Best Japanese Learning Resources For Beginners

When it comes to learning Japanese, finding the right resources suitable for you on a budget can be problematic. It is especially true for beginners who have no idea of where to start. This article will be a concise list of all the best Japanese learning resources geared toward beginners.

1. To Study Japanese Characters

While English learners only have to memorize the ABC alphabet, Japanese learners face a much more demanding challenge. There are two central equally important Japanese characters, the syllabic Kana and the adopted Chinese characters Kanji. Kana itself consists of two types, a standard version Hiragana and Katakana for mainly foreign words and names. Most Japanese sentences contain all mentioned characters, so it is impossible to skip any if you want to read or write in Japanese.

1.1. Kana Learning Resources

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It would help if you started with basics, which is Hiragana, then move on with Katakana. Before watching videos, you should print the worksheets in which you will write the letters down. It ideally takes a day to a week to read all of the Hiragana or Katakana. At first, don’t expect to read fast; the aim is to recall successfully each character no matter the speed.

Free Kana chart printable worksheets (Japanesepod101): https://www.japanesepod101.com/japanese-alphabet/

Learn ALL Hiragana in 1 Hour (Japanesepod101): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p9Il_j0zjc&t=1s

Learn ALL Katakana in 1 Hour (Japanesepod101):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6DKRgtVLGA

1.2. Kanji Learning Resources

How to learn Kanji

Kanji makes Japanese difficult, many say. But getting through Kanji will aid you tremendously in learning vocabulary and grammar. So don’t skip this step if you don’t want to waste time struggling later.

Learn Kanji in 45 minutes (Japanesepod101): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPppVDX_GiY

Mnemonics and stories to remember the Kanji (Kanji Koohi): https://kanji.koohii.com/

2. To Study Japanese Pronunciation

After remembering all Japanese characters, you can practice Pronunciation by reading Kana or Kanji, especially Hiragana. Of course, you will need a few guides beforehand.

Learn Japanese Pronunciation in 14 Minutes (Japanesepod101):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Irzvrcpf4Q

Forvo is a valuable tool to learn Pronunciation for not only Japanese but also many other languages. The first use case is to search a Japanese word or phrase to hear its Pronunciation by a native speaker. Secondly, Forvo recommends actual content such as everyday phrases.

Forvo: https://forvo.com/languages/ja/

3. Japanese Dictionary

Jisho Dictionary 

Jisho is Top #1 Japanese-English dictionary app in Google Play for a reason. It is powerful and offers example sentences along with kanji and kana translations. Apart from the usual words, you can search kanji, Japanese names.

Available as: Multi platforms

Tangorin

japanese learning resources

Tangorin is another e-dictionary that offers search functions by Kanji and example sentence. It is known to filter the results precisely and construct a free downloadable vocabulary list.

Available as: Website

Tagaini Jisho

japanese learning resources

Jim Breen from Monash University backs Tagaini. Although its content is quite essential, its Kanji look-up feature works excellent.

Available as: computer app for Windows, MacOS X, and Linux

imiwa?

miwa? gives access to all mentioned feature even different language transaltion from/to Japanese but in mobile app. However, it does have a special lookup implementation called SKIP which is customized for beginners. SKIP puts kanji in pattern order instead of radical order.

Available as: app for IOS (iPhone and iPad)

Takoboto

japanese learning resources

This is quite similar imiwa? But it support only Japanese-English. You can use it offline to search kana, kanji or alphabets.

Available as: app for Android

4. To Study Vocabulary

Anki

Anki is the most efficient tool for remembering new words quickly, far better than traditional based on flashcards and spaced repetition system. You can create your flashcard pools or use the existing ones in the text (words or sentences), sound, or images. Although the whole flashcard method can confuse newcomers a little, the Anki community is massive and supportive. As you progress with Anki, you can also build healthy learning and reviewing habits.

Available as: computer app, mobile app

Memrise

japanese learning resources

Memrise is also an excellent place to start learning Japanese lexical resources. Its number of qualified decks may be lacking compared to Anki’s, but the UI (user interface) is a big plus. Moreover, the repetition algorithm can improve memory as well as concentration.

Available as: computer app, mobile app

If you are disliking cramming more storage spaces in your computer or smartphones, you can learn vocab only through.

Vocabulary List & Quiz (NHK World – Japan): https://www.nhk.or.jp/lesson/english/vocabulary/

5. To Study Grammar

Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese Grammar

Tae Kim made one of the best grammar guides for beginners. Although it would not be necessarily easy to navigate through his page at first, the content is simply classic. He describes the traditional Japanese in great detail, which will help learners build a strong base. However, you need to seek additional sources to get more exercises or learn advanced Japanese grammar.

Available as: website, mobile app, and pdf

A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar

Another way to study basic grammar is through this book, the Bible of Japanese grammar.

Imabi

Compared to Tae Kim, Imabi resources are more refined and updated. Besides, the team behind Imabi seems to be all legit Japanese experts. Last but not least, the UI experience is on the spot; you can quickly learn some mini-lesson from complete basics to more challenging tasks. They always provide samples and reflect on customers’ views to improve their quality.

6. To Practice Japanese

6.1 Listening

Glossika 

Glossika develops their product on one simple central concept “listen and repeat.” But the innovative aspect of the project is the Artificial Intelligence (AI) is applied to customize your studying pace. It is a highly effective tool to learn to listen and to speak.

Youtube

You can rely on Youtube for video Japanese learning resources. Some famous providers are  JapanesePod101 or Japanese Mamo with Misa.

6.2 Reading

rikaikunrikaichan

These dictionaries don’t exactly offer you reading resources. But they can support your reading a lot if you add them as browser extensions. Whenever you hover over any Japanese word, the extension will pop up the meaning and example. Note that rikaikun is an extension on Chrome while rikaichan is on Firefox.

Traditional Children Stories

For beginners, it will be only possible to read elemental hiragana words. A perfect source of these would be children’s book. Moreover, you can know more about Japanese culture through the folk stories that every Japanese kid grows up with. We recommend starting with Hukumusume English index or Life.ou.edu in which each tale include both Japanese and English version. After that, you can explore the rest without English translation also in Hukumusume.

If you prefer something with apictures, visit EhonNavi. Unlike these two mentioned sources, EhonNavi offers traditional and modern books, divided by age 0 to 12.

CosCom News

CosCom News is a news hub for Japanese learners. Here, you can find short articles and choose whether to read in hiragana or kanji. The report is also downloadable as a pdf so that you can write a note later.

6.1 Writing

Anyone who just starts with Japanese should only focus on characters writing (Kana and Kanji) using the worksheet we mentioned above, then maybe try writing some simple words.

Lang-8

A more interactive way is to post some random thought, sentence, or essay on Lang-8 in Japanese. There will include native speakers willing to fix and comment on your writing.

6.1 Speaking

 italki

There is no better method of learning to speak Japanese well than talking to native speakers. Italki offers that service. You can find some language exchange partners or even affordable appointments with a tutor.

7. Online Courses

JapanesePod101 

 japanese learning resources

You can’t go wrong with JapanesePod101. It is so well-known and receives so many good reviews from users. After years, JapanesePod101 still manages to keep its lesson quality and funny, energetic teachers. Even though the site consists of countless sources ranging from video lessons, grammar lessons, quizzes, flashcards to printables, the ‘Learning Paths’ as well as site navigation guide students easily through all.

“Online Japanese Beginner Course,” at Umedy

The best part of Japanese learning resources at Umedy is that there is a qualified and well-accepted certificate. The cost is incredibly cheap ($10 or $20). One piece of advice is to check the reviews of the course before applying.

Nihongo Pro Live Lessons

Learners with a broader budget can consider one-on-one private lessons by experienced professional Japanese teachers. Each lesson lasts for about 50 minutes, and there will be a flexible schedule depending on student and teacher arrangement. Nihongo integrates some exciting features such as a built-in dictionary, audio playback, or whiteboard.

 

About Yuu Sato

Yuu Sato has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.