Learn Languages on a Budget: Focusing on Chinese and Japanese

Learn languages on a budget!

In today’s digital age, technology has made language learning more accessible and affordable than ever before. 

Ok, let’s explore how much is necessary to learn a language. No, not any language… in this article, we focus on what’s necessary to learn Japanese or Chinese without going through savings! 

Expenses can be kept to a minimum, and with so many resources available, learning a language like Chinese or Japanese is no longer an insurmountable task. However, it’s important to remember that while you can save money, learning a language still requires a significant investment in terms of time and effort. In this article, we’ll explore various ways to learn Chinese and Japanese on a budget, using technology for immersion and highlighting different apps and resources to help you achieve your language goals.

I. Free Language Learning Apps

Duolingo (多邻国 – duōlínɡuó): 

This gamified language learning app offers courses in both Chinese (Mandarin) and Japanese. Duolingo makes learning fun and engaging through bite-sized lessons and interactive exercises. You can practice speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills while earning points and leveling up.

Website: https://www.duolingo.com

Memrise (记忆法 – jìyìfǎ): 

This app uses spaced repetition to help you learn vocabulary and phrases in both Chinese and Japanese. Memrise offers engaging lessons that include native speaker videos, quizzes, and personalized learning goals.

Website: https://www.memrise.com

HelloTalk (你好谈 – nǐhǎotán): 

This language exchange app connects you with native Chinese and Japanese speakers who want to learn your language. You can chat, send voice messages, and even have video calls with your language partners, helping you improve your speaking and listening skills. Check out how HelloTalk can be used here.

Website: https://www.hellotalk.com

Anki (暗记 – ànjì): 

This customizable flashcard app is perfect for learning Chinese characters (汉字 – hànzì) and Japanese kanji (漢字 – かんじ) as well as vocabulary and grammar. You can create your own decks or download pre-made decks from the Anki community.

Website: https://apps.ankiweb.net

II. Affordable Language Courses

iTalki (爱塔基 – àitǎjī): 

This platform allows you to find affordable tutors and language exchange partners for both Chinese and Japanese. You can take one-on-one lessons with professional teachers or informal tutors, making it a great way to get personalized instruction and practice. Italki is often very affordable and flexible. Compared to traditional schools, you can also save time and effort as you can flexibly arrange time and engage with tutors from the comfort of your home.

Website: https://www.italki.com

Udemy (优达学城 – yōudáxuéchéng): 

This online course platform offers lifetime access to language courses, often at discounted prices. You can find courses for learning Chinese and Japanese at various levels, taught by experienced instructors.

Website: https://www.udemy.com

Coursera (学堂在线 – xuétáng zài xiàn): 

Coursera provides online courses from top universities and institutions, including courses in Chinese and Japanese. Some courses offer financial aid, making it possible to learn on a budget.

Website: https://www.coursera.org

III. Using Technology for Immersion

  1. Streaming Services: 

Platforms like Netflix and YouTube offer a wealth of foreign-language content, including Chinese and Japanese movies, TV shows, and documentaries. You can watch with subtitles to help with comprehension, or challenge yourself by watching without them.

Get started right now learning Japanese with Youtube with these Youtube channels.

  1. Podcasts and Radio Stations: 

Listening to podcasts and radio stations in your target language can be a great way to improve your listening skills and learn about the culture. For Chinese, try podcasts like “ChinesePod” (https://www.chinesepod.com) or “Learn Chinese with Yi Zhao” (https://www.melnyks.com). For Japanese, check out “JapanesePod101” (https://www.japanesepod101.com) or “Learn Japanese with Teppei” (https://teppeisensei.com).

  1. Language Learning Communities: 

Online forums and social media groups can connect you with fellow language learners and native speakers, allowing you to practice your Chinese or Japanese skills and get advice from experienced learners. Check out communities like Reddit’s r/LearnChinese (https://www.reddit.com/r/ChineseLanguage/) and r/LearnJapanese (https://www.reddit.com/r/LearnJapanese/) for support and resources.

IV. Free or Low-Cost Language Learning Resources

  1. Local Libraries: 

Your local library may have language learning materials, such as textbooks, dictionaries, and audio courses, available for loan. Some libraries also offer language learning software, like Mango Languages or Transparent Language Online, that you can access for free with your library card.

  1. Language Learning Blogs and Websites: 

Many language learners and educators share their experiences and resources through blogs and websites. For Chinese, check out resources like Hacking Chinese (https://www.hackingchinese.com) and FluentU’s Chinese blog (https://www.fluentu.com/blog/chinese/). For Japanese, visit Tofugu (https://www.tofugu.com) and FluentU’s Japanese blog (https://www.fluentu.com/blog/japanese/).

Check out these blogs of Chinese learners.

  1. Online Dictionaries and Language Tools: 

Websites like Pleco (https://www.pleco.com) for Chinese and Jisho (https://jisho.org) for Japanese offer free, comprehensive dictionaries and language tools that can help you look up words, characters, and phrases.

V. Making the Most of Your Budget

  1. Set Clear Goals: Define what you want to achieve with your language learning and create a study plan to help you reach those goals. This will help you stay focused and make the best use of your time and resources.
  2. Be Consistent: Regular practice is key to language learning success. Set aside time each day for studying and practicing, and use the resources and tools that work best for you.
  3. Get Creative: Find ways to incorporate language learning into your everyday life, such as labeling objects in your home, listening to music or podcasts in your target language, or participating in language meetups or events in your community.


Learning Chinese and Japanese on a budget is more achievable than ever, thanks to the wealth of resources and tools available online. By exploring free and low-cost apps, courses, and immersion techniques, you can make progress in your language learning journey without breaking the bank. Remember that the key to success is not just saving money, but also investing time and effort into your studies. With dedication and consistency, you’ll be well on your way to mastering Chinese or Japanese.