Learning Japanese with apps

Kanji dream, Japanese language learning app

What are your favourite apps for learning Japanese?

I am what most would call an early adopter. I love playing with new technology and new apps, but get quickly annoyed with crashes – I uninstall buggy and unstable programs and most likely don’t return.

I started learning Japanese by myself, many years ago, with a couple of textbooks and a medium-sized dictionary.

Physical flash cards were not cutting it for me – I always unintentionally left them at home, or forgot I had them with me. So finding a solution that used my phone was brilliant, especially for long waits in queues or doctors’ waiting rooms.

It has been fun, albeit sometimes a little frustrating, to try out a range of Japanese language learning apps as they were developed and released. It was much more necessary for me when I moved to Japan for work – with my teaching materials to carry, I couldn’t add heavy Japanese-English and kanji dictionaries to my bag!

I have had access to both Apple and Android devices, and although there are some increasingly good apps on Android, I still prefer the more mature and feature-rich iOS apps. I am leery of dropping money on newly released apps, preferring to test the free offerings first, then move to establish apps with glowing reviews (or enthusiastic suggestions from my friends).

Some apps that I had high hopes for, such as those released by JapanesePod101.com, were unfortunately disappointing, lacking in functionality and usefulness. Some apps were a little ‘too easy’, presenting only very basic vocabulary and kana (no kanji), or only using romaji! Others were focused too heavily on only one type of vocabulary – typically travel.

In time, I’ve found a bunch of fantastic apps which have stood the test of time (and my patience).

iOS Android
  • Japanese Flip and Kanji Flip – Great spaced-repetition flip-card apps for vocab and kanji. I use this one today, even though they are still using the old JLPT system (I’d love to see some updates for the new JLPT system).
  • Japanese (dictonary) – my favourite Japanese-English dictionary, replacing the one I previously used – Imiwa.
  • Kanji Dream – I have terrible trouble memorising the pronunciation of kanji, and this app forces me to learn it, but in a very cute environment.
  • Obenkyou – arguably the best kanji and flash card app on Android. One cool feature is that you can draw kana with your fingers to answer quiz questions.
  • JED – Japanese-English dictionary – a huge word-bank based on EDict, and best of all – free!

I have tested a number of Japanese vocabulary apps for Android and iOS over the years, but the ones above are the most oft used on my devices.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been testing any newer Japanese language apps in the last couple of years, as I moved to Germany, and had to focus on learning German quickly (of course with apps to help!) This means I’m a little out of touch with the current selection.

Do you have a favourite Japanese language app that you think I should try?


About LearnedWords
Freelance writer and language coach. Eternally curious, eternally learning. Managing multiple chronic pain illnesses.

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