All About Japan

8 Ways to Learn Japanese for (Almost) Free!

| Cheap , Learning Japanese
8 Ways to Learn Japanese for (Almost) Free!

Learning Japanese can be pretty intimidating if you haven't got the money or time to invest in an intensive, full-time language course. But learning Japanese can be easy, fun, and almost free if you're ready to take on the challenge of getting more locally immersed, allowing you to pick up the language while gaining life-changing experiences!

8. Take Up Pottery or Ikebana

If you're in the Tokyo metropolitan area, you might choose between letting yourself be guided by a very meticulous pottery sensei at the Yokohama Pottery Studio, or surrounding yourself with the very warm obaachans (grannies) of the Meguro International Friendship Association as they teach the art of ikebana flower arrangement. Learning Japanese by picking up the crucial words you need to learn a new skill makes vocabulary-building both immediately applicable and much more exciting!

7. Teach English

This is a little counter-intuitive, but English camps that are well-attended by Japanese kids are also good venues for practicing Japanese. Some children still feel more comfortable to expressing themselves in Nihongo—so while teaching English, any volunteer teacher also gets to absorb new words from the children. And they won't take "I don't understand" for an answer.

6. Join a Star Wars Club with Nice, English-Speaking Japanese People (And Foreigners!)

6. Join a Star Wars Club with Nice, English-Speaking Japanese People (And Foreigners!)

Everyone needs a little encouragement spoken in a language he or she understands. There are quite a few hobby clubs in Japan—writing, photography, cooking, and so much more. FOr example, the Star Wars club in Yokohama has links to an extensive network of nice, bilingual foreigners from Hawaii, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Africa and more. Talking about Star Wars in Japanese is a fun way to practice!

5. Enroll in a Community Fitness Class

While membership in a gym or health club can be really expensive, city or ward sports centers and public halls have no such prohibitive sign-up costs. Fitness centers like the Ikebukuro Sports Center hold fitness classes in Japanese for around ¥600 per visit. Yoga, aerobics and other movement classes—with instruction in Japanese—are available to any gaijin willing to learn by mimicking the movements and gradually remembering key Japanese terms for the workout.

4. Attend Culture Exchange Nights—And Meet a Future Tutor

There’s no better way to learn a new language than by attaching new words to new experiences. You can create good opportunities to meet a language-exchange friend by attending culture events such as the food events offered by the Philippine Roving Restaurant. After a night of food- and culture-sharing, free language-sharing becomes almost inevitable!

3. Check Out Free Community Center Language Classes

Many wards and community centers offer cheap or free Japanese classes, with regular schedules that will allow you to consistently go back for your next dose of knowledge. The teachers are usually volunteers, with some more experienced than others in the field of education—so be ready to enjoy interacting with lovely people who want to share their language, but don't expect to get a free university-level course!

2. Practice with Other Foreigners

2. Practice with Other Foreigners

A lot of foreigners will find instinctive comfort in hearing the phrase "United Nations." The Meguro UNESCO Association probably hosts the most diverse group of students of Japanese you could hope to find, also offering earthquake drills, potlucks, and other opportunities for foreigners to practice Japanese together.

1. Do a Homestay

Immersion while on long-term travel is the cheapest and most effective way to learn Japanese, and doing a lengthy homestay in an area where English is not dominantly spoken forces you to learn the language. Of course, homestays are expensive, right? Not necessarily. In fact, WWOOF Japan offers foreigners the opportunity to learn about farming while being welcomed into the homes of Japanese hosts who offer free food and accommodation in exchange for your help at the farm!