Our reviewers evaluate products and services based on unbiased research. Top Consumer Reviews may earn money when you click on a link. Learn more about our process.
Sunday, October 2nd
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.
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!
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