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learn japanese onlineJapanese culture has infiltrated the imagination of millions of non-Japanese people, be it via the explosion of Anime and Manga, the delicacy of the Japanese cuisine, the mystery of the Geishas or the fascination with samurais.  For some fans of the culture, there is one thing that separates them from a real understanding of the nuances of the Japanese world – its language.

Now, of course, you could pay a lot of money to take classes, but for those of us who would rather just find a free alternative online, even if it’s just for the basics of the language, there are many options to choose from.

Below are some of the most helpful (or creative) sites to help you learn Japanese online.

Learn Japanese Language

One of the first things that puzzles students of the Japanese language is that there seem to be three entire alphabets that need to be learned when studying the language: Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji, the characters of the Chinese writing system. They are used together in most Japanese sentences and causes a lot of confusion.

One very good site for those trying to overcome this particular hurdle is “Learn Japanese Online”. The site presents each one with relevant cultural information, usage and even tutorials on how to do the strokes in the correct order for several of the symbols.

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learn japanese online

Tofugu

Tofugu , “Wonky Japanese Language and Culture Blog” is not your usual language website.  It has been around since 2007, and is run by its founder, Koichi, who has a very creative approach to teaching the Japanese language. His idea is to educate while presenting tidbits about Japanese culture, and to make it entertaining to the point of absolute silliness.

Some of his videos manage to be incredibly helpful, while displaying some very YouTube friendly sense of humor. The site is also connected to textfugu, which is Tofugu’s Online Japanese Textbook, where many of the lessons are free and where he professes (with good reason) to have created an online text book specifically for the self-learner.

learn to speak japanese

Japanese 101

Japanese 101 is part of 101 Languages, which is a site with resources for several languages. Although not a great site to learn about the nuances of the language, Japanese 101 has a nice array of vocabulary words as well as some nifty links to Japanese television and some related sites (there is also a forum, but the Japanese one seems to be non-existent).

The site is kind of a pain to navigate, since you have to constantly select “Japanese” from the various languages from each menu option, but it contains various articles about Japanese culture and language usage which could be informative.

learn to speak japanese

Japanese Pod 101

Japanese Pod 101 requires a membership, but it does have a free option which will still give you access to a large number of videos, sound files, lessons and their newsletter, with extra lessons and free daily podcasts. The videos are professional and easy to follow and the forum is active and helpful.

learn to speak japanese

MLC Japanese Language School Resources

MLC Japanese Language School is located in Meguro, Tokyo, but what is most useful about their site is the fact that they have downloadable PDF files of a lot of the resources they use to teach English speakers. They have even separated them into levels, for ease of use.

So if you need a worksheet to practice your Japanese letters, or an interactive Flash drill of some of the most common expressions, or even some extensive advanced materials, you can find it all here. There is also a nice collection of audio files and Flash materials with sound.

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Japanese-Online.com

Japanese-Online.com has been around since 1996, and has an extensive collection of lessons, although some of its resources and links are outdated and the newsletter archive, although very informative, hasn’t been updated since 2005. Yet, the lessons themselves make this site worth visiting.

To have full access to the site, a registration is required. But it is completely free, unlike other sites which will only give you a few samples for free and then charge you for the lessons.

learn japanese online

Do you use any other good sites to help you learn Japanese? Share them with us and arigato!

  1. Rob
    July 28, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    You do not learn Japanese FOR free.

    Free is an adjective or an adverb and does not use a preposition such as for.

    You learn Japanese free.

    As a language site, you look very unprofessional when grammar is in error.

    • Pete
      August 25, 2016 at 7:04 am

      And as a pedant you like a loser when your comment is irrelevant to the article at hand. Then again, comment is for free.

    • Kelvin Pham
      August 25, 2016 at 11:32 am

      Technically, "for free" is not grammatically wrong. "For free" means "without cost" and stands alone as a prepositional phrase. The "for" indicates how much the learning costs. Substitute "free" for other prices, such as "$5.00". You cannot say, "You learn Japanese $5.00". Therefore, a preposition is needed. If you did not include the word, "for", then the meaning of the sentence would change. "You learn Japanese free" would mean that you are learning something with free will. An instance when "free" does not require a preposition is to imply liberty, freedom, etc.

  2. Pecotique
    September 7, 2010 at 12:37 am

    also try
    http://japaneseclass.jp
    learn Japanese vocabularies and kanji

  3. Pecotique
    September 6, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    also try
    http://japaneseclass.jp
    learn Japanese vocabularies and kanji

  4. Queen
    September 1, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    I have a few more:
    http://smart.fm/home a pretty good site to apply the spaced repetition system and has a lot of goals Japanese related.I learned kana there and currently I'm studying kanji. You can also learn other languages.

    http://www.livemocha.com is a site I discovered recently, really good for beginners and it helps to learn several languages too. They teach you a set of sentences, then they ask you to create them, to answer selection questions, to listen and even to speak if you want it.

    For dictionaries Jim Breen's is the best http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/...

    How to forget AJATT blog (http://www.alljapanesealltheti... on how to learn Japanese.

    And Kanjidamage (http://kanjidamage.com/) with a very interesting method to remember the kanjis with funny words.

  5. Queen
    September 1, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    I have a few more:
    http://smart.fm/home a pretty good site to apply the spaced repetition system and has a lot of goals Japanese related.I learned kana there and currently I'm studying kanji. You can also learn other languages.

    http://www.livemocha.com is a site I discovered recently, really good for beginners and it helps to learn several languages too. They teach you a set of sentences, then they ask you to create them, to answer selection questions, to listen and even to speak if you want it.

    For dictionaries Jim Breen's is the best http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jwb/cgi-bin/wwwjdic.cgi?1C

    How to forget AJATT blog (http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/) on how to learn Japanese.

    And Kanjidamage (http://kanjidamage.com/) with a very interesting method to remember the kanjis with funny words.

  6. koichi
    September 1, 2010 at 1:25 am

    I've looked around for a long time - just not enough popularity in the Korean language, I think :( Japanese language is lucky that way.

  7. koichi
    August 31, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks for featuring Tofugu/TextFugu, Taty! I didn't know about a couple of these too, so it's really appreciated!

    • Taty
      August 31, 2010 at 8:08 pm

      Very welcome, Koichi. Been using the site myself. Very helpful :)

  8. Anonymous
    August 31, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Japanese Pod 101... haha funny intro vid. She's gonna see me on the inside. :) :D lol

  9. Aibek
    August 31, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    I am not aware of any but I am sure someone from MakeUseOf team can point you to the right direction. Ask this on MakeUseOf Answers, http://www.makeuseof.com/answe...

  10. Marcus Steiner
    August 31, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Hey thanks for the article. The first resource is very helpful. I always wanted to learn the Kanji symbols or at least have a reference to check the meanings on my own.

    • Taty
      August 31, 2010 at 8:09 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Marcus. Been struggling with Kanji myself. Glad to help.

    • Natsume
      October 13, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      I found that using online flash cards to be the fastest way to learn how to recognize them but drawing them out on paper to be the only legitimate way to learn them thoroughly. Fortunately, recognizing is more important than writing because you will rarely ever have to write kanji on paper these days thanks to computers.

  11. Coynedan
    August 31, 2010 at 6:33 am

    Does anyone know of any good sites to learn Korean?

    • Aibek
      August 31, 2010 at 11:22 am

      I am not aware of any but I am sure someone from MakeUseOf team can point you to the right direction. Ask this on MakeUseOf Answers, http://www.makeuseof.com/answers/

  12. GatesDA
    August 31, 2010 at 6:11 am

    I use Tae Kim's guidetojapanese.org as my main resource. It doesn't try to shoehorn Japanese into English thought patterns, and does an excellent job of correctly explaining oft-misunderstood grammatical principles. It starts with the writing system and the nuts-and-bolts of grammar rather than canned phrases, so at each point you really understand what you're saying. It also has a collection of links to other handy resources.

  13. GatesDA
    August 31, 2010 at 4:11 am

    I use Tae Kim's guidetojapanese.org as my main resource. It doesn't try to shoehorn Japanese into English thought patterns, and does an excellent job of correctly explaining oft-misunderstood grammatical principles. It starts with the writing system and the nuts-and-bolts of grammar rather than canned phrases, so at each point you really understand what you're saying. It also has a collection of links to other handy resources.

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