Language Education

6 Ways to Level Up your Japanese


For foreigners living in Japan, the language barrier is no doubt one of the biggest hurdles to freely enjoying life in the country. Maybe you’ve had a job interview you couldn’t get through in keigo (polite speech). Or a local movie you couldn’t see in the theater because there were no English subtitles. Or a joke at a party you prayed someone would translate for you so you could join in the laughter. Whatever your experience, we can all relate that, at one point or another, the struggle is real.

Don’t be afraid of getting stuck though – build up your Japanese fluency with these language learning tips:


Start your language learning journey by taking a class and building a solid foundation of vocabulary, grammar, listening skills, and reading skills. You would have to invest some time and money in attending regular lessons, but having experienced teachers to guide you is the quickest and most efficient way to learn.

Check out some language schools below and choose what class options are the best fit for you – private vs group, in-person vs online, short vs long term, conversational vs business Japanese, etc.



You don’t need to be in a classroom to improve your listening skills. Whatever your interests, look for Japanese media related to them and use those to immerse yourself. Watch a J-drama or anime series on Netflix without subtitles. Go to Spotify to look up the tunes your Japanese co-workers are belting out in karaoke. Keep up with what’s trending by subscribing to Japanese Youtubers. There are unlimited options to explore and enjoy.

For something more study-focused or slow-paced for learners, try starting with these:



Whether you are a beginner or an advanced learner, you will know that reading in Japanese can be notoriously difficult. However, unlocking this skill can help you navigate through daily life with much more ease. Start small by reading off menu items or train station names. Then, aim to make sense of practical things like street signs or letters in the mail. To make things more fun, also make small and big challenges for yourself like changing your phone’s language settings to Japanese or reading your favorite novel/comic in Japanese.

If kanji makes your head spin, take it easy with these websites offering articles with friendly furigana (hiragana over kanji characters).



Whether composing a diary entry, a thank you note, a business email, or even just a simple text message, writing is a practical way to apply what you’ve learned. Have a dictionary app or translator on hand to help you build your sentences and don’t be afraid to experiment. You can go at your own pace and check if you are able to communicate your thoughts in a way that really expresses what you mean to say.

One way to polish your writing skills is to get feedback. Here are some helpful resources where you can get a native speaker to correct what you write.



Speaking is the best way to really build up language proficiency. Build a community of fellow learners and local friends to keep you motivated to study and practice the language in everyday life. If you aim to develop your career in the country, look for work opportunities, side gigs, or volunteer jobs that require you to speak in Japanese. While it can be intimidating at first, it’s these kinds of authentic interactions with people and culture that can connect you to the language you are studying on a deeper level.

Still social distancing? No problem! Try one of these sites to make new friends or find a language exchange partner online:

  • Meet up (local community events, online and offline)
  • iTalki (1-on-1 lessons)
  • Preply (language tutors)



Learning any new language is definitely not easy and is even said to be a lifelong process. On the road to mastery, it’s easy to fluctuate between periods of inspired effort and dips in motivation. However, for adult learners especially, active learning and consistent practice is key to making progress. This doesn’t have to mean drilling yourself for hours to pass the JLPT though. Instead, set clear, achievable goals and vary them based on what you need and what you enjoy. Even small steps can take you a long distance over time, so keep at it and have fun in the process!