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Japanese Resources

FSI Courses
4.3 
Price: Free
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The Foreign Services Institute developed their language courses to help diplomats quickly reach professional working proficiency in a language. They would attend 5 hours of language instruction per day, plus homework, for 24-88 weeks (depending on the language). The table at the bottom of this page indicates the average time it would take for a student to reach professional working proficiency.

The FSI program places a strong focus on listening comprehension, in addition to extensive exercises for grammar and vocabulary. If you follow along with the audio and respond to the prompts in each drill, you will also develop confidence in speaking the language.

With hundreds of pages of text, dozens of hours of audio, and several levels in many languages, the FSI courses are still probably the most comprehensive, free courses you can follow. Just remember that they are decades old, so the audio is not very clear and the vocabulary often includes both sexist and obsolete language. Also, some of the topics will not be relevant to your everyday life.

Several sites host these free, open-source courses, but the site linked below is  easy to navigate. Beware of any site selling courses “originally made for diplomats,” as these are probably free FSI courses with a price tag. You can also check out the DLI courses, which are equally as comprehensive (and free!).

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

The Japanese Page
4.3 
Price: Free; free trial; premium subscriptions cost between $3/mo - $10/mo
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The Japanese Page is a website with a variety of resources for beginner to intermediate Japanese learners. Each lesson’s explanations will make you feel like you’re quickly moving through the material, and they are often accompanied by exercises, examples, audio files, and comics to diversify your experience.

Beginners can check out the Beginning Japanese Phrases podcast with an accompanying transcript. These two-minute episodes introduce you to a new word in context while encouraging speaking practice. The Nihongo No Tane podcast is for upper beginner and intermediate learners. Becoming a Makoto member gives you access to a transcript of these episodes, plus other benefits, like the monthly e-zine and shadowing exercises to learn everyday Japanese. The interactive e-zine has articles on grammar, kanji, culture, and art — not to mention short stories with audio recorded by native speakers.

Beginners can enjoy an excellent introduction to hiragana, katakana, kanji, and basic grammar. Upper-beginner and intermediate learners can check out stories, dialogues, blog posts, and songs. Although the content does not go as in-depth as other sites, like Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese or Imabi, they provide a helpful and manageable introduction to complex concepts.

Overall, The Japanese Page’s content seems well-thought-out and would be an excellent place for beginners to gain a better understanding of how Japanese is spoken beyond the parameters of your average textbook.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Coursera
4.3 
Price: Free, with some courses starting at $39/month
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Coursera has several paid and free online language courses developed by accredited universities. The quality of the courses varies, but the following recommendations have been well received — these courses are primarily for beginners who want an introduction to a new language.

You can choose from a series of individual courses, or take a beginner specialization in RussianSpanishMandarin, and Chinese HSK 1-3 (with additional individual HSK 4-6 courses). 

If you have just started, or haven’t yet started, learning Korean, Yonsei University has one course for absolute beginners, and another for those who have a basic grasp of Hangul. 

Saint Petersburg State University’s beginner Japanese course is probably not as effective as other resources that we might recommend instead, such as JapanesePod101 or Pimsleur.

École Polytechnique offers the only French course on Coursera; it’s technically for B1-B2 learners, although B2 learners may find it too easy. 

Lastly, English learners can enjoy a specialization in intermediate grammaradvanced grammaracademic speaking and listening, or business English

If you are starting a language and enjoy structured courses with a (flexible) weekly schedule, Coursera is a great option — especially since Coursera offers financial aid for those who can’t afford to pay the course fees. Pair your studies with a tutor from italki or Verbling for speaking practice and you’ll be good to go!

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Lingodeer
4.3 
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Lingodeer may not be as well known as other language learning apps, but it’s actually better and cheaper than most of them. You’ll practice the language by completing lots of different types of exercises. They also include plenty of grammar explanations and opportunities to review what you’ve studied. All in all, it’s one of the better options for getting started learning a language.

Small Talk in Japanese
4.2 
Price: Free
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Small Talk in Japanese is a podcast for intermediate to advanced Japanese learners to practice listening to real Japanese conversations. Typically the conversations are held by two enthusiastic Japanese friends who discuss topics relevant to Japanese culture and daily life.

Each episode is about 45 minutes long, during which the narrators speak at a relatively natural speed, but not so fast that intermediate learners would struggle to make out each word. The last 5 minutes are dedicated to reviewing the new vocabulary mentioned during the episode. During this review, sometimes one of the narrators explains the new words in Japanese, other times she will provide a direct translation into English. You can also find this vocabulary list on the Small Talk in Japanese blog — if you do visit the site, however, don’t be deceived by the “sign up” function at the top — this will simply sign you up for your own blog, rather than give you extra podcast benefits.

Overall, Small Talk in Japanese is an excellent resource for practicing listening comprehension. You can also check out Japanese With Noriko if you would like more structure in your learning.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

My Language Exchange
4.2 
Price: Freemium, Gold Memberships start at $6/mo
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My Language Exchange has been growing since 2000. Although the website seems out of date, it still has an active community of millions of language-learners who speak almost 200 native languages (including less commonly studied languages).

You can choose a pen pal by reading their bios, or there is a chat room available for you to instantly connect with a language exchange partner — note that if you create a Gold account, you can initiate chats with other users, but as a regular user, you will have to wait to be contacted.

Using the Cormier Method, the website provides tools to help intermediate speakers effectively practice with other learners. It advertises a Chat Companion with lesson plans to accompany your exchange, or lesson plans developed by teachers (although the quality of these resources varies drastically). 

You can also find language teachers on the site, but given that the transactions take place directly between you and the teacher, you may feel safer using a 3rd party platform like italki or Verbling

Although there are outlines on how to participate in language exchanges, how these outlines are followed depends entirely on you and your partner(s). My Language Exchange will help you build connections with other learners, but it’s up to you to plan how to practice. The concepts can also be used with any language exchange platform, such as Lingbe, italki, Tandem, and Amikumu.

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Human Japanese
4.2 
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Human Japanese is a resource for learning Japanese that takes a thorough approach, delivering in-depth explanations and great attention to detail. The course is well-designed, builds on itself in a logical way, and offers quality instruction at a very reasonable price. It functions much like an interactive textbook, meaning users will progress at their own pace and may need to implement their own study techniques. It’s available for download on Mac, Windows, Android and iOS.

Wanikani
4.2 
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Wanikani is an innovative, useful site for beginning learners of Japanese kanji. The site provides mnemonic devices and a spaced repetition system (SRS) to teach radicals, kanji, and vocabulary. Although it offers a phenomenal foundation in kanji, it doesn’t provide everything you’ll need to learn the language. Still, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, Wanikani is an excellent supplementary program.

Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese
4.2 
Price: Free
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Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese is not a phrasebook or an app that will get you speaking from day one. Instead, it is a guide that was made with the intention that learners would refer to it only when they don’t understand Japanese grammar. If you love grammar, technically you could read it from start to finish, but the guide seems most helpful as a supportive tool during your studies.

That being said, if you want to truly understand Japanese from a Japanese point of view, Tae Kim will explain everything from scratch, breaking down sentence constructions so you can make sentences on your own. The English translations reflect the Japanese sense of the meaning, so you will be reading the literal translation of each sentence.

Japanese words are typically displayed using kanji, but if you tap on a word, you can get a popup of the pronunciation in hiragana. You should already know hiragana and katakana before using the guide, as Tae Kim doesn’t use romaji at any point (Write It! Is a simple, free app that can introduce you to kana, or you can subscribe to Skritter for kana and kanji practice).

You shouldn’t rely on this guide as your only source of learning — you can use iTalki to start speaking with a private tutor, Langcorrect to practice writing, Kanshudo to train your reading skills, Bondilingo for live online classes, and JapanesePod101 for listening comprehension. 

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

Clozemaster
4.2 
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Ideal for people who are already at an upper beginner/intermediate level, Clozemaster will help you build your vocabulary and learn new words and sentences in context. While you won’t learn much grammar or improve your speaking and writing much, it is great at what it does and the videogame aspect makes it fun and addictive to work though. Although the exercises are all pretty much identical, there are various ways in which you can increase the difficulty and Clozemaster’s free account is almost as good as the Pro User one.