Best Online Japanese Courses for 2020

We took a look at some of the best Japanese courses available online for you to choose from.

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Our course review process evaluates key indicators such as the content quality, its’ duration, comprehensiveness, and cost-effectiveness. We also consider the topic-relevant expertise of the instructors and the credibility of the hosting online course platform. 

We are reader-supported and our reviews are always neutral and unbiased. To support us, please consider making a purchase through the links on this page, as we may receive commissions.

Why should you learn Japanese? That is a very good question and one, that is very easy to answer. With Japanese being the ninth most spoken language in the world, with 128 million speakers globally, it is definitely worth picking up so you can dabble freely in the unique and fun culture so you don’t have to wait for someone else to translate the source material for you. It’s an eye opening experience. Now, the main benefits of learning Japanese, as mentioned before, is unlimited and unfiltered access to Japanese culture. You get to converse freely with Japanese people, consume local media, anime, manga and news, to name a few. Looking for a job or business relations? In order to do business successfully in Japan, you need to have a firm understanding of the language and their culture, workplace ethics etc. Learning all that will open up opportunities in various fields and will put you head and shoulders above the rest of your competition. It’s a doorway to other Asian languages and cultures since the learning processes are similar and there are many cultural similarities as well. So it is definitely worth all the time and effort, it will pay off.

Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.

We’ve evaluated some of the best courses for learning Japanese that you can get your hands on. If for whatever reason you are looking to start studying Japanese, look no further. You can definitely find something to suit you from our recommendations.

We’ve selected these courses based on their accessibility, variety, and lesson structure, among other factors. These courses are suitable for any level you are at and for attaining a multitude of different goals that you might have.

Without further ado, let’s break the best of them down, one by one.

Best Overall:

JapanesePod101

Our Rating:
4.8/5
  • A large quantity of high-quality lessons
  • Thorough learning materials
  • Good for all levels of students
  • Not all lessons are up to date

Course instructor: Innovative Language Learning, the creator of JapanesePod101.com, has been involved with the online language teaching industry for over 12 years. With a decade of language teaching experience and over 1 billion lesson downloads, their system is time-tested, proven and it has helped thousands of students learn Japanese online. 

Who can take this course: It has loads of in-depth Japanese lessons for all experience levels, starting from beginner level all the way to advanced. All students interested in learning Japanese online will benefit from this course. It really is a good match for just about anyone willing to learn the language.

What you’ll learn: We covered this online Japanese course in greater detail in our in-depth review, where we ranked it highly as a result of our positive experiences with the platform. To sum it up, thogh – the lessons on JapanesePod101 are well-structured and easy to understand. Practicing Japanese pronunciation is often overlooked in online courses, but JapanesePod101 is special in this regard as it does an excellent job at covering both Japanese speaking and writing practice.

Verdict: JapanesePod101 is an excellent resource for learning Japanese. It is a versatile tool with many features and it’s flexible, so you can tailor the learning experience however you want. I can strongly recommend it to anyone who is serious about the language regardless of skill level. The pricing is reasonable and the service is easy to use.

Runner Up:

Rocket Japanese

Our Rating:
4.6/5
  • Balances speaking, grammar, writing, and listening better than other Japanese courses
  • Easy to follow course material
  • Lots of speaking practice
  • Lessons can get repetitive

Course instructor: Rocket Languages is a recognized leader in online language learning. In fact, the Rocket Languages platform has been so successful that over 1,200,000 registered users are now using Rocket Languages products. The teachers are highly skillful and the customer support is excellent.

Who can take this course: Rocket Japanese has three experience levels aimed at different students. The first level starts from the very basics of the Japanese language, and the third is the most advanced. Rocket Japanese has ensured that it has useful content for every skill level. Therefore, you can just jump right in at any skill level. With that being said, if you are already nearing expert level, then you might find even the advanced courses slightly redundant.

What you’ll learn: Rocket Japanese is more balanced than many of the alternative online courses that are out there. While the lessons can be repetitive at times with a constant focus on memorization, the course overall still manages to be highly effective. The various cultural and social aspects of the Japanese language are explained well throughout the course. Not to mention grammar and vocabulary training is definitely top-notch.

What others say: On their own site, they have an average rating of 4.7 stars out of 3223 reviews. Looking elsewhere around the Internet for user-reviews reveals similarly positive experiences. All in all, it is a great service that students tend to love.

Verdict: Rocket Japanese provides a balanced learning experience at a reasonable price-point. All the extra features such as voice recognition software, the app, flash cards and offline acces definitely help out a lot in the language learning process. Their customer service is also fantastic – if you need help, they will do their best to help you. Not to mention the fact that you can get a full refund within 60 days if you are not happy with your course. All in all, this is one of the best online Japanese courses, and I can highly recommend it.

Best for Beginners:

Rosetta Stone

Our Rating:
4.4/5
  • Very good for absolute beginners
  • Intuitive and helpful course materials
  • Good for a basic understanding of the language
  • Not great for advanced learners

Course Instructor: Rosetta Stone Inc. is dedicated to changing the way the world learns. The company’s innovative, technology-driven language, literacy and brain-fitness solutions are used by thousands of schools, businesses, government organisations and millions of individuals around the world.

Who can take this course: I would recommend Rosetta Stone for beginners and intermediate learners. It has a lot of content and it prides itself with being immersive. I would say that this online Japanese course is best suited for learners who are patient. That is because with this course, it does take quite a bit of time to learn, as it’s very methodical in its teaching approach.

What you’ll learn: It’s an excellent course that is well-designed with short (5-10 minute) lessons. The course focuses on integrating listening, speaking, reading and writing skills in the target language with no translations. However, don’t expect to learn travel phrases or conversational expressions early on. Those come much later in the course. At first, you will learn all the most useful vocabulary. So it manages to lay a solid foundation and keeps steadily building on it. After you are done with it, you will definitely have a good grasp of the Japanese language.

What people say: Rosetta Stone reviews have been very mixed over the past decade. While they seem to have reached mainstream scale given the number of years they have been around, their biggest criticism is the price to value ratio.

Verdict: Make no mistake; if Rosetta Stone works for you, it’s going to work absolutely fantastically. The problem lies in the fact that this sort of learning just doesn’t appeal to everyone, and not everyone can use this method of learning to their advantage. So give it a try and see for yourself.

Pimsleur Japanese

Our Rating:
4.4/5
  • Develops conversational skills
  • Requires active participation in audio lessons
  • Could use more casual language at times

Course Instructor: The Pimsleur Method™ was established nearly 50 years ago by Dr. Paul Pimsleur. By today, Pimsleur has become a major player in the language learning scene by offering quality courses as well as true and tried methods of teaching.

Who can take this course: Pimsleur Japanese is good for beginners to upper-intermediate students. You’ll want to consider it if you’re looking to improve your speaking, listening, or pronunciation skills. This is good language software for those who enjoy audio-based learning. If you have a busy schedule or a mobile lifestyle the course could be perfect for you. Also it is perfect for visually impaired people.

What you’ll learn: The Pimsleur language learning system is an audio based course that presents phrases in the target language first, and then in your mother tongue for you to translate into that language. It is purely audio based and concentrates on actual conversational skills, which means you will not be learning how to read and write Japanese. However it is good at what it does promise to do, preparing you to converse with actual people.

What people say: Pimsleur has received mixed reviews, some love it, some not so much. However, it is effective on what it does and many students do like the course and consider it effective, myself included.

Verdict: Pimsleur is a boring but effective spaced repetition language-learning method. Since it’s 100-percent audio, you can also use it while you are walking. In terms of daily language courses with a low time commitment Pimsleur is one of the best. 

Best for JLPT prep:

Attain Corporations JLPT Prep Courses

Our Rating:
4.8/5
  • Well structured and the explanations are clear.
  • The explanations are very clear and useful.
  • Very entertaining course.
  • Some might need additional practical exercises.

Course instructor: Attain Corporation is a Japanese educational e-learning company. They make and sell Japanese learning materials and Japanese teacher training materials. They also offer over 600 lessons of e-learning materials about IT knowledge and business skills in Japan.

Who can take this course: It is for any skill level ranging from absolute beginner to expert, granted you start at a level you are comfortable with or just study them in order. And as mentioned before, it is perfect for students aiming to take JLPTs or just looking to improve in general. 

What you’ll learn: The “Online Japanese” courses by Attain Corp (Japanese N5, Japanese N4, etc.) are amazing. The lessons are structured perfectly, pacing is great and I found they put in effort to make the content entertaining. I should mention that the lectures are fully in Japanese, of course with English subtitles, which in my opinion makes it much more immersive. These courses will prepare you for JLPT N5-N1 Japanese proficiency tests which get you a certificate of your actual level of skill. But not only that, it manages to teach you useful language skills while preparing you for those tests.

What people say: Overall Attain has very good reviews from students taking their courses with an average being somewhere around 4.6 out of 5. I personally found them very useful and will be using it again to prepare for my N2 exam.

Verdict: Definitely one of the best courses out there. It does exactly what it’s supposed to and makes it fun along the way. I wholeheartedly recommend picking this course up. However, be prepared to do some practical exercises on your own to really help you memorize and learn everything in the lessons themselves, but if you are committed to learning it really isn’t a problem. 

Marugoto Japanese Course

Our Rating:
4.6/5
  • The course is designed according to JF Standard for Japanese-Language Education
  • You will learn to communicate in Japanese
  • You can pursue a level based on your requirement
  • It is a bit more test oriented

Course instructor: The Japan Foundation is an organization that promotes Japanese language and culture around the world. They have a few different courses where you can learn Japanese free online. They run a course called ‘Marugoto’ which is the best general beginner course that you can find for free. 

Who can take this course: The course is well suited for beginners who are just starting out and would like an online self-study course, which is more structured and formal than the other courses on this list. You submit assignments online and even get a certificate at the end. There is also an online noticeboard for students where you can chat about your experience learning Japanese with other students across the world. But do keep in mind, you can do everything at your own pace so you don’t have to worry about burning out.

What you’ll learn: Marugoto has lots of pictures and lots of listening practice. It has an easy to use, fun and interactive format.

There are actually two options you can choose from Marugoto ‘katsudoo’ or ‘katsudoo & rikai’. The ‘katsudoo’ course focuses on listening and speaking for everyday situations. The other option covers the same listening and speaking lessons, but you will also learn how to read and write in Japanese and you will study more grammar. The course is available in a few different languages, including Spanish, Indonesian and Thai. To take the course, you have to register (for free) on the Japan Foundation Minato e-learning portal. It does have a testing system as well to determine the level of skill you are at and based on the results will recommend a starting level for you.

What people say: It has received praise from many users and a lot of language learners and teachers alike swear by it. 

Verdict: I thoroughly enjoyed the course. It is well put together, has solid materials, well thought out lesson structures and has a ton of material. You also get a certificate for completion. i definitely recommend any beginner to give this course a go.

Waseda University Beginner Japanese Courses

Our Rating:
4.5/5
  • Free course by a reputable course instructor.
  • Good for beginners
  • Has a traditional style of teaching
  • Not for advanced students

Course instructor:Waseda University is a leading institution in Japan, founded in 1882 with three principles: academic independence, practical innovation, and the shaping of open-minded citizens; aiming to provide the world with progressive leaders.

Waseda has stayed true to these ideals, educating seven prime ministers and countless other politicians, business leaders, journalists, diplomats, scholars, scientists, inventors, actors, writers and artists.

The courses they provide on edX platform are of excellent quality and recommended by many.

Who can take this course: The course is aimed at beginners level students looking to prepare themselves for college level learning or just improving themselves. It is geared towards teaching simple vocabulary and grammar for you to start your road in college. As an added benefit, it is possible to obtain a certificate of completion from this course series, although it does come with a fee.

What you’ll learn: The course is structured mainly around video lectures and supporting practical exercises based on the same lectures. You will learn conversational skills, grammar and vocabulary. It also provides loads of information about Japanese culture. The course instructors are super nice as well, always helpful and provide great insight.

What people say: People generally like this course and it is recommend by many.

Verdict: This course was great. I learnt a lot from it and it definitely helped me prepare for my year in a Japanese college. I also picked up the certificates from there which are super nice to add to your CV.

Best App for Learning Japanese:

Duolingo

Our Rating:
4.4/5
  • Easy to use with a user friendly UI.
  • Low time investment.
  • Easy to start using.
  • It is only a supplementary tool.

I’m mentioning this tool because it is a great little application to supplement your Japanese learning on the go in bite size pieces. It is worth checking out. Now i need to mention that Duolingo is a good practice tool at a beginner’s level. It will not teach you a language in its entirety, just keep that in mind. With that out of the way, it is a good resource to learn a lot of words. It also manages to solidify your foundations for grammar and syntax and perhaps some pronunciation as well. Duolingo is very easy to use, intuitive UI and user friendly lesson contents. So definitely give this little tool a go.