The Best 13 Online Japanese Courses

Online Japanese Course Overview

Nearly 130 million people in the world speak Japanese and that number just keeps going up! Japanese is one of the top ten most popular languages being taught in the United States and yet only about 1 million people speak Japanese as their second language. Why is that?

Well, to be honest, Japanese can be very difficult to learn, especially if you haven’t had a lot of exposure to Asian languages. Not only is Japanese full of sounds not commonly found in English, but it also comes with not one, but three written forms.

Do these challenges mean that we should avoid Japanese in favor of something more familiar? Absolutely not! Japanese is a great language and learning it will allow you to gain access to a rich and beautiful culture that you may not be able to experience otherwise.

So what do we do? Well, just like when you’re learning any other language, you have to study. In order for your studying to be effective, you have to have quality study materials. That is why I have compiled this list of the top 13 Online Japanese courses that you should check out if you’re ready to take on Japanese.

Before we get too far along I do want to say that these programs are not listed in a particular order in terms of best to worst or anything like that. All of these courses offer helpful materials and I strongly encourage you to try a few (or all of them) so you can see which one works best for you.

The Top 13 Online Japanese Courses

Elon.io looks a little dull upon first glance, but do not let the simple platform design fool you. They offer more than 200 Japanese lessons for free. The lessons range from practicing basic sounds all the way up to writing in kanji. The lessons are varied and interesting with practice exercises included with each lesson. There are text-based and lecture-style lessons, giving you a good variety.

This is a great choice for beginners and intermediate learners alike. The course starts with simple sounds and word structure, but you don’t have to complete earlier lessons to advance, you can do the lessons in any order allowing you to start with more advanced material if that is what you need.

The practice exercises that they offer are also very helpful. Like many language programs, Elon.io uses a spaced repetition system to help focus your practice exercises on the things you struggle with the most. You can also create your own lists of vocabulary words to ensure that you're practicing the words that are the most important to you.

ELON.IO pricing

Price

Free

Pros

  • Large library of free materials.
  • Freerange lessons, no having to complete the first ones to more advanced material to move on.
  • Quality practice exercises.
  • Starts at the very beginning, allowing you to build a strong foundation.

Cons

  • Platform may be a bit dull for some.
  • Not much listening practice.

Human Japanese is designed to make Japanese accessible to everyone, from beginners to advanced learners. They offer thousands of recordings, videos, and exercises in easy to understand formats, perfect for those who have been intimidated by other learning platforms.

Speaking of platforms, this program is accessible through all your devices including your PC, MAC, iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone. This course offers a beautiful and engaging platform with lessons to match. There are two lesson plans to choose from, Beginner and Intermediate, so you can begin wherever works best for you.

HUMAN JAPANESE pricing

PC and Mac

$18.99

iPad

$14.99

iOS and Android

$9.99

The lessons are similar to reading a textbook but are interesting enough that you won’t find yourself falling asleep while studying. They offer interactive examples and translations to ensure that you truly understand every lesson. The practice exercises are also fun and engaging, helping you to retain the material in an entertaining way.

Pros

  • Bright engaging platform.
  • Very user-friendly lessons.
  • In-depth grammar explanations.
  • Quick quizzes after each lesson to help you retain the information.

Cons

  • No real speaking practice.

3

IMABI

IMABI is an independent website dedicated solely to helping people learn Japanese for free. This website is full of helpful reading material for learners of every level from the absolute beginner to Veteran II. There are also lessons on specific subjects like learning kanji and Okinawan script.

IMABI is an independent website dedicated solely to helping people learn Japanese for free. This website is full of helpful reading material for learners of every level from the absolute beginner to Veteran II. There are also lessons on specific subjects like learning kanji and Okinawan script.

IMABI pricing

Price

Free

Pros

  • Wide range of lessons for all levels of fluency.
  • In-depth grammar explanations and useful tips.
  • 100% free, although you can donate to the cause if you would like to.

Cons

  • Platform is a bit dull.
  • No audio material or speaking practice.

4

JapanesePod101

JapanesePod101 is all about helping you to improve your listening skills. They offer short videos and audio lessons giving you the chance to hear native speakers while you learn new words and grammar rules.

When it comes to practice exercises, they offer word lists, flashcards, and slideshows to help you better retain the information from each lesson. If you’re a true beginner and are having a hard time distinguishing the words, you can slow down the audio for a better listen.

They even offer some tutoring from a native speaker if you want to get one-on-one feedback about your progress. You can also use the community discussion boards to chat and practice with other language learners. Although there are lessons on here for beginners, there isn’t a clear lesson structure, which could be confusing if you’re just starting to learn Japanese.

JAPANESEPOD101 pricing

Subscription based cost ranges from

$8 to $47 per month.

Pros

  • Thousands of audio and video lessons.
  • Opportunities to practice your communication skills.
  • Access to feedback from a native speaker.

Cons

  • Lacks a clear study structure, not great for beginners.

5

Japanese Uncovered

Japanese Uncovered is based on the idea that the real way to learn Japanese is through full immersion and storytelling. These lessons not only give you a chance to immerse yourself in the Japanese language, but they also teach you about Japanese culture along the way.

This course was designed by and is taught by Olly Richards, an English linguist who lived in Japan for three years learning how to speak like a native. He used his knowledge and experience to design a lesson plan that would help English speakers overcome their fears and become fluent in no time.

Although this course is meant for beginners, the lack of explanations early on can be a bit challenging and possibly intimidating for those completely new to the language. Richards says that that is all part of the process and that it’s for the best, but I think you should be aware of this factor before purchasing the course since it is a bit pricey.

Japanese Uncovered pricing

Price

$397

Pros

  • New and interesting approach to learning Japanese.
  • Engaging lessons.
  • Interactive lessons offer loads of learning opportunities.

Cons

  • Can be a bit overwhelming at first.
  • Pricey.

6

Lingodeer

Lingodeer is one of the few language learning apps that offers a quality Japanese course. This app was specifically created to teach Asian languages, so that may be why the Asian courses on here are so much better than those on other apps.

This program offers quick easy lessons that are both engaging and educational. Since it is a phone-based program, it is ultra-portable and good for those who are always on the go. The practice exercises are fun and useful, using spaced repetition to help you focus on the words that are giving you the most trouble.

One of the best things about this app is that you can access quite a bit of the material for free, so you can try it out for a while before you commit to purchasing a subscription. Lingodeer is a good way to start learning Japanese as well as a handy supplemental resource to help you learn throughout the day.

LINGODEER pricing

One month

$11.99

Three months

$29.99

Twelve Months

$55.99

Lifetime Subscription

$119.99

Pros

  • Free access to quite a bit of material.
  • Fun easy lessons.
  • Quality grammar explanations and learning materials.

Cons

  • Lacks quality speaking opportunities.
  • Not great for advanced learners.

7

NativShark

NativShark is a program designed to take you from learning the basic sounds of Japanese all the way through to true fluency. There are three lesson plans to choose from depending on how dedicated you are and the amount of material you want to have access to. You can change your subscription as you go if you want to upgrade.

This course offers thousands of lessons. Most of the material is text-based, so you won’t get a lot of fun exercises, but if you’re looking for quality in-depth grammar lessons, NativShark is the way to go.

One of the great things about this course is that it offers material for advanced learners and the lessons are always being updated, so you’ll always be able to find something interesting no matter your fluency level.

NATIVSHARK pricing

Monthly prices range

$7 to $22

Yearly subscriptions

$80 to $240

Lifetime subscription

$1500

Pros

  • Extremely wide range of lessons.
  • Free trial available.
  • Material constantly updating for more learning opportunities.

Cons

  • Lessons can be a little repetitive.
  • No real speaking practice.

8

NHK World

NHK World offers fun and easy to understand lessons for beginner and intermediate Japanese learners. There are audio and video lessons on a variety of subjects allowing you to learn about Japanese culture as you learn the language.

You can find all kinds of practice opportunities here. From reading and speaking along with the lessons to listening to the news in simple Japanese. The lessons are engaging and the activities are fun and helpful.

The best thing about this program is that it is completely free, they even offer free downloads for reading materials.

NHK WORLD pricing

Price

Free

Pros

  • Lots of learning material for free.
  • Engaging lessons.
  • Lots of listening practice.

Cons

  • No material for advanced learners.

9

Pimsleur

Pimsleur is a great language program, no matter what language you’re trying to learn, but it is especially great for Japanese. They offer over 150 30-minute lessons that you can listen to whenever is most convenient for you, they even have a driving mode so you can drive and learn at the time.

These lessons are interesting and engaging, focusing mainly on teaching you how to speak Japanese confidently. This is the perfect program for those who have a hard time with in-depth grammar lessons.

Don’t get me wrong, grammar is very important, but sometimes trying to speak perfectly from the beginning can be frustrating and discouraging. With Pimsleur, you focus more on being able to communicate and the grammar follows more naturally.

PIMSLEUR pricing

Basic

$14.95 per month

Pros

  • Interesting and engaging lessons.
  • Enhances your speaking skills from the beginning.
  • Offers plenty of listening and speaking practice.

Cons

  • Lacks reading and writing practice
  • Grammar lovers will want to supplement with other learning materials.

10

Rocket Japanese

For language learners who prefer a more structured lesson plan, Rocket Japanese is a program worth looking into. This program offers three levels, from beginner to advanced, giving you the chance to learn from the ground up.

These lessons offer listening, writing, and speaking practice as well as a variety of practice exercises to help you memorize your vocabulary words. The interactive lessons are 20 to 30 minutes long and give you plenty of chances to practice your language skills throughout the lesson.

There are also some cultural lessons included so you can gain a deeper understanding of Japan as you learn the language.

Rocket Spanish pricing

Level 1

$99.95

Levels 1 & 2

$249.90

Levels 1-3

$259.90

Pros

  • Structured lesson plan.
  • Plenty of practice opportunities.
  • Lots of cultural insight to go along with your lessons.

Cons

  • Voice recognition feature is a bit glitchy.
  • Some lessons are a bit repetitive.

11

Tae Kim’s Guide

This is another great resource for those starting from scratch. This website is full of useful in-depth information about Japanese and how to speak it confidently. The website itself may seem a bit bland at first, but you will definitely be impressed by the amount of quality information it has to offer.

Grammar lovers will rejoice when reading the lesson names. Titles like “Verb Tenses and Clauses” and “Optional and Required” let you know this is an all-inclusive guide to Japanese and how it should be spoken.

Don’t let this description intimidate you though. This program is meant to help you start speaking Japanese, so you won’t be overwhelmed with grammar right at the beginning. It’s just nice to know that the information is there for when you’re ready.

TAE KIM’S GUIDE pricing

Level 1

$99.95

Levels 1 & 2

$249.90

Levels 1-3

$259.90

Pros

  • Completely free in-depth lessons.
  • Easy to read, but very informative.
  • So much grammar!

Cons

  • Lacks audio and speaking practice.
  • Website is a bit dull, but it’s still under construction.

12

Wanikani

One of the biggest struggles faced by Japanese students is kanji. Wouldn’t it be great to find a fun and easy way to learn this beautiful form of writing? Well, that’s where Wanikani comes in. This is a program specifically designed to teach you all the kanji you need in a fun and memorable way.

Wanikani uses spaced repetition and mnemonics to help you learn quickly without all the exhausting memorization. This program will also help you to learn vocabulary words in the same fashion. Their website promises that you can learn 2,000 kanji and 6,000 vocabulary words in just over a year and with how fun this program is, I believe them.

WANIKANI pricing

First three levels

Free

One month

$9

One year

$89

Lifetime

$299

Pros

  • Easy to remember kanji lessons.
  • All audio is from native speakers, not robots.
  • Material for beginners and advanced learners.

Cons

  • Since this is only meant to teach you kanji and vocabulary words, you will have to use supplements for speaking practice.

13

YesJapan

This website is a fun amalgam of videos, written lessons, audio clips, and more. They offer material for learners from beginners to high intermediate with all kinds of ways to learn. The courses are well laid out and easy to follow with quizzes after each lesson to help gauge your learning.

The platform is engaging and easy to navigate even though it is a bit cluttered. You can sign up for a free account to track your lessons, quiz scores, and other data. You can also save lesson materials and sound files to the “My Notebook” section of your profile to review later.

Speaking of sound files, there are over 15,000 on this site and they are all from native speakers! That alone is a good reason to check out YesJapan.

YESJAPAN pricing

First three lessons

Free

You have to have an account to view the prices

Pros

  • Access to loads of fun and interesting materials.
  • Audio files from native speakers.
  • Easy access to other language learners through chatrooms and discussion boards.

Cons

  • Have to create an account to see their prices.

Online Japanese Course: Final Thoughts

Learning Japanese may be challenging, but just like learning any other language, it is very rewarding as well! As long as you take your time and learn the basics, you are sure to succeed in your endeavor to learn this rich and interesting language.

When it comes to choosing a language learning program, take the time to try a few of these options before settling on which one you like best. You may find that you will want to combine a few learning methods for a more in-depth learning experience.

For example, you could use Pimsleur for speech and listening practice and Lingodeer for beginner grammar lessons. Or you could use Japanese Uncovered for more structured lessons combined with a flashcard app like Memrise for extra practice.

Whichever program. you choose, remember to be patient and persistent. I know that learning any new language can be difficult, but if you stick with it, you definitely won’t regret it. Happy learning!

About the author 

Language Throne Team

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