What Is Busuu Japanese? Busuu Japanese Review

What is Busuu Japanese? It’s a language learning program created by the company Busuu that uses several techniques and methods to help you learn the language. Today I’ll be sharing my Busuu Japanese review with you.

I’ve used both their free version and their premium version at various times in the past, so I’ll be discussing what my experience has been and some of the cool things that they provide to their users.

I’ll talk about their Japanese lessons and how they teach the language, some of their cool features, and my overall, personal thoughts on it.

Free vs. Premium

There is a free version that I highly recommend you try out to see for yourself if you like it, but you will only be able to do a few of the early lessons as more of the higher stuff is restricted to premium members only.

Premium is not too expensive, I don’t have it anymore but if I remember correctly it’s about the same monthly cost of other services that most people have like Netflix or Hulu.

When you sign up, you don’t just get Japanese, you actually get 12 languages!

This is pretty cool if you’re an aspiring polyglot, but if you are only interested in learning Japanese then it might be more than you are really looking for.

One final thing about Busuu is that the name of the company comes from the name of a language that has less than ten speakers left in the world.

This is kind of a cool idea for the name of a company that teaches languages, except there is one little problem when it comes to Japanese…

The word “Busuu” sounds identical to the Japanese word ブス which is actually a huge insult towards women!

What the heck!?

How Does Busuu Teach Japanese?

Busuu takes a vocabulary based approach to language learning. What I mean by that is, they teach you how to learn Japanese one word at a time.

In order to really help you learn the new word, they pair each one with a picture that represents it in order to engage your visual memory while learning.

This sounds a lot like Rosetta Stone’s approach, and it is, but the main difference is that Busuu also provides an English translation alongside the new word so that you can understand it right away, and you don’t have to guess at the new word’s meaning.

In my experience, when the new word is something physical, for example an apple, then it’s pretty easy to learn the new word with just the Japanese and a picture.

However, when you start learning more abstract concepts such as “laziness” or something, then having an English translation at the ready is much more effective.

One thing I did find funny is that the course uses British English and not American English.

So for me, some of the translations didn’t help!

For example, the Japanese word for “cash register” is レジ (reji), but I guess in England they call it a “till” instead.

It’s wasn’t really a big deal, since the picture made it apparent what they new word was.

There were some other words like a shopping cart being called a “trolly,” so if that’s something that turns you off, then you probably wouldn’t want to use Busuu.

Something that the course does really well, and something that I don’t see all that often, is that each new word is put into a full Japanese sentence that you can read and listen to in order to see how it functions with other words from a grammar point of view.

Learning Japanese within the context of a full sentence is a superior way to learn, compared to just learning a list of new words, because you learn useful phrases that you can actually use in real life and also because it promotes learning the grammar of the language intrinsically.

Three Types Of Lessons

Each lesson is based on an overall topic. That topic is then broken down into sub-topics which are presented within the three methods:

Method #1 is what I explained above with the new vocabulary and accompanying pictures. There are tests every few slides to see if you have retained the new information that you just learned, but it’s nothing too intensive.

Method #2 is, in my opinion, really flipping cool! It’s basically a text message conversation between two people using all of the new words from the first section.

What’s really great about this part is that the focus is on the vocabulary that you’ve just picked up, but there are also some other words and grammar things that you can easily pick up as well.

After going through the texts, there is a brief test for that section.

Also, I don’t think that I said this before, but everything has been recorded by native speakers so you can hear how the words sound while you are reading it.

Method #3 is the final section and is really just a bunch of tests. Lots of multiple choice questions and such that will require you to use both recognition and recall from earlier.

And at the very, very end is conversations with natives!

This part of the course that allows you to either talk in Japanese and record it, or type in Japanese to answer a question or two. You then turn it in and wait for a native Japanese person to review your submission and provide corrections or alternative suggestions.

This part is fantastic as you can often get recommendations to your answer in order to sound more natural in your dialog.

In the past, you used to have to hire a native Japanese tutor or go to Japan in order to get this kind or help, but now you can do it easily as a part of the lessons.

What Do You Learn Specifically?

There are four primary Japanese courses available:

  1. Hiragana
  2. Katakana
  3. Japanese for Travel
  4. Complete Japanese

The first two are dedicated to teaching you how to read the two Japanese kana scripts, which is useful since they will be used in the other two courses.

The Japanese for Travel course is pretty short, and really just focuses on the words and phrases that you would need if you were visiting Japan as a tourist for a week, or if you were taking a vacation there.

The Complete Japanese course is really the primary section for learning Japanese.

It starts out at Beginner A1 which contains 57 lessons. Then it goes to Elementary A2 which has 15 lessons.

As you can see, the amount of material shrinks pretty quickly after the first level.

This pattern continues as the third part Intermediate B1 only has 14 lessons and then the final section Upper Intermediate B2 has a mere 11.

Because of this, I feel that this course it designed to help people who are brand new to learning Japanese, but once you get past the beginner stage there isn’t a whole lot left in the course.

Final Thoughts

My personal opinion on Busuu Japanese is that it’s a pretty cool way to learn Japanese if you are brand new to the language.

I also really like how they connect you with native Japanese people whom you can talk with, in order to practice communication and get corrections.

But due to their limited library of material after the first level, I felt like there wasn’t a huge reason to continue using them.

To compare them with another language learning course, JapanesePod101.com has almost 3,000 lessons ranging from absolute beginner to advanced.

So I don’t think I would ever recommend Busuu when better alternatives exist.

Those are just my personal thoughts on it. Let me know what you guys think about Busuu and if you have any experience using it.

10 thoughts on “What Is Busuu Japanese? Busuu Japanese Review”

  1. My Busuu French course has a very steep pace and often uses unknown words and verbs in example sentences you have not learned before.

    The tracking of learned words is weird because the score is low for 4 months and in reading texts, dialogues and example sentences I have seen way more words “unofficially” than that what they want me to believe.

    If the same happens with Japanese and any unknown characters you will be lost quickly I guess.

    I already had to restart my FR course after lesson 50 and full videos without any text are IMHO way too much for a true beginner.

    My plan is to restart for a 3rd and 4th time and write more phrases and seen vocabulary on paper / notebook to better track what “should” I have all learned.

    So sad that Busuu doesn’t provide word hints, single translations and many times in grammar lessons or quizzes the translation is missing (not always).
    For the missing audio in grammar lessons (too often, but not all sentences) I found an Android Accessibility / Select to speak TTS workaround.

    I don’t do the Japanese Busuu course so I can’t comment on how difficult lessons ~30-50 get compared to French or Portuguese which are not 117 lessons long for A1/A2 sections.

    To me Memrise and Duolingo or Mondly looked a bit easier and the pacing was not so difficult.
    But I learned all Portuguese basics and grammar on Duolingo first and great Web Tips & Notes were provided by the former PT volunteer team, so this helped me when other resources (used in parallel) just throw in more complicated phrases and sample examples.

    I really like Busuu for French, but wouldn’t have anything against a “absolute beginner” setting and a much slower pace.
    It sometimes feels I maybe should have mastered some of the basics somewhere else despite being a PremiumPlus member so I have actually access to grammar lessons and quizzes.

    Memrise (Web) should be more useful for effective reviews, spaced repetition (SR) even though Busuu provides typed Smart reviews (vocabulary, grammar) in the target language.

    As least Busuu has audio recordings by native speakers, no comic characters, no animations and no (wrong) new TTS cartooned voices 🙂

    Hope this helps if someone wants to try out Japanese, not sure if I will ever start it next 3-5 years.

    Regards from Germany

    • There is another Busuu Japanese update.

      A2 section has now 118 lessons (dedicated reviews have no counting number).

      B1+B2 still have 24 lessons.

      A1 still has 117 lessons.

      There are separate Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji courses as well.

  2. I have always wanted to learn to speak Japanese and this looks amazing! I tried Rosetta Stone but didn’t like the fact that there was no English translation. Busuu seems to have the translation, and I love that each word is put into a sentence that I can hear and translate and see how the word is used in grammar. The fact that I can speak with a native Japanese is so cool.

    • Hey Amy, I know exactly what you mean. The Rosetta Stone approach works when it’s just a single item (like a noun) but it really breaks down when it presents more complicated sentences. 

      The great thing about Busuu is that there are translations provided for when you need them, but you don’t have to use them unless you want to. It is entirely possible that you could go through it only using the Japanese words and audio provided if you really wanted to do it that way.

      The only thing I would say is that Busuu might come across as a little overwhelming if you are just starting out, but I believe that if you take your time and redo any sections that you feel you haven’t yet mastered, then it should work out just fine for you.

  3. Hi Nick,

    I’ve always wanted to learn Japanese because it’ll help when I decide to travel around in Japan 🙂 I’m grateful that I stumbled upon your page because I’ve been looking for something like this! Thank you for this comprehensive review of the Busuu app! I found it extremely helpful and it makes me more confident to learn not only Japanese, but also other languages!

    • Hey Derek, that is awesome! Japan is a pretty monolingual country with the natives speaking only Japanese for the most part. So if you can learn even a little of their language for when you’re over there, it will go a long way and you’ll make a great impression too. 

      There are tons of great resources to learn, and Busuu is one that a lot of people don’t really know about. So I’m glad that you were able to learn a little bit about them from my review.

  4. Hey Nick!

    Busuu seems a really good way to learn Japanese.

    I’ve lately been interested on learning an exotic language such as Chinese or Japanese… and I guess I’m more attracted to the second one.

    This system where they use graphic content to reinforce visual memory is very interesting, since it’s better to remember words this way.

    This looks really cool, I’ll take a closer look at it.

    Thanks a lot for your insights on this. 😉

    • I know what you mean. When I was younger I always had an affinity for the Asian languages, but I wasn’t totally sure if I wanted to learn Chinese, Korean, or Japanese. That is until I started getting in things like anime and manga, at which point the choice became clear.

      Yeah the pictures work really well for nouns and verbs, although it is a little harder for them to represent abstract concepts like “reliability” and such. Sill, we use pictures to learn as kids and we never really outgrow that model of learning. That’s one of the reasons that things like TV can be so mesmerizing.

      Buy yeah, give it a shot. It’s might feel like a little much at first if you are 100% new to Japanese, but as long as you take your time you should do fine with it. 


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