Nobody likes to be stuck in the middle.
Middle school? Middle of a work shift? Middle seat in the back of a car?
And nothing makes you feel stuck in the middle like being an intermediate language learner.
You’ve mastered the foundations of Japanese and you finally “get” how the language works as opposed to English. You’re a prime candidate to really go far in your language journey. But you might not know how to actually make that leap.
We’ve found five of the best Japanese intermediate courses to get you out of the middle and on the path to fluency.
How Can an Intermediate Japanese Course Benefit Me?
To be clear, an intermediate learner is someone who’s gained a solid understanding of Japanese foundational grammar and can understand a decent number of phrases and vocabulary words that would be heard in daily Japanese life. You may find yourself wanting to improve your Japanese listening skills and broaden your ability to read and write kanji and hiragana.
Here’s how a language course designed for your level can be especially beneficial:
- Taking a course tailored for intermediate learners can help you get past the “post-beginner” plateau. We’ve all been there. Once a non-native speaker gets past the newbie hump, they may find themselves stuck in this weird area between baby Japanese and way too difficult Japanese. While it’s possible to “teach yourself” out of this plateau, having some structured guidance will make it a lot easier and faster.
- It’s easier to practice when you have a plan. Courses like the ones below provide you with study materials that cater to your level, and often have a set or recommended schedule to follow. So you won’t be wasting precious time coming up with a study plan yourself or sifting through materials that don’t suit your level. You can get straight to learning in a focused way that moves you toward fluency.
- All of the courses we’ll be mentioning have rave reviews, so you know you’re investing in a course that works. There are probably about a million advertised intermediate Japanese courses online. We’ll save you the effort and help you find five of the best places to look.
6 Awesome Japanese Intermediate Courses for Middle-ground Learners
If you’re somewhere between beginner and intermediate, this course is awesome for bridging that gap.
OpenLanguage’s pre-intermediate course is designed to help post-beginner learners ease into intermediate courses. There are no language requirements for joining this online course, but it’s obviously strongly suggested that you have a solid understanding of basic beginner vocabulary.
You’ll listen to audio lessons and dialogues throughout this 12-lesson course. You’ll also get printout worksheets and vocabulary reviews to download.
In order to access all of the lessons, you’ll need to purchase an OpenLanguage subscription. You can try the first lesson for free to see if you dig it and then the subscription will cost $30 per month. Luckily, that $30 covers every OpenLanguage course available for Japanese.
Immersion is one of the fastest ways to move from the intermediate level to fluency. By surrounding yourself with authentic Japanese, you’ll absorb the language as it’s actually used by native speakers. FluentU makes this type of immersion fun and convenient, no matter where you are.
FluentU takes real-world Japanese videos—like music videos, movie trailers, documentaries, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
It naturally and gradually eases you into learning Japanese language and culture. You’ll learn real Japanese as it’s spoken in real life.
Just take a look at the wide variety of authentic video content available in the program. Here’s a small sample:
You’ll discover tons of new Japanese vocabulary through these great clips.
Don’t worry about your skill level being an issue when it comes to understanding the language. FluentU makes native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts.
Tap on any word to look it up instantly.
You’ll see definitions, in-context usage examples and helpful illustrations. Simply tap “add” to send interesting vocabulary words to your personal vocab list for later review.
FluentU even uses a learning program which adapts to your specific needs, to turn every video into a language learning lesson and get you to actively practice your newly-learned language.
This intermediate online course from JET Programme is designed specifically for Japanese post-beginner learners who wish to live and work in Japan.
JET Programme offers beginner, intermediate and advanced courses. You’re ready for this intermediate course if you can hold a basic spoken conversation in Japanese and write brief sentences in kanji. In order to take this course, you’ll need to pass a placement test provided by JET Programme.
The Course Guide Book provides all details covering course registration deadlines and contact info is provided for any additional questions.
Plus, there’s no fee or tuition for this course. What’s not to love?
Nihongo Pro’s intermediate courses are ideal for those who want to learn from home, but also want the benefit of learning from a live teacher. It’s like getting all the benefits of the classroom without, well, the classroom.
Private online lessons cost $25 per 50-minute lesson and are custom tailored to your needs. Whether you’re just coming out of the newbie phase or are an intermediate learner not quite ready to take on advanced lessons, the instructors at Nihongo Pro can help you create a course that’s ideal for you.
You also earn points for every lesson you take, which can then be exchanged for free lessons. You can even interact with other students in Nihongo Pro’s live video chat room. Quizzes are also free and a great way to practice outside of lesson time.
There are also a ton of different teachers to choose from and a very diverse lesson schedule available so you can learn intermediate Japanese on your own time.
When searching through intermediate Japanese courses, you may be a bit confused by terms like “JLPT N4” or “JLPT N5.” JLPT stands for the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test. This test is used to evaluate students’ level of Japanese proficiency and ranges from level N1 through N5. N4 and N5 are considered a beginner Japanese proficiency while N1 would be considered near-fluent advanced proficiency.
These tests are used for everything from personal language tracking to evaluating potential employment for Japanese language-based professions.
You can find courses for each level of the JLPT on Udemy, a popular online education platform with tens of thousands of classes. Udemy classes are provided by expert instructors and educational institutions, but are also totally affordable (especially considering Udemy’s almost daily discount offerings). There are nearly 50 Japanese language courses, including two JLPT courses that’ll be particularly interesting to intermediate learners.
- The JLPT N4 course is a great selection for those fresh out of the beginner stage. Requirements for the N4 course are simply an understanding of basic Japanese and the ability to read most hiragana and katakana. You’ll get practice tests, 30 different video lessons and a test survival guide.
- The JLPT N3 course is ideal for true intermediate learners. Students should come in with substantial hiragana and katakana knowledge. This course has some video lessons but is primarily designed around three mock JLPT examinations, so you should leave fully confident to take the test for real.
Both of these are learn-as-you-go online classes with no pre-set deadlines and lifetime access to the materials.
If you’re already living in or visiting Japan, particularly 東京都 (とうきょう と) — Tokyo, then MLC’s offline intermediate course could be worth checking out.
This course has ultra-tiny classroom sizes at a maximum of four students per teacher. In order to take this course, you’ll need to have a grasp of everyday Japanese phrases. You’ll also need to know over 300 kanji to participate (MLC provides an online Kanji Level Check for you to test yourself).
The focus of this course is on verbal Japanese conversation as well as broadening your proficiency in kanji. You can expect to learn anywhere from 500 to 1,000 new characters.
If you struggle with reading long chunks of Japanese text or haven’t mastered smooth verbal conversation, this course is perfect for you.
There’s no registration fee, but you’ll need to purchase your textbook outside of tuition and each lesson costs 3,880 yen (approx. 35 USD) for 90 minutes. Unfortunately, the course schedule is fixed, so you may have to work around your own schedule to take MLC’s intermediate course.
Learning a language isn’t a quick and finite process. If you really love the Japanese language or plan on living in the country someday, learning the language will be a forever process. You don’t have to stay stuck as an intermediate learner. These fantastic courses will have you on your way to a more fulfilling and challenging level of fluency.
Emily Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. She writes about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Japanese with real-world videos.