In this post I'm taking a deep dive into the Japanese version of Uncovered, made by Olly Richards from I Will Teach You a Language to see if it's a good beginner's course for learning Japanese.
Hopefully by the end of this post you will have learnt enough to answer the question: “Can I learn Japanese with Japanese Uncovered?“
Let's dive in.
Table of Contents
At the time of writing this article, Japanese Uncovered is the newest and most comprehensive course in the series.
Olly has really pulled out all stops and produced what is probably the best beginner Japanese course on the market today.
During the course you'll work with all kinds of media from text, to audio, to video, worksheets, quizzes, and assignments.
There's a little something for everyone and it doesn't get boring.
Who is Japanese Uncovered for?
Japanese Uncovered is a self-study beginner's course. This means you can start this course without any prior knowledge in Japanese.
People with some experience (pre-intermediate) would also find a lot of benefit.
The course corresponds roughly to the CEFR levels of A0-B1. This means complete beginner to lower intermediate in normal, human speak.
The StoryLearning method
What is the StoryLearning method?
Olly Richards always loved learning through books and stories, so when he started creating books and courses himself he used stories as a pivotal part of the products.
Recently he started using the name “StoryLearning” to describe his methodology.
He believes that stories are the best to learn from, as you see the actual language in context. Cognates, vocabulary, and grammar are all easier to learn as they appear together.
What is the course made up of?
The course contains 20 modules of Japanese learning.
Here's exactly how the 20 modules are broken down:
Let's break down each of these lessons:
A brief introduction to the module, as well as what you will learn in the chapter.
Read and Listen
In this lesson you'll be going through the next part of the short story:
In this lesson, you only read and listen to the Japanese language version of the story.
To help beginners out there is a normal-speed, and slowed down version of the text.
Lesson 1: Vocabulary
In the vocabulary lesson, taught by Olly, you're learning key vocabulary from the text you just read.
It's explained in a clear, and patient way, and the vocabulary Olly highlights is super useful and practical.
Second half of the vocabulary lesson is a worksheet, where you can test your knowledge on this part of the story, and the vocabulary you just learnt from Olly.
Lesson 2: Grammar
In every grammar lesson of Japanese Uncovered you get the following:
- One video about Japanese particles
- A second video covering the other grammar in the story
This is because particles are so important to Japanese, and also a very foreign concept to most language learners trying to learn Japanese.
These lessons are very thorough, so you'll master Japanese grammar in no time.
Lesson 3: Pronunciation
In this lesson, we are reunited with the Japanese native speaker “Ai” who is also teaching parts of the course.
In each of these lessons she helps you perfect your Japanese pronunciation, like in module 4 when she talks about why Japanese people struggle with the R and L sounds of English.
Lesson 4: Learning the Script
This is an extremely comprehensive and exciting part of the course.
Through elaborate videos, and worksheets you actually learn how to write Japanese by hand.
Check this out:
A lot of online Japanese courses simply don't teach the writing system to beginners, Uncovered teaches you all 4!
Lesson 5: Language and Culture
Learning Japanese is not just about learning the language.
In these cultural lessons you learn how to interact (and behave!) socially in Japan.
An example from module 1 is the practice of exchanging business cards with a bow, and both hands – as well as breaking down exactly how to bow for most situations.
This is again, above and beyond compared to other language courses which simply ignore things like this.
Lesson 6: Keigo (Honorifics)
While German, French, Spanish, and Italian all have versions of polite and impolite speech, Japanese takes it about 15 steps further.
Throughout the 20 modules you'll learn exactly how to use “keigo” properly – i.e. the honorific system, so you end up speaking respectfully and correctly to the situation you're finding yourself in, in Japanese.
Finally, the last part of each chapter is a test on how well you have understood the materials.
This is essentially a place to report any errors, send in your feedback, and ask any questions directly to Olly and the team.
This is a super cool section in the course, which allows more advanced students to get the story in the other Japanese writing systems, among other things.
Here's what you can find inside this section:
- A normal speed and slowed down version of the story audio
- A full kana edition of this chapter of the story
- A kanji edition of this chapter of the story
- A chapter syllabus that lists everything you've covered in this module
Japanese Uncovered features a few extra bonuses, that learners of Japanese definitely will find helpful:
The golden 100 is the top 100 most common Japanese words, which cover a very high percentage of normal conversation.
The 7 Deadly Chopstick Sins is self-explanatory, and very useful, as there are big cultural differences.
It's nothing extraordinarily valuable, but good to have nonetheless.
What writing system does Japanese Uncovered Teach?
Japanese Uncovered starts out in Romaji (romanized) and quickly starts to incorporate all 4 writing systems.
Hiragana is the most abundant one, with Katakana and Kanji included in later modules to give perspective and context to all forms of written Japanese.
Japanese Uncovered: Price and Guarantee
What does Japanese Uncovered cost?
Japanese Uncovered costs $397 and comes with a 30-day, no-questions-asked money-back guarantee. If you want to try out the platform first, you can do so, for free!
This is a higher price than other beginner courses, but way cheaper than comparable in-person classes teaching you the same amount of content.
It's also a lifetime offer, so you don't have to keep paying monthly fees over and over to access the content like other subscription language services.
What I like
- Ridiculously comprehensive (the biggest Uncovered yet!)
- Familiarises the learner with Romaji, Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji writing systems.
- Working through the story is fun, and you really feel like you progress as the story gets harder.
- More challenging than other beginner's courses
- Probably the best self-study Japanese beginner's course out there today
- Lifetime access, no subscription required
What I don't like
- It's a significant investment, $100 more than the other Uncovered courses, and might be out of budget for many Japanese learners.
- Doesn't have a way to practice speaking directly, but the content is quite interactive to compensate.
So, is Japanese Uncovered the best beginner Japanese course online today?
In my opinion, yes, Japanese Uncovered holds the trophy as of writing this article.
If you follow the instructions and put in the hours, this course will teach you Japanese – without a doubt.
It will take even complete beginners well past the upper beginner levels, if you do the materials according to the instructions.
There's really no reason not to give it a try, as it also comes with a 30 day no-questions asked refund guarantee.
The only people I wouldn't recommend it to are people who are not good at self-studying. You do have to put in the work yourself, and there's no teacher to make sure you actually do the work.
But, if you do and take the time to complete all 20 chapters, I promise you, your Japanese will be amazing.
Questions and Answers
“Are there any Japanese Uncovered discounts or coupons available?”
Unfortunately there are no evergreen Japanese Uncovered discounts or coupon codes available.
Olly Richards very rarely discounts his courses, so your best bet is to keep an eye out for the big seasonal sales such as Black Friday.
However, you can try out Japanese Uncovered for a week for free, to see if you'd like to pay for full access to the course.
If you are part of the Actual Fluency email club I always email out when there are big sales you should check out.
“Does Japanese Uncovered teach in Hiragana, Katakana, or Kanji?”
Japanese Uncovered starts off with Romaji (romanised Japanese) and slowly acquaints the learner with all writing systems.
So, by the end of it the learner will have a good idea of how they all work. Especially Hiragana which is the main writing system used in the course.
Japanese Uncovered Reviews
Here is a selection of reviews of Japanese Uncovered, from people who have taken the programme:
Learning Japanese through a story concept with Japanese Uncovered has been quite exciting. The videos and practice worksheets have been very helpful! This method of learning has been so far quite unique that I have come across and more importantly I am looking forward for what's coming up in the next and am totemo tanoshimi (very excited) 🙂Nishant – (Source)
After completing the first chapter of Japanese Uncovered, I'm pretty hooked! I have learned some Japanese in the past, but nothing really sustainable and nothing that really stuck with me. So far I've really gotten into the story and the approach that Olly uses to teach the lessons. I love that I can go through the activities and work through the story at my own pace. I'm already learning more than I had previously.Rebecca O. (Source)
I really like Japanese Uncovered as it covers Japanese learning from a foreigner perspective. Most of the courses I have seen try to teach Japanese as I were a Japanese with goals like “learn 100 kanji every X times”. This course is really easy to follow. Grammar and cultural insights are introduced progressively, so that the students are not overwhelmed.Anonymous (Source)
Japanese Uncovered Alternatives
There aren't many comprehensive beginner-friendly Japanese Courses out there that you can use to go from nothing to intermediate in Japanese.
Other Japanese products by Olly Richards
Conversations Japanese – an intermediate course for practising listening and conversational ability.
But I bet he's working on them!
I hope you enjoyed this Japanese Uncovered Review! Have you tried Uncovered before – what was your experience?
Disclaimers and notes
From Kris Broholm, owner and founder of Actual Fluency.
Actual Fluency uses affiliate links throughout the site, which means that course owners pay a commission for each sale referred (at no additional cost to the buyer)
I Will Teach You a Language and Olly Richards had no say on this post, and no financial incentives were provided to promote this product (apart from the affiliate commission as mentioned above).
All information correct as of July 11th, 2021.
Kris is the founder of Actual Fluency, and has spent the last 8 years becoming an expert in language learning software, methods, and techniques.
Originally from Denmark, he now lives in Portugal and speaks 5+ languages at varying levels. His other interests are Wine, Online Marketing, and Travelling.