Learning Japanese – Apps

A long time ago I wrote a post covering some of the apps and resources that I was using to help me learn Japanese.

In this post I’ll cover the main apps that I’m still finding useful for learning and practising Japanese.

*Note – While some of the apps below are also available on iOS, I use Android.  So it’s possible there might be some differences in the iOS versions of them.

Apps

Kanji Study / Japanese Kanji Study (seems to go by both names)

This app is great for daily kanji practice, it has three ways you can test yourself on kanji. Flashcards, multiple choice, or writing challenges.

The writing challenge mode is great for practice, as you need to remember the kanji and write it out using the correct stroke order.  The flashcard and multiple choice options are still nice to mix things up a bit, and they also track a proficiency percentage of each kanji, so you can easily identify which you need to practice.

Over the last few weeks I’ve actually been using this to practice it’s full set of 103 N5 kanji each day.  And the writing mode is deffinelty helping me to remember them.

Kana and the JLPT N5 kanji are free, paying £8.99 to upgrade the app will give you full access to all N4-N1 kanji sets.  While that might sound a lot for an app, remember that reaching N1 takes most people 2-3 years, so you’ll certainly be getting your use out of this app.  I will be purchasing the upgraded version the second I start studying for my N4.  In my opinion the price for the upgrade is well worth it, and is a good study investment.

Available on: Android – Link || iOS – Link

Hello Talk

I wrote about this app a while ago (here), and it is still one that I would class as an essential app for language learning.  In fact it’s probably the third most used app on my phone, only behind Google Chrome and Twitter (I’m on Twitter a lot!).

This is deffinelty my favourite language learning app, as it helps you practise and learn a language, whilst also being a social media platform where you can connect with native speakers and other language learners.

I won’t write too much about it here, as the key functions still work pretty much the same as the last time I talked about it, so please have a read of my previous post on it.

There have of course been some small updates to it since I last wrote about it.  But I think I’m going to write a completely separate post to cover this app again, as it really is that good!

Available on: Android – Link || iOS – Link

Jsho / JED / A dictionary app of your choice

Admittedly when it comes to needing a Japanese – English dictionary to look things up, most of the time I actually forget I have dictionary apps and end up using Jisho.org which is a superb online Japanese – English dictionary.

However on the occasions when I actually remember I have apps installed, I tend to prefer Jsho as my choice of dictionary.  It’s fast, shows conjugations of verbs, gives clear definitions, and just has a nice layout and UI.  Oh, and of course it’s useable offline.

If you search a kanji character then there’s also a nice little feature that allows you to see a full list of words which contain that character in them.

Available on: Android – (Jsho) || iOS – (Jsho is not available, but many alternatives are)

NHK Easy Japanese News

This app gives short news articles about current events in Japan.  The kanji in the text has furigana and accompanying audio, making it great for reading and listening practice.  Each article is just a few paragraphs long, and due to the variety of topics it’s a great way to pick up new vocab, as each article will contain quite a few words that you won’t have seen before.

I try to read and listen to an article once to see what I understand from it, then I read it again using Jisho to look up the words that I don’t know (of which there are normally many!).  I don’t always remember those words, but I’m hoping by reading enough of these I’ll gradually start to remember more.

There is now however a downside to this app, and a rather annoying one at that.

This app has always been free, but with adverts in the form of a small advertising banner at the bottom of the app.  And that was fine, they were unobtrusive, but could be removed by purchasing the app for £11.99.

However at some point the team behind the app (It’s made/published by Aovill Team, NOT by NHK) decided to change this model.  So now the free version plays a video advert after every 2 articles that you look at (it is skippable after 5 seconds).  This is much more annoying and is an incentive to pay for the upgrade of the app.  But in doing so I discovered that the one time purchase option has been removed and replaced with a monthly subscription option!

Now in fairness the subscription is only £1.29 per month, and to be honest that’s not a lot.  But ultimately this app is just a ‘wrapper’, all of the articles are by NHK and available free on NHK’s website.  All this app does is package them into an easy to view list on your phone.  Aovill Team charging people monthly for content that they aren’t producing themselves feels quite wrong to me.

Available on: Android – Link

Kanji Senpai

This is another app that provides good options for daily kanji practice.  It has similar test methods to Kanji Study, but this app gives you the option of combining all of the quiz methods into one test.  So one question might require you to write the kanji out on screen, the next might be a multiple choice one asking for the reading of kanji, then the next might ask you to select the correct kanji for the listed meaning.

The only downside is the writing questions here don’t account for stroke order, and they don’t automatically detect your answer.  So it’s up to you to manually decide if you’ve written the kanji correctly, then mark yourself.  Where as Kanji Study automatically recognises the stoke order and if it’s correct, and marks you by accuracy & attempts.

In addition this app also has audio readings for most of the kanji and meanings, which is a nice touch, and is something that Kanji Study is lacking.

I prefer Kanji Study as my main app for kanji practice, but still keep this installed as the combined quizzes can be nice for variety every now and again.

Available on: Android – Link

Genki Vocab and Genki Kanji

These apps are made by the Japan Times as a companion to be used alongside their Genki Books.  They also made Genki Verb Conjugations, but this is not yet on Android so I haven’t tried it.

This series of apps are basic flashcard apps, offering nothing special in terms of features.  In fact the Genki Kanji app is so basic that it doesn’t even have audio readings on the flashcards, where as strangely the Genki Vocab one does.

These flashcards are still effective study tools, and the minimalistic interface is quite nice and easy on the eyes.  In addition the apps cover all of the lessons from both Genki 1 and Genki 2 books, so you won’t have to buy separate versions for each.

But at £4.49 to £5.99 each they are on the pricey side of things, especially as they are very basic in terms of design.  What you are really paying for is the convenience that these flashcards are pre-organised into lesson sets that match the lessons in the Genki books, making it easy to sort what you want to study.

I don’t regret buying these, but I have to admit value for money wise, these probably aren’t that great, especially when you consider that there are lots of free flashcard apps out there that would do virtually the same job as these.

Available on: Android – Link || iOS – Link

Memrise

This is a great app, and certainly one that I would recommend getting.

You start by selecting the language you want to learn, then browsing through the courses and picking out the ones best suited to your needs.

For Japanese there are loads of courses available, all tailored at different content and levels of the language.  As there are so many available it will take a initially take a little time to find the ones that work best for you, but it’s time well spent.  In my case I found a good course which has been structured to match the order of the lessons in the Genki books.  (You can add multiple courses and just toggle between them when you feel like it).

The courses are varied in content, the one I select is mainly designed to help you practise and remember vocab.  It does this by introducing a small batch of words at a time, and has you practice them through various methods.  These methods range from typing the words out in Japanese to multiple choice listening questions.  (though the audio quality is very inconsistent)

As you progress the app brings in regular speed reviews to keep testing your memory of words you’ve learnt previously.  Personally though I actually skip a lot of these, as the app really throws them at you a bit too frequently for my liking, and they become a bit tedious after a while

The app is available for free, with options to subscribe monthly, or purchase a lifetime membership for a one off fee, in order to unlock premium features.  I haven’t experienced the paid options, but as far as I can tell they contain more advanced learning methods, and tools for learning grammar through the app.

The free version tends to work more as a very unique flashcard and memory exercise app for vocab, rather than for teaching grammar.

Available on: Android – Link || iOS – Link

Learn Japanese Basic Words (formally known as Learn Japanese – Word)

*Note – I still have Learn Japanese Word installed, however searching on the store of the link for this post it seems that it’s been replaced by Learn Japanese Basic Words, which is the updated version.

This app displays cards of vocab and kanji (with furigana), along with an example sentence containing the word.  Each card has the English meanings hidden which can be revealed by just tapping the “?” on the card.

The app breaks words up into 3 courses, with each course consisting of 30 days, with each day containing 10 words a day, although you can access any day to practice at any time if you wish.

A nice unique feature of this app is the option of an “unlock test”.  Enabling this option will mean that every time you unlock your device, you will be presented with a Japanese vocab related question to answer! (It is skippable if you are really in a hurry or not in the mood).

The clean layout of the information on this app makes it great for daily 5-10 minutes of quick study.  This is also a really good and fun app to use for short tests, as this app’s test mode section has the largest variety of methods for testing that I’ve seen on any app.

Available on: Android – Link

Human Japanese Beginner & Human Japanese Intermediate

These apps are £9.99 each, but before purchasing you can try the lite versions which give you a taste of the first eight chapters of each for free.  The full versions have about 40-45 chapters each.

The beginner app is a great introduction to Japanese, it starts assuming that you have no prior knowledge of the language.  It begins by introducing kana, then gradually works through some basic grammar particles and vocab.  The explanations are very clear, and there are audio readings of the sentences it introduces.

At the end of each chapter there is a short 10 question quiz which you need to pass before progress to the next chapter.  (You can choose to unlock chapters without doing the quiz if you prefer).

The Intermediate version builds from where the beginner one leaves off, and starts to introduce more verbs, grammar and some of the different verb forms.

I would highly recommend these apps as they are probably the only apps I’ve seen that actually try to teach Japanese in a format and structure comparable to if you were learning from a textbook.  Even if you’ve already covered the content, they act as a very handy reference guide.

Available on: Android – Link || iOS – Link

JA Audiobook Learn Japanese

I still like this app for the occasional reading and listening practice, but I don’t use very often these days as there hasn’t been any new texts/stories added to it since the initial 20.

The short texts and stories are clearly voiced and quite entertaining.  The accompanying text is highlighted as it’s read out, making it easy to follow along.  In addition the kanji has furigana, and is colour coded to indicate which JLPT level it is from.

It’s a shame there doesn’t seem to be any new texts of stories being added, but the £4.99 is worth it for the 20 that it comes with.

Available on: Android – Link


Those are the core apps that I’m currently finding useful, if you have any recommendations for others that are available on Android then please let me know.

I had intended to also include a list of apps that I am no longer using, along with reasons why I dropped them (including a very long rant on why I found Duolingo to be an absolute joke!).  But this post has already turned out longer than planned, so I’ll put that off for another day.

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