Best Apps for Learning Japanese

The 25 Best Apps for Learning Japanese Like a Boss in 2021

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.

In this post, I’ve sifted through app stores and websites to find the best apps for learning Japanese in 2021.

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.

These Japanese learning apps will allow you to easily swipe and tap your way to improved Japanese fluency.

The 25 Best Apps for Learning Japanese Like a Boss in 2021

Japanese Apps for Android and iOS Devices

FluentU

best apps for learning japanese

Website || App Store || Google Play

Category: Vocabulary & Grammar (+Dictionary)

Price: Free trial and subscription

FluentU naturally and gradually eases you into learning the 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 videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

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

Just take a look at the wide variety of authentic video content available in the program. Here’s a small sample:

learn-japanese-with-short-videos

You’ll discover tons of new Japanese vocabulary through these great clips.

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-songs

Tap on any word to look it up instantly.

You’ll see definitions, in-context usage examples and helpful illustrations. Simply tap “Add to” to send interesting vocabulary words to your personal vocab list for later review.

learn-japanese-with-movies

FluentU even uses a learning program which adapts to your specific needs to turn every video into a language learning lesson and get you to actively practice your newly-learned language skills.

practice-japanese-with-adaptive-quizzes

Access FluentU on the website to use it with your computer or tablet or, better yet, start learning Japanese on the go with the FluentU app for iOS or Android!

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

Learn Japanese

best-apps-for-learning-japanese

App Store || Google Play

Category: Vocabulary & Grammar

Price: Free version; In-app purchases required

best apps to learn japanese

Learn Japanese Phrases contains hundreds of 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.

The app also allows you to record yourself speaking and compare your pronunciation with the program’s audio to ensure that your pronunciation sounds like that of a native.

Best of all, you don’t need an internet connection to use the app, so you can access it anywhere, anytime.

Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese

best-apps-for-learning-japanese

App Store || Google Play

Category: Vocabulary & Grammar

Price: Free

best apps to learn japanese

Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese is a collection of Tae Kim’s online grammar guide, smoothed into a user-friendly app. It looks and feels a bit like a digital textbook.

Tae Kim believes that traditional textbooks are structured in an illogical way, designed to get learners speaking the language and saying English phrases in Japanese quickly. This might be useful for learning conversational Japanese quickly, but it’s not so great if you want to amass a strong understanding of Japanese grammar.

Instead, this guide takes you through Japanese grammar in a way that makes sense in Japanese. The result is a very good understanding of how Japanese grammar works and why it functions this way.

This is an excellent app for learners at any level who want to learn grammar in a way that makes sense.

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

renshuu

best apps for learning japanese

App Store || Google Play

Category: Vocabulary & Grammar

Price: Free

best apps for learning japanese

Looking for an app with a wide variety of learning games? renshuu is about to be your new best friend.

renshuu is a highly engaging app with in-depth explanations of vocabulary, grammar and kanji, and customizable quizzes to test your progress. Your efforts are rewarded with cute collectible badges and achievements. The app also offers fun learning games to test your skills, such as crosswords and Shiritori.

renshuu’s biggest perk is its diversity. You can adjust the settings on your flashcards, or spice things up with a crossword puzzle. If one of renshuu’s dozens of practical learning lists doesn’t suit you, you can easily make your own. 

What’s more, you can submit your own sentences through its themed writing games and receive helpful feedback from a vibrant community.

LingoDeer

best apps for learning japanese

App Store || Google Play

Category: Vocabulary & Grammar

Price: Free; subscription available

best apps for learning japanese

This beginner- to intermediate-level resource teaches the Japanese language and grammar in a step-by-step manner that continuously builds on what you already know.

In LingoDeer, Japanese courses are carefully structured to offer vocabulary lessons, detailed explanations on grammar points and contextual dialogues.

While the core of LingoDeer works by moving through units made up of lessons, the app also has other learning options, like flashcards, stories, phrasebooks and more.

The structured format of LingoDeer will take you from knowing nothing about the language to being able to form your own sentences at an intermediate level.

Anki

best apps for learning japanese

App Store || Google Play

Category: Flash Cards

Price: Free

best apps for learning japanese

While not exclusively for studying Japanese, many Japanese learners swear by Anki as one of the best ways to learn the language.

Anki takes your lists of vocabulary, grammar and even kanji and allows you to sort them into different styles of flashcards decks, from the traditional flip-and-reveal to filling in the blanks with the correct answer. 

Using a Spaced Repetition System, Anki keeps track of what you know and what you need to review. It then shows you words you’re at risk of forgetting at optimized intervals, until each vocabulary word is firmly lodged in your long-term memory.

Anki can be a bit intimidating to work with if you’ve never used it before. But don’t worry! There are many amazing community-created decks you can download and use for free.

HelloTalk

best-apps-for-learning-japanese

App Store || Google Play

Category: Digital Japanese Penpals

Price: Free

best apps to learn japanese

HelloTalk is a language exchange app that allows you to talk with others from around the world. The idea is to find a native Japanese speaker who’s learning English (or your native language) and “exchange” languages—that is, help each other learn your respective target language.

HelloTalk works pretty similarly to social media websites: You set up a profile with a brief summary about yourself. You also choose the language you’re learning and what level you’re currently studying. Then, you’re able to search for native Japanese speakers from around the world!

The platform used to chat is very much like any other texting application. Unlike other texting applications, HelloTalk also allows native speakers to edit your messages ad correct your grammar while you chat about AKB48’s upcoming concert (or whatever you’re into). The chat also has a built-in grammar correction feature, so you can learn as you type!

You can also share profile updates and even voice messages, so native speakers can give you feedback on your grammar, vocab usage or pronunciation.

HelloTalk boasts over 30 million users worldwide, so you’ll be sure to find someone you vibe with!

Kana (Hiragana & Katakana)

best-apps-for-learning-japanese

App Store || Google Play

Category: Reading & Writing

Price: Free

best apps to learn japanese

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 even shares some information on the history and origin of both.

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 each 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 for iOS and Android devices.

Pocket Colonybest apps for learning japanese

App Store || Google Play

Category: Games & Social

Price: Free

best apps to learn japanese

Pocket Colony is a popular app in Japan where users can create a mini “pockatar” that lives in a virtual world. Much like other similar apps (like LINE PLAY), you and your pockatar can complete quests together, play games, dress up and design a home for yourself.

You can chat on the message boards or travel through different players’ “worlds” to meet and befriend potential language partners. You can also hone your reading skills with the Japanese interface. English support is only available on the iOS version at this time.

Ameba

best apps for learning japanese

App Store || Google Play

Category: Games & Social

Price: Free
best apps for learning japanese

Ameba is a popular blogging website in Japan. Like many social networking sites, Ameba is available to take with you on your phone. The app allows you to stay in tune with your favorite bands, fashion icons or video games.

Ameba can be downloaded by users across the globe, but the application itself is in Japanese. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the language!

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 hobbies, make friends with native speakers and learn internet slang.

What you write about and the amount of writing you do is completely up to you. You can write about anything you find interesting, or even record a diary in Japanese and look back on your improvements later. You can also ask readers to point out any errors in your writing, so you’re always continuing to improve.

Drops

best apps for learning japanese

App Store || Google Play

Category: Games & Social; Vocabulary & Grammar

Price: Free; subscription available

best apps for learning japanese

We’ve all been guilty at some point of spending way too much time on a phone game. What if you could play a mobile game while learning Japanese? That’s what the idea behind Drops is.

Drops uses a game-style format to teach you Japanese. For five minutes a day, you’re fully immersed in Japanese as you swipe and tap to match images to words. Those five minutes are all you get for 10 hours, so you’re on the clock to make every second count! (With a subscription, time limits are removed.)

If you’re new to building a studying routine or looking for something to supplement an existing one, give this short and sweet app a try.

Easy Japanese News

best apps for learning japanese

App Store || Google Play

Category: News

Price: Free

best apps for learning japanese

Keeping up with Japanese current events has never been easier. Easy Japanese News compiles sources from a wide variety of major news outlets, such as NHK, CNN, TBS and Asahi, and puts them into one app.

Each article is interactive, enabling users to look up any word with a simple tap. The app also offers Japanese news podcasts and videos, covering all of your learning bases.

This app is also wonderful for JLPT hopefuls of all levels. Every word is underlined based on JLPT difficulty, which you can add to a personal notebook for later review. Practice tests are also available, covering material from both the listening and reading portions of the exam.

No matter what your Japanese abilities are, you can find interesting articles here that offer an exciting challenge.

LingQ

best apps for learning japanese

App Store || Google Play

Category: Listening & Speaking

Price: Free; subscription available

best apps for learning japanese

LingQ is an app that immerses users in text and audio media in their target language. The app lets you read authentic Japanese content like news articles and stories, as well as listen to podcasts, audiobooks and more. 

As you read, you discover “lingQs,” or words that you don’t know yet. Save these lingQs to your flashcard deck and you’ll be able to review them with the app’s SRS program. All audio content comes with a transcript, so you can easily save new vocabulary words from any type of content.

After setting your skill level, you’re free to browse their library of podcasts, stories and more. You can even import your own content to learn from what you love best!

italki

best apps for learning japanese

App Store || Google Play

Category: Listening & Speaking

Price: Depends on the instructor 

best apps for learning japanese

There’s just no better way to improve your Japanese speaking skills than by talking to a native speaker of Japanese.

With italki, you can find a tutor in any language you want to learn (including Japanese). The best part? There are no huge upfront fees—payments are made per lesson.

From formal teachers to casual tutors, lessons are personalized to you and designed to enable you to work on whatever you want. You can browse instructors based on user reviews and price, discuss what you want from your lessons and find a teacher who’s perfect for you. Most instructors are very passionate and eager to help you learn!

The app also allows you to connect with other language learners or form language exchanges for free, if you’d rather keep things informal.

Japanese Android Apps

Kanji Senpai

best apps for learning japanese

Google Play

Category: Reading & Writing

Price: Free

Kanji Senpai uses a spaced repetition system (SRS) which means that once you learn a kanji character, it won’t ever leave your memory. Characters return in later courses to ensure that learned kanji don’t slip away from your mind.

The app incorporates characters that will show up on all levels of the JLPT, and offers several ways to study different characters. Users can practice writing the characters, create and download custom vocabulary lists and review vocabulary through different quizzes.

The app even gives you access to cool statistics so you can set daily goals and keep track of how much and how often you study if that’s something you’re interested in!

Japanese Kanji Tree

best apps for learning japanese

Google Play

Category: Reading & Writing

Price: Free; pro version available

best apps for learning japanese

Japanese Kanji Tree is an app that’s dedicated to building your kanji skills. This app has a unique three-step process for teaching kanji: recognition, reading and writing.

Users can learn by JLPT level or by grade level and, with an upgrade to Pro, you can create your own learning lists. Kanji are broken into their radicals for easy comprehension, with their stroke orders provided in easy-to-follow steps.

With an intuitive interface and the freedom to go at your own pace, users are eased into the process of tackling one of the most intimidating aspects of the Japanese language. You can choose whether you want to learn new material or review what you already know.

Obenkyo

best apps for learning japanese

Google Play

Category: Reading & Writing

Price: Free

best apps for learning japanese

For a comprehensive Japanese learning experience, Obenkyo has you covered. From hiragana and katakana to vocabulary and particles, this app’s simple yet organized lessons will guide you through all of the basics of Japanese. It also works along with Tatoeba’s particle test and the Tae Kim guide, an excellent resource for learning the fundamentals of Japanese grammar that appears earlier in this list.

Obenkyo breaks down the Japanese language into all of its separate parts, making it perfect for beginners to get to know the language from its foundation. The app includes a guide to the kanas, kanji, vocabulary, particles, numbers and grammar.

The kana and kanji sections make use of handwriting recognition software, so you can practice writing correctly and legibly.

JA Sensei

best apps for learning japanese

Google Play

Category: Vocabulary & Grammar

Price: Free

best apps for learning japanese

This self-proclaimed “all in one” application teaches users everything they could want to know about Japanese—reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Each lesson introduces grammar and vocabulary with examples from real-world Japan, coaching you with comprehension checks at the end of every segment. This app’s quizzes employ the SRS system, which ensures you focus on the things you need to study the most. You can also record your own pronunciations and check them against those of natives!

JA Sensei boasts a collection of kana, kanji, vocab, phrasebook, grammar, native-recorded audio and many other language learning tools. There are quizzes and listening comprehension checks, guided lessons and a drawing tool for writing practice. Basically, you can get nearly everything you want to learn about Japanese in this one app.

What makes JA Sensei even more interesting are its cultural facts, which provide an insight into the customs of Japan and are sure to aid any would-be tourist.

Takoboto

best apps for learning japanese

Google Play

Category: Dictionary

Price: Free

best apps for learning japanese

This simple, handy dictionary app is a lifesaver.

Thanks to Takoboto’s offline functionality, you can search for Japanese words whenever, wherever. Searches can be made in English or kana, plain forms or conjugated forms—no matter what you’re looking for, Takoboto can find it, complete with plenty of example sentences.

You can look up singular words, but also common phrases and grammar. If that’s not sweet enough for you, Takoboto offers further explanations on grammar points through its website and links to the point’s entry on renshuu.

And if you find certain words you like, you can save them to your own custom lists. These lists can then be exported to AnkiDroid for study.

Japanese iOS Apps

Learn Japanese by Mindsnacks

best-apps-for-learning-japanese

App Store

Category: Vocabulary & Grammar

Price: Free

best apps to learn japanese

Learn Japanese by Mindsnacks is an app that focuses mostly on building vocabulary, and is great for adults and children alike. The program provides over 800 words and phrases to study and supports kana, kanji and romaji.

The app teaches new vocabulary through eight cute and vibrant games, complete with a colorful cast of cartoon characters.

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, and words are accompanied by native speaker audio. Also, past lessons can be reviewed in the application’s review mode.

Learn Japanese: Benkyō 

best apps for learning japanese

App Store

Category: Vocabulary & Grammar

Price: Free

When it comes to studying kanji, this app goes above and beyond. It drills your knowledge of kana, kanji and vocab through either SRS or custom intervals using several styles of learning. 

The app offers three modes of quizzing yourself: Flex SRS, Smart Quiz and Custom Quiz. Flex SRS lets you use spaced repetition, Smart Quiz lets you quickly drill what you’re most struggling with and Custom Quiz utilizes all the bells and whistles, from reviewing specific entries to choosing types of flashcards. You can also write on the screen to practice stroke order.

While unlocking all of this app’s features requires a subscription, Learn Japanese: Benkyo is designed to take you to the top.

Kana Quiz

best-apps-for-learning-japanese

App Store

Category: Reading & Writing

Price: Free; small fee to unlock all lessons

best apps to learn japanese

Kana Quiz is a basic app with two study choices: You can choose to read a word in romaji and match it with its kana counterpart, or you can view a word in kana and locate its romaji counterpart.

Kana Quiz takes a flashcard approach to learning 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.

It’s a simple but effective way to finally learn those kana once and for all!

Lext Talk

best-apps-for-learning-japanese

App Store

Category: Digital Japanese Penpals

Price: Free

best apps to learn japanese

Like other language exchange apps, Lext Talk allows users to connect to language partners from around the world. Once your profile is complete, you can select which language(s) 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 in the Kansai dialect, for instance.

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 target language.

imiwa?

best-apps-for-learning-japanese

App Store

Category: Dictionary 

Price: Free

best apps to learn japanese

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 context. 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. The app 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.

Waygo

best-apps-for-learning-japanese

App Store 

Category: Dictionary

Price: Limited Version Free

best apps to learn japanese

Waygo allows learners to use a picture of kanji to get an English translation. In fact, Waygo is even capable of live translations: Just open up the app, hover your phone’s camera over the Japanese in question and watch as the translation appears on your phone screen right before your eyes.

This capability works offline as well, so users will never be stuck for a translation. The app can translate text from Mandarin and Cantonese into English as well. Waygo’s free version allows up to 10 translations per day.

Japanese by Renzo

best apps for learning japanese

App Store 

Category: Dictionary

Price: Free

best apps for learning japanese

Japanese by Renzo is an incredibly powerful, comprehensive dictionary app. Results are sorted by relevance, so when you search for a word, you get the entry that most closely matches what you typed. 

Additionally, the app offers searches based on writing, a text reader for web pages, and the ability to import your data from other Japanese study apps. You can also add your own notes on entries.

While this app does have a Google Play version, the iOS version offers a far greater range of features. 

 

The next time you’re on your phone while killing some time, don’t play mindless games or scroll social media. With these 25 apps for learning Japanese, you can make the most of your downtime and tap your way to fluency!

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Japanese with real-world videos.

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