Language Learning

As a bilingual family, one of the questions we get asked frequently is, how can I learn a foreign language?

In particular, many people have questions about learning Japanese. Although I am still not 100% fluent, over the years there have been some tools and methods that helped me to gain a better level of fluency and literacy in the Japanese language.

I would love to share this list with anyone struggling to learn the language, and hope to continue to expand the list as we come across new materials and ideas.

If you know of any great (and affordable) language learning resources that haven’t made the list yet, feel free to submit your ideas through our contact page!


How to Learn Japanese on a Budget

  1.  Livemocha.com (free) – Livemocha is very similar to Rosetta Stone.
  2. Busuu.com ( free) – Livemocha and Busuu are very similar in that they share similar features and are both alike to their much more expensive counterpart, Rosetta Stone.
  3. Online conversational Japanese classes – Register for online conversational Japanese classes through your local community college. These are often quite affordable!
  4. Textfugu – Complete session one of Textfugu, including doing all the worksheets and Anki flashcards (free).  
  5. Music – Listen to music in Japanese and study the lyrics.
  6. Stroke order worksheets – Use free online worksheets to practice stroke order of Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Example: see here.
  7. Maggie Sensei – Use free lessons at Maggie Sensei for clarification on the specifics of Japanese grammar.
  8. Kanji lists – Compile and print out lists of the Kanji taught in Japanese schools at various grade levels to work on for memorization and practice (see about.com’s section on kanji. See examples here, here, and here.
  9. WaniKani – Take advantage of a free trial of WaniKani to learn Kanji through SRS (a spaced repetition system). Please note that later levels require a monthly, annual, or lifetime subscription plan.
  10. Genki series – Due to their popularity, you can often find the Genki series of textbooks, workbooks, and audio CDs used, or available for lending in libraries.
  11. MIT Japanese class resources – Use free Japanese class resources (including the syllabi, study tools, and course materials) provided by the The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), see here.  
  12. Digital downloads – Listen to audio of Japanese conversation or podcasts while on the bus or while running.
  13. YouTube – Watch YouTube videos of comedy, commercials, news, and other media in Japanese. You can also listen to silly but catchy songs, such as this one.
  14. Dictionary – Use online dictionaries such as Denshi Jisho to help with understand specific kanji.
  15. Movies that feature Japanese language/culture – Watch movies that feature some Japanese, or that are set in Japan. This is a good way to get your “feet wet” without feeling overwhelmed!
  16. Movies and TV shows fully in Japanese – Watch TV shows and movies entirely in Japanese, with or without English subtitles (such as Summer Rescue and Hanayome no Chichi).
  17. International clubs and language exchange – If possible, get first-hand exposure with native Japanese by joining an international club and speaking Japanese with foreign exchange students. Some colleges offer language exchange clubs open to the public!
  18. Free community classes – If you live in Japan, your community may offer Japanese classes for free! Contact your local ward office to find out more information about what is available in your area.