Today is the best time ever to learn Japanese!
Think about it, the tools and resources that you have available today didn’t even exist ten or twenty years ago. And yet, not only can you get your hands on some of the most sophisticated language learning materials ever invented, but you can also do so for very little cash.
Sometimes even free.
You don’t have to spend $18,000 to learn a language from the best teacher!
So why doesn’t everyone do this? I think that one of the biggest reasons why people don’t learn a lot of Japanese for free, is simply because they don’t know how.
Let me show you how to learn Japanese online for free. This time it will be by utilizing people’s blogs and the tools that they provide to everyone free of charge.
Free Blogs that Teach Japanese
I don’t think I need to mention that MY blog teaches you Japanese for free… But I just did anyway!
I wanted to provide you will a lot of different options because everyone has a slightly different take on how to learn Japanese, and you might really enjoy one person’s teaching style, and not care at all for the other’s.
Different strokes for different folks, right?
Here are six great websites that teach Japanese for free:
Tofugu is perhaps the biggest and most well known Japanese language and culture blog on the internet. It was started by Koichi way back in 2008 as part of college project, and it has really grown into an amazing site over the years.
They’ve got a ton of posts in each of their categories, such as interviews, lessons on Japanese, travel, product reviews, and more.
One of the things I’ve always liked about them is their beautiful artwork for all of their posts and just the overall look of the site.
Not only will you find a wealth of information on Tofugu, but the people there present it in a fun and lighthearted way as well. If you enjoy a good laugh, then you’re gonna want to check out their YouTube series called Tofugu Interviews Japan. I died laughing the first time I watched it!
They’ve got their own courses that teach you Japanese and Kanji, but I haven’t tried them out myself so I don’t really know a whole lot about them besides what is written on their site.
(2) Learn Japanese Adventure
Learn Japanese Adventure is a site run by Koh Kia Leng. After he learned Japanese, he decided to share his knowledge with the rest of the world through a website in order to reach the largest number of people possible.
He has tons of lessons that are laid out nicely on the left sidebar of his site that are perfect for beginners to go through to get a good start on the language.
But it’s not just limited to newbies. He’s got some really great stuff on more advanced Japanese that can be pretty helpful when you’re not quite sure about a particular grammar structure or whatever.
The thing I really like about his articles is that he will explain a concept in an easy to understand way briefly, and then he will provide lots and lots of examples that show how it works.
I think it’s a great way to learn, since it takes abstract concepts and makes them real and practical for the students.
(3) FluentU / Japanese Section
FluentU is a huge website that teaches many different languages, Japanese being one of them. They’ve got a blog dedicated to teaching Japanese, which I think is pretty good.
I was going to say that “I always feel that the pictures on their posts are a little too big” but they changed the format TODAY! It looks really good now.
Anyway, the information is solid and I’ve picked up a few tips from them that I’ve implemented myself.
They’ve also got a free version of their main product that teaches you Japanese through watching native videos.
It’s a pretty cool idea!
Rather than learn Japanese from a textbook, which may or may not teach you the kinds of things that Japanese people actually say in real life, FluentU’s approach is to just give you the actual words that are being used all the time, and teach those exact ones.
I think it might feel kind of overwhelming if you are new to the language, but if you’ve been learning Japanese for a little while, you’ll probably enjoy learning with the videos.
It’s a great way to get some Japanese in your ear.
(4) Self Taught Japanese
Self Taught Japanese is run by locksleyu who has been studying Japanese for over 15 years! He’s written hundreds of articles on learning Japanese, the culture, and more.
He also does a lot of translation work on Japanese novels that aren’t published in English, which is super cool! Getting access to Japanese material that’s not yet available in English is actually one of the reason that I started learning Japanese in the first place, so I really like his stuff.
If you’re planning on doing any kind of translation work yourself for Japanese to English (or vice-versa), then you’ll definitely find his site valuable.
He’s also got a podcast that compliments the website, and a really interesting tool to help people learn a new language called “Language On Track” that you can access for free. It uses goals and social networking to help with your studies, which is pretty unique.
(5) Japanese with Anime
Japanese with Anime (and Kanji with Manga) is a site that teaches Japanese with an emphasis on the kinds of terms and words that you will most often encounter if you are an avid fan of these two things.
Are you an Otaku? This site might be perfect for you!
What’s cool about it is that if you watch a lot of anime in Japanese, like on Crunchyroll for example, then you’ll glean a lot of insights into the subtitles that get lost when an anime is translated into English.
There’s also some pretty cool pages that are devoted to things such as every possible color you can think of in Japanese, and there’s also a huge list of non-Japanese names that have been translated into the correct Katakana spelling.
You can probably find yours in there too if you look.
(6) Maggie Sensei
Maggie Sensei is a dog. Literally.
Actually she is a French Bulldog, but that’s besides the point.
This site kind of reminds me of Learn Japanese Adventure because it also uses a lot of practical examples to illustrate language concepts in each post.
What’s really cool about Maggie Sensei in particular, is that there are tons of audio files as well so that you can hear it too!
There might be just a little too much color in the sentences for my tastes, but I do agree that it’s a really great way to highlight the specific words for each lesson.
There’s also a section called “Maggie’s room” which is where you can leave a question about anything and she will provide you with an answer pretty quickly.
I think there’s like, over 3,000 comments on it at this point, but new ones go right to the top, so it works out well.
Wanna learn Japanese from man’s best friend?
I’ve also found articles (for Japanese) on these next sites to be useful, but I put them in this other category because they don’t get updated all that often. One post a month isn’t really something that you can wait for when you’re learning a language.
Still, they’ve got some cool stuff on them. If you’ve never visited their sites before, then you will definitely find something useful. Check ’em out if you like:
- Fluent in 3 Months (Japanese Section)
- I Will Teach You a Language (Japanese Section)
- Japanese Through Anime
- Nihongo Shark
- All Japanese All The Time
Pros/Cons of Learning Online for Free
Of course, nothing is perfect.
There are a lot of really great things about learning Japanese online for free such as:
- Free to use
- Can access virtually (on PC, phone, etc)
- Can read, and sometimes listen to Japanese
- Lots of variety
But there’s usually a reason that it’s free. Here are the problems you’ll most likely run into:
- A lack of overall structure
- Site might stop receiving updates
- Hard to find upper-intermediate / advanced material
- Too much information can be overwhelming
It really comes down to what you want to do. If you don’t want to spend any money, then by all means use the hell out of these sites and learn everything they teach.
But if you want to have things presented in a structured way, if you want tutors to guide you, or other learners to work side by side with, then you might prefer investing in a professional product like a course or something.
If that’s something that interests you, then check out my review section on this blog where I talk about those kinds of things
Or you can do both! There’s no reason why you can’t have your Japanese cake and eat it too!
Now I want to hear from you guys! What blogs have you found useful? Do you like any that are on my list? Which sites are sorely missing from it?
Leave a comment below!