Fast-paced games. A wide range of material. Free language lessons.
When it comes to studying Japanese, what’s not to love about Duolingo?
Yes, Duolingo is one of the most beloved language apps out there. But there are also plenty of reasons to look for other language apps.
You may have finished the Duolingo program, and now you’re searching for another entertaining Japanese language app.
You might not be able to get enough of learning with Duolingo! If that’s the case, stocking up on a couple of similar apps could fulfill your needs.
Maybe you love Duolingo, but you want to learn more than just Japanese vocabulary. You need an app that can teach you grammar, pronunciation and writing. There are apps out there that make for great supplements to Duolingo.
Or maybe you enjoy certain things about Duolingo, but when it comes down to it, this just isn’t the Japanese language app for you.
Good news. You can learn Japanese with apps like Duolingo!
There are plenty of apps out there that are similar to Duolingo in one way or another. Some are super similar but can teach you more than just vocabulary. Others have similar components but different approaches, scratching an itch that Duolingo might not.
There are several things that make Duolingo special. So what should you search for in comparable apps?
What to Look for in Japanese Apps Like Duolingo
So, what exactly are you looking for?
Duolingo has several great features. Before you choose another app, think about which of Duolingo’s characteristics are most important to you.
- Gamified learning. Sometimes, a little instant gratification can go a long way. Duolingo rewards you for answering questions correctly and meeting your learning goals. The app incorporates rewards, points and levels as motivational tools to encourage you to continue studying. If gamification keeps you going, a Japanese language learning app that includes similar strategies may be a good fit.
- Studying in short spurts. We don’t all have time to sit in a lecture hall for three hours per week. That’s why we have language learning apps! Duolingo aims to teach you Japanese in just 5-20 minutes per day, making it ideal for a student with limited time on their hands. You might want to find another app that doesn’t require a huge time commitment in order for you to get a lot out of it.
- Free or affordable learning. Yet another reason we don’t all want to enroll in a college Japanese course—the money. Duolingo is free to download and use. It does have a Plus option for $6.99 per month, as well as in-app purchases. Affordable learning is a big draw for people learning with Duolingo. Many of the apps on this list will teach you Japanese at a low cost, if not for free, just like Duolingo.
- Learning multiple writing systems. Japanese can be a bit… complicated. There are multiple grammar rules, difficult words to pronounce and, of course, writing systems. Duolingo teaches kanji (Japanese characters that fit with the Chinese writing system), hiragana (a popular style of writing similar to cursive) and katakana (an angular form of syllabic writing). If you’re searching for an app to replace Duolingo, you may want one that covers these three writing systems. If you’re looking for a supplemental app to Duolingo, it could help to use one that teaches another writing system, like romaji.
- Covering a wide range of topics. Duolingo primarily focuses on vocabulary, and the app divides vocab lessons into categories. You may choose to learn about hobbies, restaurants or school, just for starters. The categories and vocab become more complex as you reach higher levels. When choosing an app, examine the range of Japanese vocab that the app exposes you to. If you’re happy with the variety and types of categories, it could be the app for you!
Now that you know what to look for, check out some of the best options to learn Japanese with an app like Duolingo. You’ll read about how each app resembles Duolingo, and then see how they all have something unique to offer.
Don’t feel like you need to try all 10. (In fact, please don’t!) Find two or three that have the qualities you look for in a language-learning app, then get downloading.
Want More Apps Like Duolingo? Learn Japanese with 10 Great Options
Available: iOS | Android
What makes gamified learning so effective? It’s engaging. It’s entertaining. It makes us want to keep going.
Like Duolingo, FluentU incorporates rewards, points and levels into your language learning routine. But it kicks entertainment up a notch by adding even more fun: authentic videos.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
Available: iOS | Android
Like Duolingo, Memrise uses games and rewards to motivate you to study Japanese. However, Memrise also uses more traditional teaching methods.
So if you occasionally crave something more structured than just playing games, Memrise could be your perfect solution.
The app incorporates learning methods such as Learn with Locals videos and interactive quizzes. Memrise even has voice recognition software to help you perfect Japanese pronunciation.
Learn Japanese with Memrise in as little as five minutes per day. The first lesson is free, then you can choose from a few subscription options. Subscribe for one, three or 12 months, or pay once for a lifetime membership.
Available: iOS | Android
Busuu does share some features with Duolingo. For example, Busuu aims to teach you Japanese in just 10 minutes per day, so it’s easy to use if you’re crunched for time. It also places an emphasis on vocabulary and even has a section dedicated to travel phrases, just like Duolingo.
Busuu’s lessons are a bit more intense than Duolingo’s, though. Yes, Busuu teaches vocab, but it also teaches grammar, pronunciation, writing, reading and conversation skills. The app even helps you create a personalized study plan so you can maximize your study time. So if you’re looking for an option that’s more intensive than Duolingo, you might like Busuu.
With Busuu, you can easily track how much progress you’ve made. The program’s ultimate goal is to help you become fluent in Japanese. And even though Duolingo will teach you a ton of vocab (even well into the advanced level), it might not necessarily make you fluent. Because Busuu focuses on a well-rounded group of skills, fluency is more attainable.
This app does offer free learning options. If you want access to all Busuu’s features, you can try the free trial for seven days, then sign up for a one-month, six-month or 12-month subscription.
Available: iOS | Android
Duolingo is fun and useful, but it doesn’t offer much assistance in Japanese grammar. If you want to strengthen your grammar skills, consider downloading Bunpo.
Bunpo includes a complete Japanese grammar dictionary. You’ll also have access to 1,800 vocab words and 8,000 quiz questions to master multiple language skills, including listening, reading and writing.
You’ll take quizzes on the Japanese alphabet (katakana and hiragana), access a kanji dictionary and receive detailed grammar notes about why the language works the way it does.
Like Busuu, Bunpo has similarities to Duolingo but is a bit more intense. The program starts at a beginner level but can take you all the way through business-level Japanese. This may be a little much for some learners, while others could find it useful.
Bunpo is free to download. You can subscribe for one month for $7.99, one year for $19.49 or a lifetime for $29.99.
Language Course S.L.
Like Duolingo, Language Course S.L. focuses mainly on vocabulary. You’ll access 10,000 Japanese vocab words! Unlike Duolingo, the app also includes flashcards to help you memorize words.
Vocab is split into four sections: Most Frequent Words in Japanese (levels A1-C1), Dating Phrases, Practice Business Japanese and Travel Phrases. These categories should give you a well-rounded knowledge of Japanese vocab, just like Duolingo’s categories.
This app offers a listening-only option. Many learners find comprehending spoken Japanese to be more difficult than reading, so this is a handy tool for people trying to boost their listening skills.
Language Course S.L. is designed to be used for as little as 10 minutes per day, and you can use it offline. Best of all, it’s completely free!
Available: iOS | Android
Drops has a lot of similarities to Duolingo! Both apps feature exclusively gamified teaching methods, and both focus solely on Japanese vocabulary. No boring grammar rules.
With Drops, each vocab word comes with an illustration, which will hopefully make it easier for you to memorize.
Drops aims for users to study just five minutes per day. This app can be a great supplement to Duolingo because although they’re both game-based, their styles are different. If you need a break from Duolingo, just pull up Drops to keep learning, then switch back. Stay on your toes!
You can play for five minutes each day for free, or pay for access to 10 minutes daily. By purchasing Drops Premium, you’ll access unlimited time, no ads, offline access and even listening tests. Premiums costs $9.99 monthly, $35.04 annually (coming to $2.92 monthly) and $159.99 for a lifelong membership.
MindSnacks also features gamified learning, but it offers eight games total—much more variety than Duolingo! Each game targets a different skill, which also makes this app more thorough than Duolingo.
Duolingo focuses exclusively on vocabulary, but MindSnacks brings reading, writing and conversation skills into the mix. So if you like Duolingo but want an app that provides a bit more, MindSnacks could be a great fit.
Both Duolingo and MindSnacks will teach you kanji and kana. However, MindSnacks also teaches romaji. If you pair these two apps together, you could receive an impressive education, especially considering you can learn it all without leaving the couch.
You can try the first Japanese lesson for free, then access all 50 lessons for $4.99.
Available: iOS | Android
LingoDeer is a great app for lower-level Japanese students. It starts at the very beginning and goes through the intermediate level. Once you become more advanced, you might choose to go back to learning with Duolingo or choose an app from this list that offers advanced material.
Like Duolingo, LingoDeer teaches you a ton of vocabulary. You’ll learn the 2,000 most common Japanese words and phrases. You’ll also study kana, kanji and romaji.
This app also includes a variety of exercises to change up your study routine and keep you engaged. The wide range of activities will teach you speaking, reading and writing skills. You’ll even hear recordings of native speakers so you can master the pronunciation of each vocab word.
Learn Japanese by studying for just 10 minutes per day. LingoDeer is free to download, but you’ll need a monthly subscription to continue. You can choose a monthly, quarterly, annual or lifetime membership.
Japanese Kanji Tree
Do you want to focus specifically on learning kanji? Then this app is for you!
Japanese Kanji Tree introduces users to all 6,355 kanji, as well as to over 110,000 Japanese words. That will keep you busy for a while.
The app has three games to develop three different skills:
- The Kanji Recognition Game: We all know the matching game! This game will help you memorize kanji before you move on to more advanced stuff.
- The Word Reading Game: You’ll learn to actually form words with individual kanji and slowly build your reading skills.
- The Word Writing Game: Once you’ve mastered the basics of recognizing kanji and reading complete words, you get to practice writing kanji and words.
As you can see, Japanese Kanji Tree is based around games, just like Duolingo. However, the games are more versatile and build more skills. You can use the app for as little as five minutes per day, but there’s no limit to how long you can study.
Japanese Kanji Tree provides an ad-free experience for completely free! You do have the option to sign up for a paid version, but it would just be to donate to the company so the creators can keep affording to produce material.
Tinycards by Duolingo
Available: iOS | Android
If you like Duolingo, then I have a feeling you’ll like the Tinycards app—because it was actually created by Duolingo!
Tinycards involves some of the same elements as the traditional Duolingo app, such as the ability to learn in a few minutes per day and a focus on vocabulary. But instead of games, it uses flashcards.
You can choose from thousands of vocab categories to focus on a topic. If you’re preparing for a school exam or just want to focus on a specific group of words, you can create your own deck.
Flashcards include animations to help you memorize the words, so even though Tinycards doesn’t use games, it does still keep things entertaining. Pairing Duolingo and Tinycards could make for an effective strategy to memorize Japanese vocab from your phone.
And just like Duolingo, Tinycards is free! There isn’t even a Premium option, so you can access everything at no cost.
Whatever your reason may be, there’s no harm in finding a couple of apps that resemble Duolingo. If you find two or three similar apps to suit your needs, you just might be able to learn everything you want to know.
Which of these options will you use to learn Japanese with apps like Duolingo? Pick two or three of your favorites and start downloading!
Laura Grace Tarpley is a freelance writer based in Nashville. She writes about language learning, travel and personal finance. Follow her on Twitter @lgtarpley.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Japanese with real-world videos.