Can (and Should) You Learn Japanese with ChatGPT? Here’s Our Review

By now, you’ve probably heard about ChatGPT, the powerful language model developed by OpenAI that can whip human-like responses. It’s free, it’s on the web, and it’s available for anyone. And while some of us are only using it for fun, it has already changed how people work and create content, from drafting essays and generating codes to brainstorming ideas. That got us wondering if it can also revolutionize the way we approach language learning —  and if we can use ChatGPT to learn Japanese at all. If so, should we use ChatGPT to speed up our language-learning journey and abandon traditional learning resources altogether?

In this article, we will explore the ways in which ChatGPT can be used to learn Japanese, including its ability to accurate lessons, give language translations, and provide interactive conversation practice. 

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What’s ChatGPT?

According to the AI tool itself, ChatGPT is “a language model developed by OpenAI that generates human-like text responses in a conversational style. It can understand and respond to prompts or questions from users, making it useful for various applications like virtual assistants, chatbots, language learning, and more.”

Many people compare ChatGPT to Google, assuming it functions as a search engine that provides information based on queries, which isn’t accurate. While ChatGPT is a language model that generates text-based responses, it doesn’t get or retrieve information from the internet.

ChatGPT used artificial intelligence to analyze data and learn relationships between words and phrases. It doesn’t always provide accurate truthful answers because it responds to a question based on what it feeds from its training data (more of that here).

In other words, when we give it a prompt, it generates a text that is the closest plausible answer. The “T” in ChatGPT stands for Transformer, which basically means it can remember stuff that is in the original prompt and can use that to make better guesses at what to generate next. The more specific the questions or prompts, the better output you’ll have. How effective ChatGPT is in learning something depends on how well you ‘train’ it. 

Can We Learn Japanese with ChatGPT, Then?

ChatGPT can be used as a virtual conversation partner for practicing Japanese language skills. By engaging in text-based conversations with ChatGPT, learners can improve their reading, writing, listening, and speaking abilities in Japanese.

Still, the general consensus is that using ChatGPT for learning Japanese is a bad idea. Think about this: you don’t want a teacher who guesses. You want a teacher who knows.

So first, we have to give AI a chance, so we asked ChatGPT that question. We threw “Can you learn Japanese with ChatGPT?” as our input.

Here is its answer: 

“Yes, as a language model, I can help you learn Japanese to some extent. I can provide you with information about Japanese grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and culture. I can also assist with practicing Japanese conversation, reading, and writing. However, please note that language learning is a complex process that requires consistent practice and exposure to the language in various contexts. While I can provide you with guidance and resources, it is important to complement it with other language learning methods such as studying with textbooks, taking lessons with a qualified instructor, and immersing yourself in Japanese-speaking environments for the best results.”

ChatGPT acknowledges that while it can help you learn Japanese, it’s just a supplementary tool. You’ll still need to seek additional feedback from native speakers, references from traditional, credible sources, or language instructors to improve your Japanese language skills. 

Unlike apps and textbooks, which are carefully curated by language experts to provide a structured learning experience, ChatGPT relies on generated responses that may not always follow a coherent lesson flow.

Learning Basic Japanese with ChatGPT

Can it give a headstart in learning Japanese? We ask ChatGPT to teach us Japanese letters and the Japanese alphabet. It gave us all the hiragana (ひらがな) and katakana (カタカナ) characters, all 46 characters each, and even include a side note:

Note that hiragana and katakana characters have the same sounds, but they have different visual appearances. Hiragana is typically used for native Japanese words and grammatical particles, while katakana is primarily used for loanwords from foreign languages, onomatopoeic words, and emphasis.

That’s a good start! Next, we ask them to give us a list of the top 100 Japanese words for beginners. The AI tool gave us a mix of basic greetings, adjectives, nouns, verbs, and adverbs — a good mix! In fact, it’s similar to own list of basic Japanese words. 

learn japanese with chat gpt

Now that we know that, ChatGPT can be used to generate lists of vocabulary words and phrases in Japanese, we want to see if it can build a quiz and design a learning strategy for us. We asked:

Build me a list of 10 questions for a vocabulary quiz for JLPT N5 level. 

Here’s its answer:

In general, the quiz gives you a solid mix of translation, kanji, and hiragana-reading questions. 

Of course, our own prompt might be too generic. It’s always possible to instruct ChatGPT to make vocabulary games, or narrow down your question to more targeted topics — like grouping the vocabulary based on verbs, nouns, adverbs, and more. For example, try to ask if it can make fill-in-the-blank exercises on JLPT N5-level verbs, or word matching!

We also requested a study routine for someone who has just begun learning Japanese that spans 60-90 minutes. Complete with a timeline, it provides a strategic breakdown of study topics, including katakana and hiragana, kanji and vocabulary, grammar, reading, listening, speaking, and pronunciation.

It’s a decent study routine that’s realistic, but what if we want a more solid syllabus? How many hiragana and katakana should you learn? How many kanji should you review? We asked ChatGPT to solidify the study plan.

Use ChatGPT to Explain Japanese Grammar

So far, we’ve seen how ChatGPT can help you build a strong list of vocabulary without room for much error — and create a simple study plan that you can keep up. Next, we test how good it can be as a tutor. 

Many Japanese textbooks lack concise and simplified explanations for grammar points, which can leave us struggling to understand the nuances of the language. This often leads to time-consuming searches and note-taking to fill the gaps. As a result, learners may face challenges in their Japanese language lessons. To address this, we turn to ChatGPT. Take one of the most confusing Japanese lesson:

What are tadoushi and jidouhshi?”

The explanation of this is pretty accurate: tadoushi is a verb that requires an object, while jidoushi is a verb that can stand on its own. It even comes up with examples!

One of the cool things about ChatGPT is that you can use it to simplify complex topics — like tadoushi and jidoushi, where even advanced and intermediate learners have trouble following.

For these things, you can try to ask ChatGPT to explain concepts. Just add “explain like I’m 5” to your query and the chatbot will oblige. For example, when we asked it, it came out with:

“Tadoashi is like a toy that needs something else to work, while jidoushi is like a toy that works on its own. In Japanese grammar, tadoushi are transitive verbs that need an object, and jidoushi are intransitive verbs that don’t need an object.”

The outcome is a simplified explanation that may not be entirely accurate, but combined with cross-referencing, it’ll help you understand a concept easier — and faster.

Using ChatGPT for English-Japanese Translations 

You can learn and understand Japanese concepts in Japanese with ChatGPT. Now, you can also try to see if using the tool for translation is accurate.

For example, take the basic phrase, “What are you doing?”

At first, it translated the English text into a polite version: 何をしていますか?

But what if we want to capture the correct nuance in casual Japanese, the way native speakers would say it? Can ChatGPT accurately translate it in that context?

While ChatGPT, like DeepL and Google Translate, can provide translations from English to Japanese, it may not always capture the nuances perfectly. Additionally, it may occasionally choose inappropriate verb or word choices that sound unnatural when used in the wrong context. This brings us to the next and final point. 

Can ChatGPT be Your Japanese Conversation Partner?

Gone are the days when you need to find a conversation partner through language exchange apps or meetups. With ChatGPT, you can practice conversation even when you don’t have access to someone to speak with. They do this by engaging with you in text-based conversations, and providing responses and feedback based on your prompts. 

Or so people claim. To start a conversation, we started with the basic greeting: “Ogenki desu ka?”

This is where it gets tricky. ChatGPT does not have the capability to feel emotions and form independent thoughts. As a result, we find it pretty difficult to make a conversation with it. 

For example, we tried asking ChatGPT if he was happy. 

But what if we want to do a conversation with ChatGPT in Japanese? Did we ask a simple question: お元気ですか (ogenki desu ka)? It answered in pretty much the same way — only in Japanese.

Another issue that we encountered is that, despite instructing ChatGPT to use simple Japanese at the N5 level for conversations, it sometimes reverts back to using more advanced Japanese.

We spent a lot of time trying to “train” it to use easy Japanese but were unable to follow up with the interaction the way we want to.

So, we suggest this: instead of using it as your direct conversation partner, you can try to ask ChatGPT to build back-and-forth dialogue practice: 

learn japanese with chatgpt

Once ChatGPT has created a conversation, you can copy-paste the conversation to a text-to-voice software, or try the conversation yourself. When you use software to generate the voice, you can pause and repeat it for a better practice experience, especially if you’re an auditory learner. 

The Problem with ChatGPT for Japanese Language Learning

They’re Not 100% Accurate and Self-Verifying

A lot of ‘problems’ from ChatGPT come from the fact they can be inconsistent, or inappropriate, without providing corrections or explanations. For example, you might find the correct answer to a generic question, like “How do you say thank you in Japanese?”

A simple Google search will confirm that it’s the correct answer. But when you go a little deeper, the answers get a little rough around the edges. For example, we tried asking ChatGPT, “What is keimeishi?”

ChatGPT was happy to explain that keimeishi (形名詞) is a type of word in the Japanese language that functions as a noun but has characteristics of both adjectives and nouns. It goes on to explain the characteristics of keimeishi, like how it ends in the character “な” (na) when used directly before a noun. 

chatgpt error in learning japanese

Sounds like it knows what it’s talking about, right? There’s just one problem, though: keimeishi is not an entirely made-up term in Japanese — it was created as a combination of “keiyoushi” (形容詞), which means i-adjective, and “meishi” (名詞), which means noun. This was done to mimic the structure of existing Japanese word categories. However, ChatGPT generated a lengthy explanation that interchanges the concepts of noun, na-adjective, and i-adjective without a clear understanding of their meanings or distinctions.

Remember that ChatGPT and AI models do not truly understand language in the way that humans do. They rely on patterns and associations found in the data they were trained on to generate responses — and try to “guess” what strings of words are most likely the reasonable answer. 

So while it’s trained to generate words based on a given input, it does not have the ability to truly comprehend the meaning behind it.

You’re likely to spend more time generating ChatGPT prompts than practicing the language itself.

You Can Spend More Time Creating Prompts Than Actually Studying

While we can delve into a more extensive article discussing the various applications of ChatGPT for learning Japanese, it’s important to note that it can be a slippery slope.

Unlike apps and textbooks, which are carefully curated by language experts to provide a structured learning experience, ChatGPT relies on generated responses that may not always follow a coherent lesson flow.

What does this mean? You’re likely to spend more time generating ChatGPT prompts than practicing the language itself. Generating responses with ChatGPT can require some trial and error. You might need to refine your questions or prompts to get the response you’re looking for.

Second, playing around with ChatGPT is fun and easier than doing the actual studying, and it’s tricky to focus on using most of your time to learn, rather than trying out cool features and creative prompts. Think about it: how much time have we dedicated to exploring ChatGPT, and get distracted? 

Japanese is Meant to Be Used by People

Most importantly, ChatGPT can’t replicate genuine, human interaction and give an accurate experience of what it’s like to converse in Japanese. Speaking with your Japanese friends or classmates as part of your practice will help you develop confidence and fluency — something that you probably won’t build by interacting with AI alone. The Japanese language is more than just building vocabulary, memorizing kanji, and knowing a lot of grammar. You have to know how to speak out your thoughts, listen to others, and understand the nuance of conversations. And that’s an integral part of learning a language that ChatGPT can’t replace. 

Prompts for ChatGPT to Help You Learn Japanese

ChatGPT is only effective when you have the right prompts or questions to ask. Here you’ll find prompts to copy and paste, and practice recommendations that will help you improve your Japanese language skills.

Prompts for ChatGPT
Let’s have a conversation about [topic] and suggest Japanese verbs I can use.
Correct my grammar mistakes in the following text.
Write 10 example sentences using [Japanese tense/grammar form].
Can you make a list of bank-related vocabulary and phrases in Japanese?
Can you show me how to use this [Japanese word] in its other meanings?
Please give the most commonly used expressions for part-time job at a convenience store.
Make a a practice plan for a JLPT N5-level student to practice grammar every day for 30 minutes. 
Rewrite this text in a more informal/polite way.


There’s no denying that ChatGPT is a powerful tool to do, well, everything. But how effective ChatGPT can help you learn Japanese depends on how well you can train it, and how much you take precautions. It’s useful when you’re not taking the information at face value, and effective when you combine it with other learning methods. 

Lastly, remember that ChatGPT is mainly good for generating text. It’s a powerful tool to help explain complex grammar concepts, generate quizzes, and aid with conversations, but it can’t perform other language-related tasks such as speech recognition or understanding. For content, we would recommend using more reliable resources such as Japanese learning blogs like Coto Academy, as well as learning with a teacher who can provide reliable information and resources.

Want to study with a professional Japanese teacher? Contact Coto Academy to get in touch and get started on your learning journey!

Can ChatGPT help me learning Japanese?

ChatGPT is a large language model created by OpenAI that uses artificial intelligence to generate text-based responses. It can be used as a virtual conversation partner for practicing Japanese language skills. By engaging in text-based conversations with ChatGPT, learners can improve their reading, writing, listening, and speaking abilities in Japanese.

Is ChatGPT suitable for beginners who want to learn Japanese?

Yes, ChatGPT can be used by beginners who want to learn Japanese. It provides text-based conversations that are easy to follow and understand, making it a useful tool for beginners to practice basic Japanese language skills such as greetings, introductions, and simple conversations.

How can I use ChatGPT to practice speaking Japanese?

To practice speaking Japanese with ChatGPT, you can type out your responses in Japanese, and ChatGPT will generate text-based replies in Japanese as well.

Can I use other langue besides English to learn Japanese with ChatGPT?

Yes, ChatGPT supports multiple languages, including English and Japanese.

How can I make the most of ChatGPT for learning Japanese?

To make the most of ChatGPT for learning Japanese, you can:

  • Practice regularly by engaging in text-based conversations with ChatGPT
  • Focus on specific topics or areas of Japanese language that you want to improve
  • Experiment with different sentence structures, grammar patterns, and vocabulary
  • Review the feedback provided by ChatGPT and use it to refine your language skills
  • Seek additional resources, such as textbooks or language exchange partners, to supplement your learning with ChatGPT.

Can ChatGPT correct my mistakes when learning Japanese?

While ChatGPT can provide feedback on your writing, it does not have full error-correction capabilities. It can generate text-based responses based on the input it receives, but it may not always catch all errors.

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