5 Best Japanese Chat Apps to Practice Your Conversation Skills
If you’re a social butterfly with a digital inclination, I’ve got great news for you: you can use your smartphone addiction to improve your Japanese conversation skills!
Technology and the internet have generally become accepted as excellent learning tools, with tons of quality apps that can connect you with language partners all over the world.
These programs are sometimes known as “chat to learn” or “chat2learn” apps and they can be used to message actual people in Japanese.
I’ve rounded up some of the best resources that harness the power of chatting with real people to help you jump on that 上手 (じょうず) — skillful train ASAP!
- 5 Best Japanese Chat Apps
- How should you prepare for chatting to learn Japanese?
- How to Find a Good Japanese Chatting Partner
- And One More Thing...
5 Best Japanese Chat Apps
1. HelloTalk (iOS and Android)
With its slick and modern interface, HelloTalk is super easy to set up (just sign in with Facebook and provide basic personal info).
The platform has handy “Translate” and “Correction” buttons that you can use during your chats to ensure that you and your partner are really learning and improving through your conversations.
HelloTalk also has a social-network-like newsfeed, where people post news, thoughts and language tools.
The app has an “unacceptable behavior” section that lists the things you can’t do, but no clear vetting process of their users. So if you’re uncomfortable with a conversation you’re having, your best option is to block the person and report them.
2. Tandem (iOS and Android)
Tandem is similar to HelloTalk but without the social media aspect.
On the plus side, everyone’s profile is vetted before they’re allowed to join: you fill an application with three simple questions (your interests, your ideal partners, your goals). You can “skip the line” and become a member directly by paying a subscription fee.
A cool feature is that if you get stuck filling in your profile, Tandem has some great prompts that’ll help you get started!
For example, for possible discussion topics to display on your profile, it offers up “I can help you kickstart… (your personal project)” or “I want to learn… (onomatopoeia in Japanese).” Use these prompts to help you find someone who has the same interests as you and to make your learning goals clear.
For a fee, you can also have a personal tutor on the app.
3. italki (iOS and Android)
Italki is an easy-to-use app with a simple interface that can help you with both finding a (paid) teacher or a (free) language partner.
Finding a partner is pretty easy since users tend to spend a lot of time on their bios to make sure they’re funny and original.
And on the off-chance that you can’t find a good person to chat with, you can schedule a lesson instead (for a small fee).
As a bonus, italki has a handy feature: The app syncs with your calendar directly to make sure you don’t miss an upcoming lesson.
4. Lext Talk (iOS Only)
LextTalk has a fun and unique feature sure to get you hooked: It hosts chat rooms with specific themes where you can easily meet friends with similar interests.
You don’t have to browse through a gazillion profiles to find somebody who wants to talk about the coolest tech innovations in Japan or the best okonomiyaki recipes—just find the right chat room and meet some fellow Japanese comfort-food lovers!
Another useful feature is the integrated map which lets you easily find a user from a specific city. This means you can hear the local accent of a city you plan to visit, or master 関西弁 (かんさい べん) — Kansai dialect.
5. Langmate — Chat with Japanese
The interface is a little less slick than some of the other apps we’ve discussed, but Langmate does its job well.
It essentially matches you to conversation partners that have things in common with you.
The app is Japanese so it has a large number of Japanese users to choose from. Of course, that also means that the English version of the app is sometimes a little confusing. But hey, there’s no better way to get on those kanji than to see them in use, right?
How should you prepare for chatting to learn Japanese?
Before you embark on your chatting and learning journey, we recommend that you learn how to read at least hiragana and katakana (kanji can come later) and that you install a Japanese keyboard on your phone.
We also recommend that you don’t go in as an absolute beginner. The chatting partners you find will be happy to help, but they’re usually just regular people, not teachers.
Do some learning on your own first, complete some beginner’s classes, learn with videos or do both. Several programs offer language learning videos, including FluentU which pairs Japanese media clips with learning tools.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
How to Find a Good Japanese Chatting Partner
Finding the right partner is absolutely crucial to getting the most out of chat2learn apps! Here are a couple of things to look out for:
Aside from both speaking Japanese, you and your language buddy should have at least a couple of shared hobbies, interests or personality traits, so you don’t run out of things to talk about. Speaking a foreign language is hard enough without stressing about conversation topics!
Your partner should be attentive to detail and committed to helping you improve. That means they should correct you, guide you and be able to answer a good amount of your language-related questions.
Your partner should understand your language learning goals and be enthusiastic about helping you meet them.
If you’re using an app that offers a two-way language exchange, you and your partner should have the same or similar levels in the languages you’re learning, so you can more or less pick up conversations where you left off in the other language.
And don’t forget that you should give back the same as you receive. In other words, be as enthusiastic and as helpful as your partner when helping them learn the language that they’re studying, too!
We hope at least one of these options has you up and rearing to chat away!
Remember: keep it fun, friendly and stay safe. Happy learning!
And One More Thing...
If you love learning Japanese with authentic materials, then I should also tell you more about FluentU.
FluentU naturally and gradually eases you into learning Japanese language and culture. You'll learn real Japanese as it's spoken in real life.
FluentU has a broad range of contemporary videos as you'll see below:
FluentU makes these native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts. Tap on any word to look it up instantly.
All definitions have multiple examples, and they're written for Japanese learners like you. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.
And FluentU has a learn mode which turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples.
The best part? FluentU keeps track of your vocabulary, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You'll have a 100% personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)