Are you in a weird limbo stage somewhere near Japanese fluency?
Are you still just beginning when you thought you’d be much farther along by now?
Well, why isn’t your Japanese fluent yet?
We’ve all imagined becoming fluent in another language.
But there are just so many questions that need answering when you’re not yet fluent.
How often do you imagine yourself surrounded by a group of friends in Tokyo, all chatting about your upcoming trip to Kyoto?
How hard would it be to make all your dreams into a reality?
Oftentimes we don’t have the resources available to properly study another language. Busy lifestyles, work and school can prevent any language learner from properly studying. That’s why in this article we’ll learn how to use one of the biggest resources available (the internet) and use it to master Japanese.
You’ve already chosen some great tech-based tools for learning Japanese, so now we can really focus on how to use them effectively.
Whether you only have twenty minutes (or no minutes) to spare in your day, using some of the steps below will jump start you on the path towards fluency.
Online Japanese Resource for 6 Types of Learners
1. For Learners Who Love to Chat
Join a Community
Getting support from peers or striking up a conversation with native Japanese speakers will not only motivate you to continue learning Japanese, but it’ll strengthen your Japanese abilities as well — 一石二鳥 (いっせきにちょう – two birds with one stone)!
There are many online forums you can join, like Japan Reference. Why not join a forum with only Japanese users?
Tip: Make sure not to fall in the habit of only using English within these communities. Even if it’s for five minutes use Japanese too!
Make a Second Identity
Put everything on pause. Think of the social networks you frequently use (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr). Now go to those websites, ignore your newsfeed, sign out and register a new account. Use this account to tweet and blog in Japanese and only in Japanese.
Tip: Be sure to sync your new accounts with your phone so you can update about how cute senpai is when you’re on the go.
Find a Tutor or Language Partner
Skype communities are a great way to find Japanese speakers to interact with from all over the world.
If you’d like a structured lesson, seek a personal tutor. CafeTalk offers grammar, conversation and even cooking and art lessons from the tutors of your choice.
With Verbling, which is perhaps the biggest and most reputable website for finding online tutors, you’ll be able to explore hundreds upon hundreds of Japanese tutors and find exactly the one who’s right for you.
When you search Verbling, you’ll get to search based on prices, availability and even the other languages they speak—so if your native language is Chinese or German, you can find a Japanese teacher to teach you in that language. Plus, the technology here makes accessing tutoring sessions extra smooth! You don’t need Skype or another third-party program. Click here to see who's available on Verbling now!
Find someone who makes you comfortable! You should enjoy speaking a language, not feel pressured to make zero mistakes. If you’re nervous about chatting in another language, try preparing questions and answers about topics you’d like to discuss like movies, travel, games, food, hobbies and interests, or anything else your heart desires.
Tip: Try spicing things up by finding a tutor who will teach you a hobby (art, cooking, dance) lesson in the language you’re studying! You’ll be practicing new words while being immersed in situations you may not experience on a daily basis.
2. For Busy Learners with Zero Free Time
You’re a busy person and so your focus should be on multitasking or using resources that don’t require a lot of time. Think microblogging and podcasts.
Now you have a reason to tweet about what you had for lunch, or that it’s almost time to watch another episode of “Doctor-X.” Twitter is a great way to recap daily events, share your thoughts and feelings or write updates about an event. Since you’re limited to 140 characters, you won’t feel pressured to write a novel.
Tip: Check out some Japanese Twitter lingo to use and make sure to update your account regularly!
Podcasts are a great thing to bring with you when you’re spending time in traffic, on a yoga mat or doing errands. Just plug in your headphones and you’re set!
If you can get past the lengthy introductions and few off-topic rambles, then LearnJapanesePod is a great resource that offers grammar points that’ll help you sound like a native speaker. JapanCast is another great resource. JapanesePod101 is a really popular website that offers hundreds of podcasts and content for beginners to intermediate learners.
Here’s looking to all you fan girls and boys out there. A lot of popular manga get drama CD adaptations. They’re a lot of fun to listen to and, since you’re hearing a professional voice actor, words are clear and never mumbled.
Tip: If you’re willing to dish out the cash for a Japanese iTunes gift certificate, then you’ll be able to access hundreds of free (and paid) Japanese podcast series.
3. For Learners with Too Much Free Time
You’ve got a lot of time on your hands. You’re reading this article between NicoNico breaks. You want to learn Japanese, but learning material is often boring and not worth the investment. Try interactive programs with spaced repetition so your brain stays engaged, and your memory refreshed.
InFluent is relatively new, but it’s a great program for beginners or those wishing to expand their vocabulary. Learn over 400 nouns, adjectives and verbs while you navigate through a virtual world. If you’re into gaming as a method to study then try searching for Japanese MMORPGs and fully immerse yourself in the language.
WaniKani is an online kanji learning application that uses SRS (spaced repetition system) to teach its users kanji. The application will teach you all there is to know about kanji characters and their radicals, while still maintaining simplicity for the most effective learning experience. Check out even more great Japanese learning apps here.
YouTube is a great resource for anyone wanting to learn another language. The Japan Society releases quick and super easy-to-follow grammar guides that are excellent for beginners. Yes Japan will also deliver useful grammar that textbooks may not introduce in the span of about five minutes.
For intermediate and advanced learners, look for Japanese vloggers (I can’t get enough of cooking vlogs these days), short films and even advertisements to learn more about pop culture and everyday lingo.
Tip: Create a YouTube playlist and listen to Japanese audio while you’re browsing the internet. You’ll become more familiar with pronunciation and intonation through immersion.
The diversity of content means you’ll be exposed to all kind of Japanese language. Seriously, you’ll find videos covering everything from modern Japanese history to oral hygiene how-to’s and Pokémon cinematic trailers.
FluentU offers a broad range of contemporary videos—just take a look at one small sample:
There’s something for everyone’s skill level, learning preference and personal interests.
You’ll get reading practice too, as every video is subtitled. FluentU makes these native Japanese videos approachable through interactive captions. While you watch your chosen videos, you can hover your cursor over the interactive subtitles at any time to view on-screen definitions and usage examples.
All definitions have multiple in-context usage examples, and they’re written for Japanese learners like you. You’ll also find audio pronunciations, synonyms, helpful images and more. Tap again to add words you’d like to review later to your running vocab list.
Tip: Click on subtitled words in videos to see how they’re used in various contexts throughout the website’s Japanese video collection. This will expose you to lots of new Japanese vocabulary words as well as their various uses!
And that’s not all. FluentU’s learn mode lets you learn Japanese even better by turning your selected videos into personalized language lessons. You’ll go through exercises that show the video clips as the prompts, multimedia flashcards, quizzes and fun activities like “fill in the blank.”
The best part?
Every time you use FluentU, the site keeps track of the grammar and vocab you’ve learned and the words you struggle with, personalizing video suggestions and learning sessions based on your unique set of knowledge.
It’ll then recommend the natural next step in the progression of your learning. You’re delivered a 100% personalized experience.
4. For the Future Expat Moving to Japan
First of all, give yourself a pat on the back. You’re about to move to another country and learn how to communicate with native speakers. Remember: you got this, and you’ll be speaking like a pro in no time.
Brought to you by the Japan Foundation (those guys who proctor the JLPT), Erin’s Challenge is made up of mini lessons, each of which contains a video, key phrases and interactive quizzes for beginner and lower-intermediate students. The lessons focus on teaching new vocabulary and grammar while reenacting common situations that you’ll come across during your time in Japan.
Tutors and Language Partners
You’re about to relocate to Japan, for crying out loud! The more you start using a language, the more you can talk without thinking of conjugation, phrases and other grammar details. Cafe Talk and italki offer professional and/or laid back lessons from native Japanese speakers around the world.
If you’re on a budget (hey, moving to Japan costs money!) then be sure to join a Skype community where you can instant message or video chat with friendly faces from around the globe for free.
5. For Grammar Geniuses
Your focus is on grammar. You want to get all the details absolutely perfect. You’ve already got a ton of vocabulary under your belt and want to stitch it together to fill conversations with poetry — or to just construct a grammatically correct sentence in conversation for once.
I’ve said it once before and I’ll say it again, Lang-8 is a gift from the heavens. Write as little or as much as you’d like in Japanese and receive corrections (or comments) from native speakers. This is a great way to put new and old grammar to use. At the same time, you’re connecting with other Japanese speakers who can provide insight into learning the language or culture.
Imabai isn’t the prettiest website on the internet, but never judge a book by its cover. Imabi has a range of grammar lessons, all organized into levels. If you’ve never attempted learning Japanese past romaji, or need to review grammar for the N1, then make sure to bookmark this website.
Shun your eyes from the romaji and focus on JLPT Bootcamp‘s (or JPLT BC) plentiful grammar resources for those planning to take any of the JLPT tests (or those of us who just want to learn new grammar — A は Bです [A is B] will only get us so far).
6. For Those Who Don’t Know Where to Start
It’s difficult to dive into a language without any outline or structure. If you’re asking yourself, “where do I go after learning basic phrases?” or “I know how to conjugate adjectives, now what?” then you’re not alone.
Try out some of these online courses that will help guide you from Point A to Point B.
Marugoto is a website that’s made by the Japan Foundation and is a great resource for beginners. Topics include an introduction to lifestyle and cultural vocabulary, with interactive videos and quizzes included. You can even download their textbooks to teach yourself more basic vocabulary and proper intonation.
Now that you feel a bit more acquainted with Japanese, why not try TextFugu (soon to be Eto-Eto). Written for humans, by humans, TextFugu is an online textbook that will guide you through learning Japanese. Since it’s from the creators of Tofugu (so you know it’ll be good), there’s a large community of learners to communicate with.
Although LinguaLift takes a slower, gentler approach to learning Japanese, beginners can appreciate well-constructed and insightful chapters that serve as a good introduction to Japanese. Perhaps its strongest point is its vocabulary drills and kanji features, which makes memorizing new words and kanji easy.
Despite encouraging hard work, patience and plenty of time spent practicing, rather than following some “secret” to learning instantly, this program can help you see result faster than many others—and it will keep you feeling positive along the way. Click here to try your first Lingualift lesson for free!
Now that you’ve got the resources to help you on your path towards fluency, go out and use them!
The internet is an every-expanding resource, so make sure to take advantage of everything it has to offer. Some of us might hit roadblocks while striving for Japanese fluency. If you’ve been focusing on listening, try studying something new like shadowing techniques.
The most important thing is to keep learning and keep exposing yourself to the Japanese language!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Japanese with real-world videos.