The 3 Best Online Courses to Learn Japanese – An In-Depth Look at Each

If you’re trying to learn a new language, it can feel as impossible as scaling Mt. Everest. This is especially true of Japanese. After all, even the U.S. State department categorizes Japanese as one of the four hardest languages for native English speakers to learn.

Nonetheless, just like climbing Everest, if you have the right tools and the right dedication, you can make it to the summit.

Studying Japanese with an online learning course can help you master the fundamentals needed to understand the language. Programs such as Rosetta Stone, Busuu, and JapanesePod101 can give you a footing in vocabulary and grammar, setting you on track towards fluency. Yet, you still have to dedicate yourself to studying and practicing as much as possible to reach fluency.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at three of the best online Japanese learning courses. We’ll give you an in-depth look at each and explain how they can help you master the language. If you’re ready to unlock a new skill, let’s dive in.

The Top 3 Best Japanese Online Courses

In this article, we’ll take a look at these three online learning platforms:

  1. Busuu Japanese
  2. Rosetta Stone
  3. JapanesePod101

Keep reading below to find out how we ranked them and explore which features can help you master the Japanese language.

Why Study Japanese?

It should come as no surprise but Japanese is one of the top world languages, spoken by roughly 126 million people inside Japan and millions more around the globe.

Japan is both an economic and cultural powerhouse, with the 3rd largest economy and the 8th most influential soft power. In fact, you probably own several Japanese products in your home.

Sony, Panasonic, Nikon, Nintendo, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Canon all make up the long list of Japanese companies renowned for their quality and international brand recognition.

Meanwhile, anime, manga, sushi, ramen, karaoke, and matcha tea make up the various Japanese cultural icons that the world has fallen in love with.

Whether you’re a businessperson or a Naruto fan, there are countless reasons to learn Japanese and fall in love with the Land of the Rising Sun.

Why Learn Japanese Online?

A 2014 survey found that roughly 70% of young people were interested in learning a new language. The problem, though, is finding a reliable online or offline teaching system and knowing where to begin.

Most people will dip their toes into a few options before finally giving up. Traditionally, you might buy a dual-language dictionary or a phrasebook but, today, most people go directly online.

Learning Japanese through an online course gives you the freedom to study at your own pace. In this modern world, we often struggle to find time during the day to dedicate ourselves to formal classes.

Online courses flip the script and put the power back in your hands. Polyglots often recommend studying first thing in the morning, during your lunch break, or when you have some downtime in the evening.

Online courses also lay out a clear pathway for you to slowly learn new vocabulary while also gaining exposure to new sentence structures, situational context, and cultural understanding.

Although you might not master a language through an online course, you will walk away with enough background information and a foundation to continue learning with a native speaker or actual immersion into Japanese society.

Which Online Japanese Learning Course is the Best?

Japanese is one of the most popular languages in America to learn, beating out both Chinese and Spanish. It’s often seen as incredibly difficult but most people enjoy the challenge of learning something completely new.

The problem is knowing which online teaching platform offers the most comprehensive tools to help you learn.

Below, you’ll find three in-depth analyses of some of the most popular and highest-rated Japanese learning courses. We’ve ranked them based on user experiences and the quality of their final outcomes. Check them out here:

#1. Busuu Japanese – Top Online Learning Course

What happens when two Austrian and Swiss MBA students meet at a Spanish university and bond over a love of languages—Busuu! Busuu was founded to fix many of the problems that founders Adrian Hilti and Bernhard Niesner felt were complicating modern language learning.

Together, they developed a new program that is affordable, accessible, and effective.

Busuu Japanese works by slowly teaching sentences one word at a time. It pairs the sentences with an English translation and a picture so you can immediately understand what is happening. Each lesson covers a specific topic that’s broken down into smaller sections:

  1. Pictures slide to teach new vocabulary
  2. A spoken section mimics a text message conversation between two people.
  3. A test section that’s complete with multiple types of questions to gauge your learning.

Yet, beyond the basic lesson structure, Busuu Japanese consists of four larger course categories:

  • Hiragana
  • Katakana
  • Japanese for Travel
  • Complete Japanese

The first two courses help you learn both phonetic Japanese scripts. We highly recommend starting here if you cannot already read hiragana and katakana.

These two scripts feature throughout the other courses understanding the basics will help you immensely.

The Japanese for Travel course is essentially a short digital phrasebook full of basic sentences you might use on a trip to Japan. It shouldn’t take you too long to complete and can help you build confidence by teaching useable sentences.

The Complete Japanese course is where you’ll really start to learn. Within the course, you’ll advance through 57 A1 Beginner courses, 15 A2 Beginner courses, 14 B1 Intermediate courses, and 11 B2 Upper Intermediate courses.

As you can see, the bulk of the learning is for beginners, making Busuu a wonderful app for anyone hoping to start out with Japanese.

For only $6 a month, you can check it out and start studying to master the fundamentals of Japanese today!

Busuu Official Website

#2. Rosetta Stone Japanese – The Gold Standard Language Course

Anyone who’s ever thought about learning a new language has likely heard of the Rosetta Stone program. Is well respected and has been helping people learn online for more than 30 years.

They were one of the first companies to combine new vocabulary with picture slides and have regularly updated their technology to perfect their product.

Rosetta Stone Japanese is structured around 12 core units that range from the basics all the way up to situational and location-specific vocabulary.

Each unit consists of at least 4 lessons that teach vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar, and reading skills. Over time, the lessons build on each other, helping to reinforce what you’ve already learned. By the end of the course, you’ll have learned vocabulary about:

  1. How to greet someone
  2. School and work
  3. Shopping
  4. Travel
  5. Future and Past Tenses
  6. Socializing
  7. Eating Out
  8. Home and Health
  9. World Affairs
  10. Everyday Life
  11. Places and Events

In a lot of ways, going through a Rosetta Stone Japanese lesson feels like playing a game. It’s interactive and allows you to quickly move through lessons whenever you have a short gap in your schedule.

You’ll match pictures to vocabulary, complete phrases, practice your pronunciation, and even learn to understand Japanese writing.

The only downside is that Rosetta Stone is a bit more expensive than other courses. The beginner course costs $249.99, which is comparable to what you’d pay for professional language lessons.

However, it is the gold standard and known to be effective and can increase your chance of success.

Rosetta Stone Japanese Official Website

#3. JapanesePod101 – Substantial but Digestible Japanese Learning

Last but not least, we wanted to introduce you to JapanesePod101. Unlike the other platforms we’ve reviewed, this language course company is specifically dedicated to teaching Japanese. It’s built around a wide variety of lessons that are suitable for all levels of language learners.

JapanesePod101 is structured around short audio lessons that introduce you to new vocabulary through a story. After playing the audio, you’ll then hear a detailed translation and explanation of the grammar and vocabulary used in the clip. Finally, you’ll hear an explanation of the cultural background.

Along with the audio clips, you’ll also have access to vocabulary flashcards, PDFs to help with grammar and pronunciation, and interactive resources to help you learn hiragana and katakana.

All in all, a premium subscription entails nearly 4,000 audio lessons for all fluency levels and plenty of useful resources at the click of a mouse.

Our only complaint about JapanesePod101 is that the lessons are often overloaded with English and fail to immerse you in the language like Busuu or Rosetta Stone. However, if you’re new to language learning, this can help you understand the finer details.

JapanesePod101 Official Website

Purchase a 1-year subscription for $180.00 and experience for yourself just how effective JapanesePod101 really is.

My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.