If you’ve decided to study Japanese, your study budget is going to come into the picture at some point. It poses a difficult question, because you probably don’t really know the answer to how much you should or need to spend to learn Japanese. It’s a bit of a thorny issue as well, because it brings a lot of different opinions on how people spend money to learn things.
I’ve seen four main types of Japanese learner budgets. This could probably be broken down even further, and people may shift between different budgets, but I thought it would be useful to look at them objectively. Then I’ll show you which type of learner I fell under.
1. The Free Learner
Monthly budget: $0
The amount of free learner material has expanded greatly over the years. Free is very appealing for obvious reasons. It also lets you try all different types of resources and methods to find what works for you, without worrying about wasting any money.
I think one of the biggest “free” resources that has been available since I first started learning is Tae Kim’s Guide to Grammar, and it often is still recommended today.
There is a lot of free stuff to explore though. Thousands of free videos from people on YouTube, learning blogs, learning social media accounts, community lessons, library-borrowed material and more.
2. Low Cost Learner
While free material increasingly grows and there is a wealth of stuff out there, the moment you introduce some money, your world of choices expands dramatically.
$1 to $10 apps, learner websites, cheaper monthly subscriptions, textbooks, online video courses, native resources and more.
3. High Cost Learner
Monthly budget: $30-$250
With a bigger increase in budget, a high cost learner expects a lot more structure, guidance and quality from their Japanese learning resources.
Full courses that guide you up to the advanced levels, private tutoring lessons, freedom to indulge on native media, and more subscriptions, apps and programs.
4. “All My Money Belongs to Japanese” Learner
Monthly budget: $250-$1,000+
This person has a desire for fluency, as fast and efficiently as possible, at all costs. Usually this falls into three categories:
- Frequent private tutoring lessons (ex. 3-4x/week)
- Attending a language school in their home country or in Japan
- Taking Japanese courses at university (regardless of whether it is their major or not)
I was a high cost learner, with occasional tiny peeks above that. I bought frequent textbooks and had a never ending supply of new weekly native media. Early on for a few months I had a private tutor 3x a week at $30/session. I had also taken one semester of Japanese in university.
At one point I was tempted to go the “Japanese language school in Japan” route. I was already living in Japan and hadn’t yet found my self-study stride. But I couldn’t work out the money to pay $10,000 for a year. I was busy paying off student loans and was at a job that didn’t allow for that type of expense.
Speaking of earning money while deciding how much to spend, I don’t consider the above 4 budget types necessarily related to how much money a person makes. There are people who are well off that use free resources, and there are people who aren’t making much money, but will save up for a long time or take out educational loans to spend on an expensive Japanese course.
When I was in Japan at the peak of my educational spending, my salary as an English teacher was around $25k a year. I made the decision to spend a big chunk of my monthly discretionary money on studying Japanese.
What type are you?
What has your experience been like with your decided budget?