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Japanese is often seen as a difficult language for English speakers to learn. Just the fact that you have to learn a different writing system can be intimidating. But finding the right language resource can make learning easier. This guide shows you some of the best ways to learn Japanese available, no matter what your learning style or budget is.
With over 125 million speakers, Japanese is one of the most spoken languages in the world. It has the third largest economy and has considerable influence in the technology sector, especially in robotics. Learning Japanese can open doors professionally. It’s also a gateway language that can help you learn other Asiatic languages, such as Chinese or Korean.
How Long Will It Take You To Learn Japanese?
What is your current level?
What level do you want to reach?
How many hours will you study each day?
Table of Contents
Learning Japanese is all about practice, practice, practice. It’s best to establish a language learning routine and be consistent. Finding a resource that interests you can motivate you to continue to study. It’s also a good idea to use multiple tools for studying, to fill in any skill gaps. For example, using a book can be useful for learning Japanese characters, but a podcast or an online course is better for improving listening and understanding.
Language learning apps have many benefits. They’re a convenient and budget-friendly way to learn Japanese. There’s a wide variety of apps that focus on different skills and teach the language using different methods. There are tons of options out there, but some are better than others. The 3 apps below, Rocket Japanese, Mondly, and Pimsleur, are high-quality options that are easy to use and effective at helping you learn Japanese.
Rocket Japanese is a perfect option if you want to learn with an app that has a set lesson plan. The lessons are laid out in a logical order that will take you from beginner to intermediate. It’s a thorough course, so you’ll focus on all aspects of language learning, as well as learn about Japanese culture and how it affects the language. You can try Rocket Japanese for free for 7 days or read more about it in this review.
Mondly is a good choice for complete beginners. It uses cool technology and fast-paced lessons to teach the basics of Japanese. You can also track your progress and see how much you are learning. They even offer virtual reality lessons to make an interactive learning experience. Mondly has a 7-day free trial, and you can read more about it in this Mondly review.
Pimsleur focuses on speaking and pronunciation to get you conversational fast. The lessons are all audio-based so you can learn Japanese anywhere. Each lesson features a conversation between native Japanese speakers, and then they break it down so you learn what it means and how to say it. Pimsleur offers a 7-day free trial so you can see if it’s right for you. Or you can read more about it in this Pimsleur review.
Taking an online Japanese course is the best option for learners that prefer to have structure and guidance. Courses walk you through the learning process step-by-step. They follow a logical order, so it’s clear what you should study next and you don’t waste time figuring out what your next lesson will be. Japanese Uncovered, Skillshare, and Udemy all have courses that have been tested and reviewed by previous students so you know they are good.
With Japanese Uncovered, you learn Japanese through stories. During each unit, you listen to a chapter of the story and then take lessons that go in-depth into grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. There are currently 4 levels available to take you from complete beginner to upper-intermediate. You can try Japanese Uncovered for free for 7 days to see if this course is right for you.
Skillshare offers courses on a large number of subjects, and it’s a great platform to find language courses. While there are courses to learn Japanese grammar and vocabulary, the courses on hiragana and learning basic Japanese phrases are the most popular. Skillshare offers a 7-day free trial, so you can see if you like it before buying anything.
The Attain courses on the Udemy platform are incredibly popular and highly rated. They offer many different levels, from absolute beginner to N5-N1 courses. Each course has between 10-15 lessons and comes with a downloadable textbook that you work through alongside the video courses. You can watch a preview of the course and read past student reviews before you purchase. You can also read more about the platform in this overall Udemy review.
Once you reach a certain level of Japanese, practicing conversation will be very important. Depending on where you live, it might be difficult to find someone to practice Japanese with. Now, there are many platforms that have highly qualified Japanese tutors that can help you start speaking. Italki, Nihongo Online School, and My Lingo Trip are good places to start to find a teacher that fits your learning style.
Italki is a massive language learning platform that can connect you with a Japanese tutor that teaches online classes. There are currently hundreds of Japanese tutors that offer classes for a wide range of prices. You can search for a tutor based on criteria like what you want to learn, availability, and price. Most teachers offer a discounted trial lesson so you can see if they are a good match for you. You can also read more about the platform in this italki review.
Nihongo Online School is specifically for students learning Japanese. All teachers are qualified to teach Japanese and also speak English so you can take classes even if you are a beginner. It’s a comprehensive approach because you take online lessons via Skype, but also have homework between lessons to reinforce what you learned. You can take a free trial lesson, during which your teacher will assess your level and create a personalized curriculum for you.
My Lingo Trip is an online language school that only hires qualified teachers. You take 1-on-1 classes on Skype, and the teacher provides the curriculum and materials needed. The courses are flexible so you can take classes when you want, and study what you want to study. You can take a free trial lesson to see if you like the platform.
Books continue to be one of the best ways to learn Japanese. They are extensive and have everything you need to learn in one place. Thanks to platforms like Amazon, it’s now easy to see which books are the best and most effective for teaching a language. Genki, Minna no Nihongo, and Basic Kanji Book are excellent options to help you with different Japanese skills.
The Genki books are a series of textbooks that teach basic Japanese like you would learn in a traditional classroom. In fact, many Japanese teachers use this book in their classes. It introduces basic grammar and vocabulary and includes practice exercises. It’s also a good option if you’re studying for the JLP test. You can read more user reviews here and see if Genki is a good choice for you.
Minna no Nihongo is a comprehensive option. It’s entirely in Japanese, but you can purchase an additional grammar notes book that is available in many different languages so you can read the grammar explanations in your native language. Some reviewers don’t recommend this book for complete beginners because it throws you into the deep end by completely immersing you in Japanese, but some learners prefer this style. See what other reviewers had to say here.
The Basic Kanji Book is specifically for learning to read and write Kanji characters. You won’t learn any grammar or vocabulary, so it’s a good book to accompany one of the other two on this list. By the end of the book, you will have learned 250 Kanji characters. There are writing and reading exercises to help you remember and practice the characters. You can read other reviews and see if Basic Kanji Book is right for you here.
Using YouTube to learn a language is unconventional, but can be one of the most fun ways! Some YouTubers make educational videos as if you were in a Japanese classroom, and others focus more on the culture and daily life of Japan. It’s a great way to hear a native speaker and learn about Japanese culture at the same time. The channels below post videos that are both educational and entertaining.
Misa’s YouTube channel is full of useful and interesting short videos. She teaches specific pronunciation, must-know phrases, as well as a series of skits that show how different types of people speak. She has over 478,000 subscribers and posts a few new videos every month. Check out Japanese Ammo with Misa to hear how Japanese is spoken in everyday life.
Masa and Asami post videos where they speak in slow Japanese about everyday topics. I like the concept because they don’t resort to English to explain difficult words, but instead break it down into simpler Japanese words. It’s a great way for intermediate learners to train their ear and practice understanding. They post new videos every couple of days so there’s frequently new content.
Dogen’s YouTube channel has short videos that talk about his daily life in Japan as well as interesting Japanese cultural tidbits. He also has a series of videos that help with Japanese pronunciation. His videos are geared for upper-intermediate and advanced speakers. He posts new videos regularly, and you can subscribe if you don’t want to miss one!
Listening to podcasts is another unique way to learn Japanese. They are super useful for people who want to learn on a busy schedule because you can listen to them anywhere and complete other tasks at the same time. You can learn Japanese on your commute to work, while running errands, or just relaxing at home. JapanesePod101, NHK Easy Japanese, and Sakura Tips have tons of podcasts you can listen to improve your listening and understanding.
JapanesePod101 has thousands of podcast-style lessons that teach every aspect of Japanese language and culture. You can follow a “pathway” to learn in a logical order, but you also have the flexibility to jump around and take the lessons that you want. The platform has tons of additional resources like videos, vocabulary lists, and more. You can try JapanesePod101 for free, or read more about it in this JapanesePod101 review.
NHK Easy Japanese is a good free resource for beginners. The podcasts are about 10 minutes long, and each one includes lots of additional resources, like a transcript, grammar tips, pronunciation, and more. You can download the audio and the transcripts for offline listening. It won’t get you past a basic level of Japanese, but it’s an interesting way to start learning.
Sakura Tips is for intermediate to advanced Japanese learners. The podcasts are completely in Japanese and discuss different topics from daily life in Japan. Beginners can find a few extra resources for learning Japanese, but it’s meant for more advanced learners who want to be immersed in Japanese.
Learning Japanese will take hard work and lots of practice. In order to see steady progress, it’s important to be consistent with your studying. It’s best to set up a language learning routine and stick with it. Block out a few minutes every day or a larger chunk of time a few times per week that you dedicate to practicing Japanese.
Another way to learn quickly is to use a variety of resources. There’s no perfect app or platform that can help you improve all your skills, so it’s a good idea to use a few to fill in any gaps and have a well-rounded understanding of Japanese. For example, podcasts are great for improving listening, but you might need to take online lessons from a tutor to improve speaking.
There’s not just one way to learn Japanese. This guide shows you a variety of resources that can help you find a good way for you. All the resources mentioned will add value to your learning routine. Most offer a free trial or some free content so you can try it out before committing to buying anything. Once you’ve found the right way for you, it’s time to learn! With consistent practice, you’ll be speaking Japanese in no time!
Want to learn more? Check out our Japanese resource page.
According to the US Department of State, it takes 88 weeks, or 2200 class hours to reach a proficient level of Japanese. This number will vary depending on each person’s circumstances, such as the amount of time they can dedicate to studying and their natural ability for language acquisition.
To see how long it will take you to learn Japanese, check out this fluency calculator.
The best way to learn Japanese quickly is to use a variety of resources to round out your studying. Taking online classes with a Japanese teacher is one of the most effective ways to learn because of the personalized instruction and guidance. But this can get expensive. You can also use language apps or books to get an overall grasp of Japanese.
There are many different ways to learn Japanese at home, including using language apps, taking an online course, or finding a private tutor to take online classes with. One of the most popular ways is to use a language app. This can teach you the basics of Japanese and is usually an inexpensive way to start learning.
Japanese is considered to be a difficult language for English speakers because it has significant linguistic differences. The writing system is different and there is a large importance placed on honorifics, or different levels of formality. But learning Japanese isn’t impossible. By using high-quality tools to study, you can gain a basic conversational level in less than a year.
To become fluent in Japanese, you will need to practice with a Japanese teacher. Language apps and books can help you reach a certain level, but if you want to reach fluency, practicing conversation is key. A qualified Japanese tutor can help you practice and guide your learning.
There are quite a few resources available to learn Japanese for free. One of the most popular ways is to use a language app like Duolingo. It’s ad-sponsored so you’ll be interrupted during your lessons, but all of the content on Duolingo is completely free. You can also watch YouTube channels or see if your local library has a subscription to Mango Languages.