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Top 10 Apps for Learning Japanese

Learning Japanese is no easy task. It requires many hours of study and dedication. Luckily, we live in the age of technology and there are often ways we can use it to help the learning process. For example, the internet is full of blogs, videos and resources to help you learn Japanese faster, with much of this content being created by learners just like you.

One method of supplementing language learning that has gained popularity in recent years is through the use of apps. There are many of them out there but what are the best apps for learning Japanese? To help you answer this question, LingoClass has compiled a list of our top 10 apps for Japanese learning based on years of experience teaching and interacting with students.

We've included ratings and download links for all apps discussed below. We hope you find it useful!. 

Price: Free with a premium version available from £1.67 a month

10. Quizlet

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Quizlet is a flashcard app that encourages language learning through test and learn processes. Due to its low price tag and flexibility, it's the go to learning app for many Japanese language teachers. At LingoClass, we often use it to set and review homework.

The app works like this: teachers go in and create a quiz from relevant lesson content and provide the link to their students. A an example of a lesson is to test one's knowledge of N5 Japanese grammar and vocabulary. The quiz can contain questions with audio, images, sentences etc. and users can take it multiple times until they score 100% and are confident with the material.

Because so many teachers use it, Quizlet has masses of useful content that you can also use! You don't necessarily need the link to take the quiz, you can use the search function to find quizzes that are relevant for you. For example, you can search "Japanese N3 Volcabulary" or "Japanese Hiragana Beginner" and see what comes up. This is a great way to target your specific weaknesses without needing a teacher there to help you.

Price: Free for 5 minutes a day, £9.49 a month for unlimited access.

9. Scripts

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The Scripts app is, in our opinion, the best app on the market for learning how to write Japanese characters. Upon downloading this app you have the ability to practice writing both Hiragana and Kanji with detailed, easy to follow instructions. The app itself is beautifully designed and a pleasure to use. If you are interested, you can also learn Chinese and Korean characters using Scripts.

 

The app works by encouraging you to practice for 5 minutes everyday and building up your knowledge of characters over time. Their pricing structure mirrors this approach by giving you 5 minutes a day for free. After this you will need to pay £9.49 for a month's membership or £159.99 for a lifetime subscription. The best approach is to try the free version and see if you get value out of it, then consider upgrading.

Price: The 1st 5 lessons of N5 are free, after which prices start from £7.49 a month

8. Bunpo Japanese

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Bunpo Japanese is a great app for helping students study for the JLPT exam (for more information on the exam you can visit our JLPT page). The app itself is nicely designed and contains detailed, well formed explanations of many fundamental concepts in Japanese. Users are able to select content based on their JLPT level and everything you learn will be relevant for taking the test. 

While there is some audio material on the app, it is not as high quality or abundant as it is in some of the other apps on this list. Bunpo is great for understanding structural and grammatical rules but if you want to learn how to use them for speaking then we suggest combining it with one of the other apps on this list so you can apply the rules in more realistic ways.

The pricing of the app is fair - you get several N5 lessons for free but after this you have to pay for access to the higher levels and the rest of the N5 content. The monthly cost is £7.49 but you can also get a lifetime subscription for  £28.99 or a yearly subscription for £18.49.

Price: Free and premium versions

7. DuoLingo

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Duolingo is one of the most famous language learning apps out there. It's had success helping students learn over 20 languages and Japanese is no exception. Duolingo's app is one of the nicest to use out of all on this list because of the sheer number of development hours they have spent refining it. Instructions are clear, revision is regular and goals are measured.

Another strength of Duolingo is that it has the functionality to assess your current level, meaning you don't have to start on absolute 0 if you have some knowledge of the Japanese language already. The lessons themselves contain content designed to help you improve listening, reading and writing, although there is little opportunity to practice speaking.

 

The app is completely free but you can upgrade to remove ads at a small cost if you wish.

6. Tandem

Price: Free

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Japanese learning apps often cover reading, listening and occasionally writing, but which app is the best to learn Japanese speaking and pronunciation? Since speaking often requires the feedback of another person, usually a native speaker, this can be very difficult to do in your home country or when a teacher is not available. Tandem provides the solution.

Tandem is a language exchange app that lets users connect with each other to practice speaking different languages. This service is completely free and allows users to meet via the app and then take their conversations elsewhere, to WhatsApp, Skype or wherever they are most comfortable. 

To use, simply create an account, including details of the languages you speak and the ones you want to learn and Tandem will match you with people who can speak your target language and want to learn or practice the ones you already know. English is in great demand so you will have many matches within minutes of signing up and you can pick and choose the people who sound the most interesting. There really is no better way to practice speaking Japanese without seeing your teacher or other Japanese people in person.

5. Easy Japanese News

Price: Free with a premium version available from £1.67 a month

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Easy Japanese News is a Japanese language learning app that converts real news stories into simpler, more readable articles to help learners practice their reading skills. This is a surprisingly rare thing to find and we believe it really helps students to practice their Japanese in a very practical and realistic way.

The app contains a wealth of content, which is genuinely interesting and allows users to keep on top of current news stories involving Japan. Furthermore, useful and/or difficult phrases are pulled out with explanations and audio to help you understand what's going on. 

Due to the nature of the content provided, this app is very much for intermediate to advanced learners. The app itself suggests a JLPT level of at least N4 or above. If you're unsure of your current JLPT level you can find out using our online test here.

Price: Beginner level is free, after which you pay £7.99/month or £69.99/year.

4. Mirai Japanese

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Mirai Japanese is a step by step learning guide for beginners. It teaches many important elements of grammar and applies them to real life settings; asking directions, playing sports, shopping etc. The real strength of the Mirai app is the volume and quality of the audio that accompanies the lessons. Each chapter is set out like a conversation so it feels a lot like you are being taught by an actual person. The audio doesn't only cover the Japanese side of the conversation either, the English side also has audio, helping you to understand more advanced concepts that can be difficult when reading text alone.

Mirai gives you 50 lessons completely free, which takes you to the end of the "beginner" section. After this you can advance to "elementary I" starting from £7.99 a month. This app is definitely a good one for beginners but more advanced learners might feel left out as the lessons currently only go up to "elementary III".

Marai lays out early on that their key principles are to make learning enjoyable and provide structured, goal-orientated instruction. In these 3 areas, the app does not disappoint.

Top Three

Price: Many different apps are on offer. A lot of them are free.

3. Dr Moku

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Dr. Moku is actually a family of apps centred around helping students learn Hiragana and Katakana through mnemonic devices. The types of app available and their prices vary depending on whether you are using iOS or Android but many of the apps on offer are free and definitely worth downloading. For more details on each app you can visit Dr. Moku's own website.

The mnemonic devices in these apps are genuinely helpful in learning Japanese characters. They work by associating images and sounds with each character, helping you to process them on a deeper level than if you were to simply read them. For example the hiragana character く(ku) is made to look like the beak of a bird. In the picture the bird says "ku ku ku" helping you to remember the sound the character makes.

Each character is accompanied by useful audio files and there a regular quizzes to make sure you're remembering all that you have learned. Premium versions of most Mr. Moku apps are available and include more lessons. This is one of the best apps on the market for learning Japanese characters, something which many students find difficult.

Top Three

2. Human Japanese

Price: Human Japanese has a lite version  which is free. The full app costs £9.99 .

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Human Japanese is the closest thing you can find to a real Japanese teacher in app form. The content on this app is amazing and extensive, including lessons on many key elements of grammar, sentence structure and pronunciation. The lessons read like a book and contain lots of interesting facts about the unique elements of Japanese and why things function the way they do in this weird and wonderful language.

The app itself is designed to take you from beginner to some level of competence in Japanese and so is possibly better suited for beginners than intermediate learners. That's not to say there isn't something for everyone. Human Japanese has lessons on complicated language elements that you can choose yourself from their menu so whatever level you are currently, there will undoubtedly be something you can learn.

The app pricing structure is a little strange. There are actually 2 separate apps here: Human Japanese and Human Japanese Lite. The download link above links to the lite (free) version. This version lets you explore the first 8 chapters of the course, complete with audio, example sentences and review sections. However, for more advanced levels you will need to upgrade to the full version of the app, which costs £9.99 for unlimited usage. We recommend downloading the free version to see if you find it useful and then upgrading once you complete chapters 1-8. You can even preview the first page of each subsqeuent chapter to see if it contains something you want to learn about!

Top Three

1. Imiwa?

Price: Free

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Imiwa? is possibly THE the most useful app for learning Japanese. It is essentially a free, digital Japanese dictionary that allows you to search using Romaji, Kanji and even radicals. You also have the ability to categorise phrases according to JLPT level, which can be incredibly useful if you're planning on taking the JLPT exam (for more information you can visit our JLPT page).

Imiwa? also provides example sentences for your chosen word of phrase, giving you information on meaning and how to use it correctly in context. Furthermore, the app can also translate into Russian, Spanish and Italian for any users out there for whom these languages are preferable to English.

Imiwa? does have a few downsides. The user interface isn't the best; it can be clunky at times and isn't the prettiest dictionary app on the market. There is also an unfortunate lack of audio files on the app, meaning it can be difficult to know for sure if you're pronouncing a word correctly or not. Finally, the app is currently only available on the app store, so Android users will have to look elsewhere :(

However, in spite of its setbacks, Imiwa? remains one of the best apps out there simply because it gives you the ability to quickly and accurately translate from English to Japanese and vice-versa. This means you can read and communicate in almost any situation. Add to that the fact it's free, and you have an essential tool in any language learner's repertoire. 

Now you have some of the tools you need to improve your Japanese language skills in your spare time, why not supplement your self-study by booking some Japanese classes with one of our expert teachers.

Group and private trial lessons are available for all levels. We hope to see you soon!