For anyone with an interest in Japan, learning Japanese has probably crossed your mind at least once in your quest of learning more about the country. However, for many of us, finding the time to go for lessons can prove to be a tasking situation. Some have even considered getting a private teacher and using Skype to communicate; unfortunately, most of us do not have Bill Gate money…at least not yet. In addition, the teacher might not be available for some days.
So, if we cannot find the time to go for lessons, and getting a private tutor is a luxury we cannot yet afford, then what other options are available to us Gaijins or foreigners with a passion for wanting to learn Japanese? That is where I come in, allow me to introduce you to BondLingo. This is about to be your new favourite way to learn Japanese from the beginning from a native speaker or maintain the Japanese knowledge you currently have.
What is BondLingo? And How Can It Help You Learn Japanese Wherever or Whenever?
BondLingo is an online Japanese learning platform. BondLingo aims to help foreigners or just anyone with an interest in the Japanese language to learn Japanese with ease and from wherever they are and whenever you have the time! BondLingo wants to achieve this through LIVE videos lessons, JLPT exam prep, textbook download, and one-on-one instruction through chatting.
This can all be accessed for as little as $10 a month on the Premium Plan and $20 on the Unlimited Premium Plan! That’s the price most people pay for a private tutor PER HOUR, whether it be in person or on video. I consider this to be quite a bargain considering all that they are offering. Most tutors do not just give out free textbooks, and you might not get a chance to replay the lesson you had if want to review what you learned, but BondLingo can offer you all of that!
Ease of Use
I will speak mostly based on my experience of using the BondLingo platform in this article.
So, when I first went on to the website, immediately, the sign in page showed up. You are asked to log in with your social media, which is quite convenient especially if you are not fond of having to remember an additional password like me.
I went ahead to login with my google account and was brought immediately to my dashboard. Just one look at the overall website from that point, I found it to be quite an appealing website to look at. It was neat and seemed to be well thought out.
So, let’s go through the overall layout of the website.
On the left was a retractable menu. It had the Home page button and a section where you can browse courses, ask questions, check for JLPT/take a test, upgrade your plan if you wish, other information, and a fun section where you can turn your English name into Kanji; I found that to be especially entertaining and informative. Let me quickly detour and talk about this quickly, yes, that’s how intriguing I find it to be. When I clicked on the “Kanji name?” in the retractable bar it opened another tab, where it brought me to a Kanji generator. With this, I was able to just type in my name and click convert! You can see my Kanji name below! Also, you can share this to your social media straight from the website, particularly on Facebook and Twitter. In addition to these, right below this Kanji generator are some video lessons for learning kanji!
At the top of the page, there was the logo of the platform which takes you back to your dashboard, there was also an icon where you could pick the language you would like to view the page in. There were only five languages available at the time I used the website: English, Tieng Viet, Japanese, Spanish, and Bahasa Indonesia. Next to this icon was the notification icon, I already had 10 notifications waiting for me to view. Next to that was my account icon, here I could edit my account, log out and go back to the top of the page.
I also checked how the website looked on a phone and it was great. The website was well optimized for phone use as well.
Although there was no search bar to search through the website, I found that if I was looking for something it was relatively easy to find.
BondLingo offers 3 plans to use its website. There is the Basic Plan, the Premium Plan, and the Unlimited Premium Plan. In the Basic Plan, users only have access to the LIVE lessons offered by the website. The LIVE lessons are once a week. With this plan, it would require the user to have to always be ready to check the LIVE lessons wherever you are, and whenever they decide to go LIVE. Using this plan is not so beneficial. Even if you can catch the LIVE lessons, if it is the only way in which you study Japanese, you will not be able to replay these LIVE lessons and that means you will not get any practice or consistent exposure to the Japanese language.
With the Premium Plan, you have access to the LIVE lessons, the premium lesson videos, JLPT Exams, you will be able to download the textbooks, and you get one-on-one instructions and chatting. Although you have access to the LIVE lessons after the LIVE session and the other premium videos they have, you can only watch 5 lesson videos per day. On the website, it says “Premium Videos go into greater details and further explain Japanese online lessons in the textbook than free videos. You will be able to watch every video; therefore, you will be able to study more comprehensively.” And getting better study means you can learn Japanese quickly and more accurately.
Finally, there is the Unlimited Premium Plan. With this plan, you get everything in the original premium plan but in an unlimited fashion. This means you are not restricted to anything on the website!
Some things to keep in mind about an online school is that their curriculum follows along with the Japanese language schools in Japan. The way they teach is, according to them. ‘one of the best ways to study for the JLPT’. In addition, the teachers are experienced Japanese speakers, and since they teach business level Japanese as well, it is a great tool to use for those that want to work in Japan.
Joining One of the LIVE Lessons
In my quest to fully understand the Online Japanese school, BondLingo, so I could give a thorough review of it, I decided to also sign up under the premium plan. With this, I was able to access the videos and I went on ahead to fully watch one of the already recorded LIVE videos.
The lesson I watched was on the ‘Purpose of Life’. As I was watching the lesson and the interaction between the instructor and the students (the users), I noticed a few things. From the beginning of the lesson, I saw how causal and carefree the lesson was, immediately. The instructor took the time to greet the students as they were joining the LIVE video, calling each one by name and welcoming them.
As she began the lesson, she wrote on the board, which could be easily seen by us on the other end of the screen and as she spoke she gestured as well with her hands. The instructor taught about 80% of the class in Japanese and only used English when she thought it was necessary. One thing I found important was, that as she taught and wrote on the board, she wrote the way Japanese people would naturally write, using furigana for those that might not understand the Kanji. As a result, I would advise that, if you plan to use the service, it’s better to understand hiragana and katakana.
In the lesson, the students (the users) were listing things they thought were the purpose of life, as they listed them in the chats; the instructor wrote them on the board, reading each response and giving opinions and asking our opinions about it. To get a more elaborate response, the instructor asked questions based on each person’s idea of the purpose of life. The instructor also spoke from a personal perspective on the topic.
The entire lesson kept me engaged, in addition, it was funny and quite interactive. There was a great relationship between the instructor and the users; the instructor even had a few friends online that she knew personally and those that she had made just with interacting with them on the platform. I find that even for those that study Japanese in other ways, using this online service would be a great way to consistently listen to Japanese. I noticed the users were at all different Japanese levels, so no matter your level, you can still participate in the lessons. At the end of the lesson, the instructor reviewed what was talked about, asked questions, and then the lesson was over.
I do believe that this is a great service to use whether you are a beginner or already advanced in learning Japanese. While I was watching the lesson, I felt like part of a community and I think this can be a great motivation in helping to learn Japanese as well. If you are still unsure, BondLingo is allowing users to use the online school for free in the first month! If you are a Guidable user you get two additional months, so you can use the online service for 3 months before payments begin. This is a great way to figure out whether the service is right for you! Which I would highly recommend that it is!
From the US