Learn Japanese Online: Classes to Get You Started

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  • As the world's third-largest economy, Japan wields a strong influence on the global market.
  • Over 5,000 American college students study abroad in Japan every year.
  • Online Japanese classes offer travelers lessons on basic conversational skills.

According to the latest report by the Modern Language Association of America, Japanese ranked as the fifth-most-studied language in America in 2016. Reasons for this interest include the growing popularity of manga and anime, as well as a fascination with Japan's unique culture.

Travel, business, and prospective job opportunities also factor into the popularity of this language. Every year, more than 5,000 U.S. college students study abroad in Japan. For those interested in traveling after graduation, learning Japanese can lead to a position as an English teacher and many other business opportunities.

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Ready to Start Your Journey?

Japan's economy ranks as the third largest in the world, surpassed only by China and the U.S. Americans with Japanese-language skills may be able to find increasing job prospects and advancement opportunities at companies doing business with and within Japan.

Read on to learn more about online Japanese classes. Each of the following courses offers something unique in terms of format, features, and lessons. Many platforms also provide free courses or free trial periods.

10 Affordable Online Japanese Classes


Developed by the Japan Foundation, Marugoto offers an online course based on the book "Marugoto: Japanese Language and Culture." This online platform emphasizes learning Japanese through the lens of culture and lifestyle. Students can enjoy looking at photos and illustrations and taking part in recorded conversations as they learn to converse in Japanese.

You can study the art of Japanese communication while learning about Japan's festivals, food, travel, and manga. Marugoto offers a trial version so you can see whether this approach is right for you before buying the full course.


FluentU features videos that depict current life and culture in Japan as a medium for learning the language. You can choose from just about any type of video, including music, business, commercials, and movie trailers.

These videos include interactive captions and English translations that allow you to click a word to receive additional clarity. FluentU offers a free 14-day trial.


JapanesePod101 provides lessons through audio podcasts. Whether you want to learn Japanese before you study abroad or are simply interested in culture, you can choose lessons that correspond to your goals. Learn the language through audio and video lessons and discussions that allow for interaction between teachers and students.

For a monthly fee, JapanesePod101's premium subscription includes a personalized program and weekly assignments from your own teacher. Conversations are conducted via private messenger. Additionally, the platform provides access to over 3,800 audio and video lessons.


This free online language-learning app boasts a tremendous following. Over 300 million students use Duolingo to learn their language of choice. Through the use of bite-sized, game-like lessons, you'll learn how to read, write, listen to, and speak Japanese. Lose a life if you get something wrong and earn points when you complete a lesson.

An independent study found that 34 hours of Duolingo was equal to a semester of university study. While the language platform is free, you can also join Duolingo Plus to remove ads and enable progress tracking.


A leading provider of massive open online courses (MOOCs), edX hosts free, university-level online courses and programs from numerous institutions. Founded by Harvard and MIT in 2012, the platform has since grown to include over 2,800 online courses with 34 million students around the globe.

You can learn Japanese from Waseda University's program, which consists of three courses meant to be completed within four months. Tsinghua University also offers two courses in Japanese, with a focus on culture and lifestyle. While both programs offer free options, Waseda University charges for the full program experience. Tsinghua University provides graduates with a certificate if they pay a fee.

Live Lingua

Live Lingua offers direct, one-on-one virtual lessons from a certified Japanese tutor. This online language platform assesses your interests, goals, and learning style, and then pairs you with an appropriate tutor. Lessons align with your individual needs and can be completed at your convenience.

Live Lingua also hosts a collection of free learning materials, including ebooks, audio files, and videos. The program offers a free 30-minute trial lesson. The hourly fee for additional lessons depends on the number of classes purchased.


Busuu's language-learning app offers three programs. The platform's Japanese course serves travelers and students preparing to study abroad by teaching them commonly used phrases, whereas a complete Japanese course teaches you how to read, write, and speak the language.

The app also includes a conversation feature that allows you to get direct feedback from a Japanese native speaker regarding your speaking and/or writing abilities. Busuu offers a free basic plan or premium plans with monthly fees.


If you want to learn common words and phrases, Loecsen provides a free and easy online course. Designed for the traveler, you'll learn basic sentences, such as "How much is it?" and "I don't understand." Choose your desired phrases from 17 themes, including conversation, numbers, restaurant, and transportation.

Loecsen's read-aloud tool allows you to hear your pronunciation and compare it with an original recording.


Founded in 2012 by Stanford University, this MOOC hub offers online courses, degrees, and certificates from over 200 universities and companies.

For example, Saint Petersburg State University offers two 20-hour beginner Japanese courses. Coursework focuses on everyday communication and pronunciation, with lessons that include online videos, readings, and quizzes. While all course materials are free to access, students must pay a one-time fee to have their assignments graded and receive a certificate of completion.


Created by an experienced Japanese-language teacher, Japanese-Lesson.com offers three free courses that address essential phrases and words. Two courses focus on the different alphabets, with each course providing 10 lessons and instructions in reading, writing, and typing. You can access instructions and quizzes through YouTube.

The basic Japanese course consists of 10 lessons in basic conversational skills, such as introducing yourself, getting around, and expressing your feelings. Online lessons include audio recordings of native Japanese speakers.

Feature Image: kumikomini / E+ / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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