You can learn Japanese without ever picking up a pencil.
You could even learn the language fundamentals without leaving your house. Or even your bed.
All you need is an internet connection and your favorite device.
And we’ve done the hard work of finding them for you.
In this post, we’ll show you seven excellent e-learning sites where you can do anything from read digital textbooks to complete a university-level course or work one-on-one with a tutor.
Let’s log on and get learning.
Why Learn Japanese with Online Courses?
What better classroom to begin your Japanese journey than a virtual one?
To begin with, think of the savings! So many online courses are either low cost, or even completely free, which totally beats the $50-per-hour classes or $100 textbook.
On top of that, for those of you with busy lifestyles or who understand your own learning style, an online course will let you move through things at your own pace. Your studies will be designed specifically around your goals, your needs and your schedule.
The best part of online courses is the portability. All of the courses covered in this post provide tools that can be used or viewed on your phone or tablet.
I have an hour-long morning commute—these types of resources transform it from boring transit time to super valuable learning time. If you’re anything like me, these convenient online textbooks and courses just scream “study me!”
7 Essential E-learning Resources for Any Japanese Learner
TextFugu is an easy to use and easier to understand online tutorial that’s priced at only $20 a month.
It explains Japanese language concepts in clear writing with many examples and practice questions in case you’re confused. As it runs through grammar patterns up to an end-of-beginner level, I recommend TextFugu if you’re a fast learner. You can make the most of the subscription price and unsubscribe after finishing the course.
If you’re not sure whether TextFugu is right for you, Season 1 is free, so you can try it out, then buy membership once you finish the first season. All seasons are structured in a similar way, so there won’t be any surprises coming out of subscribing.
TextFugu also has a number of supplemental learning materials available to you. It teaches vocabulary alongside grammar and kanji, organizing them into easily accessible pre-made digital flashcard decks for you to download.
If you like the focused, structured nature of traditional language courses, but still want to get fluent without getting out of your pajamas, Udemy is the site for you.
This online learning platform provides a wide range of affordable virtual Japanese courses. From beginner-level foundations to tourist Japanese to learning Japanese through song, there’s truly something for everyone. Just type “Japanese” in the search bar and you’ll see all the diverse options.
The courses are organized into themed video lectures, which typically come with additional study and review materials for you to download. You can also check out how many students have already completed the course and what their opinions of it were.
It’s very much like shopping for knowledge. Prices range from $15 to $150, depending on which course you purchase. At first $150 may seem like a big cost, but those courses typically provide dozens of lectures (not to mention how much more you’d spend for an in-person university course).
FluentU combines all the convenience and effectiveness of e-learning with the immersive learning experience of authentic Japanese content.
On FluentU, you’ll find real-world Japanese videos like move trailers, funny clips, commercials and more—plus interactive captions that provide in-context definitions for any words you don’t recognize. Just click and you’ll get an explanation of the word plus visual learning aids and pointers to other videos where the word occurs.
It’s a much more effective and multi-dimensional learning experience than trying to understand the (often wonky) captions on YouTube videos.
Plus, FluentU’s innovative “Learn Mode” transforms the video content into exercises and flashcards that you can use to ensure you’re learning from what you’ve watched. FluentU will also suggest further videos based on what you’ve already studied, for truly personalized learning.
Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese provides a huge range of grammar lessons, from absolute beginner concepts to more advanced structures. Not only that, but it’s completely free, making it a cult favorite.
Tae Kim offers two useful digital Japanese guides. The first is called Japanese Grammar Guide and is designed to be completely in-depth in order to fill any knowledge gaps and thoroughly explain concepts other courses may have glossed over. Don’t let the amount of content discourage you, though! Use this resource to target your weaknesses or answer specific questions.
Tae Kim’s Complete Guide to Japanese, by contrast, skips the lengthy explanations, instead opting for concise lessons to teach the fundamentals. It’s a great e-learning choice for complete beginners.
JapanesePod101 is a unique language learning resource. Their lessons come in the form of podcasts, in which an experienced educator teaches vocabulary and grammar patterns. They also have endless resources to aid your learning, including PDFs listing detailed notes from the lessons.
The best thing about audio based learning is that it’s very convenient to take with you wherever you go, so you can fit some learning anywhere in your busy schedule. Even people with motion sickness (like me) can use the audio lessons to learn during their daily commute.
The team behind JapanesePod101 is extremely prolific, so you’ll never run out of useful learning material!
JapanesePod101 runs on subscription, but there are many different pricing options and subscription levels so you can find the course that best suits you.
Nihongo-Pro makes it easy by matching you with a teacher based on your learning goals, proficiency level and schedule. For an idea of who you’ll be working with, you can check out the teacher profiles in advance here. This platform’s virtual classroom comes with more features than plain old video chat; you’ll get lesson materials and audio playback tools built right in.
Another thing that separates Nihongo-Pro from other sites is that you can use your own textbooks with them, instead of following a set lesson plan.
Wasabi is another online Japanese tutoring platform that offers three main types of courses, one for travel, one for daily interaction and one for business.
Unlike most other sites, there’s less of a focus on JLPT. Wasabi’s primary goal is teaching fluent expression in different situations.
Even so, their levels correspond with a JLPT level, so you can always choose to move into it.
Wasabi has very well priced lessons, as well as tons of self-study materials to work on at no extra cost. Prices start at about $60 for four classes and $100 for eight classes.
Between Wasabi and Nihongo-Pro, I personally recommend Nihongo-Pro if you have a specific goal in mind, such as the JLPT. However, if you just want to get better at Japanese without the looming dread of exams, Wasabi has the perfect environment for that.
Have you decided which course to start on yet? Good luck on your Japanese journey!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Japanese with real-world videos.