Japanese Language Classes are Awesome. Here’s How to Start

Japanese Language Classes are Awesome. Here’s How to Start

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The word "Study" in Japanese
Picture: NOV / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
Thanks to the Internet, Japanese language classes are within most everyone's reach. Learn how they can help improve your Japanese.

When I first started with Japanese, learning Japanese online wasn’t even an option. It was the late 1980s and my first teacher was a retired World War II vet who had worked as an interpreter. (Believe me, he had some amazing stories to tell.) Back then, you had to be lucky enough to live in an area that offered Japanese language classes – or that had someone willing to teach you.

These days, thanks to the Internet, the options are almost endless. And it doesn’t matter where you live. If you have a stable Internet connection, you can take classes anywhere, at any time.

While there are a number of services that will connect you with language teachers, my favorite new service is Preply. In this article, I walk through the benefits of a service like Preply, how I use it to improve my Japanese, and how to get started.

How Preply Works

Preply’s main purpose is to connect you with tutors who are native speakers of the language you’re looking to learn.

Using Preply, you can find a teacher and book a lesson slot with them. Most pro teachers seem to charge an average of USD $10 to $25 for a one-hour session. Plus, you can sign up with our link below until December 31st, 2022 for a 50% discount!

Unseen Japan recommends Preply to help you perfect your Japanese! (Note: Links to Preply in this article are affiliate links. Unseen Japan earns a small commission at no additional expense to you if you sign up.)

My Own Journey with Tutoring

I’d been interested in learning Japanese since I was in middle school. However, I didn’t crack down and start taking it seriously until 2012, at age 39. After about six months of hard-core personal study, I decided to take my first online Japanese class with a tutor.

Based on advice that I received online, I told my teacher I wanted to communicate exclusively in Japanese. It was terrifying. Share on X

I felt like I could barely say anything. Even when I knew what words to use, they wouldn’t come out. My brain knew some Japanese grammar, but it couldn’t pull it up quickly enough to form sentences. It was, in no uncertain terms a disaster.

But I kept with it. My teacher was extremely patient and helped me with words and expressions when I obviously struggled. Over time, I found I could start speaking in full sentences. Sometimes, sentences would just seem to fly out of my mouth automatically.

The Benefits of Tutoring

Picture: Table-K / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Taking lessons exclusively in Japanese had two benefits. One, I was forcing myself to speak in Japanese. By tossing the crutch of English, I forced myself to recall Japanese words and grammatical patterns. This was painful in the short term, but in the long term, it greatly improved my Japanese speaking. And while I doubt I could hold my own on Japanese television like Agnes Chow Ting, I can certainly get my point across in both casual and business conversations.

Forcing yourself into an all-Japanese environment for an hour at least once a month will greatly improve your Japanese speaking. Share on X

Two, by purchasing Japanese language classes online, I guaranteed myself a full hour of training in speaking. This is a key benefit that lessons have over language exchange. There are many great sites where you can find language exchange partners with whom you can trade back and forth between Japanese and your native language. And given that online language learning classes can be expensive for many people, I think everyone should use language exchange to get some Japanese speaking practice. But there’s no question that forcing yourself into an all-Japanese environment for an hour at least once a month will greatly improve your Japanese speaking.

Getting Started with Preply Japanese Language Classes

You’ll need to create an account on Preply to get started. Then, you’ll need to work with your teacher on a lesson format. What type of lesson you choose will depend on where you are in your language journey and what your goals are. There are many teachers who offer introductory and intermediate lessons using standard Japanese textbooks such as Genki and Minna no Nihongo. There are teachers who teach specifically to the JLPT. Other teachers offer more free-form lessons tailored to your specific needs.

For beginners, I recommend practicing simple conversations with your tutor. You can also mix this in with questions you may have from your Japanese study. If you don’t feel confident starting off in an all-Japanese environment, that’s fine – but let your teacher know that you want to work towards speaking exclusively in Japanese.

Read and Discuss

For intermediate and advanced learners, my personal favorite approach (assuming you’re not studying for a test like the JLPT) is the read and discuss method. Either my teacher or I will find an article that we think is around my level. I’ll read the article out loud. My teacher will help me with things such as pronunciation, kanji reading, and grammar I don’t understand. At certain points in the article, we’ll stop and my teacher will ask my for my thoughts on what I’ve read.

I’m a big fan of this method for multiple reasons. First, anyone beyond a bare beginner can use it. If you know a couple of thousand Japanese words and some basic grammar, your teacher can help you find texts that are at your level. Second, it helps improve multiple skills – grammar knowledge, pronunciation, etc. – at once. Finally, it forces you not just to consume, but to produce – i.e., to re-state what you read in Japanese in your own thoughts. All of these activities help grow the Japanese side of your brain.

No matter which study method you use, I suggest spending some time trying lessons with different teachers. Just as you may not “click” with certain people in day-to-day life, you may not “click” with a given tutor. Try out lessons with several teachers until you find one you like.


Online Japanese language classes like Preply aren’t the be-all and end-all of Japanese language learning. However, they can give your Japanese knowledge a huge boost, especially if you want to improve your speaking ability. If you’ve never tried a class with Preply, give it a try and see what it can do for you.

How to Learn Japanese Quickly Online

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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