How to learn Japanese without spending any money

Who has hundreds of dollars to invest in learning Japanese?
July 3, 2016, written by Cameron

It is possible for one to learn this super complex language without ever having spent a single dime.

It is not recommended, however. Because trying to find all of the grammar and sentence structure information from friends, the internet, and other resources will take up a considerable amount of time! And will even leave you feeling frustrated… when you could just spend $15 for a decent grammar book. It has all your answers, right there in one place.

But! Just for fun, let’s say you didn’t want to spend a single cent! How could you do it?

For this article, we assume you actually want to learn the language, and not just some slang and phrases.

The Approach

Any teacher worth a damn will tell you that there must be a balance of theory and practical. (reading and doing). So in our approach you will have free ways to study/learn Japanese, and free ways to practice and use Japanese.

You can’t master the language without doing both of these actions.


You must learn the basics of grammar and sentence structure, otherwise you cannot communicate complete thoughts. Here are some ways you can do this:

The Library!

What a revelation! The library would be your answer to finding a good grammar book on Japanese. Or even a work-book (which often discuss sentence structure).
The Library will also provide ‘word books’ where you can get your first ‘500 words in Japanese’, etc etc.

Even if you live in a relatively small city of 100,000 residents, you should have a few libraries that have some decent books on learning Japanese.

And of course, it’s free.

Workbooks typically have a good idea of starting simple, but not all of them.

Online articles and guides

Courageous souls have endeavored to create entire online grammar resources for free. Decent examples are:

If you are brand-new to Japanese then it is important that you do not try to study anything above your level. Therefore, if you use the above sites you must find their most basic intro articles and start from there.

If you have a hard time with the websites its typically because they are starting in at too high complexity, and you are missing a more basic understanding.


Videos are much easier to watch/study than articles of text. That is for damn sure.

Additionally, videos have the bonus of you being able to hear pronunciation, so this way you can learn to speak and hear the words too.

Of course not everyone making these videos knows what they are talking about, and indeed may have their own mis-conceptions. Decent channels are:






This is an ‘online friend making’ website, a ‘global village’ so to speak. Most of its users are American and Japanese. Creating a profile is free for anyone. However, should you want to be able to reach out and contact a fellow member you do have to sign up and pay around $30 a month to do so.

The good news is, for all you cheap-skates out there, you are able to search for users who themselves are paying $30 a month, and you can send to them a ‘wink’ or a ‘smile’ so to speak to show that you are interested or that you want to become friends. If your profile is good enough they will contact you and BAM you can make a new Japanese friend with whom you can practice! All for Free.

Sites to make Japanese friends to practice with:


Your iPhone or Android offers you a unique ability to practice and or study Japanese. Most of them are glorified flash card apps. But some of them are quite nifty.

Penpal Apps

These apps let you connect with people from countries of your choosing and basically become e-penpals:

Learning Hiragana and Katakana

Learning Kanji

More about apps

Some apps like UFluent seek to teaching you phrases, vocab, etc etc, and even grammar.

But truly, this app and other like it will not teach you how to make your own concepts into Japanese. All you will learn are individual words and phrases. It is fine for drilling, and working on your listening. But you must realize that you have to hit the books to really grasp the language. And there is yet to be an app that properly teaches Japanese sentence structure.

Apps perform best in the areas of drilling in words (flash cards) and connecting with native speakers so you can practice. Apps do not perform well in teaching you theory. We recommend the above resources in our ‘Theory’ section.

If you’re living in a city of any size, there should be periodic meetups of like-minded Japanese learners. You should search for ‘Japanese Language Meetups’ in your city and see what you can find. If you’re lucky there will be one, and after meeting up you can convince them to take you under their wing and teach you the ways of Japanese. And all at no cost to you. ;)

What if I want to spend a few bucks?

WHEW! We’re glad you asked. Here are our recommendations for some EXCELLET books you can use to learn the basics of Japanese grammar, sentence structure:

Japanese Step by Step
by Gene Nishi

Japanese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar
by Rita Lampkin

For Kanji, this book is critical:
Kanji Pict-O-Graphix: Over 1,000 Japanese Kanji and Kana Mnemonics
by Michael Rowley

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