Learners around the world want to learn Japanese, and their excitement for this language is clear! Today, Japanese is the 5th most popular language to study globally, and it ranks #4 in the U.S., where it's especially popular with Gen Z. Duolingo offers Japanese courses for English speakers and Chinese speakers, which together teach over 17 million learners worldwide.

Who are these Japanese learners, and why are they so passionate about studying this language? Let's find out!

Illustration of Lin smiling at a messy desk, looking down at a book. There is a speech bubble above her head filled with Japanese characters

Japanese attracts learners of many language backgrounds

In addition to being one of the most popular languages to study in the U.S., Japanese is also #2 in China and #4 in Vietnam, and it's even #4 in Japan itself—due to the tourists and business people from abroad who are motivated to learn Japanese!

Japanese isn't related to the languages spoken in any of these places, showing that Japanese learners aren't deterred by a challenge, like studying the language's 3 writing systems.

The countries with the highest percentage of people studying Japanese are the Philippines, China, and Malaysia. In the last year, interest in learning Japanese has grown the most in Bangladesh, China, and Nepal. Japanese is a global phenomenon!

Learners study Japanese to connect with their interests

What makes Japanese so appealing to such a broad audience? Japanese learners are studying for a non-traditional reason: just for fun! Many people studying Japanese do so to connect with Japanese culture and help them understand more of the language they encounter in anime and manga, and 26% of new Japanese learners on Duolingo say "just for fun" is their primary motivation for learning.

The motivations of Japanese learners are unlike those studying the top 2 languages on Duolingo, English and Spanish. English learners cite school as a top motivation, and Spanish learners cite “connect with people” as their #1 motivation. On the other hand, people studying Japanese are doing so to connect with their hobbies and interests!

Graph of "Motivations of new learners in 2023". On the left, vertical access is "percent of learners" from 0% to 40%, and on the bottom, horizontal access are the different motivations: support my education, connect with people, boost my career, spent time productively, prepare for travel, just for fun, and other. Each motivation has three bars, for English, Spanish, and Japanese. English has the biggest bar for "support my education," and it's much more than Spanish and Japanese. Spanish has the biggest bar for "connect with people," and it's much more than English and Japanese. The biggest Japanese bar is "just for fun", and it's much higher than Spanish, which in turn is much higher than English.

Young learners are the most excited about Japanese

People studying Japanese tend to be younger on average than those studying other languages: 86% of Japanese learners are under 30, and 70% are between 13 and 22. In fact, Japanese ranked #3 among this age group in the U.S. last year!

Graph of "Ages of new learners studying Japanese in 2023". On the left, vertical axis is "percent of learners," from 0% to 40%, and on the bottom, horizontal axis is "age group" from 13 to 90. Each age group has two bars, one representing Japanese learners, and one representing all other languages. For both groups, the bars are highest for the youngest age groups and then decrease for each older age group. For Japanese, the bars for younger learners are MUCH higher than the bars for "all other learners."

Japanese learners are more likely to study multiple languages

It's clear that Japanese learners are up for a challenge, so it's no surprise that so many Japanese learners are polyglots! Japanese learners are more likely to study 3 or more languages on Duolingo than learners of Spanish or French—which is especially impressive since Japanese and English are unrelated, but English, Spanish, and French share a lot of similarities.

Are you ready to start learning Japanese?

If you're ready to join the millions of Japanese learners around the world, try Duolingo's Japanese course! You'll find bite-sized, interactive lessons that gradually build up your proficiency, as well as fun short stories to improve reading and listening skills and lots of tools to learn Japanese characters. Happy learning!