Japanese commuters podcasting their way to English fluency

On my morning commute, my fellow salarypersons with a hand free to read are usually doing one of two things – reading the newspaper or studying for something. Of those studying, maybe half are studying English, while the other half appear to be aiming at one  nationally recognized qualification or another (very often real estate related). For those who don’t have a hand free, most listen to their iPods. Occasionally I can overhear a particularly insensitive music lover playing B’z or Koda Kumi, but otherwise I have been left to wonder just what sounds they might be pumping into their skulls.

Well, it looks like I have my answer, at least for the one in seven who are regularly listening to podcasts: The podcasts in Japan are absolutely dominated by English lessons. Take a look at the top 20 podcasts on Yahoo right now, listed by number of subscribers:

  1. Nihon Keizai Shimbun podcast
  2. ECC Eikaiwa Podcasting
  3. Classical Music Sound Library
  4. Mainichi Quick Listening Lessons Podcast – lessons based on CNN stories
  5. Bakusho Mondai Cowboy
  6. Podcasting rakugo
  7. NHK English News
  8. Hikaru Ijuuin’s Late Night Fool Power
  9. Oricon album top 20
  10. Jazz Piano Small Pieces
  11. Eikaiwa eChat Vancouver
  12. English as a Second Language Podcast
  13. Tokio Hot 100 (with Chris Pepler)
  14. Let’s Read the Nikkei Weekly (the Nikkei English edition)
  15. Fresh topics from the editor-in-chief (Nikkei Business)
  16. Melody’s “Oh! Kanchigai (cluelessly mistaken) English”
  17. Takuro Morinaga – Economy Column
  18. ALC Podcasting Station “English is training!”
  19. Cream Stew All Night Nippon
  20. The Jazz Suite

That’s eight of the top 20.  iTunes is similarly full of English lesson podcasts, though for now I can only list the top 5 since I don’t have the iTunes application on my desktop:

  1.  EnglishPod
  2. ECC Eikaiwa Podcast
  3. Bakusho Mondai
  4. CNN News
  5. Nihon Keizai Shimbun podcast

4 thoughts on “Japanese commuters podcasting their way to English fluency”

  1. I too, find the train ride the perfect time to listen to language lessons. You are in a closed space where the requirement is to sit still and be quiet and it’s very conducive to studying by listening as there’s usually no other pressing distractions (A boring train trip is a good train trip).
    The only thing to watch out for is the occasional sub-vocalising of lessons – which can unnerve other passengers – however this has it’s plus side. This can mean more room for me on the train.

  2. When I was studying for the bar exam, my best concentrated study sessions were on plane trips to Florida and South Carolina. I had my lectures on my iPod and just blasted through hours at a time with a notebook on my lap. Not many distractions in that environment.

  3. I recently read a Nikkei column by an economist about how he writes most of his papers on the Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka, because it’s his ideal private workstation. And apparently they now have wireless internet that will allow access even while in motion and going through tunnels.

    I personally find my hands getting bored when I listen only to podcasts. Maybe I need to think about getting DS for dual-gadget action.

  4. On the train or bus I often read, unless there’s a pretty good view I can watch while I listen to podcasts. But I’m almost always listening to a podcast or audio book when walking around or biking.

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