Learn Japanese Online: A Review of FluentU, JapanesePod101 & Rosetta Stone

 

Are you looking to learn Japanese online? If so, you’ve probably heard of FluentU, JapanesePod101, and Rosetta Stone.

They’re some of the most popular and well-known Japanese courses in the online world. Let’s take a look at each of them and see how they stack up against one another.   

FluentU

01 fluentUFluentU advocates learning Japanese from watching videos. It bridges the gap between active learning (e.g. flashcards, grammar books, aka boring stuff) and passive learning (movies, music, aka fun stuff). Its concept is to add interactive subtitles to real-world videos. These subtitles make it easy to look up words you don’t know (and study them using its flashcard system).

Each video is divided by difficulty from elementary to native levels, so it’s suitable for people studying at any level of Japanese.

Besides difficulty levels, videos can also be arranged by topics and formats.

What We Like

  • The interactive videos are entertaining.
  • Video captions include the Japanese, Furigana, and English translation. It’s also possible to show only the Japanese if you want to increase your reading speed.
  • You can scroll over words in the captions that you don’t know, which automatically pauses the video and shows the definition, then continue seamlessly.
  • This enables beginners who can’t catch Japanese speech at native speed and who haven’t mastered kanji to enjoy videos in Japanese.
  • The videos don’t show romaji, only furigana as readings for the kanji. So you’re forced to master hiragana and katakana.  

What’s Not So Good

  • FluentU offers flashcards to help you memorize vocabulary, but this feature seems less attractive to us.
    • (Once you look over the vocab that appear in the video, you can use their interactive flashcards to test your memory of it.
    • There’s also a full list of the dialogue and vocab for the videos, which you can read before watching.)
  • This is because the reading and meaning for a kanji can vary depending on context.     
  • And there’re many other interactive flashcards sites like Anki, Memrise or iKnow! (JapanesePod101 has flashcards too)   

JapanesePod101

03 rosetta stone 02 japanese pod 101

A classmate recommended JapanesePod101 to us many years ago. Since then, we’ve been hooked. We heard that many people like its service and content too.

With its materials, you can progress from being hardly able to introduce yourself in Japanese, to reaching an advanced level. If you’re looking for Japanese audio to practice with, JapanesePod101 is probably going to be your best bet. You’ll have access to more Japanese audio content and lessons than you ever thought existed. It’s a good resource that’s great to use with other Japanese study methods.

What We Like

  • Tons of lessons with great grammar, vocab, and listening practice all rolled into one.   
  • Audio content is its forte. With every piece of audio, there’s also a text script, vocabulary words, and other helpful features. You can find audio that’s at your level and practice along.
  • There’re lots of updates and new content.
  • JapanesePod101 has good voice actors.
  • You can sign up for a free limited account.
  • There’s a free iTune podcast you can subscribe to.

What’s Not So Good

  • Although JapanesePod101 has beginner Japanese material, we think it becomes much more useful at an intermediate or advanced level.
  • The site is difficult to navigate.
  • The sign up process isn’t very intuitive.

Rosetta Stone

03 rosetta stoneThis software teaches you a new language by showing pictures that you need to associate with words or phrases. Some of the exercises in the software are aimed at teaching you vocabulary, others by explaining grammar concepts, so you’re learning all aspects of a new language. There are three levels available for Japanese, so it’s good for total beginners or intermediate learners.

What We Like

  • The software has a Speech Recognition tool that evaluates your pronunciation. You’re  forced to speak Japanese out loud from the first lesson, and you’d know if you’re pronouncing a word right.
  • There are different exercises designed to improve your writing, speaking, and grammar skills. As there are different types of exercises, you’re less likely to get bored while studying.
  • You can pick the kind of exercise you want to do (grammar, vocabulary, etc), and focus on areas that need the most improvement.
  • There are fun games to practice Japanese and a mobile app.
  • Recording is done by native speakers, so you’d learn how to pronounce Japanese correctly.
  • The online version offers live sessions with a teacher.
  • If you want to try the software and see how it works, there’s a demo version available.

What’s Not So Good

  • Sometimes, it can be hard to tell what word/phrase a picture is trying to convey. So you end up not knowing what word you’ve just learned.
  • Learning grammar solely through Rosetta Stone is hard. There are no explanations in English, you’d need to figure out everything yourself. If you want to learn grammar properly, you’d need more materials.
  • The vocabulary and phrases you learn at the start is random. Thus, it’s not the best for those who want to learn Japanese fast for traveling.
  • No Japanese cultural lessons. The software is designed the same way for all languages.
  • Only three levels available so it’s not suitable for those who want to achieve more advanced levels.

An Overview: Comparing the 3 Online Japanese Courses

Paid product features FluentU JapanesePod101 Rosetta Stone
Audio Yes Yes Yes
Video Yes Yes Yes
PDF Yes Yes No
Flashcards Yes Yes Yes
Interactive tools Yes Yes Yes
Free trial No 7-day free trial No but demo version available
Price plans Free plan available, paid plan starts at $15/month Free plan available, paid plan starts at $8/month 1. Online version starts at $159 for 6 months2. Download/CDRom version starts at $179 for Level 1

Conclusion

We hope this review and comparison helped you to pick the best course to learn Japanese online. Good luck and ganbatte on your Japanese learning journey!

Special thanks to Karen from JapaneseUp for her input on this post.

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