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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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