Living

Learning Japanese in Tokyo for Free or On a Budget

Learning Japanese in Tokyo for Free or On a Budget
Miso Dog
Japanese classes are so expensive… I want to be able to speak Japanese more naturally but I don’t have the money to take classes regularly.
Well, did you know that there are places where you can learn Japanese for free?
Misoko
Miso Dog
What?! I had no idea…
I’ll introduce to you a few different ways that you can learn Japanese here in Tokyo for free or on a budget.
Misoko

Learning Japanese on a Budget?

Learning Japanese on a Budget?

If you’ve come to Japan with limited Japanese skills, you might be struggling to make friends or communicate with Japanese coworkers and classmates. Learning language in a classroom setting can be pricy; Japanese lessons from trained teachers can range anywhere from around $15 for hour lessons to over $4,000 for long-term intensive courses at Japanese language schools. You may be thinking that there are not many effective ways to learn Japanese without sitting down with a teacher and a textbook. In some ways, this is true—learning from a native speaker with the right materials can do wonders for your language skills. However, for those on time or budget constraints, this type of learning is not always possible.

3 Ways to Learn Japanese in Tokyo for Cheap or for Free

So how do you get the practice that you want? Well, you have to search hard and be creative. Apps like Duolingo, Anki, and WaniKani are also great for improving your vocabulary and grammar skills, but they lack the element of a human teacher. For those who prefer to learn from a person, this article includes ways to learn Japanese face-to-face with a native speaker in Tokyo while on a budget.

Volunteer-Run Japanese Classes

Volunteer-Run Japanese Classes

Many community centers and NPO offer free Japanese classes that can be found in any of the 23 wards of Tokyo. However, they are sometimes further away from major stations and as a result can be difficult to access. Volunteers are also not always able to explain concepts in English, which could be a pro or a con depending on your Japanese level. While you are generally free to go to whichever ward you please, it may be a good idea to go to your local community center to create a connection with the people in your neighborhood. Below is a link to the volunteer-run Japanese classes that can be found in the 23 wards of central Tokyo.

http://www.tnvn.jp/guide/tokyo-23-wards/  

(If you need the page in English, redirect back to the homepage and switch the language to English first)

(Note that most, but not all of the entries on this list are free; however, they are cheap and should not cost you more than around 300 Yen per lesson)

Language Exchange Partners

Language Exchange Partners

Finding a language exchange partner is similar to using an app with a community feature such as HelloTalk or Tandem. However, it provides you an opportunity to get to know people in Tokyo while learning Japanese at the same time. There are many websites where Japanese people and internationals alike post their profiles, language abilities, and what they would like to get out of language exchange. The biggest con to searching for a language exchange parter through the internet, however, is undoubtedly the safety factor. It is necessary to be cautious when you are meeting people off the internet, but if you can make good connections, using websites like these can be a way to get to know people who you would never have met otherwise.

Language Exchange Events

Language Exchange Events

Language exchange events are held weekly in Tokyo. ENGLISH ONLY CAFE, for example, provides a place for internationals and Japanese people to gather and participate in language exchange every day of the week with just the purchase of a cup of coffee or soft drink. Using Meetup, a popular event-planning website for people with similar interests, may also be a good option if you are looking to expand your social network. Depending on the event, entry may not be free, so make sure to check the details before attending. However, going to Meetup events is significantly cheaper than Japanese lessons at a language school (unless you are planning on buying lots of food and drink at the venue). Another downside to language exchange events is the amount of people; it may be hard to get one-on-one time with a native speaker who will help you practice Japanese. Even if you are able to meet people through a Meetup event, it is not guaranteed that they can teach you the in’s and out’s of the Japanese language. However, if you are an active person who is looking to make friends in Tokyo and well as get some language practice out of it, going to events might be a good idea.

In Conclusion

Quality-wise, free Japanese learning may be a considerable downgrade from the traditional classroom setting. However, it may also have lots of benefits such as connecting with your community or making friends. If you’ve ever gone to community center Japanese classes or language exchange events, let us know! How was your experience?

-Living

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