If you’ve ever done research on companies that teach languages, then you’ve no doubt run into a lot of them. One that has been around for quite a while (70 years or so) is Living Language. Today I’d like to share what I know about them with my Living Language Japanese Review.
This will be based on my own experience using their system as well as thoughts from the general language learning community. A lot of people have shared their own reviews of it through Amazon, online forms, and their own personal blogs.
They had some interesting points that I thought were worth mentioning here, so keep that in mind as you read through this post.
Book+CD or Online Subscription
There are two ways that you can take the course. The first one is a more traditional method where you buy their book and CD combination.
It actually contains several books and CDs depending on what level you select (more on that in the next section).
The other way that you can access their materials is through their online subscription where you pay a reoccurring fee and you gain access to their website’s lessons and such.
I guess it kind of depends on your own personal preference as to which would be better. Doing the one time purchase is cheaper than their online version, but it also has less information and can only be used on your computer (and of course the books).
If you like to learn Japanese at different locations such as your home, work, school, or mobile device, then the online option might be a better fit.
Levels of the Course
If you go the traditional route, then you’ve got two options to choose from:
- Essential Edition
- Complete Edition
The Essential Edition is really only intended for people who want to start learning Japanese, but aren’t really sure if they want to take it to an intermediate level.
The Essential version contains: 2 books, 10 lessons, and 3 CDs.
Compare this to the Complete Edition which has everything from the Essential Edition as well as a lot more information. This course it designed to take you from new in the language to an intermediate level.
At least, I would say it’s an intermediate level and that’s also what other people have shared with me about it. On the Living Language website they say that the course will take you to advanced level, but I think that statement may be overly optimistic.
The Complete version contains: 4 books, 46 lessons, and 9 CDs.
Something that they both have are free online resources for people who own the course. These include flashcards, interactive games, and some quizzes to test your knowledge.
As for the online subscription version, there are three options to choose from:
- Japanese Comprehensive Course
- Passport Japanese
- Business Japanese
The names are pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll cover them briefly for the sake of completeness.
The first is their full length course that teaches you Japanese from the beginner level onward. It’s designed to help you understand all aspects of the language (reading, writing, listening, speaking) as well as some cultural information.
It can be compared to the physical Complete Edition that I talked about earlier, although I do have to say that I’m not sure if the online version contains additional information for the learner or not.
The Passport option is designed for people who are planning on traveling to Japan and want to be able to interact with natives in common tourist situations such as basic conversations, asking questions, shopping, eating at a restaurant, etc.
The Business option is designed for people who do business in Japan, whether that’s internationally or for expats living in Japan. You learn important information culture-wise for business settings and the words and phrases that are useful when speaking with customers, clients, etc.
I checked out their free lesson online to see how they teach Japanese. They break it down into a couple of different categories.
Their vocabulary building was very similar to how Rosetta Stone teaches: showing a picture and having a Japanese word attached to it that you can hear and read (in Japanese) to associate with it. Thankfully there is an English translation with it so you don’t have to guess its meaning if you’re not sure.
Then they had a sentence builder which felt a lot like how Duolingo teaches languages. In other words, it is really a lot of translation exercises. I’ve never actually been a fan of this type of learning method.
Grammar explanations are pretty straightforward and what you would expect to see in any course of textbook. They just introduce one aspect of Japanese grammar at a time and then explain it and show examples.
Probably the coolest thing in my opinion was the conversation part where two Japanese people would talk to one another. I felt that this was useful for a couple of reasons:
- Listening to native speakers
- Read written Japanese
- Learn conversational phrases
There were some other parts to the lesson like a matching bubbles section that was supposed to make learning Japanese feel like a game, but honestly I felt like it was really gimmicky and a waste of time.
Again, this is just my opinion, but I don’t want to spend my limited time clicking around on colorful bubbles, matching words. Just give me some interesting dialog to read and listen to and then give me the tools I need to fully understand them.
Personal Thoughts On It
If you’ve been reading all the things I’ve written so far, then you can probably deduce my feelings on this course.
I’m not all that wild about it.
I feel that it’s a decent course if you’re brand new to learning Japanese, but I have to say that it is a pretty far cry from the best courses that I’ve experienced.
During my time with it, I just kind of felt like the Japanese course was bland, boring, and got thrown together really quickly just so that the company could offer it as one of their language options.
Hopefully I’m wrong about that, but I would much rather recommend any of these Japanese alternatives to my friends and family over the Living Language options.
Where To Find It
That being said, if you do want to give this option a shot you’ve got a couple of options.
The first one is to check out the link I left way earlier when I was talking about their free lessons that allow people to check them out before committing to a purchase. If you want to see what they are all about, then be sure to check it out.
The other option is to go onto Amazon and get a copy of their program. It’s actually really, really cheap. So there’s no need to worry about breaking the bank on an okay language learning course.
You know, I personally believe that all language learning courses can help you learn a language. That means that it’s better to have an average Japanese course than no course at all.
But all things being equal, I would advise people to find a really good course that can help them to make quick progress with the language so that they can spend more time enjoying it.
Let me know your thoughts on the matter by leaving a comment down below. Thanks!