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Lots of people ask that question because Japanese is the fifth-most studied language in the United States! What's driving its popularity? It'll come as no surprise that many learners develop an interest in Japanese because of manga, anime, and video games. Others realize that speaking Japanese can offer significant advantages in the worlds of technology and business. And, of course, many travelers like to learn at least the basics before spending time in Japan - to better appreciate the culture and to communicate more effectively in-country.
No matter what your reasons are, studying Japanese can be challenging. Because it uses a writing system that's completely different from what you already know from English, learning it can take much longer than mastering languages that use the Roman alphabet (like Spanish or German). You might even need to figure out how to use your keyboard differently!
Friday, March 24th
With over 60 million users spanning the globe, Memrise has been teaching people to speak new languages for over a decade. Their Japanese lessons strike the perfect balance between the repetition you need to commit words and phrases to memory and the entertaining features that will keep you interested and studying regularly.
Excellent native speaker video clips in real-life settings
Memrise is a regular first-place winner when it comes to language lessons, due in large part to the way they teach using authentic video content. Even when you start at the very beginning with Memrise's Japanese 0 - The Basics, you'll learn how to write in Japanese by seeing real people paint, draw, and write out the symbols of the language. We can't say enough about how effective this is for learning by seeing and hearing at the same time, in a context that lets you hear how many different people sound in Japanese. It also lets you start picking up on subtle gestures and mannerisms they use while they speak; we all know how touchy it can be when English-speakers do something with their body or hands that's totally normal at home but shockingly offensive when used in another culture. Why not acquire that body language while you learn the words too?
Grow your learning
While you use Memrise, it tracks your progress using the symbol of a growing plant. As you practice, each word grows from a seed, to a plant, to a full flower as it gets "fully rooted" in your memory. It's a nice visual to see how much you've learned. There are also leaderboards that track your points and rank you against other Japanese students, but you can ignore that aspect if competition doesn't motivate you.
So much to learn
Even if you're an intermediate or advanced student, Memrise has Japanese content to challenge you. There are eight levels of lessons to choose from, going from the basics at Level 0 all the way to Level 7's vocabulary for technology and phrases to make people laugh. But, that's not all. This platform allows users to generate and upload their own content, giving you even more opportunities to custom-design your learning. Holiday survival kit? "Very casual and slangy" Japanese? Pokemon Let's Go Japanese Helper? Those are just a few of the user-created lesson plans we found that caught our attention.
Get more with a membership
Memrise lets you use their platform as long as you like, totally free. A bargain! However, if you want to use all of the features they offer, especially their tools for reviewing what you learn, you'll need one of their paid plans. Even those are a deal: regular pricing is $8.99/month, $90/year, or $139.99 for a lifetime membership. Here's a pro tip: look for discounts before you buy your Memrise subscription. Over the last few months, we've seen annual plan discounts of as much as 50%, both featured on the Memrise website and sent to our inboxes, and around the holidays you could score a lot of savings on their lifetime membership too.
30 day satisfaction guarantee
The paid plan is the best way to get the most out of your Japanese lessons here, largely because it gives you a ton of control over your review: practice listening skills, focus on "learning with locals" videos, or queue up just the words that have been difficult for you, for example. You're protected by Memrise's 30-day satisfaction guarantee with any plan you purchase.
Best option available for Japanese lessons
It's no secret that we love Memrise, and we think you will too. The videos here are the opposite of "stuffy" and "traditional" , but the platform still manages to teach in a way that helps the language stick. These Japanese lessons are budget-friendly, though you could use them for a long time and never pay a dollar (or yen). And, because there's always new content to enjoy, your Memrise account grows with you as you advance in fluency. For all of these reasons, this is our favorite choice for Japanese lessons for every ability level.
Japanese is one of just five languages offered by LinguaLift, an instructional platform resulting from more than six years of research by experts from Oxford, Stanford and Harvard University. Their studies revealed that when language learners have clarity - in organization, explanation and example - they're much more likely to stick with their studies. Their Japanese lessons aim to give you that very clarity and help you reach your fluency goals.
Customized learning plan comes with trial account
There are four levels of difficulty in the Japanese lessons offered by LinguaLift, and you can get access to the first three lessons in each level. You'll have a total of 25 lessons per level, or 100 lessons overall if you complete everything available here. Surprisingly, even with a no-cost account, students can get a customized "road map" to guide their studies. All you have to do is click on the link (in the first lesson or in the email you'll get after creating your account) and answer the questions about your desired fluency outcome, how soon you'd like to get there, and even what service you typically use for playing music. Your personalized plan will be delivered to your inbox within a week.
Lots of emphasis on culture, especially at first
Within the first three lessons on LinguaLIft, you'll learn a LOT about Japan and its culture, from capsule hotels to what you say when someone is arriving at home or leaving the house. These Japanese lessons place a great deal of emphasis on hearing the language in natural contexts on a regular basis: you'll get authentic materials in almost every lesson, from man-on-the-street interviews to dialogues and more.
Get a "reward" at the end of each lesson
And then there's cake. Yes, cake. When you get to the end of a lesson, there's always a "prize" - some kind of content to make you laugh or enjoy Japanese in a non-stressful manner. It could be a dog in Japan learning to catch a ball in his front paws, a recommendation for a great book (related to Japanese, of course), or many other treats. It's like the after-dinner mints at your favorite Italian restaurant!
Not much practice, especially with speaking
Compared with a lot of Japanese lessons, LinguaLift is light on the repetition/practice that are usually a hallmark of a language program. There might be a short quiz embedded in a lesson, but this program assumes you're going to work on things on your own (usually prompted by an icon that says "Over to you" and then gives you a short assignment). There's also not much for developing your spoken fluency in Japanese: no speech recognition exercises or even a recorder for playing your clips back and comparing them with the native speaker sample. That's the main reason LinguaLift doesn't earn our first-place ranking for Japanese instruction.
Teacher assistance included in your membership
On the other hand, these Japanese lessons come with instructor assistance - and not with a big surge in cost, but rather as part of your paid subscription. Many of those "Over to you" assignments direct you to complete a task and then send it to your tutor for feedback, like writing out a short dialogue or answering a few questions. They can also suggest extra assignments if you feel like your progress is stalling or if you need more practice with a specific concept. Don't expect an immediate response; these are real people who likely live in a different time zone than you, but rest assured that you have someone to turn to for any issues you have.
So, you fell in love with LinguaLift and want to know how much it will cost to unlock all 500+ hours of Japanese lessons? Good news: it won't drain your wallet to subscribe. If you pay on a month-to-month basis, your cost will be $19.99. Paying for three, six, or twelve months at a time will bring your cost down by $3 to $7 each month, and all plans come with a 30-day refund policy.
Feels like learning Japanese from a trusted friend
Could LinguaLift provide a little more in terms of speaking practice and repetition exercises? In our opinion, yes. That's the only real downside, though. These Japanese lessons make us feel like we're sitting down in a big comfy chair and learning all about the language and the culture from someone we like - and who we can't wait to spend more time with. What are you waiting for? Go sign up for your free LinguaLift account and see for yourself!
One of the reasons Japanese can be hard to learn is because it's hard to find anyone to practice with. Let italki come to your rescue! This platform has over 1200 professional teachers and community tutors ready to help you.
Easy and fun to browse instructor profiles
Looking through all of the teacher profiles on italki is really fun! You can watch intro videos to get a feel for their personalities, their approach to teaching, and how well they speak English (because you'll need to understand them, after all!). As you browse, click on the heart to save any favorites for later, when you're ready to get started with your Japanese lessons. You can use the filters to sort instructors by other languages they speak or by type (i.e. professional teacher with formal educational experience or a community tutor), but the filters we think would be most helpful aren't there: number of lessons completed, how long they've been working on italki, or their ratings average.
No shortage of experience here
Although some teachers on italki may just be starting out or only have a few completed lessons, it's not hard to find ones that have thousands of successful sessions in their history. For instance, we found a community tutor named Kaho who had nearly 3000 lessons on the books at the time of our review. And, despite being labeled as a "community tutor" , her profile revealed that she had recently completed a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition at the University of Barcelona!
Click on instructor profiles for detailed info
Each teacher/tutor profile lets you know much more about how they provide Japanese lessons. While you'll find that they're heavily-based on conversational skills, most teachers here also include homework assignments, grammar lessons, and anything else you need to improve your Japanese - because the lessons are customized to meet your specific needs and goals. Going back to our example tutor, Kaho, her profile showed that she offers sessions to learn Japanese through anime, help with business presentations, and homework support.
Extremely affordable one-on-one Japanese lessons
If you paid for a private tutor to come to your home, it's not unreasonable to say you'd probably spend at least $25/hour or more. On italki, you can get personalized instruction for under $10/hour - and most instructors give you a shorter trial lesson for less than $5. It's true that there are Japanese tutors here that charge more than $25 per hour, but you can always select the person that best fits your budget. There's also no long-term commitments, monthly subscriptions, or any other big charges for these Japanese lessons.
Online scheduling based on your time zone
Ready to sign up for a lesson? All you have to do is click on the calendar of any italki tutor that interests you to see his or her availability. You can select any open time block: the calendar you see is based on your own time zone, according to the clock on your phone or computer. Even the most popular tutors often have next-day openings: our instructor from earlier, Kaho, was able to fit us in on several different days in the upcoming week.
Students give these Japanese lessons lots of compliments
Across the board, people love using italki to learn Japanese (and more than 100 other languages). You'll have a hard time finding anything less than a five-star review - for the tutors or for the company itself. We encourage you to read through the student reviews of the instructors you're considering; you'll feel reassured and excited at the same time, seeing how successful these Japanese lessons are for, well, practically everyone.
Who shouldn't use italki?
On the other hand, there are some Japanese students who might not find italki to be the best fit for their lessons. First, if you don't have a solid internet connection and a reasonably private space to have a video call, you're not going to be very successful here: it's difficult to practice speaking Japanese if you're in a quiet library or you're using unreliable public WiFi. Also, you'll need to have a certain level of confidence to work face-to-face with a native speaker - or, at least, you're not super-embarrassed by making mistakes! Especially for absolute newbies, italki's Japanese lessons might be a little intimidating.
Ideal Japanese lessons for building spoken fluency
Although italki does have those two minor disadvantages, this is still one of our most recommended providers of Japanese lessons. There aren't very many programs that offer the kind of spoken fluency you can get by working with an italki tutor, and the hourly pricing here is going to be much more affordable than trying to find a native speaker near you. While you may need to pair your sessions on italki with a more traditional method of learning Japanese (like another program in our review?), this service should be the first you consider if you want to speak Japanese like - and with! - a native.
Big-name corporations like Pentel and Deloitte trust Rocket to help their people learn new languages, and you can too. Rocket Japanese is a terrific method for beginners, incorporating lots of cultural context into every lesson.
Sneak peek with no-cost guest access
You can give these Japanese lessons a try with a free guest account. Enter your email address for access and you're ready to go!
Well-rounded Japanese lessons
It's easy to find language systems that do one or two things well: maybe their speaking exercises are fantastic at developing a native-like accent, or the grammar explanations are on point. It's not as simple to find Japanese lessons that deliver solid instruction for all four modalities of reading, listening, writing and speaking. Rocket Japanese does! Their lessons are broken down into four modules, and within each module there are three sections: Interactive Audio Lessons, Language & Culture Lessons, and Writing Lessons. You'll find that the pace is challenging but comfortable, and you can rewind, repeat or replay as needed: no pressure! To reinforce what you've studied, Rocket finishes each lesson with opportunities to practice - like repeating the dialogue from the beginning, taking a multiple-choice quiz, and flashcard-style vocabulary recall.
Pay once, use Rocket forever
You won't have to pay an ongoing subscription fee to use Rocket Japanese. It costs a one-time fee of $149.95, or you can opt to pay in six monthly installments of $27. You may even get it for less if there's a promotional offer in place when you're ready to buy. There's no time limit once you've bought these Japanese lessons; use it every day, a few times a month, or dust it off once a year for review because it's yours forever. Rocket also gives you a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Infrequent updates, no advanced content
Two things make Rocket less-than-ideal when compared with other Japanese lessons. First, there's nothing here for more experienced students: if you make lots of progress and are ready to move on to a new level, you'll need to shop around for another provider at that point. Also, Rocket Japanese isn't updated regularly. At the time of this review, the most "recent" review was a year earlier. You won't find vocabulary on current events or popular TV shows here.
Great choice for new students
Learning a new language can be a little scary, and Rocket Japanese does a wonderful job of setting your mind at ease. These lessons are easy to follow, and we love how well they tackle the many ways of using Japanese. While students beyond a novice level won't get what they need here, Rocket Languages' Japanese instruction is just right for beginners who prefer a program without a subscription.
Innovative Language Learning offers lessons across many target languages, usually under the "Pod 101" or "Class 101" moniker. You'll find that their Japanese Pod 101 lessons can go the distance and always keep you learning, even if you're a more experienced student.
Less emphasis on the sales pitch, if you don't mind
To get set up with Japanese Pod 101, you're going to have to jump through a few hoops - all intended to get you to subscribe to a paid plan, of course. First, you'll give them your email address and click to confirm when you get their message in your inbox. As you set up your account, you'll get several "today only" and "get all this for just $1" marketing pitches. If they sound useful to you, go for it - but you can also skip it all and move on to making your user profile. When we did ours, we got a free week of Premium features without paying a dime, and we didn't have to provide any credit card information either.
5 levels of Japanese lessons
While getting established on Japanese Pod 101, you'll specify your current fluency level in Japanese. That might be entry level, known as Absolute Beginner: just starting out, but perhaps you have a few basics under your belt like introducing yourself or saying arigatō. Or, maybe you're a rockstar and you can already read about 600 kanji, have mastered passive-causative forms, and you're ready to learn primarily in Japanese? Set your level to Advanced! Regardless of your initial level choice, you can change it as needed at any point in your studies.
What can you expect?
Japanese Pod 101 starts out differently from any of the other Innovative Language Learning courses we've evaluated: with a downloadable PDF! We're not sure why they couldn't just make it a readable page on their website, but it provides a good overview of their lessons, like what you'll be able to do by the end of the course and how to proceed through the program. Once you mark that as complete, your next task will be the Level 1 Diagnostic (if you're starting at absolute beginner). We've evaluated a lot of Pod 101 courses, and we're still baffled as to why they insist that noobs muddle through 30+ questions they have little chance of getting right. (But at least you can click "I'm not sure" until you get through them all. Shockingly, our educated guesses gave us a score of 14/36.)
Addresses all aspects of learning a language
Your next lesson loads automatically to your student dashboard. Most Japanese Pod 101 lessons are presented in this format: Audio Lesson (don't overlook the Play button triangle at the top of the page!), Dialogue, Vocabulary, Lesson Notes, Lesson Transcript, and Student Comments. The very first lesson walks you through a dialogue on how to greet someone formally and informally, which you can then view as kanji, in English, in romaji, in hiragana, or all at once.
We appreciate that this program lets you use any characters that you prefer: some days, you may need the boost of reading in romaji to work on your pronunciation, while on others you could be ready to tackle your recognition of written Japanese. The choice is always yours. There's no voice recognition software, though: you'll listen to native speaker clips, record yourself, and then compare the two. That's not as automated as some competitors' Japanese lessons, but some experts say it's better to do it on your own than to rely on software that might over- or under-correct your accent.
A virtually-endless supply of Japanese content
Not only can you study the Japanese lessons provided in your lesson pathways, you can also take advantage of a ton of extra content. Look in your dashboard and you'll find audio and video lessons to supplement your studies, such as vocabulary lists for going fishing or essential music terminology. Japanese Pod 101 has free monthly gifts as well, which often include PDF cheat sheets, audiobooks and apps, and so forth.
What's in a paid membership?
There are three fee-based plans to consider if you want full access to the Japanese lessons and study tools here. First, a Basic subscription costs $5/month and gives you the ability to use all of the lessons...and that's about all. To use all of the study features, like spaced repetition flashcards and transcripts of the audio dialogues, you'll need to upgrade to the $25/month Premium tier (which is what you'll get in your 7-day free trial, as a reminder; you may not even realize what features you're missing until that trial ends and the tools you were using are locked all of a sudden). At the highest membership tier, Premium Plus, you'll spend a steep $47/month - but you'll have your very own Japanese teacher to personalize a learning plan for you, offer feedback on your assignments, and monitor your progress towards fluency in Japanese. We're not 100% sure that it's worth the extra money, but a generous 60-day money-back guarantee lets you decide for yourself at no risk.
Great options for most learners
Even though Japanese Pod 101 can feel a little overwhelming at times, it provides enough material that you'll never need to find any other Japanese lessons as you progress in your language ability. We wish the company would scale back the marketing tactics as people sign up for their program, but other than that we recommend this platform as a solid foundation for learning Japanese.
It's okay if you didn't know that "Busuu" is an endangered language in the African nation of Cameroon. What you really need to know is that it's also the name of a fantastic way for new and experienced students of Japanese to get high-quality, effective lessons. The company even refers to an independent study that demonstrated how Busuu members get the equivalent of a one-semester college course with just 22 hours spent using their Premium service. Ready to find out more?
Free basic account
Busuu gives away an incredible amount of Japanese lesson content at absolutely no cost. Enter your name and email address (no verification required) to start. You'll be asked why you're learning Japanese (professional development, travel) so that Busuu can make suggestions focused on your goals. Indicate which level of fluency you're aiming for, from Beginner (A1) to Upper Intermediate (B2) and how much time you can dedicate to studying. From there, Busuu then gives you an estimate of how long it will take you to reach your fluency goal. For example, when we indicated that we wanted to reach the B2 level and would commit to 10 minutes of study seven days a week, Busuu estimated that it would take us about a year and a half to do so.
Learn what you need, whenever you need it
While Busuu starts you out at the beginning level, you can move around among any of their lessons at any time. That's a big win for anyone that's already studied some Japanese: why wade through introductions and numbers if what you really need is to pick up vocabulary about computing or phrases needed to prepare a job application? There are also specialized Japanese lessons for travel, and three independent courses if you want to focus on writing and recognizing hiragana, katakana, or kanji.
Lots for free - but subscriptions give you more
There's so much to learn with Busuu's Japanese lessons. There are over 100 lessons in their A1 level alone, and 100+ additional lessons through their A2-B2 coursework. You could use the free content for a long time and not run out of things to do. However, you'll get more with a paid plan. For example, as you browse lessons you'll soon see that many review features are locked unless you're a subscriber. You can get Premium for $9.99/month, which will give you in-depth grammar lessons, access to Busuu in offline mode, and AI-customized review sessions. Jumping up to the Premium Plus package at $13.99/month offers even more: certification of your fluency by McGraw Hill's official testing service, unlimited feedback from native speakers on your written and spoken exercises, and a personalized study plan. Paying for your Busuu memberships in 12- or 24-month increments will get you a discount too.
Only a few downsides
What's the catch? There isn't one, really, but there are a few things you should know. First, if you plan to use Busuu to learn more than one language at a time, you'll have to pay for an account: you only get one for free. There's also not a lot of speaking practice here, other than the options for recording yourself and waiting for a native speaker volunteer to give you some input. Finally, while more than 5,000 people give Busuu a perfect five-star rating, there are a lot of complaints about the company's 14-day refund policy and automatic renewals. If you're on a 12- or 24-month plan and you don't cancel your membership ahead of the renewal date, there's no way to get your money back.
Risk-free to give it a go
Because Busuu has so very much to offer across many fluency levels, we recommend that you give it a try. You can always upgrade to a membership plan, though we'd suggest doing a monthly subscription at first to avoid any expensive mistakes with the satisfaction guarantee or automatic renewals. As long as you're not expecting Japanese lessons that will bring your spoken fluency to near-native capabilities, Busuu will be a useful tool for your language learning.
Textbooks and flashcards are boring, right? Why not learn with a game-like platform like Mondly instead? These Japanese lessons let you pull out your phone and sneak in a few new vocabulary words and phrases anytime you have a few free moments. You'll be extra-motivated by the points and leaderboards if you're the competitive type!
Let's start at the beginning!
When you create a free account on Mondly, you can try out the introductory "Hello" lesson for all of the 40+ languages they offer. You'll still have to set your experience level as beginner, intermediate or advanced, but most of the content here doesn't get very challenging even at the higher levels. As you work through the sample lesson, Mondly teaches you words like "mother" and "father" , and then has you start piecing together basic sentences like "This is my sister" . That last part is a little challenging, because you've got no explanation as to Japanese word order, verbs, or any other grammar to go on. We're glad that it defaults to the romaji to make it easier for English-speakers to approximate what's being said/written, and that you can click the toggle switch at the top of the page if you want to see it in Japanese characters at any time.
Vocabulary around common themes
Mondly focuses your learning around vocabulary themes. Typical sets include Family, Pets, Travel, and so forth. The amount of content in each theme varies; you'll see 113 words and 59 phrases in Countries & Languages, a meager 68 words and 35 phrases in the category Bank, etc.
Where's the grammar?
You'll also see that there are a few lessons specifically marked as "Grammar" - but again, that includes words and phrases without a lot of teaching. Mondly's Japanese lessons aren't what you'll need if you want detailed instruction on how to put the language together and make your own unique sentences. You can get a bit of insight when you finish a lesson and click the little blue box next to the "Redo" link - for instance, on the "Hello" lesson, you'll see the conjugations for "to be" in the present tense - but it's still not much help if you're trying to understand why the sentences are ending in "desu" .
Learn to converse with Chatbot and Augmented Reality
A feature unique to Mondly is the way they let you practice real-world conversations. First, you've got the Chatbot, and your free account will let you try one sample interaction. Picture texting with someone and using voice-to-text to fill it in for you: that's how the Chatbot works. The bonus is that Mondly will give you appropriate responses to choose from, like how to answer "What kind of music do you listen to?" or "What's your favorite color?" There's also an Augmented Reality tool, where you can superimpose a digital character on the world around you and carry out conversations that way. We're not sure how much learning this provides, but it's fun anyway!
Inexpensive way to practice Japanese
To move beyond Mondly's limited free resources, you'll have to subscribe. One thing we've noticed about this service is that prices fluctuate: on one visit to the site, you might find their regular prices of $9.99 for month-to-month memberships or $47.99 for a one-year, one-language plan. On your next visit, those prices may have dropped because of a promotion. You might also get a pop-up with a full-access free trial for a full week. If you love studying languages, Mondly also offers a year-long plan that lets you use everything they offer. But, we didn't always see pricing for that; when we did, it was $47.99 for that as well. Even less frequently, we've spotted a Mondly mega-offer of lifetime access to all languages for $89.99. Confused yet? We are too, and yet no matter how you look at it, Mondly is affordable (if unpredictable when it comes to cost).
No satisfaction guarantee
Unlike many of the Japanese lessons in our evaluation, Mondly doesn't give you a refund if you change your mind. That's one reason to consider a month-to-month plan first, instead of a long-term subscription. You can cancel your membership at any time.
Mondly can be fun to use, especially if all you need are little bursts of learning to reinforce the Japanese vocabulary you've studied. It's a pretty low-stress program, and the conversational tools feel like a natural way to practice real-world interactions. On the other hand, for more serious students, Mondly doesn't go far enough to produce significant fluency and they'll likely need a different type of Japanese lessons to meet their study goals.
Everyone knows Rosetta Stone. Their name is practically synonymous with "foreign language learning" , though it used to be too expensive for most people to try. Luckily for language students now, Rosetta Stone moved away from the costly CD-ROM system and now offers online-only instruction in a variety of languages. You'll pay less than $15/month for their Japanese lessons, or go big and pay a one-time fee of under $300 to get lifetime access to every language in the Rosetta Stone inventory.
Japanese lessons - with no English for reference
If you were born in Japan, how would you have learned the language? From the world around you, of course. In your formative years, no one would be sitting down with grammar textbooks and giving you lengthy explanations: you'd learn to say "man" , "woman" , "hello" and other basic things from hearing them used on a regular basis. Rosetta Stone takes the same approach, beginning with simple words and phrases matched with pictures and repeated over and over until you master them. That's known as the immersion method, and it's a big part of what made Rosetta Stone famous.
Take advantage of the free trial
You'll absolutely want to use the three-day trial offered here before you commit to a paid plan. Why? We've found that Rosetta Stone works pretty well for languages that use the same alphabet we have in English, but it's not a very comfortable experience with ones that are character-based or that use a completely different alphabet. You can get the free trial by scrolling down to the bottom of the main page, selecting Japanese in the dropdown, and entering any email address - you won't have to confirm it, because the platform lets you go right into the first lesson once you've set up your profile.
Choose your level
As you set up your profile, you'll tell Rosetta Stone if you're a beginning, intermediate, or advanced student of Japanese, why you're learning the language (travel, work, basics and beyond), and if you're an adult male, adult female, or a child. These lessons use voice recognition frequently, and your voice profile helps the software match your speech more accurately. You'll be taken to your dashboard, which is preloaded with your first lesson.
Frustrating for newbies
Rosetta Stone jumps right in, giving you images and the Japanese characters for the target vocabulary and asking you to match what you hear - first in print, then with your voice. It defaults to hiragana and katakana, unless you happen to spot the tiny symbol in the bottom right corner by the "Skip" button. Clicking there gives you more options, to see kanji alone, kanji and furigana, or the romaji: the equivalent, approximate pronunciation using our familiar Roman alphabet. Without the romaji setting, most new students are going to wind up with a headache after the first few exercises.
Additional tools aren't much help
If you click on the "Explore All Content" link at the top of the page, you can see the extra resources Rosetta Stone offers to enhance your learning. There are on-demand videos, like Speaking Japanese in Seattle or How to Filet a Fish, interactive stories, downloadable audio files, and an alphabet tool for extended practice in writing Japanese. However, this mostly left us feeling overwhelmed, not inspired or encouraged in our learning.
Difficult way to learn Japanese
We're glad that Rosetta Stone is so affordable now, and that all paid plans have a 30-day money back guarantee. And, for anyone learning an "easy" language like French or Spanish - namely, ones that use the same alphabet as English - the lifetime access plan for under $200 is a great deal. Unfortunately, when it comes to harder-to-learn languages like Japanese, Rosetta Stone typically winds up near the bottom of our rankings. Immersion-based lessons can be useful in theory, but in practice they lead to an aggravating experience. Most adults prefer more explanations in English, so that they can map what they're studying against what they already know. Rosetta Stone gives you nothing in that regard, and we recommend you look at the higher-rated Japanese lessons in our review for a more comfortable way to learn.
Your ultimate goal for learning Japanese is fluency, right? You don't want to just have a classroom understanding of the language, but a real-world level of comfort using it in natural settings. That's what FluentU hopes to deliver with its unique Japanese lessons. They focus on teaching through authentic video clips from music videos, TV shows, movies and more to help students master Japanese in context.
Excellent for more advanced Japanese students
While you may not want to start here if you're a beginner, FluentU is terrific for anyone with some experience in Japanese who wants to kick their ability up a notch (or three). These Japanese lessons go well above and beyond setting your favorite streaming service to captions and dubbing in your target language: the tools on FluentU let you look up every word for definitions and other examples of its use in context, pause and rewind as needed, and practice what you've learned with spaced repetition exercises and quizzes. (Netflix definitely won't do THAT for you!)
Free trial - with a catch
You can try FluentU free for two weeks. Ordinarily, we'd be excited by that, but to access that free trial you'll have to provide the company with your credit card information. Most of their competitors give you sample lessons or limited access in exchange for your email address and nothing more. That's one of the reasons FluentU doesn't rank higher in the Japanese lessons marketplace.
More expensive than many Japanese lessons...
Once your 14-day trial ends, you'll pay $29.99 a month or $239.99 a year to use FluentU. Watch out for a foreign transaction fee of 1-3% too; this company is based out of Hong Kong and so you'll pay that fee when using your credit card. That's more spendy than a lot of Japanese instruction platforms, but on the plus side it lets you access every language they offer. Great news if you're an aspiring polyglot and want to add Spanish, Chinese, Korean, or several other languages to your to-do list.
...and there's no satisfaction guarantee
Another reason we can't give FluentU a higher ranking is because they don't have a refund policy. At all. For any reason. If you've given them your credit card information to access the free trial and you forget to cancel before the two weeks are up, you're on the hook for the membership fees: not horrible if it's $29.99 plus transaction fees, but pretty aggravating if you're signed up for the year-long plan.
Better options out there
When it comes to Japanese lessons, FluentU is good but not quite great. Learning a language through authentic content that's updated frequently is an excellent way to improve fluency, but that leaves out a lot of newer students who need to start with the basics. We also feel disappointed that the service makes users turn over their credit card info just to give it a try: there's just too much opportunity for forgetting to unsubscribe or worse, having one's identity compromised in an overseas transaction. There are other ways to study Japanese in real-world ways that get a higher rating than FluentU.
Also, it used to be tricky just to find Japanese lessons. If you didn't live near a university or in an area with a significant Japanese-speaking population, your chances of finding classes were pretty slim.
Not anymore! Today there are many ways to take Japanese classes online, from traditional grammar lessons and flashcards for memorization, to live video sessions with a personal tutor who can help you master a flawless accent. Whether you need an app you can use on-the-go to sneak in study sessions or you have plenty of time to sit at a computer and practice, you'll have no problem finding Japanese lessons that match your availability and your budget.
As you start to explore the possibilities for taking Japanese lessons, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. How can you determine which program is right for you? You may find it helpful to keep the following criteria in mind as you consider your options:
To help you get the most out of your language studies, Top Consumer Reviews has tested, evaluated and ranked the best options for online Japanese lessons today. We know this information will give you all the info you need to choose the best program for your learning style and schedule.
Select any 2 Japanese Lessons to compare them head to head
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