Best Apps for Learning Japanese

16 Best Apps for Learning Japanese Like a Boss

Take a break from crushing candies, flinging birds with slingshots and killing zombies.

Your smartphone is your unlimited access pass to the world of Japanese language learning.

Discover the smart in smartphone by downloading some awesome apps for learning Japanese.

Once you’ve got your favorite apps pegged to your home screen, you’ll be able to introduce yourself to a whole new method of language study. While killing time in the doctor’s office waiting room or riding the bus to work, fire up your apps and get to learning.

Every little bit of Japanese helps. Sure, some apps are designed to become part of your long-term study program and can provide you with hours upon hours of language lessons. With these, you can delve deeper into learning kanji, practice hiragana and katakana, and learn how to weave expressive Japanese verbs into your speech.

Others are there for you just when you need them in a pinch, such as interactive dictionaries and translation apps. These could seriously come in handy while speaking with a language exchange partner, watching Japanese television shows or navigating Tokyo with survival phrases.

Still others are around just for pure fun, and are primarily entertaining games infused with key language information.

Here, we’ve sifted through app stores and websites to find the cream of the crop. Which ones are best suited to your personal language learning preferences? Which will be more effective when added to your existing study routine? All that depends on you, your goals, your study tactics and the way your brain learns best.

These apps are bursting with information – and using your smartphone to study is undeniably a new frontier for the language learning community. The smartphone interface allows you to easily swipe and tap your way to improved Japanese fluency.

After reading our reviews of these stellar apps for learning Japanese, be sure to test them yourself. But hey, what’s not to love?

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

 

16 Best Apps for Learning Japanese Like a Boss

FluentU

Category: Vocabulary & Grammar (+Dictionary)

(Free, optional paid upgrades)
Website || App Store || Google Play

FluentU naturally and gradually eases you into learning Japanese language and culture. You’ll learn real Japanese as it’s spoken in real life by native speakers.

That’s because you’ll be watching authentic content that Japanese speakers actually watch on the regular. FluentU takes real-world Japanese videos—like music videos, movie trailers, documentaries, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. 

We’ve got everything from the Japanese version of “Let it Go” to colorful cartoons and clips from “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Learn Japanese with Anime on FluentU

Don’t worry about your skill level being an issue when it comes to understanding the language. FluentU makes native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts.

Learn Japanese with Anime via FluentU

Tap on any word to look it up instantly. You’ll see definitions, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciations and helpful illustrations. Another tap will allow you to see this dictionary entry cross-referenced with information from every other video that the word appears in.

Simply tap “add” to send interesting vocabulary words to your running vocab list for later review.

Learn Japanese Through Anime on FluentU

As you can see, FluentU isn’t just for watching videos. It’s a unique language learning program designed to get you to total Japanese mastery, complete with active learning tools like vocabulary lists, multimedia flashcards and more.

Even the flashcards have something special to offer learners—they integrate video clips, imagery and audio to create rich, memorable learning experiences and help you retain Japanese vocabulary better than ever. 

Learn Japanese with Videos on FluentU

 

The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning from the same videos.

You can start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, by downloading the app from the iTunes store.

FluentU is highly recommended for people who are audio-visual learners or who want to learn Japanese with fun content.

Learn Japanese

Category: Vocabulary & Grammar

(Free Version; In-App purchases required)
App Store || Google Play

Learn Japanese contains over 800 popular words and phrases aimed at beginner learners. The application is grouped into sections like greetings, eating and romance. Users can track their favorite phrases in a personal collection. Each word and phrase is accompanied by audio which can be slowed down manually. Learn Japanese also allows you to record yourself speaking and compare your pronunciation with the program’s to ensure that your pronunciation sounds like that of a native.

Learn Japanese by Mindsnacks

Category: Vocabulary & Grammar

(Free)
App Store

Learn Japanese by Mindsnacks is an app that focuses mostly on building vocabulary, and is great for adults and children alike. The application provides over 800 words and phrases to study, and supports kana, kanji and romaji. The application is broken into different games where users can introduce new vocabulary while advancing to different levels.

Users can quiz themselves on useful vocabulary, as well as learn and review numbers, colors, daily items and more. Each lesson contains 20 words, so you won’t become overwhelmed by an abundance of vocabulary. Also, past lessons can be reviewed in the application’s review mode.

Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese

Category: Vocabulary & Grammar

(Free)
App Store || Google Play

Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese is collection of Tae Kim’s online grammar guide, smoothed into a user-friendly app. The application is set up like a book, and is exactly as the title reads: a guide. The guide is written for any learner who wants to learn, review or increase their grammar and vocabulary. The guide is broken into different lessons that introduce new grammar, structures and vocabulary.

Beginners can choose to start by introducing themselves to the Japanese writing system and then move on to essential grammar involving verb and adjective conjugation. Advanced users can browse topics that cover special expressions, conditionals and more.

Hello Talk

Category: Digital Japanese Penpals

(Free)
App Store || Google Play

 

HelloTalk is a language exchange application that’s available on your IOS or Android device. HelloTalk allows you to talk with others from around the world. You can write a brief summary about yourself in your profile, choose your native language and select the language and level that you’re currently learning. After, you’re able to search for native language partners from around the world! HelloTalk is immensely popular with many users who are eager to start a language exchange.

That platform that you use to chat is very much like any other texting application. What sets HelloTalk apart from similar language exchange apps are some of its useful features. Native speakers can edit your messages and correct your grammar while you chat together about AKB48’s upcoming concert. Users are also able to transcribe a voice message, so you’re not always reading and writing, but can practice speech and comprehension as well.

Lext Talk

Category: Digital Japanese Penpals

(Free)
App Store

Like many of its kind, Lext Talk is an application that allows users to connect to language partners from around the world. Once your profile is complete, you can select which language you speak and which language you’d like to learn.

A very convenient feature that Lext Talk offers is its map. Users can browse and navigate through Lext Talk’s map for language partners in their area, or to find a partner in a specific region. That means things get a whole lot easier if you’re looking for someone who speaks 関西方言 (Kansai dialect).

Lext Talk also provides chatrooms with various themes like “Let’s Learn English” or “Jpop Fans United”, where you can meet friends with similar interests and chat in your desired language.

ePenPal

Category: Digital Japanese Penpals

(Free)
Google Play

Liked the sound of Lext Talk but you have an Android phone? Don’t worry, there’s a similar app for all you Galaxy owners too! Introducing ePenPal: an app that allows its users to share voice messages, photos and more. Like other language exchange apps, you can easily browse maps to find a language partner in the same area, or in a selected region.

This application also allows you to filter through its users’ profiles so you can easily find someone within your age group, who lives in your city or next travel destination, or even someone who shares the same interest in kabuki.

ePenPal also offers a group chat feature, where you can talk about English grammar or share tips on how to make a mean okonomiyaki with others.

imiwa?

Category: Dictionary App

(Free)
App Store

Imiwa? is a powerful dictionary that allows you to make searches using kanji, kana or romaji. Words are accompanied by example sentences (with furigana provided) so users can see how new vocabulary is used in conversation. You can also tap a word and hear how it’s pronounced. Other features include verb conjugation charts, notebooks to keep track of your favorite words, JLTP vocabulary lists and more.

One of imiwa?’s most useful features is its kanji feature. You can search for a kanji character simply by drawing the character directly on the screen. Imiwa? also provides helpful guides that allow you to look up kanji by its radicals or strokes. Once you’ve located the character you’re looking for, imiwa? will show you how many strokes the character consists of, and let you practice writing the character as well.

IMI FREE

Category: Dictionary

(Free)
Google Play

IMI is another brilliant dictionary that allows you to search for vocabulary using kanji, kana or romaji. IMI provides example sentences with new vocabulary, and verbs and adjectives come with a conjugation list.

IMI can work as a study tool as well for any user learning kanji. Users can learn and memorize different characters with IMI’s flashcards. You can also view animated stroke orders, and have the ability to search for kanji easy by its radical or stroke order.

IMI plans to release more features in the future that include quizzes and mini games, and the ability to sync study collections across multiple devices.

Yomiwa

Category: Dictionary

(Limited Version Free)
App Store

Waygo

Category: Dictionary

(Limited Version Free)
App Store || Google Play

Yomiwa and Waygo aren’t conventional dictionaries, but they will come in handy when it comes to kanji translation. Both apps work similarly: users can take a picture or select one from their photo albums and the apps will translate kanji from the picture into English.

Both applications work offline. Yomiwa can read horizontal and vertical text, while Waygo can translate text from Mandarin and Cantonese as well. Waygo’s free version allows up to 10 translations per day.

Kana (Hiragana & Katakana)

Category: Reading & Writing

(Free)
App Store || Google Play

There are many apps in the market that will help you learn hiragana and katakana. Kana is an app that introduces both alphabets for free, and also shows how they compare to kanji. The application is organized into chapters that provide pronunciation examples, quizzes, flashcards, stroke diagrams and more.

Kana will not only teach you the sound of a character, but will also show you how the character is used in different words. Users can track their progress as they review charts or complete tests.

The producers of Kana also have a similar app for learning and reviewing kanji.

Kana Quiz

Category: Reading & writing

(free)
App Store

Kana Quiz is a basic application where users are given two study choices: Users can select to read a word in romaji and match it with its kana counterpart, or users can view a word in kana and locate its romaji counterpart. Kana Quiz takes a flashcard approach to learn, and separates hiragana and katakana characters into different levels so you won’t feel overwhelmed by the two alphabets. Each time you tap on a character, a voice will pronounce the character to encourage memorization.

Kanji Senpai

Category: Reading & writing

(Free)
Google Play

Kanji Senpai uses spaced repetition system (SRS) which means that once you learn a kanji character it doesn’t go away forever. The characters will come back in later courses to ensure that learned characters don’t slip away from your mind. Kanji Senpai incorporates characters that will show up on all levels of the JLPT, and offers several ways to study different characters.

Users can practice writing characters, create and download custom vocabulary lists and review vocabulary through different quizzes.

Hirameki! Crossword | ひらめき!クロスワード

Category: Game & Social

(¥100)
App Store || Google Play

Hirameki! Crossword is a Japanese app that’s available for iOS and Android devices. The app is entirely in Japanese and is aimed at children, which means the interface is easy to navigate and understand. Hirameki! Crossword uses only hiragana, which means that everything from the menu selections to the crossword puzzles themselves are beginner Japanese friendly.

Users have the choice to pass on a puzzle and move onto the next if they find a particular puzzle too easy or difficult. There are plenty of different configurations and modes to keep you entertained, including a practice mode where you can enjoy solving crossword puzzles without being timed.

Pocket Colony

Category: Games & Social

(Free)
App Store || Google Play

Pocket Colony is a popular app in Japan where users can create a mini “pockatar” that lives in a virtual world. Much like other applications (like LINE PLAY), you and your pockatar can complete quests together, play games, dress up and model a home for yourself. There is a large Japanese presence on this application, and if you’re up for the challenge, you can download the application in Japanese as well.

You can chat in the message boards or travel through different worlds to meet and befriend potential language partners. English support is only available on the iOS version at this time.

Ameba

Category: Games & Social

(Free)
App Store || Google Play

Ameba is a popular blogging website in Japan. Like many social networking sites, Ameba is available to take with you on your phone. Their application allows you to stay in tune with your favorite bands, fashion icons or video games. Ameba can be downloaded by users across the globe, however, the application itself is in Japanese.

The biggest benefit to using Ameba is that you’ll be able to maintain a blog in Japanese, and find native speakers who share similar interests. This can be a great way to discover new talents in Japan, make friends with native speakers, learn internet slang or record a dairy in Japanese and look back on your improvements later.

What you write about and the amount of writing you do is completely up to you.

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

 

Happy apping!

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