YouTube is good for so much more than quick fame and/or embarrassment.
You can use YouTube to tickle your funny bone.
You can use it to master a delicious recipe.
You can even use it try to master the latest viral challenge (just be sure to pre-book your doctor’s visit).
But perhaps one of the best uses of YouTube is to teach yourself Japanese.
That’s because YouTube is a treasure trove of Japanese language learning resources. These 15 great YouTube channels will help you learn Japanese at any level or even start learning the basics from scratch and work your way toward fluency!
Why Use YouTube Videos to Learn Japanese?
Using YouTube to learn Japanese is an idea you’ll wish you’d had sooner. Here are just a few reasons why everyone’s favorite cat-vid platform is also the perfect Japanese learning tool:
- Learning Japanese with YouTube is free. A lot of language learning materials can get pricey, but YouTube is free to use, so it’s perfect as a low-budget learning method or for testing the waters to see if you want to learn more Japanese down the road.
- Japanese learning videos on YouTube are also great supplemental resources. Not only is YouTube free, but the videos also offer specific, targeted lessons that can perfectly supplement any other learning resources you’re using.
- Learning Japanese on YouTube also offers content for any level of language learner. YouTube creators are eager to drive traffic to their videos, so they provide useful content for a broad range of skill sets. That means that you can learn Japanese on YouTube whether you’re just starting out or nearly fluent.
- Finally, Japanese learning videos on YouTube offer content for virtually any learning need. Videos cover nearly any topic you could imagine. This means that you’ll probably be able to find a video to meet any of your learning needs, whether you need to practice your listening skills, to work on certain vocabulary or to learn more about a specific grammar rule.
How to Select the Right Japanese YouTube Channel to Meet Your Learning Needs
Consider your level.
Knowing your level can help you choose the right YouTube channel for you. Some channels focus exclusively on beginning learners, while others target more advanced levels. Some channels even aim to help beginners develop skills to take you all the way to the more advanced levels using a structured video lesson format.
Ideally, you should find a channel that’s perfect for your level—a little challenging, but not too much so. Choosing a channel well past your current skills may make it feel like you’re in over your head and overwhelm you. On the other hand, choosing a channel that posts mostly videos below your skill level won’t lead to the progress you crave.
Consider your goals.
What do you want to accomplish by learning Japanese on YouTube? What skills do you want to improve? How quickly do you want to progress? To find the perfect channel, you’ll need to ensure the videos match your goals.
For instance, if you want to improve your listening skills, a channel that uploads exclusively vocabulary lists probably won’t be as effective as one that posts listening activities.
Know your weaknesses.
Only by knowing your weaknesses can you resolve them. Knowing your Japanese weak points can help you decide what you need to work on which, in turn, can help you find a channel that addresses your needs.
Assess each channel’s strengths and weaknesses.
Just like language learners, each channel has strengths and weaknesses. When you’re considering using a channel to learn Japanese, assessing the channel can help you decide if it’s right for you.
For instance, how’s the video quality? How frequently does the channel upload new videos? What does the channel do best? What areas could it improve in? You might be willing to compromise on some aspects (like boring visuals) but not others (like boring explanations).
Learn Japanese with YouTube: 15 Channels for Beginners and Beyond
Japan Society is an organization dedicated to promoting mutual understanding with Japan. As part of this project, it offers a terrific YouTube channel with tons of free videos.
Videos cover news, art, culture and, of course, the Japanese language. With such a wide selection of materials, this channel provides a great way to improve your understanding of Japan while you learn the language.
For beginning students, Japan Society’s “Learn to read and write Hiragana!” playlist is a useful way to master Japanese characters. The videos pronounce each character, show brush stroke order and share words that use each character.
FluentU Japanese is an awesome YouTube channel with dozens of short videos that provide valuable lessons for beginners.
There’s something for everyone: Some videos offer vocabulary, others focus on grammar and some feature realistic dialogues. For instance, even beginning students can start learning with easy dialogues, like “Simple Dialogs II 7 2.”
For even more powerful video-based learning, you might also try using the FluentU program. FluentU takes real-world videos—like news, informational talks, music videos, movie trailers and more—and transforms them into powerful learning tools.
Each video includes interactive captions so you can access any word’s definition and some example sentences with a simple click (or tap). Want to study the word further at a later time? Just add it to your vocabulary list.
When you want to change things up, the adaptive quizzes, which fuse videos, images and example sentences into activities and flashcards for a fun and engaging learning experience.
Plus, FluentU can grow with you from the time you’re just starting out learning Japanese until you’re nearly fluent. That’s because FluentU’s algorithm tracks your learning to present you with questions based on what you already know. You select what you watch and how quickly and FluentU tracks your progress to be your companion in learning.
Seiko Center offers Japanese learning materials in both English and Khmer, so if you happen to be more comfortable with Khmer than English, it’s hard to beat this channel.
However, even if you prefer learning Japanese through English instruction, Seiko Center still has a lot to offer. The channel features over 40 vocabulary lessons and several dialogues to start beginners on the right track.
For instance, “Japanese Conversation Dialogue 1” provides a realistic beginner-level interaction with clear audio. Plus, dialogue bubbles pop up to show you what each speaker is saying in Japanese text, romanized Japanese and English, making it easy to follow along.
JapanesePod101 has a vast and diverse set of Japanese learning videos on YouTube.
Whether you’re a complete beginner or very advanced, you’re likely to find at least a few videos on JapanesePod101 that’ll help you improve your skills. Videos cover grammar, vocabulary, learning tips and more.
Many of the videos are quite unique and innovative. For instance, “11 Most Popular Japanese Movie Quotes” is a fun way to reinforce vocabulary and grammar rules by taking a closer look at popular movie quotes. And if it makes you want to watch a bunch of Japanese movies afterward, that’s just a pleasant side effect.
Another useful video is “Don’t Mistake These Japanese Body Gestures!” This can help you learn some non-verbal aspects of Japanese communication.
If you love what you see on YouTube, you might consider clicking over to JapanesePod101’s website, where you’ll find more useful video lessons as well as audio, writing practice tools, detailed lesson notes and much more.
Kendra’s Language School is a channel that offers language learning videos for several different languages, including Japanese.
Beginners looking for a quick crash course will enjoy the channel’s “Learn Japanese for English Speakers” playlist, which features common vocabulary, survival phrases, travel terms and easy listening practice.
If you’re studying Japanese for an upcoming trip, this playlist can be a convenient way to get some basic skills, quickly.
Does your Japanese vocabulary need a little expanding? If so, Easy2LearnJapanese is a great YouTube channel to meet your needs.
This channel focuses almost entirely on vocabulary videos. Most videos are appropriate for beginner-level Japanese students, though a few are targeted at intermediate level learners. Luckily, you can often tell which level the video will be since many videos are labeled with the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) numbers, from N5 (beginner) to N1 (advanced).
For instance, complete beginners might enjoy “Study JLPT N5 Vocabulary 1-100,” which teaches some of the most common, basic vocabulary in the Japanese language.
Benjiro offers primarily long-form listening activities for beginners, which is a very rare find. Each video features a conversation entirely in Japanese.
The Japanese used is generally simplified and very slow to make it easier for beginners to understand. Additionally, vocabulary and translations frequently appear on screen during the videos to help you along. Perhaps best of all, you can click links in the video description to access a corresponding vocabulary list.
Plus, speakers in the videos often tutor on italki, so if you find one you like, you might be able to book a lesson with them. And hey, even if you don’t discover your next Japanese tutor here, italki has over 10,000 language tutors with flexible hours and rates, so you’re sure to find a one-on-one tutor who can provide the language learning you need.
Early beginners might enjoy “Mikiさん,” in which the speakers have a conversation using basic vocabulary.
Learn Japanese from Zero! has plenty to offer beginning Japanese students, including vocabulary videos, grammar videos, vlogs and more.
These videos offer a more fun and engaging style than many other learning methods, so they sometimes feel more like talk shows than learning resources. But don’t be fooled! The videos on this channel are still powerful learning tools.
For instance, beginners may enjoy “Are some Japanese words from English – Ask a Teacher #101,” which is a great way to learn some Japanese vocabulary that you might not realize you’re already familiar with.
Want to improve your Japanese listening skills by watching a movie subtitled in English? NHK World has you covered.
Need to get some listening practice for the JLPT? NHK World can hook up beginning through intermediate students.
Want to learn some basic vocabulary? Yeah, NHK World has that, too.
NHK World has a diverse array of resources. While the channel may not have as many videos as some other resources, the videos available are quite varied so you can enjoy multiple different approaches to the language.
For instance, the channel offers language shadowing in videos like “Japanese Listening (N5-N4-N3) – Shadowing let’s speak Japanese beginner to intermediate.” Just listen and attempt to repeat what you hear!
Story in Japanese provides a fun new approach to studying Japanese. The videos are animated stories with audio in Japanese.
Since there are only auto-generated subtitles (which are fairly unreliable), this channel isn’t a great option for complete beginners. However, with some basic vocabulary, more advanced beginners may be able to follow the stories. Plus, the animations make it easier to read into the context.
Japanese students can enjoy videos like “三匹のくま” (“Three Bears”), which tells the familiar story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”
Whether you want a more formal lesson or simply want to pick up some new words or phrases, Dr. Katy for Japanese has some helpful videos for you.
Lessons like “April 26, 2016 Periscope Japanese Lesson: Verb conjugation” are formatted a lot like in-person instruction, complete with a whiteboard to show you examples.
Vocabulary-oriented videos, like “日本語 Learn 10 Japanese Phrases in a Week: WEEK 7,” offer slow, clear audio to help nail down the pronunciation.
Plus, you’ll see phrases in Japanese, romanized Japanese, English and Spanish, so you can read along using whatever text best helps you learn.
Regardless of your current level, Free Japanese Lessons has videos that’ll suit your unique needs.
Like some other channels, Free Japanese Lessons lists the JLPT level for most videos. If you’re just starting out, look for N5 level videos, like the “N5 Basic Conversation” playlist, which covers basic conversation points, like introducing yourself and asking simple questions. All the audio is in Japanese, which is terrific for a more immersive experience.
However, beginning students don’t need to be afraid! The text appears on the screen in Japanese to allow you to read along, and an English translation is also provided for each phrase.
And since Free Japanese Lessons offers videos at the N5 through N1 levels, you can continue to use this channel as your skills grow!
Japanese with Hanako is another wonderful channel you can keep enjoying from the time you start learning Japanese straight through until you reach an advanced level.
The channel offers over 100 videos covering grammar, pronunciation, culture, listening and more.
Some of the channel’s most engaging videos offer listening practice while discussing culture.
For instance, in “日本の高校の校則 School rule at Japanese high school,” Hanako shares common school rules. While the discussion is in entirely Japanese, key phrases and vocabulary words are translated into English. Plus, Hanako uses plenty of gestures to give viewers more context.
Japanization is run by a native Japanese speaker who shares travel videos, vlogs about daily life and Japanese lessons. While the vlogs and travel videos are better for more advanced speakers, there are plenty of lessons that are perfect for beginning learners.
The Japanese lessons for beginners on this channel help introduce learners to grammar, vocabulary and conversation.
Vocabulary videos are usually organized by part of speech, so it’s easy to study specific types of words with videos like “Basic Japanese Language Lesson#1,” which focuses on a few common verbs. Vocabulary videos share the vocabulary word and then use it in an example to reinforce it.
Conversation lessons focus more on specific scenarios, so these can be handy videos to prepare for a trip to Japan.
“Basic Expressions at Convenience Store,” for instance, presents an interaction that you might experience if you shop at a convenience store in Japan, giving you some useful vocabulary and phrases. The dialogue appears in both Japanese and English to make it easier to follow and study.
Want a dose of comedy with your Japanese education? You’ll love Dogen. His unique mixture of deadpan humor and useful content make it easy to watch these terrific videos.
Dogen’s Japanese Phonetics series is perfect for beginning learners looking to get a strong base or more advanced students looking to finally perfect their pronunciation. Just start with “Japanese Phonetics #1” to get the ball rolling!
The channel also offers a lot of discussions, which are at a more advanced level. However, since the videos are captioned in English, beginning and intermediate students can still give them a try to see how much they can understand.
For instance, you might not know a lot of the vocabulary in “Advanced Japanese Lesson #85: Common mistakes and cultural taboos,” but it’s still a great video to help expose students to spoken Japanese while teaching them about Japanese culture (and the incomparable Mr. Yabatan).
Learn Japanese with these 15 YouTube channels to take your language skills to the next level—whether that’s basic proficiency or full fluency!
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