When I was a complete beginner of Japanese in the early 2000s, it was almost impossible to buy resources to help study the language, let alone find free resources. I remember having to ask friends in Japan to record TV shows for me to help practise listening! But nowadays, there are several ways to learn Japanese for free.
Find a Language Exchange Partner
There are a number of websites and online platforms that can help you find a Japanese language exchange partner. Some options include:
- My Language Exchange – This website allows you to connect with native speakers of Japanese to practice speaking and improve your language skills.
- Tandem – This app and website connect language learners with native speakers for language exchange practice.
- ConversationExchange – This website allows you to find language exchange partners and schedule language exchange sessions online or in person.
- iTalki – This website and app offer language exchange services as well as paid language lessons with professional teachers.
- HelloTalk – This app allows you to connect with native speakers of Japanese for language exchange practice and also includes features such as translation tools and a built-in language learning program.
It’s important to be mindful of safety when using these platforms and to be aware of potential scams or other fraudulent activity. Be sure to use caution when sharing personal information and consider using a pseudonym or nickname when communicating with others online.
Use Your Local Library
Your library can be a great resource for learning a new language. Libraries are also funded based on footfall (the amount of use they get) so using your library in your quest to learn Japanese for free will help to keep it open! Here are a few ways you can use your library to support your Japanese
- Check out language learning textbooks and workbooks. Your library may have a selection of language learning books, including grammar and vocabulary guides, phrasebooks, and textbook series. Some of the most commonly used Japanese textbooks include:
Genki – This textbook series is a popular choice for beginners learning Japanese and covers grammar, vocabulary, and basic conversation. It includes a textbook and a workbook and is often used in classrooms and language schools.
Minna no Nihongo – This textbook series is also popular for beginners and covers grammar, vocabulary, and basic conversation. It includes a textbook, a workbook, and a translation book.
Japanese for Busy People – This textbook series is geared towards learners with a busy schedule and covers grammar, vocabulary, and conversation in a concise and efficient manner. It includes a textbook, a workbook, and a CD.
An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese – This textbook is designed for intermediate learners and covers grammar, vocabulary, and conversation. It includes a textbook and a workbook.
Japanese Sentence Builders – New on the market, this book uses the popular Sentence Builder approach to teach Japanese in chunks and phrases rather than individual pieces of vocabulary.
Tobira: Gateway to Advanced Japanese – This textbook is designed for advanced learners and covers grammar, vocabulary, and conversation. It includes a textbook and a workbook.
- Access online language learning resources. Many libraries offer free access to online language learning resources, such as language learning software, online courses, and interactive games.
- Attend language learning events or classes. Some libraries offer language learning events or classes, such as conversation groups or language exchanges. Check with your library to see what options are available.
- Check out language learning movies, TV shows, and music. Your library may have a selection of foreign language films, TV shows, and music that you can borrow and use to immerse yourself in the language and culture.
- Use the library’s reference materials. Your library may have dictionaries, encyclopaedias, and other reference materials in the language you are learning. These can be useful for looking up words and phrases, or for learning more about the culture and history of the language.
Remember to take advantage of the resources and services your library has to offer, and don’t be afraid to ask the librarians for help finding materials or accessing resources.
There are many free resources available on YouTube that can help you learn Japanese. Here are a few ideas:
- Search for Japanese lessons on YouTube and you will find a variety of channels offering lessons on grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.
- Watch officially uploaded Japanese TV shows or movies with subtitles. This can help you get a feel for the rhythm and flow of the language, as well as expose you to new vocabulary and expressions.
- Look for Japanese language exchange videos, where native Japanese speakers practice English with English speakers in exchange for practicing Japanese.
- Subscribe to a YouTube channel that focuses on teaching Japanese. Many of these channels offer a mix of lessons, cultural insights, and conversation practice.
- Use YouTube to practice listening comprehension by watching Japanese news or podcasts.
Remember to start at a level that is appropriate for your current skills and be consistent with your studies to make the most progress. It’s also a good idea to supplement your YouTube learning with other resources, such as textbooks, tutors, or language exchange partners.
TikTok can be a useful resource for learning Japanese, as it offers a wide range of content in the form of short videos. Here are a few ways you can use TikTok to easily learn Japanese:
- Follow Japanese language learning accounts. Search for hashtags like #japaneselessons or #japanesepractice to find accounts that offer Japanese language lessons or conversation practice.
- Watch Japanese TikTok creators. Following creators who speak Japanese can help you get exposure to the language and learn new words and phrases in a more natural context.
- Use the app’s built-in translation feature. TikTok has a built-in translation feature that you can use to translate Japanese captions and comments into English. This can be a helpful tool for understanding the content of Japanese TikToks.
- Practice your listening comprehension. TikTok offers a wide range of Japanese music and audio content, which you can use to practice your listening comprehension skills.
- Learn about Japanese culture and customs. TikTok is a great platform for discovering and learning about Japanese culture, customs, and traditions. Follow accounts that focus on Japanese culture to learn more about the country and its people.
However, some of the most popular Japanese TikTok creators and influencers include:
- Yuka Kinoshita (@yuka.kinoshita) – Known for her food-related content and her ability to eat large quantities of food.
- Ryohei Odai (@odai_ryohei) – A comedian and actor known for his skits and comedic content on TikTok.
- Rola (@rola_0325) – A model and television personality known for her fashion and lifestyle content on TikTok.
- Yuta (@yuta_1118) – A musician and internet personality known for his music covers and dance videos on TikTok.
- Shota Kinoshita (@kinoshita_shota) – A comedian and actor known for his skits and comedic content on TikTok.
- Yui Yokoyama (@yui.yokoyama) – A member of the Japanese idol group AKB48 and television personality known for her dance and music videos on TikTok.
- Akira (@akira_tiktok) – A TikTok influencer known for his fashion, travel, and lifestyle content.
- Yuya (@yuyacst) – A beauty influencer and makeup artist known for her makeup tutorials and product reviews on TikTok.
- Ayaka Nonaka (@ayaka.nonaka) – A member of the Japanese idol group Nogizaka46 and television personality known for her dance and music videos on TikTok.
- Koichi Domoto (@domoto_koichi) – A musician and television personality known for his music covers and dance videos on TikTok.
Note that this is just a small sample of popular Japanese TikTok creators, and the list is not exhaustive. The popularity of TikTok accounts can vary and change over time.
As you can see, there is a wealth of free resources available both on the internet and in the world to help you to learn Japanese. Taking advantage of these resources will help you to boost your skills in this wonderful language in a manner your wallet will thank you for!