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Looking for free Japanese lessons online? Look no further! Here are the resources you need to learn Japanese on a budget.
I recently studied Japanese as a part of the Add1Challenge — where I had a 15-minute conversation in Japanese after just 90 days.
While studying Japanese I found a HUGE selection of Japanese online courses and resources. But some were better than others, so I thought I’d share the best free ones. I want to save you spending hours researching and testing all the tools out there!
That way, rather than trying to figure out which Japanese resources are the best, you can dig right in and start spending quality time with the language. And the best part? It won’t cost you a single 円 yen.
Let’s take a look at these free online Japanese language resources and classes.
Editor's note: before we get started, if you’re looking for an online Japanese course, here’s the course I actually recommend: Japanese Uncovered – Learn Japanese Through the Power of Story, a course with a fascinating new method.
Free Online Audio & Podcasts to Help You Learn Japanese
Listen to Japanese audio in either bite-sized podcasts, as sound-bites, or even dive straight into native-speaking radio stations.
Here’s where to start with Japanese language audio:
- JapanesePod101: You can sign up for Innovative Language podcasts, including JapanesePod101, for free. There’s an impressive amount of content available at a variety of levels, from beginner to intermediate and advanced.
- TuneIn Japan: You can listen to radio from all across Japan on TuneIn. Test out a few stations, see what catches your attention and enjoy.
- Forvo: If you come across a new word, especially with Japanese where there are up to ten ways to read each Kanji, check out Forvo. It is a great place to listen to words spoken by a native speaker. Plus, it has a large database and is a good reference for pronunciation.
- News in Slow Japanese is an iTunes podcast that delivers current news stories in… you guessed it… slow Japanese. Each episode is also available at native speed, so you get a chance to evaluate how much your listening comprehension is improving.
YouTube: Free Video Japanese Lessons
YouTube is an incredible place to find free Japanese language classes and resources. The following channels will give you dozens of hours of free online Japanese lessons. Plus, video has the added benefits of letting you see facial expressions, body language and other non-verbal aspects of the Japanese language.
- JapanesePod101: In addition to their free podcast lessons, JapanesePod101 also has an excellent YouTube channel with hours of free content.
- Learn Japanese is a YouTube channel with loads of free videos from l3reezer. He teaches you Japanese by breaking down fun catch phrases from popular Anime series.
- Easy Languages: I love the Easy Languages channel because it offers you a lot of local culture and context. In the Easy Language series, the hosts go out into the streets of Japan and interview the people they meet there. It’s a great way to hear the way people really speak the language, pick up useful conversational phrases, and practice your listening comprehension.
- Japanese Ammo with Misa: Misa is one of my favorite Japanese teachers on YouTube. Her lessons are thorough and she provides a lot of examples so you can really come to grips with Japanese grammar.
- Learn Japanese Pod: This YouTube channel is a free language podcast with content is available for free on YouTube, too.
- CHOP: If you’re interested in learning a bit about Japanese humor in addition to the language, this channel would be right up your alley. CHOP uses humor to teach Japanese learners short phrases and grammar structures. It’is an interesting look into Japanese culture.
- That Japanese Man Yuta: Yuta is a Japanese vlogger who interviews native Japanese speakers on the streets of Japan. His videos cover a wide range of topics including dubbed cartoons, insults, and even whether or not it’s okay to open your friend’s fridge. The videos all have English subtitles and are a great way to work on listening comprehension.
- PuniPuni Japan: PuniPuni teaches Japanese through a mix of videos that feature either phrases, JLPT exam practice, or themed topics. Many of the older videos feature adorable animations.
Free Online Japanese Courses and Systems
If you’re interested in guided lessons, there is a good selection of free online Japanese courses and systems available. Here are just a few websites that offer online Japanese lessons at no cost:
- Tofugu are the creators of two popular paid courses for learning Japanese – Textfugu and Wanikani. Their blog, however, is also an incredible resource with thorough posts on different aspects of the Japanese language.
- Learn Japanese on EdX: The online learning portal EdX currently has three free Japanese language courses. Two focus on the Japanese language and culture while the third is specific to Japanese pronunciation.
- Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese: This guide is an in-depth look into the Japanese language. It covers all the basics and even gets into complex grammar as you progress.
- Learn with Oliver: Learn with Oliver is an online flashcard tool that allows you to learn Japanese words or phrases. It offers several ways to test yourself on the content. I personally love their email newsletters and look forward to seeing them in my inbox each day.
- NihongoShark: Nihongo Shark has two free courses available for Japanese learners – Kana Mastery and How to Learn Japanese. They also have a helpful blog with lots of great content about the Japanese language.
- NHK Japanese: Japan’s national broadcasting organization, NHK, offers free Japanese lessons on their site. It’s also a great resource for learning about Japanese culture, food, and travel.
Free Japanese Language Apps
Apps are an outstanding way to learn a new language. Especially for those who don’t have the time to sit down and study in extended sessions. They’re perfect for those who like to study on the go.
- Eggbun is available for both iOS and Android. It is based on the freemium model, so only a limited set of lessons are available for free. It’s a fun way to learn new words in Japanese and get insider tips about Japanese culture.
- Duolingo is a popular language learning app that introduces you to both Japanese vocabulary and grammar. It’s a gamified platform, so it’s fun to learn and easy to maintain your daily streaks.
- Imiwa is a free Japanese dictionary app. It provides context for new words in Japanese. It also works offline.
- Drops: Pressed for time? Drops is the perfect solution. With the free version of the app, you just get five minutes of study time per day. But you can get a lot done in those five minutes. The system is built to keep you engaged and moving so that you get a significant chunk of vocabulary exposure in a short time via beautiful graphics and intuitive swiping.
- Clozemaster is a language learning app the uses cloze (fill in the blank) to help you master new vocabulary in Japanese.
- Memrise or Anki: Anki(for iOS, for Android, and for everyone else) and Memrise are flashcard systems that you can use to create your own Japanese vocabulary decks or download those already created by other users. The desktop version of Anki is free as are both the app and browser versions of Memrise.
Free Online Japanese Language Resources for Advanced Japanese Learners
Watch Japanese Vloggers on YouTube
If you’re looking for native and relevant material for your Japanese language learning, YouTubers are a great source. Japanese vloggers cover everything from comedy to beauty to food, so you’re sure to find a YouTube personality who covers a topic that you’re interested in.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Tomoko Tomoko is a Japanese vlogger who creates videos in Japanese geared towards learners. She often vlogs about yoga but also takes viewers around Japan to experience different aspects of Japanese culture.
- MiMei is a New Zealander living and vlogging about her life in Japan.
- PDRさん is a comedy YouTube vlogger with videos that are a mix of monologues and skits. The videos are in Japanese with English subtitles.
- Sasaki Asahi: If you’re into beauty blogs, Sasaki Asahi is the perfect channel for you. Even if you’re not, her 1,000 years of Japanese beauty video is well done, and you can learn the names for different historical eras in Japanese.
- Hikakin Games: Hikakin is one of the most popular Japanese vloggers and he has several channels. This particular channel showcases his gaming adventures and is both humorous and entertaining.
- Yuka Kinoshita: For the foodie, Yuka Kinoshita is an interesting channel to follow. She is best known for her mukbang videos, but she also does other food-related videos.
Free Japanese Language Reading Materials
Japanese uses not one, but three of its own unique writing systems. Reading practice is an important part of your learning journey. Finding material appropriate for your level in the language can be a challenge. Thankfully, there’s a decent selection of Japanese reading resources available to you as a learner online for free.
- Wikipedia: You can use Wikipedia to read short articles in Japanese, then look at the English article to check your comprehension.
- LingQ is a popular online learning system that helps you acquire new vocabulary through its reading interface. It is only free in part – you need to help other learners in order to earn points to use the system for free.
- Matcha is a free online magazine in Japanese with lots of articles about Japanese culture. They use traditional Japanese writing, but they also have furigana, so if you haven’t yet tackled Kanji, you can still enjoy this resource.
What Free Online Japanese Resources Do You Use?
Just how many high-quality resources there are to learn Japanese at no cost online never ceases to amaze me. Though I’ve featured more than 40 places you can learn Japanese for free, I’m sure there are plenty more. Are there any that you feel I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!
Want More? Check out Benny's favourite Japanese Resources.
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.