How to Learn Japanese through YouTube
If you need a visual stimulus to focus your attention then you have come to the right place. No more audio listening programs that put you to sleep and no more reading materials that make you create brain farts that just stink up the place with even more procrastination. Just good ol' ideas to learn Japanese through YouTube video here.
We will cover some famous YouTubers and some up and coming channels that will help boost your Japanese and more importantly keep you engaged and involved in learning Japanese and about the culture. Like we mentioned in our guide to beginner Japanese learners, there is no method that works for everyone and you may find that YouTube is the way to go. If not, you can check out one of our other guides in our how to learn Japanese section.
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Japanese Culture and People
Interviewing Japanese People on the Street
These channels involve a host who goes around asking questions to people on the street about what their thoughts are on various topics. These topics can relate to romance, thoughts on political or social issues, or just simply what they are doing or are interested in. The dude who started it all was That Japanese Man Yuuta. I recommend his channel first because of the sheer quantity of topics and you also get to hear his opinion which I think is representative of your average Japanese person. The people he interviews as well are not chosen for the camera, but your normal Japanese person. He also moves from silly topics to social issues and does it in a light heart way.
Do Japanese People Like Root Beer?
Being Mixed Raced in Japan
Another famous YouTuber Nobita has a series where he interviews elderly Japanese, Japanese women who live overseas, and foreigners who live in Japan. He also does the same interviews like the other two channels above.
The Ask Japanese channel continues the trend but focuses a lot more on romance. The host is a foreign cosplayer who speaks excellent Japanese interviewing mainly younger Japanese in their 20s. She does a great job of getting people to open up and sharing their honest opinions. The channel is not a great place to learn Japanese for a beginner student, but it does provide an opportunity to listen to people speaking in a natural setting. I would recommend watching videos when you are not feeling motivated to study. I think seeing the host speak excellent Japanese and talking about fun topics will give you something to aim for.
What Japanese ENVY about foreign Boyfriends and Girlfriends
Japanese confess about the one foreigner they can't forget about
Hosts Who Share their Views on Topics
These channels involve a host who chooses a topic and the host or a group of people share their thoughts on the topic. The topics can range from social issues like the decreasing population to learning about why Japanese people do a certain behavior or follow a certain custom. You can find both Japanese and foreigner YouTubers who have this style of channel.
One popular YouTuber named Nobita dives into light topics like dating, but also deeper social issues like top 10 reasons you should not move to Japan or why Japanese apologize so much? What I like about him compared to other channels is that he is not afraid to dive into controversial topics.
Although not as well known as the others on this list, Hikosaemon from New Zealand has been producing videos for more than 10 years and was the first person I followed on Youtube who talked about Japan. He often dives into recent news in Japan and gives his two cents on Japanese culture and behavior. If you are looking for insight from someone who has lived in Japan more than 20 years and speaks excellent Japanese and is very knowledgeable, he is the person to follow. The videos are not boring and are a good choice for those bored with surface level analysis that you feel after tons of interviews.
The next YouTuber is for advanced level Japanese students. He is actually Korean and makes videos in Japanese teaching Koreans how to learn Japanese. He also spends a lot of time creating videos talking about Japan from a Korean context and compares the two cultures.
Learning the Japanese Language
Videos on Japanese vocabulary, grammar, etc
There are a ton of channels on YouTube that have a ton of tutorial content on Japanese grammar, vocabulary, and expressions. These channels can serve as an alternative to taking lessons in person or attending a Japanese lesson school. The content is ideal for people who want to take the JLPT or learners who want to learn at their own pace. Pretty much every grammar pattern you see in a textbook is covered by some channel on the Internet.
I personally recommend looking for channels that provide a visual example to help you understand the grammar as opposed to just explaining the grammar verbally. My second recommendation is to find a YouTuber whose personality you connect with. That will help maintain your motivation to continue learning more grammar patterns and provide a familiar face to support you!
Videos with Visual Explanations
The Japanese Pod 101 videos are professionally produced and usually provide a lot of visual support in their explanations. You will probably not find more polished content than this and most is free. I recommend their videos for beginner students as the hosts will speak in English or offer subtitles if Japanese is spoken.
Here is one example of a common grammar challenge \"Ask a Japanese Teacher! Why is HA (は) read as WA (わ)?\"
For those with an N3 level of Japanese looking to take lessons all in Japanese, Nihongo no mori channel is a great place to start. For starters, they have several hundred videos covering the JLPT grammar points and vocabulary and probably cover everything you need to know. They also tend to have young, energetic, and attractive teachers who always have a smile on teaching for the JLPT section.
Warning, there is so much content on their channel that you will not know where to start. The good news is that they organize everything well, so you will eventually find what you are looking for. However, for those who do not know what they want, I would recommend checking out our how to learn Japanese section. Once you figure what you want to learn, you can check the channel and start taking free Japanese lessons.
Honorable mention channels :
Udon Classroom (link below) - My friend hosts one of the most underrated channels in terms of subscribers and quality of content. He comes up with hilarious ways to teach Japanese words and grammar.
Talk in Japan - The videos are old and the audio quality could be improved, but they have a lot of videos for beginners and advanced students. Additionally, they have real conversations between people (although spoken at a slower voice).
Videos on Pronunciation
The YouTuber Dogen is the place to go. He boasts an impressive Japanese accent that sounds as close to native as you can get. He shares his tips on how to improve your pronunciation as an English speaker and highlights many of the areas that we struggle with. The guy is impressive but also entertaining, which is somewhat hard to find in the language learning realm.
He is so good that there is no point introducing another YouTube channel. I recommend you learn pronunciation from a foreigner rather than a native Japanese speaker. A Japanese person can repeat to you the correct pronunciation, but cannot tell you how to produce the right sound or why.
Videos on Japanese dialects
Once you understand Japanese to a daily conversation level of around N3, you can consider learning one of the popular dialects on YouTube. The Japanese that you hear most people speak and see in the textbook is called hyojungo or standard Japanese dialect. Also, note that if you attend a language school or learn Japanese from a teacher they will 100% teach you standard Japanese dialect unless you ask them to otherwise.
The benefits to speaking a Japanese dialect is that people will be surprised and impressed and people from those areas will feel flattered that you made the effort to learn. Other dialects also feel more wild and rough compared to standard Japanese.
The most famous of the dialects are Kansai Ben and a large amount of Japanese comedians come from this region and speak this dialect when performing. Everyone understands the common phrases of this dialect due to the amount of content produced in it. Speak the Japanese of the merchant city Osaka and sound like the rough and wild foreigner you are. The channel Takoaki has a decent amount of videos on Kansai Ben like the one below.
This YouTuber named Kansenbenzulien also created a series on Kansai Ben and is funny to watch. I personally recommend watching a Japanese person as opposed to a foreigner because you can see the Kansai personality come out in their videos.
Other Japanese Dialects
I looked for a series that thoroughly covers how to learn one of the other dialects but I was not able to find any. The videos out there were one shot explanations that shared several expressions, but nothing deep enough to actually teach you the dialect. I would take a look at this article on different Japanese dialects and research more into it if it interests you.
Videos on everyday Japanese expressions
There are no YouTubers who only focus on Japanese slang unfortunately. My guess is that there is not enough content to base a whole channel around. However, some YouTubers do cover the topic thoroughly and you just have to search for the gems among the crowd of videos.
The YouTuber sanbonjuku produces solid videos and a wide range of topics from JLPT expressions and expressions that are not in the textbook. In the video below, he focuses on how to use the famous expression sayonara. There is a special nuance to it that most beginners definitely do not understand and can create some confusion if used incorrectly.
The JLPT levels 5 - 2 actually end up covering most of the everyday expressions you need to know and you can learn about the channels that cover them extensively ABOVE
Using onomatopoeia is a very important part of speaking natural Japanese. They are not used in business situations except for a few exceptions, but you need to know them if you want to stop sounding like a Japanese textbook. Onomatopoeia are also just fun in general to use and sound cute or funny. This YouTuber below focuses only on teaching Japanese onomatopoeia. There are only 10 videos at the moment, but the more of you who check the channel, the more videos he will create!
Japanese Internet Slang
I was looking for some channels that just focus on Japanese Internet Slang, but I was unable to find any channels that specialize on the topic. However, there are some channels that produced a long video on the topic and here is one 30 minute video on the topic. They cover a lot and I mean a lot in the video below.
Japanese Spoken Slang
Unfortunately, there is no ultimate source on spoken Japanese slang but this channel by Learn Japanese with Shota has around 20 videos on various Japanese spoken slang.
This video by fluent in 3 months is around 10 minutes long and covers around 20 expressions.
Videos on Business and Higher Level Japanese
Everyday Japanese, but better
Congratulations on making it to the upper echelons of Japanese ability. Now you get to improve your practical Japanese and prepare for all situations that you face in business and life. To get you ready for both, the YouTuber Akane has produced lessons on intermediate level situations like calling the post office, ordering from McDonalds, and checking into a hotel in Japanese.. She has also created content on how to handle some business situations in Japanese.
The Talk in Japan channel has created around 30 short 2 - 5 minute videos on business Japanese. These cover how you should behave and what Japanese you should use in a variety of business situations. The contest is a little bit old but still applies to today.
Honorable Mention :
Japanese with Hanako is a YouTuber who is also a teacher and has produced some decent content on business Japanese. She covers topics like how to write a business email in Japanese, how to answer questions in an interview, and using keigo.
How to Learn Japanese
Videos teaching through unique methods
Learn Japanese with Manga is a YouTuber who chooses pages out of popular mangas and makes a small Japanese lesson out of it. He provides recommendations on manga to read and has some content for people of all Japanese levels. Most of the mangas he focuses on are more masculine in nature as opposed to general audience content. However, he speaks Japanese at a slower voice for foreign listeners, so you can listen to natural Japanese content in a normal setting.
Another interesting approach is Japanese Quest who teaches Japanese through video games. The YouTuber sounds American or Canadian and plays through roleplaying and other story based games. His approach is similar to watching a walkthrough of a video game, but he translates each part of the dialogue from Japanese to English. He also takes the time to explain background information or the context for the words in the game. The most amazing part is there are translations of difficult vocabulary at the bottom of the screen which manually edits into every video. I cannot imagine how much time he is investing into the creation of each video.
Videos on how to learn Japanese
I was able to find one channel that mainly focuses on teaching you how to learn Japanese. The site does not focus on vocabulary, grammar, and the other things most other channels focus on. Matt vs Japan focuses on teaching you how to acquire a language and to speak with a Japanese accent. The content is not organized in a linear format and you will have to pick and choose the videos you are interested in.
Another option you have is to follow a polyglot (person who speaks multiple languages) channel that talks a lot about how to acquire a second language. One famous polyglot is Luca Lampariello who talks about general principles that you can follow. You can also find an in-depth interview of Matt by Luca on the topic of how to learn Japanese.
I recently discovered a YouTuber named Japanese In a Year. What he did is record his journey from learning Japanese from a almost zero level to having conversations in Japanese. He talks about the emotional ups and downs, tips and tricks, new insights he gained, and overall you get to learn from his experiences in the comfort of your home.
In the video below you can watch his three month progress report. I personally think watching him can help you in maintaining your Japanese learning motivation, because it will drop from time to time. Having someone who started at the same time as you can give you a benchmark to follow.
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