11 Best Apps for Learning Japanese
Along with Chinese, Japanese is another one most difficult language to learn for native English speakers. If you’re looking for apps for learning Japanese, look no further.
Whether you intend to travel to Japan, watch anime without subtitles, or study for the JLPT, there are tons of free and paid apps that can help you learn Japanese at home.
In this post, we review some of the best Japanese apps. Some of these apps is suitable for beginners or intermediate Japanese learners, and some are designed for advanced learners. Some of them are focus more on reading and writing Japanese, while others provide full courses for the Japanese language.
Read on to find the Japanese app which is best for you.
Best Apps to Learn Japanese
Best for: Beginners or intermediate Japanese learners
Price: Free; subscription available
LingoDeer has a great reputation as a Japanese learning app in the market.
This app helps you learn Japanese vocabulary and grammar through flashcards and Quizzes. Reading and writing lessons are also available, and audio clips help with pronunciation. The Learning Tips feature explain grammar nuances and concepts.
Its courses have been carefully designed by language teachers and are very well organized. The courses are divided into different levels of expertise. Each level covers several everyday topics and each topic includes a few lessons. Also, the courses have a grammar skeleton that gets support from vocabulary, exercises, explanations, sample sentences and audio
LingoDeer can be used as an app on your phone or as a web language learning method. If you have a premium plan, you can use it across all your devices and sync your progress.
LingoDeer is recommended for:
- Absolute beginners to intermediate learners
- Learning Japanese through a variety of exercises and format
- Building practical vocabulary and learning grammar in context
Best for: Beginners just getting started.
Price: Free; Premium plan $9.99/month or $47.99/year
Mondly is a language learning app that claims to help you “play your way to a new language” and get you speaking “faster than anyone else.”
Like many other language apps, Mondly prefers short yet frequent lessons. The platform provides a “daily lesson” for you, which includes sentences and new vocabulary.
What I like the app best is that it uses a combination of course materials, augmented reality (AR), and chatbots to help learners master a new language.
Mondly currently support 41 languages that can be used in any combination. This means that you don’t necessarily need to learn from English. Instead, you can learn Japanese through French, Chinese through Spanish, or whatever other combination best suits your needs.
Mondly is recommended for:
- Vocabulary building
- Quick and engaging Japanese lessons
- Students who are also learning through other channels and are looking for complementary lessons
3. Pimsleur Japanese
Best for: Beginners who want to learn practical Japanese vocabulary and grammar lessons for everyday use.
Price: $150 per level (16 hours each)
Pimsleur Japanese is geared toward beginner to upper intermediate learners of Japanese.
Its courses are known as some of the best audio courses for learning to speak a foreign language. Their method includes a question/recall/response technique that is very effective for helping you internalize the basics of a new language. Many people who use Pimsleur cite a marked improvement in their speaking abilities.
Pimsleur is recommended for:
- Absolute beginners who prefer practical vocabulary and grammar lessons
- Busy learners who like listening to audio lessons while doing chores or driving
- Strengthening listening and speaking skills
Best for: Writing feedback & finding a tutor
Price: Depends on the instructor
Launched in 2007, italki is an online language learning platform that connects students all over the world to native-speaking teachers of their target language. On italki, you can learn different languages such as English, Japanese, Chinese, French, German, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, and so on.
Notably, this online language learning service is based on one-on-one teaching. Hence, you will be in direct contact with your teacher throughout the lesson.
Lots of Japanese teachers on italki have a good command of the English language. Hence, you will not have any issue with understanding what they are saying or trying to explain to you.
If you want to self-study and improve your conversational Japanese without living in Japan, italki is a good place for learning Japanese.
italki is recommended for:
- Beginners who want coaching from native speakers
- Anyone who wants guidance and quick feedback while studying Japanese
- Learners who prefer personalized lessons
5. Duolingo Japanese
Best for: Fun gamified learning, beginner to intermediate Japanese learners.
Price: The basic version is free for a lifetime account. Duolingo Plus is available for $6.99/month and comes with a 14-day free trial.
Duolingo is the most downloaded language learning app in the world. Over 120 million people use it to study nearly 30 different languages.
Duolingo takes a gamified approach to language learning. Lessons are grouped together by topic, or specific parts of grammar. These groups of lessons are called units and they make up the “language tree” (course) of Duolingo.
Learning Japanese as a foreign language often conjures up dreadful visions of rote memorization or endless grammar charts and Kanji lists. Duolingo does really feel like a game, and it does a good job of avoiding the monotony so often associated with language learning.
Duolingo is recommended for:
- Busy individuals who can’t commit to long hours of studying Japanese
- Gamified learning
- Those who are learning Japanese through other venues. Duolingo can be a companion app.
Best for: Intermediate or advanced Japanese learners.
Price: Free trial and subscription
FluentU is a popular video platform for language learning that’s been around now for several years.
FluentU has a pretty big library of videos, audio, and flashcards for each language. With each piece of content, you have a transcript, a translation, and a list of important vocabulary and phrases.
You can also sort the content by level (beginner to advanced), different topics like business, culture, or politics and society, and format. The formats consist of commercials, how-to videos, interviews, music videos, news, trailers, and more.
The breadth of FluentU content available can be really helpful for improving your listening skills. However, the actual process of working through the content and learning new vocabulary and phrases can be a little slow and repetitive.
FluentU is recommended for:
- Immersive and interactive learning
- Audio-visual learners who thrive in contextual learning
- Intermediate or advanced learners who already have a grasp on the Japanese language
7. Japanese Kanji Study
Best for: Kanji learning and writing
Price: Freemium, $12.99 for full access
With over 1 million downloads on Android, Japanese Kanji Study is a reliable kanji app that can provide loads of content for eager learners.
It will help you study hiragana, katakana, and over 4000 kanji with interactive flashcards. You can race the clock with multiple-choice questions, study through rote memorization, or physically write out the characters on your screen.
It also includes an extensive dictionary of characters. Each character page includes stroke order animations, writing practice, definitions, On-yomi, Kun-yomi, notes for mnemonics, and a unique visual decomposition of radicals that make up the kanji. The pages also identify the JLPT level of each kanji and provide a list of example sentences. Some of this information may be overwhelming for a beginner, but the beginner Kanji, katakana, and hiragana are free, so try it out!
Kanji Study is recommended for:
- Serious learners of the Japanese writing system
- Travelers. The dictionary function and offline access are handy.
- JLPT takers
Best for: Japanese speaking practice and learning practical Japanese.
Price: Free・Premium plan starts at $12/month
Busuu is a digital language-learning app with over 90 million registered users. The resource offers vocabulary and grammar practice through short, self-paced study exercises. It also has a social aspect that allows users to get writing and pronunciation feedback from native speakers.
This is how Busuu works: it relies on numerous conversations to enable you to use your chosen language in real-life situations. Busuu’s method isn’t about just improving your vocabulary; it’s about getting you ready to actually use the language you’re learning.
The lessons on Busuu are divided into activities. If you want to move to the next one, you’ll have to complete your current activity first. The app also allows you to practice your vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, track your learning progress, and correct other users’ mistakes (and vice versa).
Busuu is recommended for:
- Structured learning
- Travelers who want to learn basic Japanese phrases and speak to locals
- Japanese speaking practice with native speakers
9. Anki Flashcards
Best for: study vocabulary
Price: free (except $24.99 iOS version)
Anki Flashcards is a free and open-source flashcard program that relies on spaced repetition to increase the rate of memorization. You can sync across devices and customize what images, videos, and markups are used. Plus, there is literally no limit to the number of cards that can be inserted into the decks, so this will work no matter how much your vocabulary grows.
Anki is recommended for:
- Quick, on-the-go learning
- Intermediate and advanced learners who want to retain what they’ve learned
- Expanding your Japanese vocabulary
10. Tsurukame – For Wanikani
Best for: English-speaking adult learners who already have a solid foundation in Japanese
Price: A monthly subscription costs $9, a yearly subscription is $89 and a lifetime subscription is $299. The first 3 lessons are free of charge.
Wanikani is an innovative, useful app for beginning learners of Japanese kanji. The app provides mnemonic devices and a spaced repetition system (SRS) to teach radicals, kanji, and vocabulary.
This supplies daily lessons on radicals, which are the building blocks of kanji; it also provides lessons for the kanji themselves, which are then used to create vocabulary words.
In total, Wanikani offers 60 levels of content.
Each level has a different amount of radicals, kanji, and vocabulary. Additionally, each level plays off of previous levels–while you’re learning new radicals, for instance, you’ll also be tested on past radicals until you “burn” them.
Burning occurs when the site’s SRS determines that you know a radical, kanji, or vocab piece so well that you no longer need to be tested on it. In other words, it’s essentially been “burned” into your memory, so it will no longer appear in your daily lessons.
11. Mango Languages
Best for: Learn many languages at the same time
Price: A subscription to Mango Languages costs $7.99 per month for one language or $17.99 per month for all languages.
Mango Languages is an online language-learning program which contains more than 70 language courses. Native-speaking teachers and expert linguists craft each course and ensure that each lesson is grammatically correct, culturally appropriate, and accurate in conversation.
The lessons are set up as slides which include conversations, as well as some explanation about the language. It feels more extensive than most of the other language apps.
Also, I think the cultural notes are quite helpful, because they make it feel like more of a complete course, but if you are looking for something easy to do on your commute to work this can be a little involved.
One of my favorite features is semantic color coding, which helps to establish what the syntactic structure is like. Some other apps provide just the literal translation, but I find the colors make it a lot easier to understand visually.
Final Thoughts on The Best App to Learn Japanese
There are a ton Japanese learning apps out there, and you’re certainly able to try them all.
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.
Hopefully this post helped you decide which Japanese app might be best for you, so you can dive into Japanese and start learning right away.