8 Excellent Apps for Studying Japanese

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Studying Japanese from scratch, with little to no knowledge of the language can be scary and intimidating. Many do not know where to begin.

Some say that one can get by in Japan with basic Japanese. However, it is still probably better to learn as much Japanese as possible, especially, when you would want to visit the hospital or during tax filing season. Truthfully, when I first moved to Japan, I couldn’t even say thank you in Japanese. During my stay in Japan over the years, I saw how Japanese is important, and a big part of living in Japan.

In addition, if you are interested to learn Japanese as well as the Japanese culture, we have a lot of useful articles for you. Please find them here. With the convenience of a smartphone, there are a variety of language apps that are available for use. Here are the Top 8 Most Helpful Language Apps for Learning Japanese:

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1. Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese

Kicking off the list with Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese. This app helps learners understand the context of Japanese sentences, from grammar to vocabulary terms.

This app is suitable for beginners learning Japanese, packed with an organized planner along with clear and un-draggy explanations. The recommended course is the “Complete Guide to Japanese” which helps users learn essential grammar and vocabulary without long and complicated examples and explanations.

This app also has supplementary courses to help learners who are already studying Japanese to further equip themselves with much more comprehensive exercises and an understanding of how things work in Japanese. Kanji is also introduced in this app.

Now to the best part, the app is free for use.  With no time restrictions, therefore, you may learn Japanese at your own pace with this app.

2. Obenkyo

The literal translation means, “to study”. This app is famous for its quizzes. Starting from Hiragana and Katakana, slowly progressing to Kanji and vocabulary. It is recommended for those preparing for a test with lots of practice from the quizzes. Its content is not structured like a lesson, however, its units are available for users to select and explore.

  • The key feature of this app is the handwriting recognizer which helps users practice writing Kanji strokes.
  • We all know how Kanji can be challenging, and this feature is a great helper to its users.
  • This app is also free and has a time commitment of 15 minutes a day.

3. Pimsleur Japanese

Until recently, Pimsleur Japanese entered the language app environment. It is an app with a strong reputation with a unique technique in helping its users learn Japanese. This app is recommended for those wanting to improve and sharpen their Japanese language skills.

What makes the Pimsleur Japanese app stand out is the question /response/feedback format. Unlike traditional apps, this app uses this format to allow users to recall and react, by using their own thinking in forming a sentence and responding to a question. Sort of like a speaking simulation exercise for users to practice using and learning Japanese.

Instead of learning from books and through memorization, this learning method is much more hands-on. Allowing users to practically apply their understanding and comprehension of the Japanese grammar and vocabulary in actual conversations.

Unlike the above-mentioned apps, this app is not free. It has courses from beginner to intermediate, for a monthly subscription of $14.95.

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4. HelloTalk

A different approach from a structured lesson would be HelloTalk. It is an app that follows the format of language exchange, where users learn Japanese from native Japanese speakers in exchange, users teach their native language to the opposite party. It is key to find a native Japanese speaker who is also interested in learning your native language. This also promotes a social networking advantage.

There is an option for voice conversations that will allow users to strengthen their conversation skills. On top of that, as mentioned earlier, you can make friends and meet up with them to study. This app is free to use and has been recommended by many Youtubers around the world.

5. Anki

If learning through flashcards is better for you, then Anki is the right app for you.

It is popular in Japan for its flashcards. These flashcards comprise vocabulary and grammar from textbooks summarized for easier learning the essential points in Japanese. That being said, this app focuses more on repetition rather than a structured lesson. Users can customize their own flashcards sets and the cards work in a way that users can answer them and have the answers flipped on the other side of the flashcard.

It is helpful for those who are studying kanji and vocabulary, where repetition would come in handy with a self-assessment at the back of the cards. This app is also available for free. My friend recommends the Anki website as well.

6. Duolingo Japanese

We have finally reached the infamous Duolingo app. I have seen so many memes of the Duolingo bird, which has now become an internet sensation.

Many years ago, when language apps were still becoming popular, Duolingo was one of the pioneers to have established itself in the market.

Anyone with little to zero knowledge can start with the app. Every level has a few stages of questions that involve hiragana, katakana, and kanji in it. Every progress contributes to a bar below and eventually users continuously clear stages. As you progress, the questions start to gear more towards translation of English to Japanese and vice versa.

The drawback of this app is that there is not a lot of comprehensive explanation given to a sentence. It is a great way to start learning Japanese. The stages are fun to clear and the app is free.

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6. WaniKani

Equipped with over 2,000 Kanji words and using the method of spaced repetition, WaniKani deserves a mention here.

WaniKani is known for its strong Kanji exposure to user, with kanji words majority from Joyo Kanji, being the kanji words approved by Japan’s Ministry of Education. These kanji words are equivalent to of what students in middle school in Japan learn.

Even though this app does not focus on grammar and sentence structure, there are some example sentences that are used for the review. This app is free but would require payment for higher levels and above.

7. LingoDeer

LingoDeer uses a fun game-type lesson to help users improve their fluency.

This app focuses on grammar and vocabulary emphasis. Each lesson will apply the grammar and vocab learned from the previous lesson for optimal usage of the language learned. This app also features audio from a native Japanese speaker to help hone your listening skills.

  • Kanji is also included in this app, along with the meaning.
  • However, this app requires payment for premium content for a higher level of classes.   

Summary

There are still a lot of language apps that were not mentioned in this article. Depending on what you are looking for, some apps cater to different needs, so it is important to find one that fits. Most of these language apps are free for use, but some may require payment for certain content.

Moreover, let me wrap up this article with the following tips before you start learning Japanese:

  • When starting the journey of learning a new foreign language through a chosen language app, it is also important to be consistent with the progress of your learning. As most apps are not constrained by time commitment, you can easily derail and not log in to the app for days and lose track of your progress.
  • Days can turn into months, and before you know it, you might find yourself forgetting what you have learned before. Trust me, I know. When you don’t use the language, it’s easily forgotten on the back burner of your mind.
  • For some, maybe language apps are not the way to go. Maybe enrolling in a language school is better, with a fixed schedule to encourage discipline.
  • The key is to find your niche and to commit to the new challenge and the journey of learning a new language. Feel the journey with purpose.
  • Japanese is a tricky but beautiful language, that may come in handy when you visit or live in Japan in the future. Happy studying!
About Yen 16 Articles
Hi, I'm Yen from Malaysia. I can converse in more than 5 languages and am an avid lover of manga, drawing and food. I love working with kids and enjoy sharing stories about Japan as a writer. I'm at my happiest when I get to explore Japan!