So you’ve decided that you want to learn Japanese. Brilliant! You may have just changed your life forever!
The only problem is that if you’re a massive introvert like me, the notion of going out and actually talking to people kind of puts you off.
I mean, voluntary interaction with other humans? Ew.
Luckily, we have the internet on our side, and that means that shy people like us don’t have to step outside to do most things. And that includes diving into the epic world of learning Japanese.
So, happily, it’s perfectly possible to learn this wonderful language without ever having to go outside, and even without having to get out of bed.
What a time to be alive.
There might be other reasons that you choose to learn online, too, other than just wanting to keep to yourself.
Maybe you live too far from anywhere that offers language lessons, or it might be that learning online is generally cheaper than traipsing to a school. And, well… there’s just something beautiful about studying in your pajamas, don’t you think?
Well, no worries! With these websites, you can set up your very own Japanese course that suits your own pace and time frame, whether it be hardcore daily study for a test, just a hobby or a casual once-a-week study session.
This way, there’s no competition, no pressure and it leaves room to have fun with learning the language and finding out about Japanese culture.
6 Outstanding Online Courses for Learning Japanese
Suited for: All levels, and those studying for the JLPT.
Price: Free, basic, premium and premium+ accounts are available, and each level gives you access to more videos and lessons. You can check out all the pricing info here.
What makes it special? JapanesePod101 is a good course to start off with. It’s easy to use and excellent if you’re a visual or auditory learner, as it includes plenty of videos and audio clips. If you’re studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, it will hook you up with more resources for that as well. You can use JapanesePod101 to shape your own course and work out which is the best way for you to learn.
JapanesePod101 also includes vocabulary flashcards and a word bank to really personalize your learning experience and help you focus on words you struggle with. Start off with a basic (free) account, then upgrade if you decide that you enjoy the experience.
Suited for: All levels, those studying for the JLPT and those interested in more specific language topics.
Price: Basic and Plus plans available, see all pricing information here.
What makes it special? FluentU is unique because it offers subtitled videos, audio files, course playlists and written articles on every language topic imaginable. You’ll get to learn the fundamentals and basics here, then expand to more specific, complex language features.
You’ll find all the resources you need to learn through cool tools like anime, manga, song lyrics, seasonal media and more. You’ll learn very specific vocabulary used by different native speakers in different regions with their own slang, sayings and dialects.
Here’s a small sample:
You’ll discover tons of new Japanese vocabulary through these great clips.
It naturally and gradually eases you into learning Japanese language and culture. You’ll learn real Japanese as it’s spoken in real life.
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.
All in all, it’s a great online Japanese program if you’re interested keeping things fresh and fun, as well as exploring authentic language and culture, beyond basic vocabulary and grammar.
Access FluentU on the website to use it with your computer or tablet or, better yet, start learning Japanese on the go with the FluentU app!
Suited for: Beginners and lower-intermediate learners.
What makes it special? TheJapanesePage.com is a great place to start to learn about Japanese culture as well as beginner language skills. It can give you a feel for really learning the language before you decide to commit yourself to a paid service.
TheJapanesePage.com is a completely free website that offers help on typing Japanese words on your keyboard, hiragana and katakana lessons, some extra helpful advice about Japanese culture and insight into what it’s like to live in the country. There are polls, links to places where you can find a language partner and there’s also a forum which the administrator regularly visits to answer questions and concerns.
Suited for: Beginners and up.
Price: There’s an option to download full 12-month or 24-month courses, or download each level individually. There’s also a short free trial. Click here for the website's full information on pricing.
What makes it special? Rosetta Stone is one of the few online courses for individual learning that monitors and helps you improve your accent and intonation, something that can often be overlooked when studying without a physical, human teacher.
Rosetta Stone’s philosophy is to teach new languages in the same way you learned your first language, by associating pictures with words and introducing grammar later on. It’s a lot of fun to use. Go ahead and test it out with its free trial!
Suited for: Beginners and up.
What makes it special? NHK’s online Japanese course was created by native Japanese speakers for learners of the Japanese language.
Since you’re getting Japanese lessons straight from the source, this means that you’re learning real, relevant, everyday Japanese words and phrases. This site offers realistic scenarios, quizzes and videos, which is similar to BBC’s Japanese learning course. Free, downloadable lessons are also available to use for later review.
Suited for: All levels.
Price: $25 for a 50-minute lesson, and discounts if you purchase 30 lessons or more.
What makes it special? This website is great for you if you do want a real, physical teacher who can Skype with you and help you learn Japanese at your own pace. Obviously, the previously mentioned sites are better if you want to learn 100% by yourself, but if you’re looking to learn Japanese with a teacher in the comfort of your own home, Nihongo-Pro.com is a good place to start.
This article is about learning on your own, and there are many good things about that. However, there are advantages to having a real teacher, too. He or she can:
- Help you improve your pronunciation and intonation
- Encourage you to keep going when you’re struggling
- Help you get from beginner level to fluent
- Give you personalized tips and study suggestions
- Be someone to practice with
- Introduce you to other native speakers (who could be potential language exchange partners or friends)
- Give you advice for if you want to go to Japan (that’s more personal than a travel blog)
Free trials are available to help you decide if it’s right for you. You can choose your own teacher and buy private lesson “tickets” which you can use at any time, whenever you’re ready and available. This is much better than strictly scheduled lessons, because you won’t miss out or be left behind if you need to take a break or go on vacation.
You don’t have to be living in Japan or even near a Japanese school to commit yourself to learning this wonderful language. Learning privately gives you the chance to work at your own pace and on any aspect you’d like to focus on, whether that be grammar, reading and writing kanji or starting your own language exchange. With these websites, you’ll be pera-pera in no time at all. And all without stepping outside!
No matter which way you go, or how much time you spend studying online, the key is to have fun!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Japanese with real-world videos.