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Learn fundamentals of the Japanese language from basic to advanced, including the Japanese alphabets, numbers and colors, sentence structure, conversational skills, and much more. Our online Japanese classes will help you master the skills you need to sound just like a native speaker! Plus, you’ll have the chance to ask questions, get instant feedback, and make new friends with other students at your level. Try any of these group classes and courses free for 30 days!

Everything You Need To Learn Japanese

Learn how to speak japanese

There are many reasons to learn the fascinating Japanese language - from business to world travel. Whatever your motivation for wanting to learn this unique language, you’ve come to the right place.

Keep reading to find answers to some frequently asked questions when starting online Japanese classes. We’ll share how long the language takes to learn, how to practice Japanese, and more!

Is Japanese hard to learn?

Japanese can be a difficult language to learn, but with the right amount of practice and determination, it’s very possible! For native English speakers, Japanese poses some specific challenges.

For example, the written language consists of 71 Kana (unique Japanese characters) and thousands of Kanji (Chinese-derived characters).

But if you really want to learn Japanese, don’t let these challenges stop you. It might not be easy to achieve fluency right away, but it’s certainly easy to start learning Japanese.

Focus on learning one thing at a time starting with the basics, like greetings and the 46-letter Hiragana (which is comparable to the English alphabet).

How long does it take to learn Japanese?

As with any new language, full fluency can take years to achieve. However, the length of time it takes you to learn Japanese largely depends on you. If you never practice, you’ll never learn.

With dedicated practice, a good teacher, and some language immersion, you could be speaking, reading, and writing basic Japanese in a few short months. And with the help of the internet and mobile phone apps, it’s never been easier to find creative ways to practice.

Learn more about how long it takes to become fluent here.

Do you have to be a certain age to learn Japanese? 

Absolutely not! Although it’s easier for most people to learn new languages as children, adults of all ages can also learn Japanese. In fact, learning new languages has been shown to have specific benefits for older students, such as a decreased risk of dementia.

As long as you are dedicated and eager to learn, it doesn’t matter if you are nine or 90—you can learn Japanese.

What are the benefits of learning Japanese? 

There are dozens of benefits to learning the  Japanese language. Here are just a handful of them.

  • Culture - Japan’s rich culture, which includes food, historical treasures, and world-famous anime and manga is best accessed through the Japanese language. Only through learning the language can you truly experience all this unique country has to offer.
  • Jobs - Japan’s powerful economy and expertise in the automotive, electronics, and other industries has made it a lucrative business center. If you’d like to move to Japan for work, learning Japanese is almost vital. Very few Japanese people speak proficient English, and outside of the major cities, you’ll have to speak Japanese to get by. In the U.S., there are also many interpretation jobs available that pay well.
  • Travel - Speaking of traveling to Japan, many tourists are surprised to find that most people in Japan only speak Japanese. In addition, most of the signs, forms, instructions, and menus are exclusively available in Japanese. Because of this, traveling in Japan is much easier with a working knowledge of the language.
  • Friendships - Studying Japanese will likely lead to meeting many new people. Once you have a grasp on the language, you’ll be able to communicate with and befriend a whole country of people you never would’ve been able to speak to otherwise. There’s something magical about crossing cultural barriers!
  • Brain power - Learning a new language is good for your brain. Just like a muscle, your brain works better with exercise, and what better exercise is there than tackling a new language? Studies have shown that learning another language increases your ability to focus and problem solve.

How much does it cost to learn Japanese? 

It depends. If you want to learn Japanese for free, you may be disappointed. Even if you uproot yourself and move to Japan to learn, you’ll face airfare, rent, class fees, and more (although as you progress in the language, visiting Japan is highly encouraged).

Japanese classes at universities, community colleges and the like can run in the thousands of dollars, and computer programs like Rosetta Stone, when used to gain fluency, cost over $600.

Other methods of learning like language apps might be more budget-friendly, but they work better as supplemental learning tools than as the main means of learning a language.

TakeLessons offers a few more cost-effective ways to conquer Japanese. In most cities, Japanese tutors range from $15-$50 per hour for private lessons.

Through TakeLessons Live, you can take online Japanese classes for just $19.95 per month, and the first month is totally free.

Many students choose to take private lessons with a tutor and boost those lessons with TakeLessons Live and other supplemental tools.

What is the best way to learn Japanese?

As with many languages, the best way to learn Japanese is to immerse yourself in it. Your first step should be to commit to studying daily.

Sign up for lessons or online classes, watch anime with subtitles, join a Japanese conversation hour in your city—the more exposure you get, the faster you’ll learn how to speak Japanese.

Having a Japanese teacher is especially crucial to your success, because he or she can give you the individual attention and guidance you need.

Japanese teachers, like those at TakeLessons, provide you with specific lesson plans, homework, and other resources to help you improve in your weaker areas and progress as rapidly as possible.

Do I need any supplies to learn Japanese? 

Your actual supply expenses to learn Japanese should be minimal. A pencil and plenty of paper come in handy for practicing written Japanese, as well as a binder to organize your notes.

Your Japanese instructor will likely recommend specific textbooks, workbooks, flashcards, and other resources for you once you start classes.

How often should I practice Japanese?

Learning Japanese is all about frequent repetition. Make it a point to practice every single day, not just every other day or a few times a week. At TakeLessons, we recommend spending at least 30 minutes per day practicing Japanese.

This will be much easier if you set aside a specific time of day for studying and vary your practice methods. For ideas on creative ways to practice, check out the next section.

Learn more about practicing Japanese here.

What are some ways to practice Japanese?

There are many ways to practice Japanese in between classes or lessons. Here are just a few fun examples.

Textbooks and exercise books

Japanese language books often include exercises for you to practice written Japanese. Some books also have answers in the back so you can check your work even without your Japanese instructor. Your Japanese teacher may ask you to complete some of these exercises for homework.

Flashcards

Flashcards are critical for memorizing Kanji and vocabulary. You may want to make your own as you learn new characters. There are also some apps available that can serve as digital flashcards.

Conversation hours

Many cities have Japanese organizations that host conversation hours. Meetings can take place at coffee shops of Japanese restaurants where you can enjoy a refreshment and practice your Japanese.

These gatherings often include many skill levels, from beginners to native speakers, so don’t be nervous about going. If you’d rather converse digitally, you can also find remote conversation hours online.

Japanese organizations

Speaking of Japanese organizations, joining one will introduce you to your local Japanese community and expose you to lots of Japanese food, culture, and—of course—language.

Find your local Japanese organization to help organize local festivals, partake in meetings, and rub shoulders with plenty of native speakers.

Conversation partners

If you’d rather do something more one-on-one, you can look for a conversation partner. A conversation partner is typically a Japanese native who wants to work on his or her English.

You can find conversation partners online at websites like MyLanguageExchange or through your local Japanese organization. You can also ask a local ESL school if they have any Japanese students who are interested in having a conversation partner.

Japanese podcasts or audiobooks

Try listening to Japanese podcasts while you run errands. You can also listen to Japanese audiobooks. It’s good practice to listen to children’s books or books you’ve already read in English so you can easily follow along.

Japanese TV

Japanese TV shows for children can be great for beginners—after all, children are beginning language learners too. Anime is very popular in the U.S. Just make sure to watch it with subtitles so you can benefit from hearing and reading the Japanese.

If you come across words you don’t know, Google Translate’s audio function is a great companion. You can also write down tricky words and ask your Japanese teacher what they mean during your next class.  

Japanese music

Try listening to Japanese music, such as J Pop. As you become more fluent, you’ll be able to pick up more and more of what’s being said.

If you’re curious about what’s being sung, try looking up lyric translations online. As you improve, you can also try singing along to karaoke tracks with Japanese lyrics on YouTube.

Manga

Manga are the book versions of anime, similar to comic books or graphic novels. As your skills improve, you can benefit from reading manga and paying attention to the Kanji as well as the Hiragana.

What are the best Japanese learning apps? 

There are many apps that can help you learn Japanese. But remember, apps aren’t a substitute for Japanese classes or lessons—they’re better used as a way to supplement and speed up your learning.

Here are a few of the many Japanese learning apps that are available for download.  

  • DuoLingo is a popular language-learning app that just added Japanese. It includes spoken, audio, and visual components that help you practice both writing and speaking Japanese.
  • WaniKani is a great app for learning Kanji using mnemonics and radicals. Many university-level Japanese students use this app.
  • Obenkyo is an app for Android that like WaniKani, focuses on written Japanese. Fun fact: its name means “study” in Japanese.
  • Learn Japanese can help you memorize words and phrases in Japanese with fun graphics to keep you entertained.
  • Learn Japanese! features both visual and audio components for multifaceted learning and includes lessons on grammar and vocabulary, quizzes, and all-kana beginners.
  • Anki is an electronic flashcards app. It converts vocabulary lists from outside sources (like your textbook) into flashcards. This makes for an ideal companion tool for your online Japanese classes.

How many people speak Japanese?

There are approximately 125 million Japanese speakers in the world, many of whom live in Japan.

What countries speak Japanese?

Japan is the only country where the official language is Japanese. However, there are many other countries with a significant Japanese population. Here is a list of countries where Japanese is spoken, followed by how many Japanese live in each.

  1. Brazil (1.5 million)
  2. United States (1.2 million)
  3. Philippines (120,000)
  4. United Kingdom (100,000)