Choose Your Language

Archive for October, 2012

Making Soba and Picking Peaches

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Today, we bring you another blog post from Motoko, lesson creator, host and Office Party Planner! Motoko will be sharing more bilingual posts on our blog, so check back often and leave a comment!

Hi everyone, Motoko here!

In the beginning of summer this year, the Innovative Language staff went on a day trip. Today I’d like to talk about that. We chose peach-picking for fun, and soba-making so that everyone could try a traditional Japanese food! We made soba in a wonderful nihon-kaoku, a traditional type of Japanese house.

Do you know what soba is? Soba is a famous type of noodle in Japan that is a greyish-brown color. It gets this color from a special type of flour called sobako that is used to make it. You dip the boiled soba into a dip called tsuyu made from fish broth, and eat it. Adding onions and wasabi to the tsuyu give it a more grown-up flavor. Soba comes in two types: cold zarusoba, and warm kakesoba, but this time we had zarusoba.

Soba is made from sobako and flour. First, you mix the two types of flour into a large bowl called a hachi. You can use chopsticks, but it seems like it’s more common to use your hands. Next, you add water. Then comes the hard part – you have to then knead the soba dough a lot. The teacher made it look easy, but it requires a lot of strength since the dough is not that soft. Apparently, the action of kneading the dough is an important step to making delicious soba. Once you’re done kneading, you flatten the dough with a rolling pin. Then, you place the soba on a wooden board called a komaita, and cut it with a special knife called a bocho. If you cut it thinly, you get great soba. If you cut it thickly, you get soba that looks like udon. (Which still tastes good…it just might be a little hard.)

Everyone worked hard at making soba, getting themselves covered with flour in the process. After making it, we boiled it and ate it ourselves. Because the noodles are raw, they take only a minute and a half to cook. Soon after boiling them, you do what’s called shimeru in Japanese. Shimeru refers to rinsing the noodles with cold water so that they don’t get too soft. When you do this, it gives the noodles a nice chewy texture. This isn’t done with Italian pasta!

Then we got on the bus to go peach-picking. Is it common to go fruit-picking in your country? In Japan, there are a lot of opportunities for fruit-picking that change with the seasons. Cherry-picking, peach-picking, grape-picking, and pear-picking are some of the well-known ones. You go to the field to pick and eat a lot – depending on the place, there may be a limit to how much you can eat. The place we went had an all-you-can-eat deal that lasted for 40 minutes. For 40 minutes, you can pick and eat as much as you want. Apparently, the good peaches are at the ends of the branches, so everyone tried hard to get the highest ones.

The person who ate the most was a family member of one our Innovative Language staff. They ate seven peaches in 40 minutes! As for me, I ate three. The peaches I chose were big, so even after just three, I was really full!

Readers, you should definitely try your hand at making Japanese food – not just eating it. I had never made soba before, and I’m Japanese! It’s sure to be a memorable experience.

Word of the Day Widget Update! iPhone and iPad Users Rejoice!

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Hello Listener,

Learning a word a day is effortless, free, and takes less than a minute!

So it’s no wonder the Word of The Day at is one of our users’ most loved free features. And when our users started mailing in with feedback, we just couldn’t leave it alone.

The biggest issue? iOS incompatibility. The original Word of the Day Flash Widget didn’t work with the iPhone or the iPad.

After much tinkering, the new Word of the Day Widget is here.

The New Word of the Day Widget

Word of the Day

(Sample screenshot taken from

Here’s what’s new!

  • Completely redesigned and customizable
  • Built with HTML5. Works on the iPhone, iPad, etc
  • Copy and paste words directly from the Widget
  • Can be embedded into mobile apps and sites
  • Will work on any browser
  • Turn transliteration and romanization on and off

Access the Word of the Day widget on any browser, from any smartphone, or computer. Want to save a word or sample sentences for your own use? Just copy and paste it directly from the widget!

Add the widget to your blog or website!

Choose from 38 languages and customize the widget as you see fit! The Word of the Day widget comes in two sizes, small (160 x 190px) and large (540 x 450px) and 8 different designs. Once you’ve chosen the language, size, and design, grab the embed code and add it to your site!

If you have questions or feedback for us, send us an email here.

Click Here to Visit the New Word of the Day Widget!

A Trip to the Baseball Game

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Today, we bring you another blog post from Motoko, lesson creator, host and Office Party Planner! Motoko will be sharing more bilingual posts on our blog, so check back often and leave a comment!

Hi all, Motoko here.

Today I’d like to tell you about the baseball game the Innovative Language team went to at the end of September. But before I do, which sports are popular in your country? And do you know which sports are popular in Japan?

The answer is: soccer and baseball.

Soccer came to Japan because it was popular in Europe. Baseball, on the other hand, can be written in kanji (野球), and that’s because it was introduced to Japan much earlier than soccer was. In fact, it came to Japan in 1872. It is said that it started when an American man taught some Japanese college students how to play baseball.

Of course, playing baseball is quite popular, but also people young and old love watching it. Stadium tickets come in two types; one is “reserved seating” where you can choose where you’d like to sit ahead of time. Another is “non-reserved seating”, where you can choose where to sit on game day. The second kind is cheaper. Spectators drink beer, eat snacks, and watch the game. Throughout the game, staff (mostly ladies) carry beer tanks through the crowd, so you can easily get more beer without leaving your seat!

The game was held at Meiji Jingu stadium, which is close to Shibuya. The seating areas are divided among the two teams. In this stadium, the seats on the first-base side were for Yakult Swallows supporters, and the seats on the third-base side were for the opponent’s (Chunichi Dragons), supporters. So, if you’re cheering for the Swallows, you need to have a seat on the first-base side.

Speaking of cheering for the teams, we found some unique supporters’ gear to help us do just that. Some people had pairs of miniature plastic megaphones and made loud noises by beating them together. Other people had little umbrellas and danced with the cheering groups. Each baseball team has their own mascot. Tsubakuro is the mascot of the Yakult Swallows – “swallow” is tsubame in Japanese. Actually, the first baseball team ever to have a mascot was from Japan. Did you know that?

(Sep, 2012) Tokyo Office Visit Part 2

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Today, we bring you another blog post from Motoko, lesson creator, host and Office Party Planner! Motoko will be sharing more bilingual posts on our blog, so check back often and leave a comment!

Hi everyone, Motoko here!

Today I’d like to tell you about another listener meetup we had.

The other day, we had two listeners come to visit us. One was from Canada, and the other was from France. It was the second meetup for me, but I still felt nervous beforehand!

Andre from Canada, and Becher from France paid us a visit.

They met each other through their Japanese studies, and this was their first trip together – they were staying in Japan for two weeks. They told us that right before they came to the office, they had been shopping around in Akihabara, and also mentioned that they had visited Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka, and had even climbed Mt. Fuji! I’ve never climbed Mt. Fuji, by the way. I was surprised to learn that they had gotten around to it before me!

They were both very friendly, and seemed excited about coming to Japan as well as visiting the Innovative Language office. Our office is not that big, and we have a small recording booth in the corner of the room. They seemed surprised at how compact it all was.

They also mentioned how hot Japan still was even though it was September. September is the first month of fall, but it’s still quite hot in Tokyo. There were even some days where the temperature reached 30 degrees  it might be an effect of global warming.

Andre said that he would make sure that his next trip was in winter. Not a bad idea!

The Innovative Language staff will be waiting for you the next time you come to Japan!(Sep, 2012)

Love our Podcasts? iPhone Tips on How to Listen on the Go!

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Another Fall has come and gone and just like that, another iPhone model has hit the market, along with iOS updates for all. If you’ve updated your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad to iOS 6 already and tried looking for your favorite podcast, you may be scratching your head wondering if we’ve packed our bags and closed up shop.

We haven’t.

In fact, we continue to release new lessons every single week in over 25 languages!

Here are some tips on where to find us and listen on-the-go!*

Using the Podcast App
To find these apps using iOS 6, you’ll need to download Apple’s Podcast app. (Here’s a quick link to the free download.) Once you have the Podcast app installed, you’ll be able to find us under Education or by searching for us. With one tap of a finger, you can download our latest lessons and subscribe to our feed. Once you’re subscribed, these podcast feeds will be added to your library in the Podcast App.

The app itself is made with podcast users in mind. Jump forward and backwards by 10 and 30 second intervals (great for when you want to jump right to the grammar or go back to review the vocabulary) and share your favorite lessons through Twitter, Message and email. The recent update of the Podcast app also allows you to keep your podcast library up-to-date across devices using iCloud.

Using iTunes to Sync
If you prefer using the built-in Music app on your iPhone or iPad, you can still access your podcasts by syncing with iTunes on your computer. Just be sure to delete or not download the Podcast App and know that you won’t be able to download new lessons from your device. (Unfortunately, that’s only possible through the Podcast app.) Using the Music app, you can still tap to view our lesson dialogue and create your own playlists.

No matter how you choose to listen to our lessons, be sure to sign up for a Free Lifetime Account at any of our language sites to access 7 days of free Premium access and free tools like the Japanese Word of the Day, Core 100 Words List and more!

Click for your free account now!

*These tips are up to date as of October 10th, 2012

New Product Announcement! Explore Your World in Japanese with Visual Dictionary for iPhone and iPad

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Today, we’re happy to announce a brand new app in the iTunes App Store for the Japanese language. Put on your hiking gear because you’re about to explore the world of Japanese Vocabulary with this addicting new app!

There’s absolutely no limit to the number of vocabulary words you could and should learn in the Japanese language. The fact is, the more words you know, the better you’ll be able to speak and communicate. That’s true of any language; even your native tongue! But when are you going to find the time to learn them all? Isn’t there a shortcut?

Introducing Visual Dictionary Lite - Learn Japanese, presented by Innovative Language Learning! This new App for iPhone and iPad focuses your Japanese vocabulary learning to the words you need to know - the objects, places and people that you’ll encounter in your daily life. With Visual Dictionary Lite, you’ll be transported to a world where everything you tap and touch comes to life with native audio recordings and vibrant imagery. You’ll start at the front door of our Earth scenario and drill down to smaller areas like the beach, city and airport with a single tap. Look for the blue arrows to zoom and transport yourself to more areas and learn more words. It’s that simple.

Visual Dictionary Lite - Learn Japanese is a free app with convenient in-app upgrade to the full version. With Visual Dictionary Full, you’ll learn 550+ must-know Japanese vocabulary words through native audio clips, sample sentences and colorful illustrations. No matter what your Japanese reading level is, you can switch between kana and romanization to accommodate all Japanese language students.

Here’s what you’ll get when you download Visual Dictionary Lite - Learn Japanese today:

  • Earth, City, and Supermarket scenarios and 39 related vocabulary words and over 100 sample sentences free! Unlock 23 more scenarios, 550+ words, and 1000+ sample sentences with in-app upgrade.
  • 68 Food & Drink vocabulary in Category Mode and over 100 sample sentences free! Unlock the full category list and 550+ Japanese vocabulary and 1000+ sample sentences with upgrade.
  • Kanji and kana for every word. Not comfortable with kana yet? Swap kana for rouma-ji on the Settings screen.
  • Native Japanese audio recordings by professional voice actors
  • Rich visual illustrations
  • Practical sample sentences related to scenarios and words
  • Your own personal Word Bank for convenient study

Now available in the iTunes App Store, download Visual Dictionary Lite - Learn Japanese today and start exploring!

Customize Your Language Learning With This New Dashboard Upgrade

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Hello Listener,

Last July, the Dashboard made its first appearance. It provides a great place to start if you’re completely new to our 101 language sites and don’t know which level is right for you.

In short, the Dashboard allows you to:

  • Start at a lesson appropriate for your level
  • Track your learning progress with every lesson completed
  • Jump to the next lesson from the Dashboard by pressing “Study Now”

And the feedback? It was incredibly positive and filled with great suggestions. Thank you for reaching out to us!

We listened and this past month, applied the suggestions to your Dashboard.

Your New Dashboard V1.1: Take control of your Language learning!

What’s New?

Want to study on your own terms? Skip the recommended lesson and customize your learning! With the new update, you can now:

  • Customize the dashboard with the series you want to study
  • Reorganize the dashboard courses
  • Set your target course
  • Jump directly to the next lesson of your series with the “Study” button

Customizing Your Dashboard

The Dashboard is now fully editable (add, remove, reorganize, set a target series) and there is no limit on how many series you can add. You’ll see the top 3 series that you’re currently working on, while the rest can be viewed by clicking on “See All.”

(sample screenshot taken from

Add A Series

Go to ”Browse Lessons”, find the series you want and click on it. On the main series page, just below the description, click on the “Add to Dashboard” checkbox. It will now appear in “My Courses” on your Dashboard. If you have more than three series already, you’ll be able to find it by clicking on “See All.”

(sample screenshot taken from

Remove A Series.

While in the “My Courses” section of your Dashboard, click on “Edit” just below the “Study” Button. To remove it, click on the red No Symbol. Once you’re done, press “Done Editing.”

(sample screenshot taken from

Reorganize Your Dashboard

While editing your dashboard, click on a series and drag it to your desired location. Once you’re done, press “Done Editing.”

(sample screenshot taken from

Set Your Target Course

Notice the green target symbol while in “Edit” mode? That is your main course which will appear in the lesson recommendation list below. To change it, simply click on the gray target symbol of a different series and you’ll see a green notification that your target has been changed. Your lesson recommendation list will also be updated.

(sample screenshot taken from

Quick “Study” Button
Quickly jump to the next lesson of your course! Just like the “Study Now” button in the lesson recommendation list, this will take you to the next lesson of that series.

We hope you enjoy the brand new Dashboard! We’ll of course continue to listen to our fans and tweak the Dashboard to provide the very best experience for everyone. If you have questions or feedback for us, send us an email here.