The Ultimate Guide to Learn Japanese Online for Free

By Danlei | Updated 07/23/2020

Learning Japanese is not easy, let alone you are teaching yourself. Without a tutor by your side collecting and summarizing all the knowledge and resources you need for you, whether you can find the appropriate and effective resources on different components of Japanese becomes the most crucial factor in your success in mastering the language. 

But don’t worry! We have found the most helpful and comprehensive resources you need to learn Japanese for you here. And most importantly, they are all FREE! Check this article out for free apps, blogs, YouTube videos, podcasts, and even Chrome extensions that cover every aspect of Japanese language. Use these resources to learn Japanese online for free!

If you are looking for more guides on learning Japanese, check out our series of guides to self-study Japanese

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    Free Apps to Learn Japanese

    No matter you are teaching yourself Japanese or are already taking a class, apps are always your best friends. We've found the best apps for you covering everything you need to know about Japanese. Check them out and download the apps in one click!  

    Free Japanese Kanji App

    Kanji Teacher

    Platform: App Store

    Price: Free

    Good for: someone who wants to learn kanji and vocabulary 

    Key Features:

    • Includes all the joyo kanji broken up by JLPT levels, as well as 8,000+ most commonly used vocabulary
    • 8,000 tests available on hiragana, sentences, and vocabulary
    • Handwriting recognition function to practice writing kanji
    • Provides visual and memorizable image associated with kana

    Free Vocabulary App

    Scribe Japanese

    Platform: App Store

    Price: Free; Offers In-App Purchases

    Good for: someone who wants to learn real-life, common vocabulary

    Key Features:

    • Designed to help you learn the 8000 most common words all the vocabulary you need for the JLPT.
    • Activities to help you remember words with related-sounding words.
    • Audio for all of the words, so you can sound more like a native speaker.
    • 6 highly engaging and addictive modes to help you stay focused

    Free Grammar App

    Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese

    Platform: App Store, Google Play Store, Website

    Price: Free

    Good for: someone who wants to learn Japanese grammar comprehensively

    Key Features:

    • The most comprehensive guide to Japanese grammar, covering EVERY topic you need to know to master grammar
    • Teaches grammar that is completely different from textbooks and focuses on pure natural Japanese

    Free Speaking App

    HelloTalk

    Platform: App Store, Google Play Store

    Price:  Free; Offers In-App Purchases

    Good for: someone who wants to learn Japanese through talking with native speakers

    Key Features:

    • Text, voice message, and even video call native speakers that speak your native language
    • Build-in aids for translation, pronunciation, transliteration, and corrections designed to make your conversations run smoothly
    • Engage with the entire community by posting Moments

    Free Comprehensive App

    LingoDeer

    Platform: App Store, Google Play Store

    Price: Free; Offers In-App Purchases

    Good for: someone who is looking for a grammar, vocab app with Flashcard function

    Key Features:

    • Grammar-based expert curricula that are crafted by professional language teachers with detailed explanations
    • High-quality voices used for the lessons coming directly from native speakers
    • Various exercises on new vocabulary and grammar 
    • Flashcard function conveniently built into the app
      • No need to manually create flashcards on your own anymore!
    • Knowledge Cards with key grammatical concepts to your phones

    If you are looking for other helpful Japanese learning resources, we have created a comprehensive list of guides on learning Japanese on our BFF Tokyo website. Take a look on our Japanese learning guides that you will not be able to find elsewhere!

    Free Japanese Learning Blogs

    Blogs help you learn Japanese online for free with ease and fun. Read blogs to improve your reading skills while making friends with native speakers!

    BFF Tokyo

    Platform: Blog

    Price: Free

    Good for: someone who wants to find various kinds of resources and guides on learning Japanese

    Key Features:

    • Provides all kinds of guides and resources for learning Japanese
      • Vocab, grammar, reading, listening, learning apps, learning via YouTube, etc.
    • Guides based on your Japanese level
      • Beginner, intermediate, advanced
    • Recommendations on Japanese language schools

    Ameba

    Platform: BlogApp Store, Google Play Store

    Price: Free

    Good for: someone who wants to learn natural , real-time Japanese through social networking and posting blog

    Key Features:

    • Natural, real-time Japanese social networking and blogging platform
    • Stay tuned with Japanese fashion icons, bands, celebrities, video games, and all other popular cultures
    • Helps you find native speakers who share similar interests and make friends with them, and learn Internet slang that you would not learn from textbooks
    learn-Japanese-online-for-free-ammo1
    ammo2

    Japanese Ammo with Misa

    Platform: Blog, YouTube Channel

    Price: Free

    Good for: someone who wants to learn natural Japanese by reading blogs or watching YT videos

    Key Features:

    • Provides many great learning resources including YouTube videos on a wide range of topics
    • Covers everything from JLPT vocabulary and grammar to popular Japanese anime catchphrases
    • Both informative and fun to read and/or watch

    Tofugu

    Platform: Blog

    Price: Free

    Good for: someone who loves Japan or wants to learn Japanese through articles, podcasts, etc.

    Key Features:

    • Provides articles, podcasts, and giveaways for learning Japanese
      • Find other interesting topics on Japanese culture 
    • Offers useful tools for learning Japanese
      • Wanikani, a Japanese kanji and vocabulary learning web-app.
      • Textfugu, an online Japanese textbook that is aimed at self-studiers.

    Hirogaru

    Platform: Blog

    Price: Free

    Good for: someone who are interested in or wants to learn more about Japanese culture and Japanese language

    Key Features:

    • Focuses on Japanese language and culture
    • Covers various kinds of topics including food, nature, music, books, and subculture such as animation and manga
    • Each section includes several relevant articles with furigana and an introduction video with Japanese and English subtitles
      • You are also encouraged to leave comments or share your experience in the forum under each section!

    Interested in Japanese culture? Check out our article on events in Tokyo in which we introduce various kinds of cultural events  in Japan. We even include events that you can join during coronavirus!

    Learn Japanese Online for Free with YouTube

    YouTube videos are probably the most fun and relaxing way to learn Japanese. Use Youtube videos as a companion to the apps mentioned above to learn Japanese online for free!

    Dogen

    Platform: YouTube

    Price: Free

    Good for: someone who wants to practice their Japanese pronunciation through fun YT videos

    Key Features:

    • Short, fun videos on Japanese comedic skits, pitch-accent and pronunciation
    • Helps you speak natural Japanese like a native through fun videos

    Learn Japanese From Zero!

    Platform: YouTube

    Price: Free

    Good for: Japanese beginners that knows nothing about the basics and wants to learn from ZERO

    Key Features:

    • Detailed explanation on the basics 
    • Various series of videos such as One Thing in Japanese, Adventures in Japan, Japanese Daily, etc.

    Nakanuma M. Sensei

    Platform: YouTube

    Price: Free

    Good for: Japanese beginners that wants to learn hiragana, katakana, and basic grammar and vocabulary patterns

    Key Features:

    • Detailed explanation on writing each hiragana and katakana
    • Created songs to help beginners memorize vocabulary and grammar
    • Dictations for listening comprehension and writing

    Nihongo no Mori

    Platform: YouTube

    Price: Free

    Good for: Japanese learners who are preparing for JLPT tests  

    Key Features:

    • Provides lessons on grammar and vocabulary from N5-N1 
    • Other lessons on kanji, homonyms, learning Japanese through songs, etc. 

    Learning Kanji

    Platform: YouTube

    Price: Free

    Good for: Japanese learners who are preparing for JLPT tests and want to find practice questions and example tests on JLPT

    Key Features:

    • Example tests on JLPT tests with explanation on the question and the answer
    • Downloadable PDF version of the sample tests

    If you are a crazy YouTube fan and want more than the above videos, we've created a guide on how to learn Japanese through YouTube, which includes even more YouTube videos on learning Japanese. Don't forget to give it a check!

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    Online Japanese Lesson

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    In addition to providing great content at BFF Tokyo, we also provide good and affordable Japanese lessons.

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    Free Podcasts for Japanese Learners

    Podcast can be another great resource when it comes to learning Japanese. Find the podcast that works best for you and learn Japanese online for free!

    learn-Japanese-online-for-free-bilingualny

    Bilingual NY, learn Japanese

    • A conversational podcast covering the latest news articles, most of which are from NHK News Web Easy
    • The article covered is first read out in Japanese, with explanations given in English, and then would be followed up by a more difficult version of the same story
    • Good way to see the difference in vocab and grammar between NHK Easy and the actual Japanese newspapers
    • Check here to access the podcast
    learn-japanese-online-for-free-easy-japanese

    Easy Japanese NHK

    • Provided by NHK, Japan’s only public broadcaster
    • Explanations on how and why to use certain vocabulary are given
    • Easy to follow along; great for Japanese beginners
    • Check here to access the podcast
    learn-japanese-online-for-free-happa-ekaiwa

    Happa ekaiwa podcast

    • Native English conversation delivered by two natives talking about daily tasks in English
    • Explanations are given in both English and Japanese; good for beginners
    • Good for improving listening and speaking skills
    • Check here to access the podcast
    learn-japanese-online-for-free-jla

    JLA Japanese Listening

    • Real, natural, advanced Japanese conversation on wide variety of topics
    • Script is given for learning new words & phrases
    • Check here to access the podcast
    learn-japanese-online-for-free-news-in-slow-japanese

    News in Slow Japanese

    • For lower intermediate to advanced students
    • Learn Japanese through interesting and entertaining news stories several times a week
    • Host by a native Japanese speaker at a slow pace for students to pick up every word
    • Helpful for JLPT N3-N1 preparation
    • Transcripts and popup translations with furigana available at the home of the podcast
    • Check here to access the podcast
    tofugu

    Tofugu

    • For people who want to learn Japanese or are interested in Japan and Japanese culture
    • A wide variety of topics from basic Japanese grammar to useful tips on living in Japan
    • Wonderful guest speakers
    • Check here to access the podcast
    learn-japanese-pod

    Learn Japanese Pod

    • Designed to help learners speak Japanese more naturally and fluently
    • Introduce words and expressions useful for daily life; other topics include Japanese culture, food, travel tips, etc.
    • Check here to access the podcast
    japanese-pod-101

    Japanese pod 101

    • Originated from JapanesePod101.com; can be used in companion with other video lessons from the website
    • Short free daily podcast audio lessons on common topics and useful expressions in daily life
    • Good for beginners who want to learn essential Japanese
    • Check here to access the podcast
    japanese-videocast

    Japanese Videocast

    • A unique Japanese learning program that helps you learn Japanese through popular media
    • The best way to learn for someone who is interested in Japanese shows, movies, or anime
    • Check out more lessons on the Japanese Videocast website
    nihongo-con-teppei

    Nihongo con Teppei

    • A podcast teaching natural and conversational Japanese for upper beginners who already know some amount of vocabulary and basic grammar
    • Short and easy audio lessons on common topics such as education, food, weather, etc.
    • Great for improving your listening skills; sensei speaks very clearly at a normal speed that is neither too fast or too slow
    • English explanations will be given for some vocabulary and phrases in the podcast
    • Check here to access the podcast

    Still looking for more listening resources? Check out our ultimate guide to improving your Japanese listening. We've prepared guides on how to improve your test-taking listening skills and daily listening skills.

    Free Japanese Chrome Extentions

    Use the Chrome extension we recommend to learn Japanese online for free and improve your reading skills!

    Japanese IO

    Platform: Chrome 

    Key Features:

    • An online reader for intermediate and advanced learners to make reading Japanese easy and pleasurable
    • Look up words on any web page and read without distractions
      • The vocabulary looked up will be synced with your account and saved into the library for you to export them to external tools like Anki easily.
    • Provides news, articles, and books with furigana
      • Practice your reading skills with ease and fun!

    Rikaikun

    Platform: Chrome

    Price: Free

    Good for: someone who wants to look up words or phrases on any web page

    Key Features:

    • Translates Japanese words or phrases by hovering over them
    • Provides English translation, hiragana, radical, kun-yomi&on-yomi of the word
    • Identifies both the word itself and the phrase with the word 

    Subadub

    Platform: Chrome

    Price: Free

    Good for: someone who uses Netflix who wants to look up the words in the subtitle

    Key Features:

    • Allows you to select the text in Netflix subtitles
    • Copy and paste the words you select and save them into your Flashcard apps or look them up in a dictionary(e.g. Rikaikun extension)
    • Download the full subtitles in SRT format for study and review

    Free Japanese Textbooks

    We also found some free textbooks online to make self-teaching easier for you.

    Marugoto

    Platform: Website

    Price: Free

    Good for: someone who wants to find free Japanese textbooks and materials online

    Key Features:

    • Provides the contents of the coursebook "Marugoto: Japanese Language and Culture" using JF standard as a basis
    • 4 types of lessons for Starters, Elementary 1&2, and finally getting into the textbook
    • Learn Japan Knowledge, Grammar, Writing, Kanji, and Pronunciation with the online materials

    Chimata no Nihongo

    Platform: Website

    Price: Free

    Good for: students who have trouble applying what they learned in textbooks outside the classroom

    Key Features:

    • Covers real-world practical topics you will come across in daily life
      • Eating a meal, birthday greetings, a movie invitation, emergency call, dental appointment, etc.
    • Conversations presented are categorized for beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels of study.
      • 4 different scenes for each conversation

    If the above resources are still not enough for you, we've also created a guide to help improve your Japanese reading where we share additional reading resources with you based on JLPT levels. Also, don't miss out the useful tips we came up with to help you learn Japanese in an enjoyable and efficient way.

    Free Online Communities for Japanese Learners

    Find a group of people sharing the same interest with you and learn Japanese together!

    Linguaholic

    Platform: Forum

    Price: Free

    Good for: someone who wants to learn Japanese and communicate with a group of like-minded people

    Key Features:

    • Language learning forums for Japanese, Chinese, English, German, and several other languages learners
    • Study with other like-minded souls who are passionate about learning the language
    • Get online language learning resources, language learning&teaching&translation tips shared by other learners
    • Find a language exchange partner in the Language Exchange Corner

    UniLang

    Platform: Forum

    Price: Free

    Good for: someone who wants to study in a language community and find useful resources shared/made by other learners

    Key Features:

    • All sorts of useful resources shared by other Japanese learners
      • Courses, apps, vocabulary lists, scripts, etc.
    • Just ask anything that confuses you and get responses from hundreds of Japanese learners

    Reddit

    Platform: Forum

    Price: Free

    Good for: someone who wants to study in a language community and prefer a Q&A learning style

    Key Features:

    • Sub-forum of Reddit
    • The biggest online community for English speakers with quarter million registered people
    • You can post and answer questions on confusing or interesting topics and discuss with other Japanese learners

    Wondering how to make more Japanese friends? Read our ultimate guide to making Japanese friends in which we share some tips to help you move past the acquaintance barrier and make friends based on your Japanese level!

    The Most Affordable Morning Japanese Lessons in Tokyo

    In addition to providing awesome articles on BFF Tokyo, we also provide affordable online and offline morning Japanese lessons.

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    • Affordable lesson prices
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