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Japanese Resources

NHK World
4.2 
Price: Free
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Easy Japanese, by NHK World Radio Japan, provides a series of free Japanese grammar and conversation lessons for beginners. The 48 10-minute audio lessons and 48 30-second video lessons are designed like an audio-drama.

They will teach you useful expressions through practical everyday scenarios, such as in the classroom, at a bakery, or during conversations with friends. You can keep track of your study records and add vocabulary notes to your notebook in the My Haru-san dashboard.

If you haven’t yet learned hiragana and katakana, you will find a table with stroke order diagrams and audio. NHK World recommends using Memory Hint, another free app that teaches you basic hiragana, katakana, and kanji through mnemonic devices.

Although it is sometimes a little confusing to navigate, overall, NHK World is a high-quality resource for beginners to start learning the basics of Japanese writing, grammar, conversation, and culture. The bite-sized animated videos and step-by-step lessons seem both manageable and fun.

Wasabi Mini Review: Japanese Classes & Self-Study Lessons
4.2 
Price: Lesson packs from 3,780¥/month
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Wasabi is an online Japanese school that also publishes an impressive amount of free resources for beginner and intermediate learners. This includes grammar guides, graded readers with audio recordings, video lessons, and other self-study materials.

The online classes are one-to-one and typically taught in Japanese, although they will allocate you a teacher who speaks English if you request it. You need to purchase the classes in monthly packs, with a minimum of two per month. There’s no upper limit.

Meanwhile, you can study by yourself without classes using their self-study materials – although, of course, you’ll miss out on the practice opportunities and personalized feedback. These materials are written in English and contain clear, easy-to-follow breakdowns of Japanese grammar, pronunciation, and more. There are no exercises, however, so you’ll have to drill the material on your own.

Whether you take classes with them or not, Wasabi is worth bookmarking. There’s an enormous amount of free, quality resources for beginner and intermediate-level Japanese students. You could use them to supplement courses and textbooks or even to structure your independent studies.

Oxford Dictionaries
4.2 
Price: From free to €16.99, depending on the language
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Oxford Dictionary has published numerous bilingual dictionaries over the years, many of which are not designed to be comprehensive. While some are “complete” dictionaries, others are called “mini”, “concise”, “essential” or even “shorter”.

Even the smaller ones are pretty thorough, however. The Oxford Mini Greek dictionary contains 40,000 words and phrases, many of which also contain multiple translations. It’s a lot shorter than the Oxford Hindi dictionary, at 100,000 entries, or the New Oxford American English Dictionary at 350,000 – but it’s still got a wider vocabulary than the average English speaker.

You can purchase the books themselves, but most learners will prefer the convenience of the apps with their regular updates and learner-friendly features. Search Autocomplete, Fuzzy Filter, Wild Card and Voice Search help you find words you don’t know how to spell. Favourites help you save useful words and phrases, while Word of the Day will introduce you to new words. Some dictionaries also contain audio recordings and thesauruses. And the freemium Oxford Dictionary with Translator will translate words and paragraphs to and from 14 languages.

For some languages, learners already have plenty of free, thorough dictionaries available to them. Spanish learners, for example, will probably prefer to combine the free apps SpanishDict and Diccionario RAE (Google Play, App Store). Mandarin Chinese learners will likely find Pleco more useful. But for some languages, these dictionaries may well be the most thorough and reliable ones available.

The rating is our best guess, but we haven’t yet had the opportunity to fully test and review this resource.

 

Anki
4.1 
Price: Free
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It is the go-to app for free (except on iOS) Spaced Repetition System (SRS) flashcards. It has a simple user interface with various features that more hard-core users can dive into if they choose.

Your flashcards will appear according to your natural forgetting curve; the app will test you in increasingly spaced out intervals, with more difficult cards appearing more than once in a session, while easier cards spacing out over weeks — or even months and years. An SRS system is the most effective way to drive information into your long-term memory.

The cards can sync between the web, desktop app, and mobile versions to keep your flashcards updated and with you at all times. You can add images and audio clips to your cards and change the text formatting (if you use it on your computer). One feature unique to Anki, as opposed to other SRS flashcard apps, is the “Cloze deletion” function, which allows you to block out parts of your card and create a “fill-in-the-blanks” type card format.

If you want a resource for how to make effective flashcards, check out the book, FluentForever. The author leaves a whole section dedicated to understanding how to use your Anki deck to advance your skills quickly.

LingQ
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LingQ is a language-learning platform that focuses on extensive reading for over 30 different languages. You can import your own content or choose from the community library of books, articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, and more.

The app highlights unknown words across every lesson and makes them reviewable via different types of SRS flashcards. The more you read, the more accurately you will be able to identify content that is suitable for your level.

Although I did not find it beneficial for languages I had never studied before, I think LingQ can be helpful for upper-beginner to advanced language learners who enjoy reading. It is especially helpful if you struggle to find graded readers in your target language.

Memrise
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Memrise is a super popular language-learning app available online and on mobile. It functions much like a gamified flashcard app, and it offers a lot of content for free. A lot of the content is user-created, and there is a premium subscription that provides access to additional features. Memrise can be a great tool in your arsenal, but you’ll need more to learn a language seriously.

Pimsleur
Price: Subscriptions start at $14.95/mo
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Pimsleur is one of the most popular and longest-standing resources out there for learning a foreign language. Its courses place a strong emphasis on aural and verbal communication skills, paying less attention to grammar explanations and reading or writing skills. There are over 50 language courses available with Pimsleur, and the bulk of the material is taught with audio lessons.

Uncovered Courses
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Spanish Uncovered (and the similar German, French, Italian and Japanese courses) come from Olly Richards, the creator of the super popular blog I Will Teach You A Language. It’s quite a bit different than most courses as it revolves around a story. It can be a bit more challenging than other courses, as you begin reading somewhat long texts right off the bat. Overall, I found it to be a more fun way to approach language learning that will be great for some but not ideal for others.

JapanesePod101
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JapanesePod101 has thousands of lessons going back over a decade. It’s best used as a supplemental resource to improve your listening comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary. I wouldn’t advise trying to use it as a standalone course because the lessons don’t always follow a clear and suitable path. While very much imperfect, it’s a useful resource and available at an affordable price.

Duolingo
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Duolingo is a super popular free language-learning app. It’s available for desktop as well as mobile and offers over 90 different language courses in over 20 different languages — there are currently 35 languages with English instruction. The Duolingo approach is gamified and easy to use, but the bite-sized lessons don’t offer much in the way of in-depth practice. The Duolingo tag line is “Learn a language in just five minutes a day.”