Japanese is the official language of Japan which has a population of more than 127 million people. Japanese is believed to be in the Altaic family of languages and is most closely related to Korean. Japanese uses 4 different writing scripts. Hiragana and Katakana are both syllabic Japanese scripts (Kana) that have the same sounds and 46 letters. Hiragana is the basic Japanese script and Katakana is used mainly for writing foreign words, as well as for other purposes. Kanji are Chinese characters that are used in Japanese, and about 2500 are used very regularly. Lastly, Romaji applies the Roman alphabet to Japanese to make it easier to understand for foreigners. Numerous dialects exist in Japan, the most prominent of which is the Kanto-ben dialect spoken in Tokyo. People in Osaka and Kyoto speak Kansai-ben, the second most common dialect.
Japan is a gorgeous country known for its breathtaking landscape, rich culture, widespread artistic influence and fascinating history. Japan has something for everyone, with its national parks, historic temples, snow-covered mountains perfect for skiing, delicious sushi and some of the biggest and most vibrant cities in the world.
Free Resources to Learn Japanese
Free Learning/Studying Apps
LingoDeer – iTunes – Google Play – This app is a fantastic and structured introduction to Japanese, featuring HD audio by native speakers. Users can learn in Kana, Kanji, and Romaji, and it works offline.
Drops – Learn Japanese – iTunes – Google Play – This simple but powerful app is entertaining, educational, and free. With a focus on visual learning and 5-minute lesson limits, this app is easy to integrate into your daily language learning regimen and is very effective.
Duolingo– iTunes – Google Play – Duolingo has become a leader in the language learning world and for good reason. It’s fast, fun, well designed, suitable for all ages, and turns learning a foreign language into a challenging and pretty addictive game.
Tinycards – iTunes – Google Play – Tinycards is a free flashcards app, from the creators of Duolingo, which uses spaced repetition and nicely designed “decks” to help you learn anything, including foreign languages. Tinycards uses gamification, like Duolingo, which makes it fun and easy to use.
Memrise – iTunes – Google Play – Memrise is a really fast, fun and free language learning app/website that is sure to get you hooked. There is a visual flashcard component which also incorporates audio from a community of native speakers. Memrise uses spaced repetition and is really effective at drilling vocabulary and phrases into your memory.
Clozemaster – iTunes – Google Play – This popular app uses gamification and is a great addition to your language learning regimen, no matter what your level. It is very effective for vocabulary acquisition and billed as a great app to use after Duolingo.
Learn Japanese Phrasebook – iTunes – Google Play – This useful app will help you learn Japanese words and sentences with recordings made by native speakers. The free version has 400+ practical phrases.
Learn Japanese by 50 Languages – iTunes – Google Play – This app is great for beginners (A1-A2) to increase practical vocabulary which is useful for managing everyday situations (at a store, restaurant, bank, doctor, etc). With the free version, you will have access to 30 complete lessons.
Japanese Kana Alphabet by TenguGo – iTunes – Google Play – This app will teach you how to read and write Hiragana and Katakana. It is organized into chapters with quizzes and flashcards for review and features audio examples from native Japanese speakers.
Hiragana Memory Hint English Version by The Japan Foundation – iTunes – Google Play – This app is for complete beginners. It helps you to study Hiragana in a fun way using mnemonic pictures and features a number of quizzes that allow you to test your understanding.
Katakana Memory Hint English Version by The Japan Foundation – iTunes – Google Play – This app is for complete beginners. It helps you to study Katakana in a fun way using mnemonic pictures and features a number of quizzes that allow you to test your understanding.
Obenkyo – Google Play – This app helps you learn Japanese Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji and features lots of practice quizzes.
Japanese Kanji Tree – Google Play – The Kanji Tree app teaches you Kanji and how to read and write Japanese words. The best part is that it is completely free to use and ad-free.
HelloTalk – iTunes – Google Play – HelloTalk is a global language learning social network that connects you with native speakers of other languages so that you can practice your speaking and listening skills with native speakers via text/audio messages and free audio and video calls. The free version allows you to choose one native language and one target language.
Japanese Kanji Study – Google Play – Although much of the app needs to be unlocked with the paid upgrade, the free version of this app is ad-free, covers the N5 level and offers users unlimited access to study hiragana, katakana, radicals and beginner kanji.
Internet Polyglot – iTunes – Google Play – This free app uses lessons, games, and pictures to teach foreign languages to beginners. Although Internet Polyglot is far from a standalone language learning tool, it is a useful supplement to help you to learn and retain vocabulary.
Tandem Language Exchange – iTunes – Google Play – This app matches you with language exchange partners from all over the world, providing the opportunity to practice those essential conversation skills that are necessary to take your language skills to the next level.
Free Japanese Dictionary/Translation Apps
Japanese English Dictionary & Translator – iTunes – Google Play – This free app works offline and provides detailed definitions, example sentences and pronunciation guidance for Japanese & English words, as well as flashcards for learning.
Google Translate – iTunes – Google Play – Google Translate offers online text translation between 103 languages by typing, offline translation for 59 languages, camera translation for 38 languages, image translation for 37 languages, conversation translation in 32 languages, and translation of handwritten characters in 93 languages. The app also has a phrasebook which allows you to save translated words and phrases for future reference in all languages.
imiwa? – iTunes – This multilingual Japanese dictionary works offline and has 170,000 entries. Many definitions are available in English, German, Russian and French. 13,000+ Kanji entries are available with examples pulled from Tatoeba.org.
gSho – Google Play – With fast results and search-as-you-type functionality, gSho is a reliable Japanese-English dictionary providing definitions, conjugations, and contextual examples.
Jsho – Google Play – This free English-Japanese dictionary is described as being “simple, lightweight, fast and accurate” and it works offline.
iTranslate – iTunes – Google Play – iTranslate is a leading free translator and dictionary app that provides translations for text in over 100 languages. Other functionality includes transliteration, sharing, favorites, history, and audio in both male and female voices. Voice to voice translations and the use of offline mode is not available with the free version.
Akebi Japanese Dictionary – Google Play – This app is a real powerhouse featuring “stroke-order independent handwriting recognition, 320k+ example sentences, 200k+ words and 6k+ Kanji database!”. The database can easily be searched using any letter (first, last or middle).
Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101 – This is a fun and helpful set of videos to add to your regular Japanese language learning regimen.
Erin’s Challenge! I Can Speak Japanese by The Japan Foundation – The Japan Foundation created these Japanese language lessons to promote Japanese language and culture to those learning Japanese as a foreign language. The website contains 25 lessons, each with seven sections: “Basic skit,” “Advanced skit,” “Key phrases,” “Develop vocabulary,” “What’s this?,” “Let’s see,” and “Let’s try.” It also offers a lot of learning materials and plenty of opportunities to practice with exercises.
Let’s Learn Japanese Basic I – The Japan Foundation created the 26 episode “Let’s Learn Japanese Basic I” course in the eighties to teach Japanese as a foreign language. This video series uses dramatized skits to teach vocabulary and grammar, designed to help the viewer memorize, and practice using new words and grammatical structures. Three textbooks accompany the Basics I Course Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3.
Let’s Learn Japanese Basic II – The Japan Foundation created the 26 episode course “Let’s Learn Japanese Basic II” in the nineties, as a follow up to the first course. Two textbooks accompany the Basics II Course: Volume 1, and Volume 2.
Japanese Ammo with Misa – This YouTube channel has a lot of high-quality video lessons that cover topics in depth. Check out the Grammar Lessons for Absolute Beginners, Grammar Lessons for Upper Beginner / Lower Intermediate, and Japanese Vocabulary playlists.
Japanese Kana and Hiragana and Katakana – iTunes – This video podcast was created by the Emory College Language Center and it will teach proper form and stroke order for the Hiragana and Katakana syllabaries.
Japanese Kanji Characters – iTunes – This video podcast was created by the Emory College Language Center and it will teach proper form and stroke order for several fundamental Kanji characters.
Dogen – Dogen describes his Japanese language lessons as “mostly comedy, mostly about Japan”, and viewers consider them to be really original, entertaining and informative.
Learn Japanese from Zero – This extensive collection of video lessons are hosted by George Trombley, a professional Japanese interpreter, textbook author, and teacher. Visit his website YesJapan.com (the Internet’s longest-running interactive Japanese education site) for a ton of Japanese language learning resources, like lessons, videos, and games.
Learn Kanji Videos – These animated Kanji videos use mnemonics to teach Kanji.
Let’s Learn Japanese Series by NHK – Japan’s Public Broadcasting company created this language learning video series in the eighties.
Easy Travel Japanese – This program is produced by NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting company, and provides a handful of video episodes that cover some basic conversations and phrases that you should be familiar with prior to visiting Japan.
Takanori Tomito’s Japanese Lessons – This YouTube channel teaches Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana symbols and how to speak Japanese.
Edupedia World – The Edupedia World YouTube channel offers a very comprehensive set of free Japanese language videos.
Travel Linguist Japanese 101 Video Lessons – This series of 20 short videos covers basic introductory vocabulary.
Easy Japanese – These YouTube videos are the work of a non-profit project which uses lighthearted street interviews as a method to teach languages. Each video has a topic and the host asks questions to native Japanese speakers on the street based on the theme. Each video contains subtitles in both Japanese and English.
Nihongono Mori – This YouTube channel offers a large selection of lessons categorized by difficulty level (N1 – N5). All lessons are entirely in Japanese, so a foundational knowledge of the language is required.
LangMedia – LangMedia provides language learning resources, including videos, audio, study guides, etc. LangMedia is run by the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages and their mission is to share examples of linguistic and cultural diversity with language learners. In the “Language by Country” section of the LangMedia website they provide videos which focus on practical aspects of everyday life (For Ex: Basic Communication, Shopping, Transportation, Culture and Social Life). The conversations often include colloquial language and all videos are accompanied by translations and transcripts.
Easy Japanese by NHK – iTunes – Japan’s Public Broadcasting company NHK World Radio Japan created the Easy Japanese language learning program to teach basic grammar and useful expressions through a series of 48 lessons. The lessons center around a character named Anna who is learning Japanese while attending university in Tokyo. Audio files in MP3 format and texts in PDF format can be downloaded. In addition to the Japanese language lessons, you can access Japanese syllabaries, vocabulary lists, and quizzes, supplemental grammar explanations for each lesson by a Japanese teacher and an introduction on onomatopoeic words.
Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101 – iTunes – This is a fun and informative podcast to add to your regular Japanese language learning regimen. Every lesson is free for a period of time; each new audio and video lesson (3-5 lessons are published per week) is free to access for 3 weeks before being locked into their library, which can be accessed only with paid membership.
Japanese SurvivalPhrases – iTunes – These fun and innovative audio lessons teach basic Japanese and are accompanied by PDF guides.
One Minute Japanese – iTunes – This free Japanese language learning podcast from the Radio Lingua Network will cover the basics and provide you with ten bite-sized lessons which are just a few minutes in length. These audio lessons clearly won’t make you fluent, but they can help you get by on a trip to Japan.
Learn Japanese by Complete Language Lessons – Spotify – 10 free Japanese lessons on Spotify.
Learn Japanese in Your Car by Henry N. Raymond – This free Spotify podcast teaches fundamental Japanese grammar and very practical vocabulary and phrases to beginners.
- Learn Japanese in Your Car Level 1 on Spotify
- Learn Japanese in Your Car Level 2 on Spotify
- Learn Japanese in Your Car Level 3 on Spotify
Vocabulearn Japanese – This free program on Spotify is divided into three parts, each of which is approximately three hours long and teaches more than 2500 vocabulary words and useful phrases.
- Vocabulearn Japanese Level 1 on Spotify
- Vocabulearn Japanese Level 2 on Spotify
- Vocabulearn Japanese Level 3 on Spotify
Learn Japanese Fast by Language Superstar – Spotify – This podcast on Spotify has many hours of Japanese language instruction spread over 20 lessons.
Rhythmic Japanese by The Third Ear – These audio lessons teach key Japanese vocabulary and phrases in a way that they say is “guaranteed to stick”.
- Rhythmic Japanese Volume 1 on Spotify – 230 Core Words and Phrases.
- Rhythmic Japanese Volume 2 on Spotify – 350 Core Words and Phrases.
- Rhythmic Japanese Volume 3 on Spotify – 350 Core Words and Phrases.
Learn to Speak Japanese and Write Kanji symbols – iTunes – This podcast by Takanori Tomita teaches how to speak Japanese as well as how to write Japanese symbols such as Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana.
Learn How to Speak Japanese – Spotify – Beginner Japanese words and phrases.
Colloquial Japanese: The Complete Course for Beginners – This collection of audio files, each a few minutes in length, provides concise and clear Japanese language instruction for beginners. These free audio lessons were made to accompany the Colloquial Japanese: The Complete Course for Beginners textbook, which is a book aimed at teaching Japanese to beginners in a practical way to prepare them to effectively communicate with confidence in everyday situations.
Bilingual News – iTunes Podcast – iTunes App – Google Play – Bilingual News is a free English and Japanese news podcast covering a variety of topics and using informal language. The apps features the transcripts for the podcast and enable users to find word definitions and save voabulary lists.
Foreign Service Institute (FSI) Japanese FAST Course – The FSI Japanese Fast Course was created as an intensive and challenging course that would yield the best language learning results in the shortest period of time. It was originally designed to be a 6-week program to prepare someone to live and work abroad in Japan. FAST stands for Familiarization and Short-term Training and this course aims to get you speaking Japanese from day 1, and prioritizes verbal communication over grammatical accuracy. The Japanese FAST course simplifies grammar lessons in order to expedite the use of spoken Japanese in a very practical way. The 30 lessons emphasize culture in addition to language and primarily focus on teaching someone to confidently speak Japanese in very practical situations. The FSI Japanese Fast Course includes e-textbook with 522 pages in PDF format.
Foreign Service Institute (FSI) Japanese Headstart Course – The Foreign Service Institute (U.S. Department of State) originally created this and many other language learning courses to train government employees and members of the foreign service in preparation for a post abroad. All FSI courses are wonderfully thorough and a treasured free resource for all language learners! The FSI Japanese Headstart program includes ten modules over 26 audio lessons in MP3 format with a running time of 9 hours and 40 minutes, as well as a glossary, flashcards, 2 module guides and Student Guide, all in PDF format. This is a self-paced course which provides a good introduction to beginner Japanese, with an emphasis on giving you the tools to navigate conversations in everyday, basic situations.
Japanese Learning Objects by the University of Cambridge – Japanese Learning Objects are independent resources that can be incorporated into a course or simply used for self-study. These particular Japanese objects focus on teaching how to speak and write Japanese.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Open Courseware – MIT offers a ton of free classes, several of which are in Japanese. Japanese I and II courses are a great place to start for beginners. Japanese III and IV are intermediate level and Japanese V and VI are advanced level Japanese courses. If you already have a strong foundation in Japanese, you can move on to a number of other free MIT Japanese courses that focus on many subject matters, like gender and culture, literature and cinema.
- Beginner Japanese I Course – This undergraduate university level Japanese language course was taught in 2012 at MIT. It covers the basics of the modern standard Japanese, including grammar and vocabulary, listening comprehension and speaking skills.
- Beginner Japanese II Course – This undergraduate university level Japanese language course was taught in 2013 at MIT. It builds on the progress made in the Beginner Japanese I course and works on developing simple, practical conversations and improving reading and writing skills.
- Intermediate Japanese I Course – This undergraduate university level Japanese language course was taught in 2016 at MIT. It builds on the progress made in the Beginner Japanese II course and works on improving conversation, reading and writing skills. At this intermediate level, an active command of spoken Japanese is emphasized over passive knowledge. Improving the ability to use Japanese actively, accurately and fluently is the goal of this course, which also teaches about 80 Kanji characters.
- Intermediate Japanese II Course – This undergraduate university level Japanese language course was taught in 2009 at MIT, and following Intermediate Japanese II, it continues to improve upon conversation abilities, reading, listening, writing and grammar skills as well as increase cultural knowledge. This course also teaches about 100 Kanji characters.
- Advanced Japanese I – This undergraduate university level Japanese language course was taught in 2005 at MIT. This course should be taken following the completion of Intermediate Japanese II and focuses on building oral proficiency, expanding vocabulary and improving grammar.
- Advanced Japanese II – This undergraduate university level Japanese language course was taught in 2005 at MIT. This course builds on the content of the Advanced Japanese I course and continues the study of grammar and vocabulary while working on speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills.
Japanese E-Learning Minato Platform by The Japan Foundation – This website not only offers numerous free Japanese language courses but also serves as an online platform that facilitates interactions with communities from around the world.
- A1 Beginner Japanese Language Courses – These are self-study course using interactive e-learning materials.
- A2 Beginner Japanese Language Courses – These are self-study course using interactive e-learning materials.
Japanese-Lessons.com – This website offers several courses which were created by a Japanese teacher as a free resource for Japanese language students. This site also offers information on Japanese characters, vocabulary and other supplemental resources that you can access in addition to the courses.
- Basic Japanese Course – The Basic Japanese Course has 10 beginner lessons and each one takes about 45-90 minutes to complete. No prior knowledge of Japanese characters is necessary since Rōmaji (Roman characters) is used throughout.
- Hiragana Course – This course teaches students how to read and write Hiragana Letters and introduces more than 500 commonly used words and phrases. It has 10 beginner lessons and each one takes about 45-90 minutes to complete.
- Katakana Course – This course teaches students how to read and write Katakana Letters and introduces more than 500 commonly used words and phrases. It has 11 beginner lessons and each one takes about 45-90 minutes to complete.
Elon.io Japanese Course – This comprehensive language course employs spaced repetition as a learning tool and consists of 17 units with 149 lessons. Students can also learn from the extensive vocabulary lists provided as well as create their own word lists.
BBC Languages: Japanese – The BBC Japanese Language website is a treasure trove of wonderful resources and information. It is high-quality, comprehensive and provides a lot of intelligently presented and produced materials. All BBC language learning pages were “archived” a few years back due to cost-cutting measures, which means they are no longer adding new information or updating the pages. However, you should have no problem accessing the existing information.
Goethe Verlag – This website offers 100 Japanese lessons for beginners, each with words, phrases and corresponding audio files.
LanguageGuide.org – Explore the world of Japanese by learning an abundance of vocabulary in a sound integrated, animated guide. After learning the vocabulary you can take part in games to test your comprehension.
Babadum – A free language learning website that features fun flashcard games to help you brush up on your vocabulary.
Hello World – Hello World has created hundreds of free language learning games and activities that cater to the way children learn best. The goal is to teach languages using cognitive immersion and to keep the process fun in order to increase learning potential. Approximately 1,300 vocabulary words are introduced over 70 different categories.
Polly Lingual – This website offers some fun games, exercises and beginner level instruction with lessons that include text and audio.
Learn101 – This website features free beginner lessons to guide you through learning Japanese, step by step, starting with the Alphabet, moving on to grammar, vocabulary and phrases, and finally offering simple quizzes to test your progress. These lessons are a basic introduction to the language and have images, text and audio.
CoolJugator – CoolJugator is a verb conjugator website that makes conjugation easy and straightforward.
Ilanguages – This site is designed to teach Japanese with free vocabulary, phrases, grammar, and flashcards while focusing on highly used words and phrases necessary for everyday living.
Digital Dialects – This website makes learning vocabulary fun with interactive games.
Verbix – Online Japanese verb conjugator.
Joshu – This University of Texas at Austin website provides a ton of lessons and educational resources to Japanese language students. Joshu means “tutor” in Japanese and JOSHU is also an acronym (Japanese Online Self-Help Utility).
Kyo-kotoba – This University of Texas at Austin website provides lessons relating to the grammar and accent patterns of Kyoto Japanese (Kyo-Kotoba).
Kanji Radicals – This University of Texas at Austin website is a wonderful resource dedicated to helping students learn Kanji radicals. By teaching how to recognize patterns among a small group of Kanji radicals, this site aims to help students to learn new Kanji more easily while helping them to retain what they have previously learned.
Cultural Interviews with Japanese-Speaking Professionals by UT Austin – In addition to touching on various cultural issues and business topics, these interviews with Japanese executives provide a variety of examples of natural spoken Japanese, which is helpful to language learners. This free educational resource is brought to you by the University of Texas at Austin.
Kansai-Ben – This website was created by Ikue Shingu (MIT and Harvard Professor) as a self-study site for students learning the Kansai dialect (a group of Japanese dialects in the Kansai region).
A Guide to Japanese – This amazing Japanese language learning resource site was created by Tae Kim and is a go-to guide for beginners.
Imabi – This incredibly thorough website offers extensive lessons for beginners, intermediate, advanced and veteran level learners.
Yookoso! – Yookoso! is a portal for Japanese language students and learners of Kanji, as well as all those who are interested in visiting Japan and in Japanese culture.
Wake Forest University Kanji Exercises for Yookoso – This site provides online Kanji exercises for the textbook Yookoso!
Charles Kelley’s Japanese Study Materials – Charles Kelly, a resident of Japan who moved there as a young child, created this site to offer free online resources to help people learn Japanese. You will find a ton of learning materials from flashcards and quizzes, to vocabulary and reading materials.
Quizlet – Quizlet, an online learning community that allows you to create and share digital flashcards, features a ton of study sets focusing on the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test).
Japanese in Anime & Manga – This e-learning website was created by The Japan Foundation as a way to teach Japanese language and culture in a fun way through Anime and Manga. Students can learn expressions that are characteristic of the 4 genres of Anime and Manga (romance, school, ninja, samurai) as well as phrases and onomatopoeia. Quizzes are offered for all learning levels from beginner to advanced and a Kanji game is available for either beginner or intermediate levels. This site definitely offers learning opportunities that are not present in a typical textbook or classroom setting.
Marugoto Plus – MARUGOTO+ is a website created by The Japan Foundation to teach about Japanese language and culture. The materials on this site are based on the official textbook of the Japan Foundation, “MARUGOTO: Japanese Language and Culture,” which is associated with the JF Standard for Japanese Language Education. The website is geared towards A1 and A2 levels and allows you to practice Kanji, vocabulary, and grammar, and provides videos to aid in the learning of conversational Japanese as well as lifestyle and culture.
Marugoto Coursebook Dictionary – You can also consult this Japan Foundation website which allows you to search for the meaning of words and phrases from the “MARUGOTO: Japanese Language and Culture” textbook as well as make organized lists of the words/phrases you want to study. Here you can practice vocabulary which is organized by topic and category, and listen to audio to improve pronunciation.
Nihongo de Carenavi – This free Japanese language learning tool was created by The Japan Foundation and to support nurses and healthcare providers. It features a dictionary and a search tool with over 8000 words and about 4400 example sentences with audio. It also allows you to create your own list of vocabulary and phrases.
Hirogaru: Get More of Japan and Japanese – This is an interesting site created by The Japan Foundation which helps students learn about Japan and the Japanese language by perusing subjects that suit their own interests. Choose from one of twelve topics (Stars and the Night Sky, Outdoors, Martial Arts, Cafés and Tea, Sweets, Supermarkets and Markets, Calligraphy, Anime and Manga, Books and Libraries, Temples and Shrines, Music, and Aquariums) and read, listen or watch to interesting content with subtitles.
Online Nihongo – This simple website is dedicated to teaching stroke order and pronunciation of all Kana characters (Hiragana and Katakana) and offers several practice quizzes
AJALT Online Japanese Lessons – The Association for Japanese Language Teaching offers free lessons, games and other handy resources to help you learn and practice your Japanese skills, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced student.
Real World Japanese by AJALT – The Association for Japanese Language Teaching created this site for language students to practice Japanese by listening to realistic conversations categorized by proficiency level and based on 3 categories: General, Business or Kids.
One World Japanese Quizzes – This website offers quizzes to help you learn about intransitive verbs, transitive verbs, and onomatopoeia.
Keigo – This website explains Keigo (respectful, humble and polite language) through dramatized scenes and all videos are accompanied by transcripts.
Gitaigo – This website teaches about Gitalgo, which are Onomatopoeic words. The site offers Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean explanations as well as short video clips with each lesson.
University of Tsukuba Japanese Language Lessons – These Japanese language lessons were developed by the University of Tsukuba for international students. This interactive site is divided into three sections: Speak, Write and Learn, and is perfect for self-study. Each unit contains multiple lessons with audio, video, study tips and grammar explanations and you can practice what you have learned with exercises, quizzes, and games.
Hinoki Project – This web interface is a learning tool developed by the Tokyo Institute of Technology that provides more insight into how a particular Japanese word is actually used than a common dictionary. The tool searches a large database of Japanese newspapers, academic papers and blogs thereby determining the frequency and context of its use, and whether it’s more of an academic word or a word commonly used in conversation, etc.
Japanese Typing Exercises by The University of Washington – This simple site was created as a tool to practice typing Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji and to review Kana and Kanji.
Japanese Language Study Site by Osaka University – Osaka University Global Language Research Center created this site to help Japanese language students learn and practice skills. There are 15 lessons in total and they feature video skits, interactive exercises, vocabulary and grammar explanations and more.
MyKikitori – This free site was created by a student named Aiko Sato at San Francisco State University to provide an easy way for beginner Japanese language students to practice listening. There are 12 lessons that include illustrations, listening practice and quizzes. which follow the grammar and vocabulary from the textbook Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese Volume 1 published by The Japan Times.
Japanese Lessons by Takanori Tomita – Japanese language teacher Takanori Tomita created this website which offers free beginner lessons to teach students Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji, phrases, and grammar using illustrations, audio, and video.
Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Language Modules – TUFS (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies) created the Japanese Language Modules as web-based educational resources for students and they are available in English, French, Chinese, Mongolian, Korean or Turkish. This website features video kits and instruction that teach listening, speaking and writing skills.
Tokyo University of Foreign Studies JPLang – This e-learning site is brought to you by TUFS (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies) and it provides comprehensive Japanese education resources covering topics like grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing and listening skills for beginners and intermediate level learners.
Tokyo Metropolitan University Resources for Japanese Language Instruction – TMU created these Japanese language resources for their international students but have made them available for free to the public.
Keigo Tutorial by The Japanese Ministry of Culture – The Japanese Ministry of Culture created this website to teach Keigo (respectful language), and because all of the content is in Japanese, it is geared towards students who can already speak and understand Japanese at an intermediate level or above. The videos show people using Keigo in real-life situations and speaking Japanese at a natural speed.
Waiwai Kyoushitu Japanese School Learning Site – This Japanese language learning site features interactive games, audio, and illustrations as well as a dictionary and teaches useful vocabulary and phrases.
Kanji Alive – Kanji Alive is a really useful web app that helps Japanese language students to learn to read and write Kanji. This Kanji learning resource allows you to search in Japanese, Romaji or English and also by meaning, pronunciation, stroke number, etc.
Aizuchi: A Guide to Smooth Conversation – During a conversation in Japanese, the listener often gives short verbal reactions which are not replies but rather “Aizuchi” (a.k.a back-channeling). These sorts of responses are considered to be integral to having smooth conversations with Japanese people. The site provides video clips to show examples of Alzuchi to be learned and imitated and explains how changes in intonation can affect the meaning of spoken Japanese.
Kids Web Japan – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA) created the Kids Web Japan site as a way to introduce Japanese to children in other countries. There are 8 lessons which teach basic phrases and conversation skills, vocabulary, grammar and Kanji, and although the target age group for the site is 10-14, it can be a helpful supplemental Japanese language resource for all beginners.
CosCom Learn Japanese – CosCom, a Japanese language school located in Tokyo, created this website which provides a nice selection of lessons and Japanese learning resources.
Minna no Nihongo Renshuujoo – This free website provides quizzes for you to learn and practice basic vocabulary and grammar skills.
Renshuu – This is a great learning resource where you will find quizzes and study tools, a forum that connects you to other Japanese language learners and the ability to practice vocabulary from popular sources like the Genki textbook and the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test).
J-Learning: Learn Japanese Online – This free website offers 50 Japanese grammar lessons for beginners, divided into multiple sections like phrases, slides with grammar explanations, exercises, PDF worksheets, Kanji and Kanji exercises. The site also has a dictionary, Kanji dictionary, and Kana reading tool.
Online Japanese Tests – This site offers a lot of quizzes to test your Japanese grammar, vocabulary, Kanji, listening and reading comprehension skills and the site interface is available in either Chinese, Korean or English.
Visualizing Japanese Grammar – Visualizing Japanese Grammar is a Japanese language learning resource with 66 units that explain fundamental grammatical concepts with animations and audio. Additionally, 12 appendices are available for download which provide supplemental grammar explanations. The 66 videos can also be viewed on YouTube.
Usagi-Chan’s Genki Resource Page – This website was created by a professor at Sacramento State University as a resource for students using the Genki textbook. The Katakana, Hiragana, and Kanji sections have videos to teach stroke order, as well as flashcards, worksheets and exercises and the vocabulary section features lists of words along with interactive exercises.
Genki-Online – This site was created to be used in conjunction with the best selling Japanese language textbook “Genki” and features a ton of online resources for self-study.
Japanese-Nihongo.com – This free website teaches Japanese conversation, grammar, and culture and provides learning tools to study for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
Japanese Stories by BookBox – Cartoons have always been a wonderful asset to language learning, particularity for children. These animated children’s stories are great because the viewer can read along with the narration, which is shown on-screen as “Same Language Subtitles (SLS).” Each word is highlighted in time with the audio, which helps with comprehension and retention.
Loecsen – Loecson offers a free mini-course consisting of fun lessons that provide a basic introduction to Japanese with the help of text, audio, simple illustrations, and quizzes to test your progress. You will learn high-frequency vocabulary words and commonly used phrases relating to 17 themes which are relevant to everyday life.
Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Japanese Tutorial – This Language Survival Kit Module for Japanese contains basic vocabulary with audio. Both the audio files and the PDF text can be downloaded.
Quiz Tree – This website offers educational games and simple quizzes to test your Japanese language skills.
I Love Languages Japanese Lessons – This site provides 17 beginner Japanese lessons designed to help you improve your speaking, reading, and writing skills. Supplementary resources include vocabulary, grammar tips, and phrases.
Compound Verb Lexicon – This lexicon is brought to you by The National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics.
NINJAL-LWP – This Japanese web corpus tool is brought to you by The University of Tsukuba and The National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics.
Japanese Test 4 U – This website offers hundreds of free online practice tests for Japanese students.
The Kanji Map – This site, which is free to use and free of ads, was created to help students learn Japanese by providing “a visual map of the connections between kanjis”.
Steven Kraft’s Japanese Projects – This website is dedicated to providing free Japanese learning lessons. It is a work in progress, but at this point, it features verb conjugation practice and numbers and counters tutorials.
Lang-8 – This free network is a nice tool to support your language learning. Native speakers are available to make corrections to your text and provide feedback. In return, you provide help to others.
HiNative – iTunes – Google Play – HiNative is an app brought to you by the creators of Lang-8 that allows you to ask questions to native speakers from around the world using your smartphone. HiNative was created to be used alongside Lang-8 and is different from Lang-8 in that it focuses on a Q&A type of learning while Lang-8 is a journal writing experience.
RhinoSpike – RhinoSpike is an interesting website that connects language learners from all over the world allowing them to exchange audio files to help improve pronunciation skills. It allows you to submit text that you would like to hear read aloud by a native speaker, and in turn, you receive the audio file. In exchange, and to speed up the process, you can, in turn, provide audio files in your native language for other learners.
MyLanguageExchange.com – This online language learning community connects you with other learners so that you can practice speaking in your second language with a native speaker and vice-versa.
Italki – A community of over 2 million language learners that facilitates free language practice with native speakers. You simply exchange time teaching your native language for time learning a foreign language, making it mutually beneficial and free.
BBC – The British Broadcasting Company provides news in Japanese.
Google News – Read the world news in Japanese with Google News.
CNN Japan – Read CNN articles in Japanese.
Slow News by NHK Radio – NHK radio news is available 24/7 and you can adjust the speed between slow, normal and fast.
Easy News by NHK – Japanese public broadcaster NHK created the News Web Easy website for those who are learning Japanese as a second language. It contains articles about current events in simple Japanese.
Asahi Shimbun – One of Japan’s oldest and largest national daily newspapers.
NTV News – A major 24-hour news station in Japan.
FNN News – The Fuji News Network is a major TV news network in Japan.
TBS News – A major TV news network in Japan owned by Japan News Network.
Hiragana Times – This Japanese magazine targets foreigners living in Japan and features content in both Japanese and in English.
SBS Radio Japanese Program – iTunes – SBS is an Australian broadcasting company that targets non-native English speakers and creates programming in many languages. This podcast allows you to listen to interviews, features and community stories from the SBS Radio Japanese program, including Australian and world news.
WordReference – There is no need for a Japanese-English dictionary if you have WordReference. Featuring good translations of words and solid definitions, this site also has helpful forums where Japanese speakers from around the world contribute to explaining subtle nuances or more obscure words.
Forvo – This crowd-sourced site is a great tool to help with pronunciation as it allows you to listen to words and phrases spoken by native speakers.
Bad.La – This “language portal” boasts 44 dictionaries for 28 languages, as well as a wealth of other language learning resources, such as helpful articles, games and quizzes, verb conjugations and phrase books.
Lexilogos – This is a unique concept: just type a Japanese word into the search field and then choose from one of several dictionaries.
LearnWithOliver – In addition to a dictionary, this site offers games and flashcards to support your Japanese Language learning.
Tatoeba – Tatoeba is a large, crowdsourced database of sentences and translations. This free resource allows you to search for a word and get results showing that word in sentences with translations.
Talkify – This free, multilingual website is a very interesting and valuable resource that allows you to listen to text in foreign languages. Simply insert a URL into the search field on Talkify and it will automatically detect the language and read the text of that website aloud in a natural sounding voice.
OJAD – OJAD is an online Japanese accent database which helps Japanese language learners to understand the Japanese pitch accent. OJAD includes vocabulary lists from textbooks like Genki with audio to show pronunciation.
Tangorin – This free online Japanese dictionary allows you to search in many ways (English, Japanese, Rōmaji, Kana, Kanji, etc.) and offers fast results from its millions of entries.
Kanji Dictionaries – This tutorial from the University of Texas at Austin will teach you how to use Kanji dictionaries.
ALC – This Japanese dictionary is popular among translators because it contains many technical terms and phrases that you might not find in other dictionaries.
Yamasa Online Dictionary – This dictionary features both a word dictionary and a Kanji dictionary and is published in English, German, Korean, Chinese, Spanish and Czech. In addition to the Kanji readings and meanings, it also includes 3 images of each character: 1) printed form 2)animated form to show the stroke order of each Kanji, and 3) an aid to facilitate reading of handwritten characters.
Jisho – This free Japanese-English dictionary provides quick and easy results to searches for words and Kanji, along with sample sentences.
Honyaku Star – Honyaku Star is a great, free online dictionary offering over 2,240,000 results.
Kotobank – This website is a great resource that provides search results from 51 Japanese dictionaries and encyclopedias with a total of approximately 470,000 entries.
Kanji.Jitenon.Jp – This Japanese dictionary offers a number of search options.
RomajiDesu – RomajiDesu is a free online Japanese dictionary with lots of functionality, including a Kanji dictionary, Japanese to English/Romaji translator, Romaji to Kana converter (or Romaji to Hiragana and Katakan) and a browser extension for on page translations.
Tagaini Jisho – This free, open-source Japanese dictionary and Kanji lookup tool is a great study tool for any Japanese student. It is derived from the EDICT database and features stroke order animations for 6000+ Kanji.
Cambridge Online Dictionary – Here you can access the online version of the popular Cambridge Dictionary.
Learn Hiragana: The Ultimate Guide – This free textbook by Koichi of Tofugu.com is a comprehensive and illustrated guide to learning Hiragana.
Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education Textbook – This Japanese language textbook is available in 22 different languages and focuses on expressions and vocabulary typical of Japanese school life. It was originally created for foreign school aged students studying Japanese but is a useful beginner book for any age.
GENKI I: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese Textbook – This is one of the most highly regarded Japanese language teaching textbooks covering speaking, listening, reading, and writing to cultivate overall language ability.
GENKI I: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese Workbook – This workbook should be used with the above textbook.
GENKI II: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese Textbook – Genki II picks up where Genki I leaves off and continues the high-quality Japanese language teaching by covering speaking, listening, reading, and writing to cultivate overall language ability.
GENKI II: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese Workbook – This workbook should be used with the above textbook.
Remembering the Kana – This Japanese textbook by James W. Heisig has two parts, one that focuses on Hiragana and one that focuses on Katakana.
Practice Makes Perfect Basic Japanese – This popular book by Erico Sato uses Japanese characters (Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji) with phonetic translations and teaches a lot of useful vocabulary, the basics of grammar, pronunciation, and writing. Lots of practice exercises are also included.
An Introduction to Japanese Syntax, Grammar & Language – This textbook by Michiel “Pomax” Kamermans provides a comprehensive overview of Japanese grammar for beginners.
Colloquial Japanese: The Complete Course for Beginners 2nd Edition – This beginner Japanese language book by focuses on colloquial Japanese (as it is spoken now) and teaches how to communicate with confidence.
Japanese Hiragana & Katakana for Beginners: First Steps to Mastering the Japanese Writing System – This Japanese language textbook by Timothy G. Stout uses mnemonics to teach students how to read and write the basic 92 hiragana and katakana characters.
Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don’t Tell You – This book by Harvard University professor Jay Rubin is well reviewed for its usefulness in explaining difficult concepts and providing clear insight and explanations that are particularly helpful to beginner and intermediate level learners.
J-CAT Japanese Language Proficiency Test – The J-CAT (Japanese Computerized Adaptive Test) evaluates your proficiency level in the areas of listening, vocabulary, grammar, and reading.
Japanese UP – In addition to a language proficiency test, this site has games for learning Japanese alphabet (Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji) among other great resources for learning Japanese phrases, pronunciation, and vocabulary.
Transparent Language – Free online language level testing is offered by this language learning software company.
Goethe Verlag – Free tests in 25 languages and 600 language combinations. You will find 120 Japanese vocabulary tests.
Cactus Language – This UK based language study abroad organization offers free online language level testing.
Language Trainers – This language training company offers free online language level testing.
What Are Your Favorite Free Japanese Language Learning Resources?
We have done a lot of research to bring you the best, free resources that the internet has to offer and we want to make sure our list is always comprehensive. Please share your favorites in the comments below!