Japanese is one of the most challenging languages to learn, especially if you’re not native to the country. Not only is it difficult to adjust to the alphabet, but speaking the dialect isn’t easy. Since I have a love for Japan’s culture, I decided to hunt for the best app to learn Japanese.
There were different criteria I looked at. Besides prices and usability, I wanted to see how much of the language aspects the mobile apps cover.
Here’s a quick look at my guide for the best app to learn Japanese:
- Guide to the Best App to Learn Japanese
- Is Duolingo Good for Japanese?
- What is the Best Way to Learn Japanese?
- Final Thoughts
Guide to the Best App to Learn Japanese
I’m going to get straight to the point and show you which apps I found are the best if you want to learn to read and speak Japanese. I found them beneficial for different reasons, which I’ll highlight in each section.
LingoDeer: Best App to Learn Japanese for Beginners
When you’re only beginning to study this beautiful language, you may find some of the words and symbols difficult to understand. LingoDeer has courses developed by teachers, and you’ll find fun options like Spanish, Arabic, Korean, and Chinese. It’s also one of the best apps to learn Japanese if you want to build a strong foundation.
LingoDeer is free to download and install. It integrates words and sentences in a way that’s easy to understand, while you’ll also perform some tests. They help you with seeing how well you’ve grasped the language. The interface is beautiful and easy to use.
Android version: download here
|Comprehensive resource for Japanese||Not great for improving communication skills|
|Great for beginners|
Tae Kim’s Guide: Best iPhone App to Learn Japanese
If you’re looking for the best app to learn Japanese on iPhone, I recommend looking at Tae Kim’s Guide. There are organized lessons, painting a picture for understanding the complex context of sentence structures. You’ll receive some exercises to work through, and it also includes tables.
If you want to translate from English, you’ll find a vocabulary list with examples of proper definitions. You can click on the kanji readings to avoid jumping back and forth to the dictionary. All in all, it’s a stunning app if you want to learn Japanese the right way. It’s not as pretty as LingoDeer, though, but it is free.
|Vocabulary for quick translations||Bland colors|
|Systematic approach||Text doesn’t integrate well with mobile navigation bars|
|Available in various formats|
Obenkyo: Best Android App to Learn Japanese
Moving to Android-only software, I’d like to introduce you to Obenkyo. Not only is it incredible for learning the Japanese language, but you can use the touchscreen to practice the letter strokes. The kanji lessons are prepared at JLPT levels, so you know you’re getting proper training.
For me, the top feature is handwriting recognition. As you write the symbols, Obenkyo will become familiar with how you write. It adjusts its lessons to show you how to perfect your strokes. It’s a personal touch that really makes it stand out as the best app to learn Japanese on Android.
iOS version: not available
|JLPT-level lessons||Romaji keyboard is sometimes awkward to use|
Anki: Best App to Learn to Speak Japanese
Reading Japanese is one thing; speaking it fluently is another. I found that Anki is an outstanding app that provides audio cues so that you can hear how sentences sound. What makes the learning process easier is that it uses flashcards.
As you progress through the lessons, you can test yourself before flipping the cards. You can also use a timer to see how quickly you can answer the questions. There are so many incredible features and card decks, it’s hard not recommending it as the best app to learn Japanese via flashcards on your phone.
iOS version: download here
|Includes flashcard decks||iPhone version comes at a price|
|Great for learning to speak Japanese||Bland design|
|Impressive audio cues|
HiNative: Built By Native Japanese Community
The final item on my list is Lang-8’s HiNative. If you don’t like interacting with others, then perhaps look at the other apps I mentioned above. At its core, the application is home to people learning the Japanese language while taking advice from native editors.
While the PC browser version is better for typing on a keyboard, the iPhone and Android apps are quite responsive. Both versions are free this time. The top feature of HiNative is that native editors will provide feedback on your queries and translations, showing you how to improve your sentence structures.
|Native editors offer support||User interface isn’t very friendly to use|
|Massive online community|
|Responsive to mobile interaction|
Is Duolingo Good for Japanese?
For most people learning languages, Duolingo is fun and easy to master. The problem is that it doesn’t take you through the intricacies of proper grammar, and you may get lost along the way. You’ll study the alphabet and the basics rather quickly, but it’s not as effective as any of the best apps for learning Japanese listed above.
What is the Best Way to Learn Japanese?
Besides mobile apps, there are other elements you should look at to improve reading and speaking Japanese. The best app to learn Japanese can only take you so far, and you’ll need some extra help to advance further. Let’s take a quick look at what else you should try.
Learning directly from online Japanese teachers is still one of the best ways to study the language. You’ll have to pay for them, but the quality teaching you’ll receive might just be worth it. Two sources I can think of just off the top of my head Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur.
When you’re busy at work or commuting, listening to Japanese podcasts can help you finetune how you speak the lingo. You’ll find cultural slang and different phrases you may not be familiar with. You might not understand anything at the start, but you’ll grow if you spend quality daily time listening to it.
Movies with Subtitles
Another fantastic method of learning Japanese is watching Anime or Japanese movies where there are English subtitles. You’d be surprised how quickly you pick up on the dialect. Also, it’s good for a laugh when you’re watching comedies with friends.
Japanese comics are called Manga, and they are rich with kanji characters. It’s a wonderful aid to learning how to read Japanese, especially if you want to start becoming a speed reader. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy reading a good comic book?
Before you head to the local pub and start singing away, I recommend you learn some Japanese songs first. It will help you pronounce words properly, especially if you have the music on repeat. When you’re ready, go try some karaoke and keep up with the subtitles.
Find a Friend
This last lesson I personally found very helpful. I met a Japanese friend online a few years ago, but we spent most of our time speaking English. It was only when I started studying the language that I discovered how valuable knowing someone in the native tongue can be. She quickly showed me where the apps are right, and that there are different ways you can say specific things.
Finding the best app to learn Japanese was certainly an enjoyable experience. I became familiar with the alphabet and sentences, and I made some good friends along the way. I hope that my journey has inspired you to download some of the software and test them out.