YouTube is only getting bigger.
This means that videos of adorable kittens in peculiar predicaments are on the rise.
It also means that there are always more resources to take advantage of on your Japanese journey.
Are you using this powerful language-learning tool to its fullest potential?
The suggestions below are valuable for all levels of Japanese learners, from complete beginner to very advanced, and they’re certain to have you looking forward to sinking your teeth into Japanese and staying up too late on a Wednesday immersing yourself in the language.
Plus, you’ll learn from native speakers who are as interesting as they are informative, guaranteeing your time cruising YouTube will be well spent.
To get the absolute most out of YouTube, you can check out FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Get ready to meet your new Japanese friends.
The 6 YouTube Channels You Need to Finally Learn Japanese
Bilingirl Chika is someone who knows exactly what’s up when it comes to acquiring another language, and she does not disappoint when it comes to content that’s engaging and informative. Originally, this channel was intended for Japanese people looking to learn English, but it’s an excellent resource for Japanese learners, as well, and she has a second channel that caters to English speakers.
Check out Japanagos for a beginner course, but don’t fret about moving on to her main channel, either. Almost everything she says in Japanese is subtitled, meaning that you don’t have to waste your time hearing the English you already know to get to the juicy bits of language learning. She’s also got some great tips for traveling and all kinds of cultural insights for you to enjoy.
A lot of the videos are at least half in Japanese, and listening to her speak will most definitely improve your pronunciation and rhythm. Plus, she releases videos all the time. With over 480 episodes, you’ll not run out of things to watch on her channel, which is actually kind of scary to consider.
As much of her content is geared towards Japanese viewers, she won’t hold your hand with her pacing and word choice, which is exactly the recipe you need to become bilingual yourself. Now, maybe some of you would like to hold hands with her, but to those people I say, “Chill out, fam. She’s married.”
Chiaki will walk you through the lovely corridors of basic Japanese, offering a quick course that can help you with simple questions and answers. Then, you can follow her around England and get a novel perspective on living abroad as a Japanese person from someone who’s actually doing it.
Having someone explain to Japanese people in Japanese what you will most inevitably have to explain to Japanese people in Japanese at some point if you’re in Japan for any extended period of time can prove to be extraordinarily useful (and less convoluted than it sounds).
In my experience, Japanese people are very curious about how people from other cultures go about daily life, and you’ll have a leg up on talking about this by learning from Chiaki before you make your journey. There aren’t lots of subtitles for her videos when it comes to life abroad, but this is a great opportunity to practice your listening comprehension. She also has some beauty and fashion videos for your viewing and preening pleasure.
Ah, Tomoko—so nice, they made you unnecessarily say her name twice! She has a variety of videos giving you direct, concise instruction on simple Japanese that you can immediately apply to your daily life. And then she also gives you the much-needed crash course on Osaka-dialect that will make watching Japanese TV that much easier, as many comedians are from the Kansai area and speak in this way.
Now you won’t have to awkwardly smile along while everyone else guffaws at Sanma-san’s antics—you can knee-slap with the best of them, and also make your Kanto friends giggle and love you voraciously. Tomoko won’t bore you, either. The best part about her channel is that she takes you out into the world for lessons, so you’ll know not only what to say but how and when to say it appropriately.
Miss Reina is indeed comical, and part of the fun of watching her tutorials on the language is seeing her goofiness ooze through the polite teacher facade she adopts only for the explicit instruction of Japanese. And I mean explicit, too.
If you’ve ever considered throwing some dirt on those strait-laced sentences they give in textbooks, this is a great place to start. She also covers the differences in male and female speech, which intermediate and advanced learners can find good use for. Many of her videos contain lessons with her son, and if you like a good cute-crazy combo, you’ll find plenty of that here.
This guy’s channel is mostly really interesting interviews with random Japanese people he meets on the street, all of which have a translation below. What’s great about this one, though, is the Japanese course section he sends to you when you subscribe to his mailing list. You can focus on absorbing the quirkiness of Japanese people responding to questions about anime and dating. A few hours with Yuta and you’ll have a solid idea of what the cultural norms are in Japan. If you’d like some practice asking native speakers more challenging questions, this is a channel you don’t want to miss.
My last suggestion is, in fact, not YouTube. But YouTube by any other name would still be as free. And this is super free and even better than YouTube if you’re looking to brush up on your high school math or world history while studying Japanese.
These 高校講座 (こうこう こうざ — high school course) videos are the learning material you never knew you wanted. Sponsored by NHK, these courses cover every major subject for the Japanese high school curriculum. You can take high school level Japanese classes or learn some biology. How about checking out a quick English video to remember the pain of formal language education?
While you do have to know a few kanji to navigate the site well, that shouldn’t stop you from randomly clicking buttons and seeing where it takes you. You owe it to yourself to see how deep the NHK hole goes. They’ve even arranged a free PDF download of course notes from the videos that you can print out and study on your own time or follow along with while the lesson is in session.
No matter who you are, you’re going to learn something you didn’t know if you investigate this site long enough. Did I mention they also give you access to quick quizzes to check your comprehension? If you’re in the mood for more structured study, and you also have a healthy curiosity, this site will be your bible.
The Japanese history section is also a goldmine for gaining a more thorough comprehension of the language and culture. It will walk you through the milestones in history without you needing to scour Wikipedia for hours. The pot only sweetens when I tell you that there are no commercials or advertisements in any of the videos. If that doesn’t have you freaking out about this source, then I don’t know what will.
Fear not, my fellow Japanese learners, we never have to go back to those boring textbooks again.
With YouTube and friends, you have all the resources you need right at your fingertips.
When Victor isn’t attempting to save the world from monotonous Japanese textbooks, he’s writing a comedy blog full of failed super-villains and the misguided musings trolling his mind. Check him out here.
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