This is an easy-to-use audio course that will teach you how to speak exactly the right way, which is pretty hard for an English native speaker when it comes to Japanese. You can practice on the go and be ready for a travel to Japan in no time.
You won't learn much reading or writing with it.
With its patented language learning system, Pimsleur will help you make conversation in Japanese with next to no accent. You will speak at a good speed and will understand native speakers when they talk like, well, native speakers.
Audio lessons (mainly)
Mac OS X 10.7 and Higher
Android Smartphone/Tablets & Nook HD/HD+
1 free lesson at basic level
16 hours of audio lessons per level to learn vocabulary and pronunciation
With Rocket Languages, you will learn Japanese thoroughly and from all sides. It is the best choice for dedicated learning since it costs quite a bit but offers lifetime access to the purchased materials.
It is not the fastest Japanese learning course.
Most of those who have passion and love for the beauty of Japan, its culture and language will probably find this course one of the most convenient as it offers the way to learn basic Japanese and develop the skills upward to the almost-fluency at a comfortable pace.
Tests, Pronunciation check, Progress tracking, Downloadable content, Customer support, Forum
The availability of both online and offline materials greatly adds to the flexibility of the course. The immersive system offers you the way of learning a second language the way you had learned your first as a kid. There are optional tutoring sessions with native speakers.
The Japanese edition might be rather confusing for a complete novice.
With 25 years of language teaching, Rosetta Stone is one of the most well-known and trusted companies in the industry, hired by many very official institutions and companies. Their flexible and user-friendly system makes studying an extremely convenient process.
1 short demo lesson at elementary level
Beginners to Pre-intermediate
3 levels 4 lessons each, Speach recognition, Books, Native tutors, Downloadable audio, Online+Offline
Linguists and TEFL/TESOL certificated professionals are available on the coLanguage website in a number. It is possible to find a tutor for specific needs or arrange with your chosen one to cover certain topics.
Not many Japanese teachers to choose from.
You will find here a professional teacher, a person who is dedicated to teaching students, who will not simply spread the information before you but explain it in a way you do understand, who will answer your questions when they inevitably appear.
1-on-1 Skype lessons
Trial lesson might be offered by a teacher
Professional teachers, Personal approach, Feedback, Varying prices, Printables, Tests
You have the opportunity to not only learn Japanese as a "buyer" here but also sell your own skills to earn extra money that you will then spend on that very Japanese learning or on any other thing you need.
Not all freelance tutors are professional teachers.
Fiverr is a home for the biggest database of freelancers offering a bizarre number of services in numerous categories. It is consequently a place where you will most certainly find a native speaker for your Japanese learning, be it a full-fledged tutor or just a speaking partner.
Lessons with freelance tutors
None but the starting price is quite low ($5)
What Does It Mean to Learn Japanese?
Japanese is one of the most difficult languages to learn. At least, that's what specialists say. With three writing systems that should be smoothly combined in almost any sentence and at least two or three ways to pronounce each kanji (those scary-looking characters Japanese had adopted from the Chinese language), it makes you feel anxious and sometimes terrified when you first start learning Japanese. Not to mention all the different levels of polite and casual speech, which do make one dizzy. But fear not since in this era of the affordable Internet there is a wide selection of courses and workshops that can help just about any type of learner. Whether you are a visual learner or you remember things better when they are spoken to you, there is a program for everyone. And, of course, our big world offers tons of options to communicate with native speakers and learn from them. Actually, that same wide range of options can be a downfall for a beginner since it is so overwhelming. However, that's where we can help you. Our specialists have investigated several popular sites to learn Japanese and have selected among them the best five to suit different people. Check out this review to see if there is anything for you.
For any good language course, there is an audio training as well as speaking one. And to complete those successfully, you will need good earphones and a microphone. See the reviews on our site as well.
Pimsleur Language Course
If your ultimate goal is to learn to speak Japanese fast so that you could travel there for business or pleasure, this Pimsleur course is your best bet. It is an ultimate audio course that will teach you the most useful vocabulary and, what is more important, will make you fluent in using it.
The benefit of a Pimsleur course which highlights it among absolute most competitors is that it focuses heavily on pronunciation. This means that when you stumble upon a native Japanese person in Japan who does not speak English (or does but pretty basic) you will most probably be able to understand them and reply or ask a question without any troubles. It is an irreplaceable skill, really, since even today, with all that globalization, Japanese people are rarely any good at English and to successfully communicate on the streets it is highly recommended for any foreigner to at least know the basics of the speaking Japanese language. It is especially true with older people and all types of vendors, street sellers, and often even with police officers. In Japan outside the Tokyo Metropolis and big cities like Osaka and Kyoto, knowing conversational Japanese and being good at it can pretty much save you. That is the main reason why so many people consider learning Japanese with Pimsleur their best option.
What's Behind It
So what distinguishes Pimsleur from all the other audio courses for Japanese learning? First and foremost, you won't find many systems with a peculiar phonetics learning like the one Pimsleur offers. It's not a completely new approach in and of itself but only a handful of systems do actually apply it to learning languages as an adult. That is when you learn Japanese with Pimsleur, the voice in the program will teach you longer words starting from the last syllable. This is the way most kids learn their native language and it does, in fact, bring exceptional results with adults as well. Such a system is also highly effective when you, a native English (or another European language) speaker try to learn to speak Japanese, a language not only complicated by itself but in addition posing extra difficulty to us since its phonetical structure is completely foreign.
Another thing that Pimsleur incorporates in its Japanese learning course and other language courses is a somewhat modified SRS, Spaced Repetition System. It was actually created by Paul Pimsleur himself. In his version of the system, the words and phrases are repeated after quite strict time periods which get longer after each time. At first, you will hear them really often, like after 10 seconds, then the gaps will grow more and more until, finally, the word is secured in your permanent memory.
We'd like to stress that Pimsleur will teach you to speak and understand spoken Japanese, the skills essential for any and all travelers to Japan but mostly irrelevant to those who strive to learn Japanese because they are fans of Japanese comics—manga—or want to study this language thoroughly. Pimsleur will not teach you to write or read in Japanese, the PDFs that come with the course are scarce and insufficient to learn Japanese in all its aspects. But what we can assure you is that your pronunciation and listening/speaking skills will benefit enormously from a course like Pimsleur.
Rocket Languages Japanese Online Courses
When it comes to learning Japanese with a goal of making a living out of it the Rocket Languages course is the first thing that comes to our mind. It is exactly what you need if you're looking for a one-size-fits-all solution. With Rocket Languages' Japanese course, you will learn to speak Japanese, read it, write in it, and use it in your life.
Granted, with all aspects of language covered in quite a detailed fashion, it is not the fastest way to learn Japanese, it might actually take you a year or even a couple years to complete the course but what can we say? You will learn it deeply and thoroughly.
The good news in all this is that, firstly, the Rocket Languages Japanese course has a so-called "Survival Kit", a section in the menu where, if you suddenly have an opportunity to visit Japan and are in need of the bare necessities of a language to go through the trip, you will find some essential phrases and info. Secondly, the owners of Rocket Languages do admit that finishing a language course might take a while, therefore, they have decided to make their billing system not a subscription type but instead a one-time payment with lifetime access. The price is not cheap, especially when you have to pay in full at once, but you will still have the access to all the purchased lessons even if you decide to have a layoff for some reason and come back to your studies months or even years later. Finally, there are smaller benefits, like a 6-day trial period for checking out the system, a discount for buying all levels, and a generous 60-day refund period if you still find it all not what you wished it to be.
There are five core sections in Rocket Languages course, each covering a certain aspect of the language. There are audio lessons with interactive participation where you can speak with the program, repeat the sentences you've learned, and the voice recognition engine will actually assess your pronunciation (this feature is fairly new and therefore not perfect but it is a good start). Writing lessons offer you the possibility to type the words and see if you do it right. If your computer or gadget lacks Japanese keyboard Rocket has a display keyboard. You will find a lot of info on Japanese culture there as well as the language mechanics presented in written, audio, and sometimes video format. We've already mentioned the survival kit, and, finally, there are flashcards. The fun thing about them, by the way, is that you can attach your own images to the words, like anime characters, for example.
When you complete the lesson and then a module you will have to pass a little examination to proceed, with the bar set at 80% of material covered. You can, of course, come back and refresh your knowledge.
As a final touch, we'd like to point out that in addition to overall sophisticated approach to thoroughly learn Japanese, Rocket Languages also makes the process fun since there are exciting little games to play while you study and a possibility to track your progress and earn badges which you can later show off to your friends, family, and Learners Forum mates (you can also ask them questions, by the way).
Rosetta Stone Learn Japanese
Speaking from Experience
Rosetta Stone has been on the language teaching market for 25 years already and has been occupying top spots in lists like "Best Language Learning Service" for many of those years. They've been PCMag's Editor's Choice for five years straight now. So what makes them this good? What makes companies like NASA and the US State Department choose them as their preferred language courses.
The main principle Rosetta Stone has been working with all this time is that the best way to learn a language is by immersing yourself in it completely, the way you used to when you were a kid and learned your native tongue with the help of your older family members. How does this work? Well, simply speaking, there is not a word in English in the software Rosetta Stone sends you; everything is offered in a language you try to learn, starting from basic words like "boy" and "girl" to more and more complex things along your studying way. Everything is intuitive, repeated time after time for you to grasp the meaning and remember everything without a shade of doubt. You even start to grasp the grammar on the intuitive level, though we feel compelled to note that for a native English speaker grasping Japanese grammar without a shred of explanation might actually take some time since the two languages are what one might call "nothing alike" and "could not be farther away from each other". This system has all the potential to work wonders, and it does—with European languages, at least, but chances are you can embrace it for Japanese as well, after some initial struggling if you are a complete beginner. Or it could be a wonderful additional source to your Japanese courses and books. If the price does not make you cringe a bit.
Best Course for Learning Pronunciation
Rosetta Stone has been developing constantly throughout all their active years and it does show results. One of the things in their online Japanese classes that no one actually argues against is that all the audio in the lessons is actually recorded by true native speakers, crystal clear and appealing. Let's admit it, with a language as difficult as Japanese and with it being not the most demanded on the market, many companies make do with audio recorded by advanced-level foreigners, which may be awesome but won't be the same as the native speaker's speech. So in this aspect, learning Japanese with Rosetta Stone is a good choice. Going for a bit of nagging, though, many users noticed that the Japanese speech in this course is deliberately slower and more pronounced than the way people in Japan speak so you might need a bit of getting used to the speaking speed after the course. However, we believe it is not a big issue in today's world when you can watch some Japanese show or anime to train, and good slow pronunciation might actually help with understanding.
Adding to the great level of recorded audio, there is also the Rosetta Stone's TruACCENT™ technology that will help you develop your own pronunciation. It does fall for the same category as the recorded speech, as in you'll be speaking rather slowly, but it helps a great deal. And when you are done with your first lessons and are ready to try speaking out loud, Rosetta Stone offers you native speakers as tutors; you can speak with a real person who will correct your mistakes and encourage you to go on.
Rosetta's courses are offered as a downloadable desktop course, as a CD disk, and as online lessons. All three of them are quite good but online subscription offers the best possibilities for the price. It is the only option you can use on-the-go thanks to the Rosetta Stone app and downloadable audio, and it also includes a phrasebook, some books for you to read in the language you learn, and the aforementioned speech recognition and live tutoring sessions. It is flexible and convenient. All in all, Rosetta Stone might very well be your best way to learn Japanese online.
Colanguage Japanese Online Teacher
What Is coLanguage?
coLanguage is a website where you can find a Skype language teacher or become one. And with a goal of learning Japanese when you are a native English speaker (or any European language for that matter), a teacher might be irreplaceable since the difference between Asian and European languages is as vast as the ocean between Japan and America. From phonetical structure to writing systems, East and West are like apples and oranges. And don't forget the cultural aspect. It could as well be a different planet! Therefore, mere grammar books and apps that expand vocabulary might be insufficient. Moreover, a personal teacher is a good choice when you have questions and need something explained in an unconventional way, rephrased. After all, a teacher is a human being, and it is always better than a machine, however intelligent the latter may appear.
The downside of Skype lessons with a coLanguage teacher would be, first and foremost, the necessity to create a schedule that will satisfy you and will be possible and convenient for your teacher as well. Seeing as teachers there are from all over the world, chances are you will have a time difference, sometimes to the point when you wake up when the other part is supposed to go to bad. At the same time, most tutors actually go to great lengths for their students, even work up till 4–5am so it may or may not become an issue.
Teacher Lock on
The price of lessons with teacher found via the coLanguage website is decided by the teachers themselves and stated on the search results page so you can know right away what to expect with each tutor and compare them. Some teachers offer their potential students a trial lesson, free of charge—you will see it in your search results as well, right below the price. In fact, the search for the teacher on the coLanguage site is quite simple and convenient: you can state the days you want your teacher available, the language you feel the most comfortable speaking, the price range you are ready to pay, the topics you want to discuss, and check if you need an exam preparation course. The teachers that satisfy all parameters will pop up, narrowing the selection and thus helping you make a decision faster.
A Physical Proof of Knowledge
coLanguage is a service recognized by many, their teachers are usually all certified specialists and years of experience. And coLanguage has a feature not often offered by online courses. That is an option to receive a CEFR certificate to prove your language level. That may be no JLPT but it is still a proof good enough to work in some companies (if your level is high).
Fiverr Japanese Conversational Partner
Just What Is Fiverr?
Fiverr is the simplest thing. It's a website where freelancers live and prosper. Fiverr was started in 2010 and was named the way it was because all the services that users could offer there had initially cost $5 each. Today, $5 is a starting price one can set for the service they offer but it can be upped later after they earn some reputation or add premium features.
Fiverr offers an enormous number of services, some of them truly bizarre, like making a video of some crazy dance while dressed like a jungle person and with custom writings on your body in body paint. Those are actually very popular as a gift or a prank. But not all services are like that, of course, it's just that single type. Users on Fiverr will make a prank call for you or they can make you a creative and expensive-looking business card design, check your web code or write you a new one, record a professional sounding podcast, translate your text to another language, and, naturally, tutor you in just about any language including Japanese.
How Do I Learn Japanese There?
It's easy as A-B-C. You go to the Fiverr website, type Japanese in the search bar, and you get all the offers (or Gigs) where Japanese is included in some way. Then you refine your search with the menu on the left—check the "Online Lessons" category. Or you can follow the link we've provided, it's already customized.
In your search, you can set the price range you are ready to pay, the level of the seller, their language of tutoring (your native tongue or a language you know well enough to freely communicate when you do not understand what your opponent is saying in Japanese), and delivery time—the time in which you need your request fulfilled. See what the freelancers from all over the world can offer you, check each option and find the best one that fits all your requirements. What's the best thing here is that with the prices starting from $5 and a possibility to buy just one single lesson you may try a number of sellers and find your perfect tutor without it hurting your wallet in the process.
Anything I Need to Know?
As Fiverr is a freelance platform mostly, saying you will definitely find a professional teacher with many years of experience there to learn Japanese and be fluent in it might be a bit of a stretch. However, the possibility of finding a native speaker to be your conversational partner, for example, or someone to assist you in learning Japanese on your own, to explain the bits and pieces you find challenging in your workbooks? Pretty high. You might use this service occasionally, when you need, and not as a constant tutoring, like with coLangulage, for example. It is pretty awesome this way.