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When it comes to learning Japanese, every little bit counts. You need to make the most of your time and focus on immersing yourself in the language as often as possible. One way to do that is to use the power of apps on your smartphone! And there are many amazing Japanese learning apps out there.
In fact, there are so many… how do you even know where to begin? Because they aren’t all made equal.
In my experience, I’ve tried a lot of Japanese language learning apps, and some were just a flat out bust. They wasted my time and taught inaccurate info. Others didn’t progress much farther than basic phrases, and I wanted to learn much more than that.
So I’ve rounded up the very best apps to learn Japanese fast. They’re easy to use, make the most of your study time, and help you to cram in Japanese whenever you can.
Learn to Speak Japanese — Pro Tips
Before we get to the apps, let’s go over some pro tips on how to learn to speak Japanese.
If you’re an English speaker (and I’m assuming you at least speak it well, since you’re reading this), then you’ve probably heard how hard Japanese is. But I don’t believe Japanese is any harder than any other language. In fact, I think it all comes down to your interest in the language. If you’re passionate about Japanese, then it will come more naturally to you.
So when you’re learning Japanese, use these tips to improve your study strategy:
- Skip past what you already know. A lot of apps repeat the same information. If you’re not an absolute beginner, don’t keep repeating what you know in every app you start. If you already know hiragana and katakana, move on to kanji… don’t keep reviewing it. That said, reviewing is good, but not if you never progress.
- Stick with only one or two apps at a time. If you want to test out the apps below, that’s fine. Test them out and find what works for you. But then stick to one or two, and hold off on the rest. Dive deep into them and get through them, instead of jumping around when it gets hard.
- Make sure you’re well-rounded. Don’t pick two apps that only focus on writing, for example. You’ll be neglecting your other language learning skills. Focus on improving your speaking, reading, listening, and writing.
- Don’t only use apps. Apps are great, but they’re supplementary. Don’t use them as your exclusive practice! Find other resources, too.
For other resources, check out our Japanese language learning resources page. I also highly recommend finding a Japanese language exchange partner, and the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge to push your skills to the next level. (You can read my experience learning Japanese in the Fi3M Challenge here.)
The Best Apps to Learn Japanese
If you’re serious about learning Japanese, these are the places to start. These are the best apps to learn Japanese with extensive learning materials that cover all four language skills.
Innovative Language: JapanesePod101
Innovative Language is one of the best resources for learning any language, but especially Japanese.
These Japanese lessons are effective, accurate, and cover a wide variety of topics and skill levels.
JapanesePod101 also has amazing culture lessons. Culture is a huge part of the Japanese language, and they offer several seasons of podcasts on all kinds of cultural insights.
JapanesePod101 is a podcast but also has video lessons, PDF notes, a word bank, and tutors. You’ll also select your Japanese level, and they’ll give you a “lesson plan” to progress through. The app is free to download but worth getting the premium package.
Mimic Method Japanese
Mimic Method is technically not an app, but I wanted to include it because it’s great for listening to on the go. It focuses on listening comprehension and speaking like a native.
By learning all the elemental sounds of Japanese, you start understanding faster because it won’t sound “foreign” anymore. It’s all about learning to mimic what you hear and focusing on the sounds so you can speak like a native. You’re learning “by ear”, the same way one might learn how to play an instrument.
You can learn the 31 elemental sounds of Japanese and master the pronunciation.
LingQ is a vast library of audio, video, and written content to help you improve your Japanese language skills. It can be difficult and time-consuming to find native Japanese content at your skill level that you’re actually interested in… but LingQ does that for you. The premise is you learn best when you’re interested, so immerse yourself in interesting Japanese content.
It’s also a language learner community, where you can find a language exchange partner, as well.
Mondly is one of the best-known language learning apps out there, with a ton of different types of content. There’s mondlyVR for a virtual reality immersion experience. There’s mondlyKIDS to help your kids learn through play. Mondly for businesses, and so much more.
One of the coolest things about Mondly, though, is that you can learn Japanese… from any language. Meaning, if you’ve already learned Spanish, you can learn Japanese from Spanish. It doesn’t have to be English to Japanese! This is a handy feature for people who have learned more than one language. So, you keep up their other languages while learning Japanese.
This one is best if you’re a beginner to the language but it can work up to an intermediate level.
Drops is a free app with a paid upgrade option, and it’s absolutely worth the premium price. Drops helps you learn vocabulary fast on a wide range of topics. I’ve learned so many words I had never even thought of learning, but are helpful to know.
The free version allows you to study for five minutes per day, but the premium version gives you access to the Dojo for reviewing and unlimited study time. Plus, you can use your account to switch between languages. So if you decide to learn another (or Japanese is your newest language you’re picking up), it’s great for multilingual study.
They also have another app, Scripts, that’s specific for learning to write in another language, like Japanese.
Free Japanese Learning Apps
A fantastic app for absolute beginners to intermediate learners. LingoDeer has several courses of study based on the JLPT N5 – N3 levels. The format is like Rosetta Stone. You learn by trial-and-error and image association. Meaning, you see a picture with the Japanese word, instead of seeing the English and Japanese words side-by-side. The design of this app is super cute and easy to navigate.
There are a lot of free lessons to get you to an upper-beginner level. But the premium version would be needed for the intermediate lessons.
Beelingual is a reading app. It’s full of short stories, novels, children’s stories, and news in your target language. It ranks the stories by the level of difficulty and includes audio and the translation to guide you along.
While it does have quite a few pop-ups, it’s still a helpful app. And the unlimited version is only a couple of dollars a month, if you want more to read.
A classic. The app itself is simple with no fluff, but it’s efficient. You load in your flashcard decks (or make your own) and Anki uses spaced repetition to help you memorize it. This one is a must-have.
NHK News Easy
From top Japanese news source NHK, this app helps beginners and intermediate Japanese learners improve reading comprehension. It takes real NHK news articles and simplifies them to shorter, easier to digest articles. The kanji and vocab are often more simple, and the articles will highlight new words. It links to a dictionary as well and often includes audio or video.
Bunpo, which means “grammar” in Japanese, helps you master Japanese grammar based on your level. It has 6 categories: the 5 JLPT levels and an absolute beginner category to learn kana and basic words.
The app has a clean design and explains all the important grammar to know in a clear and easy way. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered this app. Grammar I had struggled with before was explained in a better way, with clear examples.
After it teaches you the grammar, it quizzes you on what you learned. As you progress, you can move up levels until you’ve mastered them all.
Takoboto Japanese Dictionary
It’s always a good idea to have a dictionary app, and Takoboto is one of the best. Search for the words in kana, kanji, romaji, or English, and it’ll pop up with all the answers you need. You can also see the kanji breakdown and stroke order, and example sentences.
Poro has three different Japanese apps. One for vocab, one for phrases, and one for kanji.
While the pop-up ads can get a bit annoying, it’s a good app. The kanji one, especially, can help you memorize it faster. It includes helpful mnemonics and a radical breakdown of the kanji. Poro is available for Android and Apple.
Japanese Learning Games
Why not make a game out of learning? These apps will help you learn Japanese while playing around. It won’t even feel like studying!
Learn Japanese with Bucha
Similar in style to Super Mario, you have to answer Japanese vocabulary questions fast to jump over goomba-like creatures, and collect sushi.
Learn Japanese with Yami
An RPG-style adventure game. You earn coins and materials for your character by correctly answering questions in Japanese. You can customize your character and their weapon, and fight creatures.
Like a Game Boy style quest (think like Dragon Quest). You travel through a dungeon defeating different bosses to earn coins so you can “travel to Japan.” Because the main dashing hero is broke. Relatable, right?
PokemonGo, Animal Crossing Pocket Camp, and any Nintendo game
If you change your language settings on your phone to Japanese, almost any game or app will change its language to Japanese. But the best, most fun way to use this?
Learn Japanese with Apps, Anytime, Any Place
Now no matter your learning style, you can master Japanese right on your smartphone. There are tons of great Japanese apps, making it easier than ever to learn Japanese.
These are some of my favorites, but I’d love to hear from you, too. Which Japanese learning apps do you love? Leave a comment below and let me know!
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.