What You Need to Learn Japanese: Top 5 Programs to Learn Japanese FAST and EASY

First of all, let me tell you that I have been learning Japanese for about 3 years, and I became fluent in only the first 2. During that time, I was eager to learn Japanese FAST and WELL, and I spent my time buying countless programs and books, most of which were useless and a waste of time and money. There are thousands of books that are just ineffective, and there are even more computer programs that have absolutely no chance at teaching you Japanese. However, with this post, I intend to empower you with the best programs that I found over my three years of studying, so you too can find yourself having full conversations in Japanese. Personally, I have all of these programs, but you don’t need to have every one of them. Instead, see which ones meet your specific style and needs.

5. Nakama Japanese Textbook Series

Ok, I’m not going to lie; you need at least one textbook to start Japanese. I attended the Middlebury Japanese Summer Language Program in Vermont, which is ranked as one of the top language schools in the United States. I can’t stress enough how effective this immersion program was, but the best part was the textbook they used. It was written by the director of our school, Kazumi Hatasa. With these books, you can easily self study Japanese. You get all the basics that you need, and the grammar is EXTREMELY well explained; if you have ever attempted to study Japanese, you know that grammar is the most challenging part, so this is really the highlight of the book. The book also teaches you a wide range of USEFUL vocabulary, instead of needless words you will never use. Needless to say, Nakama is THE textbook series that every Japanese language student should buy. I have gone through several other books, and have yet to find one as effective as this one. A lot of people praise the “Genki” textbook, but I personally found this book confusing and unnecessarily tough for beginners. There’s a reason that Middlebury College uses Nakama. After using these books, I was fully equipped to go to Japan, and was confident having complex conversation in Japanese.

4. Power Japanese

Ok, so you are not much of a textbook person. Don’t worry, either am I, and that’s why the rest of my top 4 tools for learning Japanese are computer programs! First of all, you have got to get this cheap program. Power Japanese will not teach you an extensive amount of vocabulary or kanji, but it contains the most comprehensive grammar explanations and examples out there. Right now, I am fluent in Japanese, but I still refer to this program to stay sharp on complex grammar structures. If you are having trouble with the overall structure of Japanese, and feel like the grammar is just too confusing, this program is the answer, at least, it was for me.

 3. Human Japanese

Wow, Human Japanese is just awesome. Before I went to the Middlebury Japanese Language School, I basically knew NOT ONE WORD of Japanese. However, with my tendency to overachieve, my goal was to place into level 2 Japanese once I got there. I was successful, and I seriously owe that all to Human Japanese.  This cheap program is just fun, and makes Japanese way easier than I thought it was. It touches every aspect of Japanese (less on kanji) and doesn’t just focus on one thing such as vocabulary. Every lesson is well constructed, and everything is explained in plain English in a way you’ll understand. The lessons are also short, easy to finish, and not overwhelming. Every sentence contains native speaker voice clips as well, so you can practice pronunciation and speaking.  At the end of each lesson, there are also games and quizzes to test your understanding, which is a really nice, interactive touch. If you want to cram beginning Japanese, or even just take your time, Human Japanese will get the job done. You will be able to speak and understand Japanese in a few days probably better than some people who have studied for a year…seriously.

2. Rosetta Stone

By now, you have probably heard all the hype about Rosetta Stone, and how the Department of State and NASA use it to train their employees. Well, the one downside about Rosetta Stone is that it’s expensive, and you might not have the money to buy it. But if you do, I highly recommend it as the second best tool to learn Japanese. To be honest, the best part about Rosetta Stone is that it’s ADDICTIVE and FUN. Learning a language can be tedious, challenging, and even head-aching. Rosetta Stone solves these problems by making their program enjoyable and relaxing. It works by showing you images, which are quite beautiful, and then has you associate Japanese words and sentences with them. This is the same way a child acquires language, which is supposedly why it’s so effective. This is the only computer program that effectively teaches you every aspect of Japanese including vocabulary, kanji, grammar, speaking, pronunciation, conversation, reading, and writing. The program allows you to go at your own pace, and it stays fun and intriguing throughout the way. The entire program is only 4 lessons, and you will immediately feel confident speaking Japanese even after the first one. I have read many reviews that complain about Rosetta, saying that it’s sometimes hard to understand what the pictures are trying to convey since there are absolutely no English translations. Well, unless you are extremely incapable and lack any type of creativity, then trust me, you WILL figure it out. And if you still can’t, just buy a Japanese-English dictionary….problem solved. Anyway, make Japanese fun and easy, and use Rosetta Stone. If you can buy levels 1,2, and 3, you will soon master the basics of Japanese.

1. Pimsleur Japanese

Finally, my number one tool for learning Japanese goes to Pimsleur! First of all, it’s important to note that Pimsleur will NOT teach you any writing or reading skills, so you’ll need another tool to do that. However, without a doubt, this is the single best program to learn how to speak Japanese FLUENTLY. I went though Pimsleur Japanese 1,2, and 3, and I can confidently say that it’s the reason every Japanese person says I have no accent! Pimsleur is full audio, and comes in MP3 format. There are a total of 30 lessons in each levels 1,2 and 3, and they are meant to be done once a day, at 30 minutes per lesson. So in just one month, you’ll be able to speak and understand essential Japanese. The best part about this program is that it’s interactive. You don’t just listen to the audio, but it actually has you engage in full conversations to test your skills. Personally, I just did a lesson a day while I sat in the car in traffic on my way to work and school. But whatever you style is, Pimsleur Japanese will make you speak like a native Japanese, and it will make it fun and easy in the mean time. If you ever decide to attend a Japanese class, you will be amazed at how much better you are at speaking and listening comprehension than the other students.

Comments 11 comments

Don Juan 7 years ago

Nice write-up. I want to learn Japanese and I will use all these reqources. Thanks for sorting out all the available material out there based on real-life experience.

shadows 7 years ago

Really helpful tips in here!!! hope u can help more people like me who is just beginning to learn nihongo.thank you for sharing your experience.More Power!!!

howtowriteinjap profile image

howtowriteinjap 7 years ago from Singapore

Hi cjcleveland,

I enjoyed reading your hub. Thanks for sharing your honest reviews and experiences about using the 5 programs you've mentioned to learn Japanese. I'm sure your hub will continue to be very useful to those embarking on their Japanese language journey. :)

nekoyasha profile image

nekoyasha 6 years ago

I am currently learning Japanese with Rosetta Stone (Levels One, Two, and Three) But I feel as if I want to learn from many different sources (i.e., textbooks/different computer programs) so thank you so much for giving me some ideas!

lisbet 6 years ago

You know, I actually didn't like the Pimsleur CDs particularly much- but I started them after taking class for a year. I don't have any real complaints about them, per se, but I don't think they did much of note for my Japanese.

macuser 6 years ago

Alas, Power Japanese looks to be Windows only. Oh well.

sakaeyellow 6 years ago

Actually, if you are a Japanese beginner, I strongly recommend my web site to you.


I hope that you will enjoy it.

Hezekiah profile image

Hezekiah 6 years ago from Japan

Nice hub. I think the fastest way is try and escape that Gaijin community when you live in Japan. Also "International" Japanese. Most my friends are Japanese from the neighbour hood, the local bar or gym. That was the fastest way for me to learn.

htodd profile image

htodd 5 years ago from United States

Great post..Thanks

zombiehunter 4 years ago

ive been working with pimsleur japanese 1 for about a month and am almost done with it. its been absolutely fantastic! and now that my conversational skills have a good start, i think ill try human japanese to start reading/writing :) and im looking forward to getting japanese 2 from pimsleur in the mail soon!!!

mikeydcarroll67 18 months ago

You could also use something called Rocket Japanese. It is a fairly decent program and I feel like it is worth the money that I spent on it.

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