Who needs a classroom, anyway?
If you want to learn the Japanese language but don’t want to spend the gas and tuition money to go to a traditional Japanese class, you’re not alone.
What’s better than learning a new language on your own terms… and in your pajamas?
We’ve put together an awesomely useful list of 10 fantastic places you can learn the Japanese language online. Let’s check them out!
Learn the Japanese Language Online: 10 Resources for the Serious Learner
If you want to study at your own pace and love watching videos, FluentU has you covered. It takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. Watch the videos in any order or use the convenient lessons if you prefer some more structure.
The videos, which are sorted by difficulty for your convenience, come with accurate interactive subtitles. Whenever you come across a word you don’t recognize, simply click on it in the subtitles and you’ll be taken to an in-depth definition of the word, its translation and any other relevant information you may need.
The program is about so much more than videos, though. You also get access to interactive flashcards and vocab lists, annotated subtitles and personalized quizzes that evolve as you learn.
If you’re looking for a method to familiarize yourself with Japanese as well as deepen your knowledge of the culture, FluentU is the best way to go!
Udemy is an incredible resource! You can learn about everything from coding to home improvement… to language. The site hosts a hefty amount of Japanese courses for low prices (usually around $10 to $20 or so) complete with accurate and user-driven reviews. That way, you know exactly what you’re getting!
Any level of Japanese learner can benefit from Udemy’s Japanese courses. Just sort the lessons by difficulty or search by keywords (such as “Japanese vocabulary,” “business Japanese” or “JLPT N1”) and take a look at what each course offers. You’re bound to find a perfect match for your needs.
Genki is a popular online resource used by many Japanese learners and a favorite on various language-learning forums like Reddit. It’s essentially a series of resources for learning elementary Japanese that focuses on the four main language categories: reading, writing, speaking and comprehension. Each volume of Genki contains around 23 lessons.
You can purchase the physical Genki textbook, but that’s not exactly useful for online learning. Instead, you can take advantage of the Genki apps, which focus on vocabulary flashcards, kanji flashcard and conjugation flashcards.
The apps aim to teach the basics to beginners, so intermediate and advanced learners may not necessarily need them. Still, they’re handy to have around for practice!
If you find that speaking to a real live human person is helpful to you for learning but you don’t want to go to attend a physical class for any reason, you might want to look into getting private lessons from Nihongo Pro.
Each live one-on-one video lesson lasts approximately 50 minutes long and is led by an experienced professional Japanese teacher.
Lessons are held in online classrooms that were specially designed for learning Japanese. They include cool features like a whiteboard, built-in dictionary, an audio playback option and the option to write out Japanese by hand—and it’s all available right from your browser.
Scheduling a lesson is pretty easy and the teachers are very flexible, so this resource is awesome for learners who already have a packed schedule. If you’re not sure about it, you can book a free trial lesson before you commit.
Nihongo Pro also has a bunch of free learning content you can make use of, such as quizzes, kanji search and word games.
One could argue that Japanese grammar is the most difficult part of learning the language. This resource will make it a little easier to tackle by breaking it down into manageable chunks.
This somewhat outdated but still wildly useful little website from George Washington University contains 66 units on Japanese grammar. Each unit uses a Flash presentation with audio and video, mimicking an actual college-level lesson.
Complete each lesson then take the quiz to make sure you understood the material. Units come with word lists, as well, so you can hone your vocabulary skills as you learn grammar points.
Beginners and intermediate learners would get the most out of this site, but advanced learners may find useful tips for mastering grammar in the latter units.
You might have heard of Duolingo already, and for good reason. Duolingo takes the quick and easy approach to learning languages. The idea is to learn Japanese in your spare time wherever you have an internet connection, right from your phone.
You decide how much time you’d like to spend learning and practicing Japanese daily. Five minutes? 15? A full hour? Pick the amount of time that works for you and your lessons will reflect that time-frame. Duolingo boasts that completing 34 hours of language work on the app is like taking a full university semester!
Duolingo lessons vary but mostly begin with a kanji character and a list of possible romaji matches for you to select. You also get to practice your speaking and listening skills by verbally pronouncing a word or by matching the correct kanji to a word spoken through the app. It’s very similar in concept to Rosetta stone, but it’s totally free.
You can even take a placement test before starting your lessons to see just where you are on your Japanese-learning journey.
This site boasts interactive audio lessons, pronunciation guides, quizzes, vocabulary and a handy forum for connecting with other learners. It also provides specialized sections where you can learn Japanese salutations, phrases, telling the time, language software recommendations and more.
You can spend several hundred dollars on different premium plans they offer with exponentially more content, but their free lessons are still pretty useful to try out if you’re a beginner.
Rocket Languages’ free content includes tons of vocabulary words and phrases with accurate audio clips. The paid content includes interactive audio lessons, voice recognition-based courses, exclusive flash cards and certification tests.
Wasabi offers two main ways to learn Japanese: through one-on-one lessons with a Japanese linguist or by browsing Wasabi’s free study materials to cultivate your own lesson plan.
The one-on-one plan can cost you up to $123 dollars for eight 50-minute lessons per month with a focus on speaking, listening and grammar.
The free do-it-yourself plan includes materials such as grammar sheets, podcasts, manga and more. There are also live seminars available for browsing both in video and transcribed form, which feel like professional mini-courses on specific topics.
The lesson option is ideal for beginners who need more guidance, while the free source materials are handy tools for more advanced learners.
Like Duolingo, busuu is great for learning Japanese on the go wherever you have a data connection. The Japanese program includes full language courses condensed into what they call “bite-sized lessons perfect for everyday life, work and travel.”
Also like Duolingo, busuu equates its learning to college hours, stating that only 22 hours of Premium lessons equate to a college semester of Japanese language study.
The learning program itself focuses strongly on learning Japanese through conversations with native speakers. It also splits up the learning into easy-to-digest lessons, each of which teaches one new concept in a useful, conversation-oriented way.
While Duolingo is meant for more casual bite-sized learning, busuu is short and intense. It’s perfect for those who want to learn Japanese quickly and are willing to put in the work!
Learning the ins and outs of hiragana and katakana doesn’t have to be so rough. At least, it’s easier than learning kanji. If you’re just starting out in your learning, you can get the writing system down pat with this resource.
This simple but effective matching game from Easy Japanese is a flash resource in which you match to romaji to the correct hiragana or katakana.
Easy Japanese also has other Japanese learning resources in its left sidebar, including kanji flashcards, lessons, numbers and more.
Bonus: Other Ways to Learn Japanese Online
In addition to using these resources, there are many other ways you can learn Japanese online! Here are three ideas for where to go next:
- Join learner forums. Reddit’s popular “Learn Japanese” learning board is a great place to start.
- Read Japanese content. These can include online books, manga, social media and any other reading material you enjoy!
- Watch Japanese films and shows. Anime and dramas are very popular in Japan and very entertaining to watch. They can also provide insight into Japanese culture, so check them out.
Having an arsenal of resources for learning Japanese online isn’t just helpful—it’s vital. If you’re not one for a traditional in-class course, you’ll need some excellent resources to learn Japanese online on your own.
We suggest trying out all the resources in this list to out to find which one works best for you!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write 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.