Imagine your typical study session.
Are you nose-deep in textbooks?
Drowning in workbooks?
Working furiously to get your Japanese flashcards all neatly aligned, despite the fact that a couple of them are covered in awkward ink marks from where you accidentally misread 趣味 (しゅみ — hobby) as 興味 (きょうみ — interest) and 入る (はいる — to enter) as 入れる (いれる — to put in)?
There’s nothing wrong with traditional studying. It’s how we’ve learned languages for decades.
But there’s also nothing wrong with spicing it up.
After all, it’s the 21st century now, and we’ve got something pre-1991 Japanese learners didn’t have: the internet.
If you haven’t spent any time scouring the internet for Japanese-language materials, you’re missing out.
Websites for learning Japanese are bountiful these days, and the bulk of them are either sensibly priced or completely free.
Not to mention the variety of media they offer. Need to focus on speaking skills? Reading skills? Listening skills? The internet’s got countless resources for that.
Or maybe you want to enroll in a Japanese course but don’t have the money. The internet’s got that, too.
In this post, I’ve rounded up the 28 best websites to learn Japanese online, period.
Best Japanese Websites for Speaking and Listening
What’s that? Can you repeat that, please?
For those experiencing trouble speaking or understanding Japanese, here are a few helpful resources.
JapanesePod101 is home to an enormous repository of 2,000+ Japanese podcasts.
All you have to do is indicate your language level, and voilà! You’ll be nodding along to Japanese chitchat in no time.
It’s frequently updated with new lessons, with material geared towards absolute beginners all the way up to advanced learners nearing fluency.
Their audio and video lessons are also of the highest caliber and utilize an eclectic array of culturally relevant themes so you’re learning more than just the language. Lessons also come with downloadable PDF notes, transcripts and checklists for offline support.
And there’s no need to worry about overpaying: Packages are reasonably priced, starting at $4 a month following a free trial period. Please note that this is always subject to change, though.
If you want to speak Japanese well, sign up for lessons with native Japanese speakers and professional teachers on italki.
Through this globalized language learning website, Japanese language students can engage in one-on-one video chat lessons with instructors from around the world (primarily Japan).
At present, italki has more than 1,200 teachers and tutors available for Japanese lessons.
All fees are per hour and vary depending on the instructor, but rates are reasonable. You can also check past students’ reviews of each tutor and even take a half-hour sample lesson at a reduced rate before you commit.
If you’re looking for an authentic learning program, FluentU is a great option.
Here’s a quick animated video showing you exactly what FluentU offers!
Best Structured Japanese Lessons Online
Looking to take a Japanese class without having to actually go to a class?
Consider the following online resources for structured lessons.
4. エリンが挑戦！日本語できます。(えりんが ちょうせん！にほんご できます。— “Erin’s Challenge! I can speak Japanese.”)
A reputable website created by 国際交流基金 (こくさい こうりゅう ききん — The Japan Foundation), “Erin’s Challenge!” provides a logical introduction to the Japanese language.
Predominantly geared toward newbies, the 25 multi-step lessons employ interconnected hypothetical situations, represented by an entertaining combination of video skits, manga-style comics and images.
You’ll master an array of beginners’ topics, from greetings to how to convey emotions and use onomatopoeia. You can also change your interface from English to Japanese—a pleasant bonus for those who’d prefer an extra challenge.
Linguti is a free gamified language learning website offering Japanese, Chinese and Korean, among other major languages.
If you’re a beginner, you can start at “Unit 1” and complete quizzes based on vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing and listening to unlock subsequent content.
Keywords can be viewed in romaji, kana or kanji—a handy feature for those with previous exposure to Japanese characters.
But the coolest part is that you can redo lessons as many times as you want. Never having to fear failing is what ultimately makes this website both fun and inspiring.
Don’t be fooled by its outdated interface. Imabi is one of the most mind-bogglingly exhaustive online resources for free Japanese learning content.
The 300+ lessons span a smorgasbord of topics and levels, from beginner’s basics to classical Japanese, to Heian-era pronunciation.
And unlike most language learning websites, which cap off at the intermediate level, Imabi boasts a plethora of content for advanced Japanese learners (totaling a staggering 100 lessons, if you’re curious).
Don’t dawdle! This website is the real deal.
7. Japanese Level Up
Japanese Level Up, or “Jalup,” relies on a unique adventure-driven backdrop, similar to that of an RPG or video game.
On Jalup, Japanese lessons are divided into “worlds,” and each new world brings forth a different set of tasks, goals and “equipment.”
Unlike other language learning websites, at a glance, Jalup doesn’t delve too much into the intricacies of linguistics or grammar. Rather, it serves as a sort of outline for Japanese students, imparting advice and strategies along the way. (More in-depth learning materials come at a somewhat hefty price, but are available.)
Truthfully, the teaching method isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s worth a shot if you’re down for a less hands-on approach.
Bear in mind that gamification has also been shown to be an effective learning method in many areas of education, so give it a try!
Best Japanese Reading and Writing Websites
Already know the ins and outs of hiragana, katakana and kanji?
Then here are four websites you can use to learn and improve your Japanese reading and writing skills.
8. NHK News Web Easy
Reading everyday Japanese is never easy at first, but you can make the feat less intimidating by opting for NHK News Web Easy.
The timely news outlet translates real-life stories into simplified Japanese for youths and non-native speakers.
In other words, with NHK News Web, you get to study Japanese culture in Japanese—or, as the Japanese say, 一石二鳥 (いっせき にちょう — kill two birds with one stone).
And even if you’re a beginner, you don’t have to worry as this website is accessible for all levels. All kanji—for example—is accompanied by furigana and definitions appear for key vocabulary words when you place your cursor over them.
A personal favorite of mine, Lang-8 is a platform through which you can practice foreign-language composition.
This means you can write about anything you want in any way you want—all in Japanese. Although typical posts include diary entries, short stories and homework questions.
Once you publish your post, native Japanese speakers will offer corrections and comments on your writing. In turn, you’re expected to correct members’ non-native English.
Though anyone may join, Lang-8 seems to work best for intermediate and advanced Japanese learners looking to hone their writing skills.
This cute little website houses a ton of children’s stories—classic Japanese tales, Aesop’s fables and other well-known yarns from around the world—that also have English translations.
For even more support, each sentence has the English translation directly underneath, as well as some adorable accompanying illustrations.
Since these texts are catered for Japanese children, the language used is very simple, so this source works best if you’re a beginner.
Focusing on travel and culture in Japan, this magazine-type website provides neat little articles formatted for language learning.
It’s a great place to get some reading practice in while learning about different aspects of Japanese daily life.
The posts include furigana for kanji characters so that you can learn their proper pronunciations. There are also English translations directly beside key vocabulary.
With all its learner-friendly provisions, this website may be best suitable for upper beginner to intermediate Japanese learners.
Best Kanji and Vocabulary Learning Websites
Rote memorization is exasperating, especially when it comes to kanji and vocabulary. If you’re in search of a more practical or exciting alternative, these popular websites can lend you a hand.
A free software program, Anki allows you to create and customize virtual flashcards, as well as download premade decks from its companion website, for fast and easy kanji and vocabulary memorization.
Here’s why it works so well: Anki’s spaced-repetition software (SRS) makes difficult cards reappear at higher rates until you’ve adequately retained their contents.
Basically, SRS forces you to review the cards that you struggle with the most but lets you skim (and ultimately skip) the cards you already know.
It’s an innovative system with quality results, and a cinch to use.
Memrise, too, uses an SRS-based system, only with a lot more pizazz.
Flashcards cater to an immense scope of levels and subjects, from katakana and Japanese counters to JLPT N1 vocabulary.
You can even search for flashcard decks based on well-known textbook series, such as 「げんき」 (“Genki”) and 「日本語総まとめ」 (にほんご そう まとめ — “Japanese Roundup”).
With Memrise, you must choose or type the correct meaning of a kanji or vocabulary word, while with Anki you must perform everything mentally before clicking a button to reveal the answer.
The two websites are comparable, but Memrise might better serve the needs of beginners and casual learners due to its more interactive, game-like approach.
Created by famed Japanese-culture website Tofugu, WaniKani strives to teach Japanese learners 2,000 kanji and 6,000 vocabulary words in a little more than a year.
Specifically targeting beginners, WaniKani uses SRS and employs a slightly rigid learning structure, starting with elementary-level kanji, radicals and vocabulary.
It also supplies entertaining mnemonic devices to help you recall the meanings and readings of kanji.
With three written systems, the Japanese language probably has you flipping back and forth between all of them just to get proper translations and pronunciations.
The dictionary website Jisho is there to make this process much more convenient.
You can search for words and short phrases in English, romaji or any form of Japanese text.
For any word, you get its corresponding kanji (with furigana transliterations and character stroke count), alternate written forms, definition, inflections and its rated JLPT level.
Besides all that information, Jisho may even provide audio pronunciations and example sentences, all to give you a much more comprehensive understanding of a given word.
This incredibly helpful website is a personal favorite of mine, and a must-have for any learner regardless of your level.
Best Japanese Grammar Learning Websites
Ah, Japanese grammar. Sometimes you totally get it, and sometimes it’s like smashing your head against a brick wall.
Whenever you’re feeling puzzled, the following websites are here to ameliorate your suffering.
16. Maggie Sensei
Maggie Sensei thoroughly answers any and all questions you have about Japanese grammar and uses adorable images of cats and dogs to do so.
The incredibly detailed grammar explanations are straightforward and easily comprehensible, with each entry including numerous example sentences, romaji, English translations and robust commentary.
Despite the website’s somewhat lackluster layout, the content is, for the most part, well-organized and readily accessible. You can use the search bar to locate specific grammar patterns or click on categories, such as “Grammar” or “Expressions” to access lists of thematically linked articles.
17. Tae Kim’s Japanese Grammar Guide
If you’d rather study grammar using a more structured format, Tae Kim’s Japanese Grammar Guide (also available as a PDF) is a neatly organized resource for beginner and intermediate learners.
It’s an extensive compilation of fundamental grammar patterns, addressing everything from how to use ～ます (polite verb suffix) and ～です (polite copula meaning “to be”), to how to conjugate causative and passive verbs.
Some people have criticized the guide for being overly simplistic though, so you might be better off using it to review grammar rather than to learn it from scratch.
Wasabi is a Japanese tutor platform that posts a lot of super helpful (and free) learning resources on its main website. One of them is a rather extensive Japanese grammar reference guide.
The guide teaches you the essentials of beginner to advanced grammatical concepts, including parts of speech, modality, particles and sentence patterns. Plus, the explanations are quite detailed and provide a number of example phrases to show the concepts in action.
This is a great resource for building a more confident foundation in your understanding of Japanese grammar. The guide is organized in a sensible manner, so you can easily sweep through the lessons in order or choose specific ones.
Best Websites to Study for the JLPT
Slowly counting the days until your dreaded hours-long test? Here are two websites that’ll boost your JLPT confidence.
19. JLPT Study Page
The JLPT Study Page presents a tidy collection of kanji, vocabulary, grammar, readings and listening exercises from old (pre-2010) JLPT examinations.
Although extensive, the free website doesn’t include any N1 content and is disproportionately beneficial to N4 and N5 takers.
In other words, the N4 and N5 study pages have amassed an impressive number of listening exercises and Japanese grammar lists, whereas the N2 and N3 pages offer markedly fewer learning materials.
All in all, though, it’s a well-rounded resource, particularly for those who are new to the JLPT.
20. JGram: The Japanese Grammar Database
JGram is a convenient accumulation of common JLPT grammar points. The website projects a communal and cooperative atmosphere by permitting users to check, verify and comment on grammar entries.
In contrast with the JLPT Study Page, JGram sustains a notably comprehensive list of N1- and N2-level grammar patterns.
A nifty resource for all JLPT takers, patterns are arranged alphabetically in romaji, and each entry contains a definition and example sentences with accompanying English translations.
21. JLPT Sensei
This website works as an extensive database that discusses expected JLPT grammar, kanji and vocabulary. It’s a great place to review material and gauge what you need to study.
There’s content available for all levels—from N5 to N1—and is presented in list format, although you can also download and print out pre-made flashcards.
The website also offers example practice tests, formatted to be similar to the real exam, so you can assess your skills and check for weak spots.
Finally, if you become a Patreon member for the website, you can get unlimited access to study guides, e-books and flashcards.
JPDrills is crafted for those who want to regularly review their current Japanese skillset.
Once you make a free account, you get instant access to a library of questions and formatted quizzes for levels N5 to N1, with answer explanations to boost your understanding.
Based on your practice set performance, you’re also given assessment scores that measure your readiness level for the JLPT. You can even set controls so you’re quizzed on the types of questions that require the most practice.
Best Entertainment-centered Websites for Japanese Practice
While educational websites should make up the core of your browsing, it’s also a great idea to occasionally put your Japanese skills to the test with entertainment resources.
Here are a few websites where you can add a fun and engaging twist to your studies.
AbemaTV is a popular streaming website used by Japanese natives and works much like an online television. However, most of its services are also accessible to viewers abroad.
There’s a variety of channels you can watch at scheduled times and available content includes news reports, sports events, plenty of anime and more.
Best of all, you can take your pick of what to watch based on what you want to practice. Or, of course, just watch whatever you’d like!
But keep in mind that this website caters to native speakers, so you won’t get much hand-holding.
24. Rakuten Viki
If you’re a professional binge-watcher and haven’t yet heard of Viki, then it’s high time you check it out!
This website is a popular streaming hub for Asian-based entertainment and its catalog has plenty of Japanese TV series and films spanning all kinds of genres. From lovey-dovey rom-coms to serious action flicks, you can scroll through and take your time finding the media that interest you most.
Since Viki does provide multilingual subtitles, learners of all levels can comfortably enjoy the content while still having the opportunity to work on their skills.
As for pricing, Viki can be used with a free account and the catalog does get updated at times, but paying for a pass can give you access to more entertainment that isn’t typically offered.
If you love comics and manga, then ComicWalker can be a perfect training space for your Japanese reading skills—the awesome illustrations will make your practice all the more exhilarating.
This website lets you legally read (for free!) a plethora of manga series, all of which have been published by KADOKAWA, a Japanese media company that manages all kinds of entertainment.
The catalog is vast, so don’t feel pressured to find the perfect manga on your first go. Instead, try skipping around to immerse yourself in the different stories and genres. I’m willing to bet you’ll get engrossed in at least a few series!
Most of the manga seems to appeal to at least the teen demographic, so this website will most likely be comfortable for intermediate to advanced learners. However, an English version is also available, so you can switch over to that if you’d like to compare translations!
Best Websites for Questions and Discussions about Japanese Learning
Sometimes, it’s nice to take a break from studying. Feel free to browse the following sites when you need some outside support.
26. Learn Japanese Subreddit
On the Learn Japanese Subreddit, you can pose and answer questions, as well as initiate discussions on relevant topics, such as grammar patterns, study plans or learning methods.
The active subreddit also hosts a weekly Q&A event called シツモンデー (Shitsumonday), a play on the Japanese word 質問 (しつもん — question) and the English word “Monday.”
Even if you’re not a die-hard fan of Reddit, consider making this a go-to website whenever you’re craving answers or looking to interact with others in the same boat as you.
27. Japanese Language Stack Exchange
In some ways, Japanese Language Stack Exchange is like a more highbrow version of the Learn Japanese Subreddit.
Catering to teachers, students and linguists, Stack Exchange engages users via in-depth discussions on the more nuanced and complex characteristics of the Japanese language.
As many discussions center on minute grammatical and linguistic differences, Stack Exchange is perhaps best suited for upper-intermediate and advanced learners, though anyone can ask questions.
28. Japan Reference
As stated proudly on its front page, this website is for “all things Japanese.”
It houses news, blog posts, community forums and more, all of which you can access once you register with a free account.
For your learning purposes, you can take advantage of its active “Learning Japanese” forum, which has users (both students and fluent speakers) providing all kinds of queries and answers related to the language. It’s all very casual and free-flowing, so you can join or start conversations with ease.
However, you should also check out everything else the website offers and join discussions when available. Whether you’re interested in the latest hot topic news from Japan or are curious about its culture, you can hop into a thread and start chatting.
How Can I Learn Japanese Fast Online: 5 Tips for Using Japanese Websites
To make the best use of Japanese websites, you should be somewhat strategic in your approach. So with the above sites bookmarked, let’s dive into a few tips.
Take physical notes
As great as the digital medium is, there’s an undeniable barrier marked by your device screen.
To make the information you read from websites stick even better in your head, you should manually write down notes either on your computer or with pencil and paper.
The act of taking notes can amplify your Japanese learning process since you’re being more active than just letting your eyes rove over a screen. Feel free to add drawings, charts and any other visuals to spice things up!
And if a website provides resources like worksheets or quizzes, consider printing them out and keeping physical copies of them as well.
Use your voice
A potential pitfall that comes with self-studying is the lack of speaking opportunities. Since you most likely want to be able to speak, and not just read or write, then you have to talk at some point!
Repeat or read out loud from whatever content is available on the Japanese websites you use. Whether you want to mimic an audio clip or vocalize a written phrase, make sure your studies aren’t 100% silent and put your vocal cords to work!
And don’t just murmur under your breath, either! Speak at the volume you’d use if you were speaking with a native Japanese speaker.
Mix and match
Different websites have different strengths. Some websites are excellent at presenting information. Others may have more content. Others may simply look better with more comfortable interfaces.
Don’t just stick to learning Japanese from one or two websites. Branch out and explore your many options, and focus on the ones that appeal to you in any way.
In this manner, you’ll get a much more engaging and varied learning experience.
Make a schedule
Being consistent with your studies is absolutely critical. Because you’ll be learning with websites on your device, it’s even more important that you know when to separate your casual web browsing from your study sessions.
As such, I recommend you plan out what times or days you’d like to dedicate to learning Japanese. And be mindful of how many minutes or hours you want to spend solely on your lessons.
Be mindful of learner level
While many Japanese websites can cater to most levels, others may be best suited for beginner, intermediate or advanced learners.
Be sure that you mostly utilize websites that accommodate your level.
While it’s great to want a challenge, you may find your studies frustrating if you use websites that are too advanced in content. On the other hand, websites that feature overly easy content won’t really boost your language progress and will probably bore you.
If you don’t know what Japanese level you have, just search for assessment or proficiency tests online.
These days, with the internet almost always at our fingertips, studying Japanese encompasses much more than just sitting down and cracking open a textbook. It’s about content customization, pinpointing your weaknesses, commiserating with others and, yes, having a heck of a lot of fun.
And you can do all of this with these awesome websites to learn Japanese, most of the time without paying even a cent.
So get online, find a website you like and, for heaven’s sake, bookmark it!
Hannah Muniz is a freelance writer based in Michigan. She enjoys Japanese literature and travel.
And One More Thing…
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