Now You Can Learn Japanese Online

It wasn’t so long ago I looked at the possibilities for teaching English online, but never considered using my webcam and mic to learn Japanese online. Actually, I’ve always thought study materials for learning Japanese were far behind those for learning English. I remember being frustrated at how most English textbooks came with CDs, whereas books for learning Japanese still came with cassette tapes, even though tape players had long disappeared from most electronics stores!

Studying Japanese the traditional way – 10 years ago 

In the late 90’s and probably still today, English teachers flooded Nagoya with cheap private English lessons, but if we wanted to learn Japanese, we’d have a choice of about three schools whose prices were exuberant. They offered brain-draining, rote learning-style lessons, and focused more on technical, polite Japanese than the casual conservational language we really needed on a day-to-day basis.

If you looked hard enough, there were a few cheap volunteer classes at community centers, but they were usually at times when most English teachers were working, and exchange lessons were often very one-sided since the Japanese “teacher” just wanted to learn and speak English, knowing nothing about, and having little in teaching Japanese at all.

Japanese learners welcome the internet

Ten years later and things seem to have improved dramatically. I live out in the countryside now so if I’m going to start learning Japanese seriously again (next step - JLPT 1kyu), I’m going to use my favorite tool, the internet. Harvey is Learning Japanese with Google Images, Thomas is posting some ways to Learn Japanese with Google, and SpeedAnki is helping me relearn the thousand kanji I forgot after passing JLPT 2kyu. The site that has really got me interested, however, is JOI - the Japanese Online Institute. I was looking over Mike’s Japanese slang site, when I saw JOI’s advertisement for live Japanese lessons online.

Learn Japanese online with the Japanese Online Institute

I haven’t done a trial lesson yet, but everything about JOI looks professional and good value. If I join, I’d probably buy the PrivateGold Lessons. They’re the most expensive at around $25 per 50-minute class, but you get free registration, a qualified teacher, a personalized curriculum, a progress report after each lesson, and near-complete flexibility in choosing your lesson time – 24 hours a day. 

Japanese Online Institute screenshot

JOI does offer classes from as little as $5, but I think $25 is very reasonable when you compare it to real schools. Take for example the Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute. They charge around $50 per hour, and that’s after you pay $150 to register! Personally, I’d rather study in my pajamas from home.

If you live in Japan, ask your wife or friend to teach you!

You might wonder why I don’t just ask Mami to teach me. Well it’s impossible to stick to a schedule, remain motivated, or take it seriously. Unless money is changing hands, teaching your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife or even language exchange partner just doesn’t work. 

Should I give up dancing to study Japanese?

Again, I haven’t tried JOI yet, and I’m not sure I can afford online Japanese lessons and ballroom dancing lessons at the same time, but we’ll see. If you had to choose between ballroom dancing or Japanese learning, which would it be? 

If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!

11 thoughts on “Now You Can Learn Japanese Online

  1. Stick to the dancing, Nick. I’ve always loved ballroom dancing and we were so pleased when you took it up. I want a dance with you next time I see you. I am sure you know more than enough Japanese by now.

    luv Mum

  2. “You might wonder why I don’t just ask Mami to teach me. Well it’s impossible to stick to a schedule, remain motivated, or take it seriously. Unless money is changing hands, teaching your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife or even language exchange partner just doesn’t work. ”

    I agree with you 100%.

    I know people from two different language backgrounds who when they married, were both bilingual in each others language, but over the course of time spent living in one country, the other spose loses the bilingual ability. I suspect that happens a LOT.

    If I were back in the states for 15 years or so I’m sure my Japanese would regress to “pitiful”, if not reading and listening for SURE speaking and writing. And likewise my wife is already forgetting English as we are living in Japan, even though I speak English to her at home, she doesn’t speak or write it as well as she used to when we were back in the states!

    Tough stuff.

  3. I love your mum’s comment Nick and do agree that Dancing is for you!! I kinda feel that you have what it takes just and long as you can (as your teacher put it) put more “gaiety” into your steps haa haa haa!!
    I did learn Ballroom dancing when I was quite young and do regret not getting into it more. I was only around 10 or 12 at the time and thought it to be very uncool. Shame on me and while my mother was smart enough to introduce me to music and dancing, I was dumb enough to not listen and thus, lack music ability (Which i long for!!) and move on the dance floor with the grace of a drunken rugby player!!
    I suppose there is still time and do have a longing desire to become a drummer rock star haa haa haa!!
    PS.You can’t beat me at basketball (contrary to what you may think) but i admit I’m no match for you on the dance floor. I’m extremely envious of that my lad!!!!!

  4. “All Japanese all the time” is very good and thank you to the lad (I think Thomas) who put it up here!! Just checked it out and looks real interesting!!

  5. speedanki is great!

    I am always looking for cool language tools for our Nipponster toolbar (shameless plug 🙂 sorry), so I will add it.

    Have you heard of They have streaming online Japanese radio lessons. I think most are free and then there are some you can purchase like itunes (but I am not sure because I only use the free).

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