It's pretty well known that the increasing popularity of Japanese culture and the decades-long success of Japan's electronics industry has led to a boom in the number of people interested in studying the language. If you happen to be one of those, then London-based urbanjapanese.com is worth a look.

The online school is an unusual departure for games developer Gamewax , whose video-game heritage shows clearly in the site's design. The main selling points of the lessons offered are that they're live with real teachers, use the internet for proper video-conferencing ("not Skype", in their words) and can be scheduled to suit students.

The fees are reasonable - roughly £15 to £18 per lesson, depending on how many are booked, and a £30 enrolment charge. As for the curricula and the quality of the teaching, there's a free trial for first-timers.

Nothing beats getting a solid grammatical grounding in Japanese (both written and spoken) before putting it into practice with native speakers. It certainly helps avoid shattered confidence by not jumping straight in at the deep end.

However you go about studying Japanese, just remember that it's not as hard as it looks and it can open doors to a fascinating gadgety, geeky culture. You'll be an otaku before you know it. J Mark Lytle