Whether you’re busy working hard to save money to come to Japan or are already here but want to make the most out of your time exploring the wonderful historical sites, making use of apps to learn Japanese can help you make the most of your spare time.
When it comes to learning Japanese it can be difficult to know where and how to start learning. Textbooks aren’t everything when studying these days either and mixing together your learning methods can be the best way to find out what works for you. One of our favourite approaches is using apps to learn Japanese. You can get a range of resources for learning everything from kana, kanji, conversation, grammar, and vocab. There are a lot of options though and knowing which ones are going to help you make the most progress with your learning can take time. So whether you have iOS or Android on your phone, we’ve trawled through all the apps for learning Japanese and put together a list of our favourites.
If you’re starting out on your journey of learning Japanese then you’ll be going with Hiragana and Katakana. The first app on our list is to help with that. Hiragana Quest uses mnemonics to help you learn both sets, meaning that you’ll always remember them once they’re in your head. We are a bit biased though as it was developed by one of our former students! Our mascots Hirako and Katako take you through step by step with a story for each character and a chance to practice writing them as you go.
The app is available for download here www.hiraganaquest.com. It’s on both iOS and Android on the apps stores too.
Next up is Jsho. We can’t have a list of apps for Japanese without including a dictionary. Jsho gives you options to look up words in English and Japanese with multiple input options. For Japanese you can enter words by Hiragana, Kanji and Romaji. This is great if you’re not sure what something means, but you only know the word by the pronunciation. What’s more, if you’re unsure of a Kanji character and don’t know the spelling you can input using a selection of radicals. It can be a little time consuming, but is very useful.
There’s a useful filter for nouns, verbs, etc and when you click on the word you can see the breakdown of each Kanji character including JLPT level, on’yomi, and kun’yomi and even the stroke order for each character. There’s also the option to bookmark your favourite words to help you practice the ones you come across most regularly.
Last but not least, where applicable, it has the full range of conjugations for each word including the polite, past and negative versions, which can be a real life saver for the trickier parts of JLPT practice.
This app is available on Android and has full offline functionality without taking up much space.
This is our favourite for learning Kanji. There is a free version that has lower level kanji as well as hiragana, katakana and radical study options. The higher levels are very worth it though as the functionality is really extensive. You can sort by JLPT levels or a ridiculous range of other options including Japanese school grades, frequency in media and many more. You can create custom sets for learning and you can choose between flashcard study, quizzes and writing challenges, each of which are tracked so you can set targets and see your daily progress. Each character has a comprehensive page including stroke order, definitions, all readings (including playable options to hear the reading out loud), recommended words and a range of example sentences. This might seem like a lot to be getting on with but there’s more. You can also see the stroke order including parts highlighted based on common mistakes people make AND a list of other Kanji that are often confused with the one you’re reviewing. It’s essentially collated data from all the quizzes that its users have completed to understand common mistakes that people make to help you understand what to look out for.
With such an extensive range of functionality, it’s worth the small cost to get the full range of Kanji and it’s updated regularly to keep in line with government standards and JLPT updates. Oh, and just like Jsho, it has full functionality offline.
It’s all well and good learning a language but if you’re not practicing using it then what’s the point?! Now we know that’s why you’re coming to Japan but if you want to get started before you arrive or you’re still feeling a bit shy while you settle in then HelloTalk is a good option for you. It lets you connect with Japanese speakers to practice your skills. You can either chat with people one to one or put out a question to everyone on a feed to test a sentence structure or ask a question. People can then reply with the correct form to help you understand where you might have gone wrong. You can also make friends and practice conversation across the globe. There are built-in dictionaries and translation tools if you get stuck too.
Last but not least is Tae Kim’s guide to Japanese Learning. It should be your bible to Japanese study. It covers everything you could ever need to know about grammar rules in Japanese. It can be a bit heavy because it’s so comprehensive but it is an excellent reference to have to hand, particularly for looking up things like the million types of counters you will need to learn and how to navigate your way around the different levels of politeness. Definitely one for dipping in and out of but it’s all explained from a native speaker’s point of view. You will find that he’ll explain a grammar rule and then tell you that actually most Japanese people don’t say that and use a different form that’s not grammatically correct but is more natural.
It’s currently only available on iOS but there is a website and a book if you really want to get lost in Japanese grammar.
So now you know the best apps to learn Japanese why not take your study journey to the next level and contact the staff at Go! Go! Nihon to learn Japanese in Japan.
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