's so true, that's something that I constantly use, every single day, I don't think there's a day that goes by that I don't use my Suica card, that's a really good one.
Peter: So that's how a bit of language changes. So next one I want to give is my favorite, 用事があります.
Peter: Oh man, I like your accent. You sound good in Japanese.
Donald: 良く勉強していますから. ごめんね。
Peter: You sound good.
Donald: 教えて下さい. お願いします。
Peter: I want to learn from you. So jumping back, so 用事 is not business in the commercial sense, but business like personal business.
Peter: And あります means there exists. So it roughly translates it's like, I've got stuff to do.
Donald: It's a great one.
Peter: But the best part is, the person you say it to, cannot ask what the business is.
Peter: So say, you're my boss and it's like 今日、. Like today 今日ちょっと用事があります boss, I've got stuff to do. The only thing you can say is はい。わかりました. Like you cannot be when you want say, that "What you've got going on." So it's like super useful.
Peter: I have some personal business to attend to. It's like I like to translate it like that.
Donald: All right so, like if my girlfriend wants to go on a date, すみませんが用事があります.
Peter: That's it, you're off the hook. Go hang out with the boys.
Donald: So she can't even question me. So if want to go out and yeah hang out with the Kyokushin guys-
Peter: There you go.
Donald: 用事があります。 Thanks that's a really good one. Those are great Peter, thank you so much for that.
Peter: And then I want to give one that you may come across.
Peter: That Japanese people use. So might not be able to ... you could use it and it might be funny, but more you will likely be the listener so 島国だから.
Peter: So しま is island, 国 becomes it's a country, and だから is because. So 島国だら. So roughly translates, it's because we're an island nation.
Donald: I see.
Peter: So in Japan, they're very, very strict about separating the recyclables. And they're very, very lax when it comes to labor laws. They're like no sense, Japan does things so meticulously in certain areas and then like for this most important thing, where it's like labor laws, they're like, "Well yeah, you know." It's very 中途半端 kind of like they're not really doing it meticulously.
Peter: So if you call someone on it, and they don't really want to give you an excuse, or they're out of excuses, or it's not logical. They'll say something like 島国だら. It's like, "Yeah because we're an island nation." That's why.
Donald: 島国だら. Wow. Okay that's a great one. And I just heard you say something else and I wanted to mention this one because I think I came across this phrase, you just said it 中途半端きたことありますけど。
Peter: はい。 中途半端 is kind of like, you don't follow through, it's kind of in between. It's not done right, but you've started it. It's kind of this in between. So, "Hey you're going to Kyokushin karate?" "Yeah, yeah I go like once a month."
Peter: Well you're supposed to every week a couple of times 島国だら.
Donald: Nice. The combo, the one, two combo right there, that's super useful. Well Peter I want to say thank you so much for coming on today I really enjoyed talking with you and I hope we get a chance to this again. If we you can get past all of my jokes about you being here for over a hundred years. But I really enjoyed it, and I know my audience is going to love it too, so it's just really nice to find out more about you, because I've heard your voice so much, it's just finally nice to connect the voice and the face to what I've heard so often.
Donald: And my audience is going to love it too. So, for those who want to know more about you and what you do, and your business, where can they go?
Peter: First though, I would like to thank you. I'm sure the Atlanta Tourism Bureau would like to thank you for putting your best foot forward about your wonderful city. And to find out more about us, you can come to japanesepod101.com. You can sign up for a free lifetime account. Test it out, see if it's for you. You can also download the application in the iTunes, or Google Play Store, and again try it out. Try out many different things in your language learning journey.
Peter, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. We appreciate it more than you know!
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Donald Ash is an Atlanta, Georgia-born, American expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last eleven years. While in that time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator of thejapanguy.com blog. Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.
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