Study Japanese language for free

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Our free Japanese lessons are an online adaptation of of the Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center's Japanese Headstart


This Free online Japanese language program includes 8 lessons Each lessons includes vocabulary (a listing of Japanese words introduced in the lessons), practice drills (in which you will learn to use Japanese expressions), dialogues (to which you first listen and in which you then play the role of a foreigner conversing in japanese) as well as one or two self-evaluation quiz (by which you check your progress).  This Japanese course includes around 8h of audio (MP3 format). 


About the course

The  Japanese  Headstart  Program  can  help  make  your  stay  in Japan  rewarding  by  providing  essential  language  skills  and cultural  information.  Unlike  traditional  "textbook  Japanese" this  course  focuses  on  the  kind  of  practical,  everyday Japanese  you  will  need  to  go  shopping,  ask  directions,  or  ride the  subway.


The  program  is  designed  to  be  challenging  and  stimulating, and  it  can  be  fun.  It is  a  self-instructional  course. You  are  urged  to  study  the  course  materials  at  your  own pace.  There  should  be  no  time  limits  except  those  you  set  for finishing  each  of  the  lessons  and  the  whole  course.


Although  the  lessons  are  numbered,  you  are  encouraged  to study  the  first  six  in  any  order  you  choose.  Lessons  7  and 8  should  not  be  attempted  before  you  have  mastered  lessons 1 to 6.




About the language   

No  attempt  is  made  in  the  Headstart  Program  to  analyze  the  grammar  of  the  Japanese  language.  However,  you  should  be aware  of  some  of  the  important  differences  between  Japanese and  English:

1.  The  Japanese  language  has  no  words  for  "a,"  "an,"  and "the."  For  example,  "a  building"  and  "the  building"  are the  same  in  Japanese. 

2.  Often  no  distinction  is  possible  in  Japanese  between singular and plural.  For  example "building" and "buildings" are  the  same  in  Japanese.

3.  The  Japanese  equivalents  of  "I,"  "me,"  "you,"  and  other pronouns  are  often  left  out  of  Japanese  sentences.  One must  listen  carefully listen to  the  sentence  in  context  to  understand  what  is  being  discussed.

4.  Sometimes  the  Japanese  subject  of  a  sentence  is  understood but  not  expressed.  When  the  subject  of  a  sentence  is expressed,  it  is  almost  always  the  first  word  in  the sentence.  The  verb  is  almost  always  the  last  word  in  a  sentence.

5.  In  Japanese  there  is  no  difference  in  word  order  between a  statement  and  a  question.  When  the  Japanese  want  to  ask a  question,  they  add  the  word  ka  at  the  end  of  a  statement. The  word  ka  is  one  of  several  small words  in  Japanese (others  include  wa,  ga,  o,  te,  de,  no,  and  ni)  called "sentence  particles."  They  are  used  in  Japanese  sentences to  indicate  the  functions  of  particular  words  within  sentences.  For  example,  both  wa  and  ga  indicate  that  the preceding  word  is  the  subject  of  a  sentence.  o  indicates that  the  preceding  word  is  a  direct  object.  To  learn conversational  Japanese,  it  is  not  necessary  to  study  these particles  because    they  are  sometimes omitted  in  everyday conversation.  For  this  reason,  some  sentences  introduced in  the  lessons  are  given  with  particles left  out.

6.  The  words  are, kore,  and  sore  are  pronouns  for  things: are  refers  to  things  at  a  distance  from  both  the  speaker and  the  listener; kore  refers  to  things  near  the  speaker,  meaning  "this  one" or  "this  thing"; sore  refers  to  things  near  the  listener,  meaning  "that one"  or  "that  thing."


(photo by  Kate Nevens used under terms of Creative Commons license.)


The program is divided in 8 lessons: