Learning Japanese effectively while having fun

Let’s face it: Learning Japanese isn’t always fun. You have to learn long conjugations, go through repetitive flashcards, and do tedious practice readings.

At times, you might find yourself staring at your textbook with no will to study at all!

We’ve all been there at one point or another during our Japanese language journey. But, what can you do to fix this?

Surely there is a way to supplement your studies with something fun and engaging! Luckily, there are quite a few different options; here is a list of the ways we here at Coto Academy have found to help you stay motivated with your learning! 

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Language Exchanges




Language Games 

Instead of choosing between gaming and studying, why not combine the two? As technology has advanced, games centered around learning Japanese have emerged – and they’re worth checking out!

One option is Kanji Drop; this free game is essentially tetris, but with kanji! You can see our review of Kanji Drop here. It’s a great way to practice forming words with kanji and see how different kanji come together to form compounds.

Image courtesy of Noun Town press kit.

Another option is Noun Town (see our review of Noun Town here). This new VR game gives you an immersive learning experience from the comfort of your own home!

It’s perfect for anyone wishing to expand their vocabulary and listening skills! There’s also plenty of free games online as well, such as the ones on Digital Dialects, that cover a wide range of topics. 

Play Your Favorites – With a Twist! 

In addition to playing language games, you can also play some of your favorite games – but in Japanese! Playing games in Japanese is an excellent way to learn new vocabulary, listen to Japanese dialogue, and practice reading skills.

Most games have the option to change languages (usually in the menu), which means you can use games you already have. (Woo hoo for saving money!) 

While you might already have some titles in mind, you can check out our previous list of Best Video Games to Learn Japanese With if you want some ideas of where to start. 

Gamified Learning 

The idea of gamified learning, or using game elements to learn, may already be familiar to you; perhaps you have competed with friends for high scores on tests or given yourself a reward for completing a task.

Regularly adding game elements to your study sessions is an additional way to make studying fun! One idea is to give yourself mini-quizzes over what you are learning; not only is this a good way to break down a section into manageable sections, but it also gives you a challenge to beat!

Another idea to time yourself; competing with yourself to break records (eg. how quickly can you go through your vocabulary list without making a mistake?) can be a good motivator!

If this seems like something that could work for you, check out this article by Weber University for more gamified learning ideas and app recommendations! 


Given that this is a favorite technique of Japanese learners, you may already be putting this idea into action! Watching anime can be an engaging way to practice listening skills, pick up new vocabulary, and learn about Japanese society – if you’re careful.

The language used in anime tends to be more exaggerated than what is used in real-life, so it isn’t a good way to learn Japanese all by itself.

We recommend checking out our article here about how to use anime properly as a learning tool before you start binging the newest show!

You can see a list of our 100 Anime Vocabulary Words, and also check out 10 Words You Should Not Use from Anime if you’re still early in your language learning and want to be careful not to offend anyone.

That said, anime is a fun way to get in some non-text book practice.

If you’re just starting, we recommend watching simpler anime or ones made for kids; these shows have easier Japanese, and they are usually spoken at a slower speed.

If you don’t know where to start looking for your next favorite show, why not check out our list of 10 Easy Anime to Learn Japanese for Beginners?

When you’re ready to move on to something more advanced, you can find lots of good options on your favorite streaming service, such as Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime or Netflix, though you can find even more on anime sites such as Crunchyroll. 

Language Exchanges 


There’s only so much you can learn from studying by yourself. Afterall, the whole point of learning a new language is to be able to communicate with others!

Meeting up with other Japanese learners is one way to have fun while also speaking and listening in Japanese; you can make new friends this way too!

You can find plenty of Japanese / English practice groups in most major cities; these groups will often include both those looking to learn Japanese and those looking to learn English (especially in Japan); you’ll take turns talking in both languages, so it’s a good chance to get used to switching!

You can get started by checkout out our favorite language exchange events in Tokyo, though you can easily find groups in your area by Googling or checking on Facebook. 

If it’s your first time going to a language exchange event, you can also check out some of our do’s and don’ts of you first language exchange event!

As long as you aren’t afraid of making mistakes and treat your practice partners with respect, you’ll be sure to have fun and learn a lot from these meet-ups. It will certainly help boost your confidence speaking in Japanese! 


Maybe meeting people in-person seems a little too overwhelming, or maybe, there’s no exchange groups close by! In that case, looking into online groups or apps can be a good option.

Many groups moved online during COVID, so now there are more options than ever! Here is our list of recommended language exchange apps to get you started. Just as with in-person meet-ups, as long as you are open to new experiences and don’t worry too much about making mistakes, this can be a great way to boost your skills and make new friends! 


Language-Learning Apps

Finally, we can’t end our list without talking about language apps! These are useful in that they are conveniently located right on your phone, are available anywhere at any time, come in a wide variety, and are often free to use!

Here is a list of our top 30 apps of 2023 to check out; among our recommendations, you can find apps for general or specific needs – such as dictionaries, vocabulary builders, and more!

Just remember that in order to see progress, you’ll need to be consistent; using an app only once in a while isn’t going to have much impact on your Japanese skills. And, just like with anime, language apps are a great tool – but they can’t be your only way of studying! 

If you want to see a more detailed overview of some more popular options, we have reviewed WaniKani, Duolingo, and Renshuu so you can get a better idea if they are right for you.

Different apps have different features and focuses, so you may need to try out a few before you find what you are looking for! 

Social Media 

Just like with games, you can also use your favorite apps to learn Japanese! YouTube is a popular choice, with plenty of channels and videos being centered around Japanese language learning.

Some, like JapanesePod101.com, provide free lessons, while others, like Dogen, are both educational and funny. There’s also many Japanese content creators, like TAKASHii from Japan, that use English subtitles, so you can follow along with the spoken Japanese.

If you don’t know where to start, here’s a list of our top 50 favorite Japanese Youtube channels!

Of course, we also want to share that Coto Academy also has a Youtube account, where we often share useful and easy to understand clips of Japanese grammar and vocabulary!

You can also find and follow Japanese content creators on other platforms as well. There’s also plenty of TikTokers worth checking out as well (psst: here are 15 of our favorite TikTok accounts to follow). Just be careful not to get lost in an endless TikTok scroll, you’ve got studying to do too! 


While studying Japanese may not always be exciting, there are plenty of ways to make sure you stay engaged and interested in what you’re doing. Those feelings of boredom can’t control your study time when you use one of our ideas – whether it’s by playing Mario Kart all in Japanese or attending a language-exchange group!

In the end, as long as you are having fun while you are learning, that is what matters. 

Need help learning the basics of Japanese grammar and vocabulary to enjoy your favorite anime or start language exchanges? Try taking one of our classes! Just fill out a quick contact form below to get started!

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