There are many reasons to learn Japanese – to be able to watch anime without subtitles, to be able to build better business relationships, to challenge yourself, or maybe you’re going there on holiday.
Whatever your reason, trying to learn Japanese as a native English speaker can be very overwhelming. There is very little Japanese that is similar to English, you even have to learn three new systems of writing.
So where do you start? Perhaps you’ve looked into getting a personal tutor before realizing how expensive it is.
Perhaps you’ve bought yourself a textbook that you’ve struggled to get your head around. The good news is… there’s an app for that!
Many language learning apps are designed by professional educators who have spent years studying the best way to teach a new language.
We love apps for language learning because they combine that knowledge with the most up to date technology.
The apps will let you track what vocabulary you’ve learned, as well as track what you’re struggling with. And as a bonus, they’re way cheaper than a personal tutor.
We’ve put together this article, to help you find the best Japanese language learning app for you.
We’ve included a list of our five favorite apps, as well as a buyer’s guide and FAQs section so that you can get started on your Japanese journey as soon as you’ve finished reading this piece.
In a hurry?
Our top pick is the Obenkyo app – this app will take you from a very beginner to being confident in over 2500 Kanji and 14,500+ words. It also teaches Katakana and Hiragana.
This app uses quizzes and flashcards to help you build your vocabulary. Vocabulary is stored in lists that are easy to access so it is easy to keep track of what you’ve learned.
Originally designed to help students prepare for the JLPT exams, you can also sort vocabulary by the levels of the exam.
This app has a world-class handwriting tracker that will help you to learn how to write in Japanese, and do it well. It will correct form, shape, and stroke order.
It is unrivaled in the collection of vocabulary flashcards its offers. Although it did not originally offer a huge amount of grammatical teaching, it has recently imported grammatical guides from another well-reviewed app.
Firstly, this app offers a mind boggling number of vocabulary flashcards (over 14,500) and Kanji writing exercises (over 2000).
If you’re looking to build up your Japanese vocabulary this app has everything from beginner to advanced in one place.
This app uses quizzes, writing exercises, Flashcards, tables, games, and drawing exercises to help you learn.
One of the highlights of this app is its world-class handwriting tracker. This acts like a personal Kanji tutor and will help you to build up your Japanese writing skill in the correct way. It tracks form, shapes, and stroke order.
The Obenkyo app was originally developed to aid students in studying for the JLPT exams. If that is something you need the app for, you can filter the activities and vocabulary lists by exam level.
Although originally not offering a lot of grammar work within the app, Obenkyo has recently ported over the grammar guides from Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese (a name you’ll see pop up a little later).
You may want to find something more grammar oriented to supplement your learning with this app.
Unfortunately, this app is only available on Android – Apple users should check out our next choice, or Kanji Study.
This is the app for those of you who like things to be organized. Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese pitches itself as a complete guide to Japanese. And it’s free!
Designed by professional Japanese, Tae Kim, this app combines techniques used in Japanese schools and tips for second language learners to create a well-structured system that will push you (in a good way!).
Not only does this app help you build your spoken and kanji vocabulary, but it also does this whilst giving you the grammatical contexts of these words.
The app also provides a vast Japanese dictionary and everyone’s favorites – conjugation tables.
This is a free app that provides you with the content you could want, however, it isn’t very visually engaging. So those of you who are visual learners might not find this one very helpful.
This isn’t designed to be a game or to be a fun activity, it is a pragmatic tool to help you improve your Japanese language skills.