Understandably, you’d want to learn Japanese if you’re an anime fan, a J-pop fan, or simply a fan of all things Japanese. The language is attracting more non-native speakers. Thankfully, many Japanese learning apps are available, so you can get a head start with just your smartphone!
As of 2019, Japanese, known as Nihongo, is the world’s eighth most widely spoken language. It also has a reputation for being a complex language to learn for English speakers due to the lack of grammar similarities between the two languages.
You can look at it this way: learning any language is difficult, but you will succeed with enough motivation and perseverance.
As a result, you’ll need apps to help you learn Japanese on the go. Here are the top 20 best apps to learn Japanese.
Table of contents
Can you learn Japanese with an app?
No single book, course, or app can provide you with everything you need to learn a language.
So, while you can learn Japanese with an app, it won’t be the only thing you need to become fluent in Japanese.
In the end, the best way to learn a language is to interact with it, so while an app is a great place to start, don’t expect it to be the only tool you’ll need.
How to learn Japanese with an app?
Make a daily routine for yourself.
You can learn a language while waiting for your dentist appointment or riding the bus. Making practice a part of your daily routine is the best way to ensure that you do so. Look at your schedule and see what activities you can add to it.
Find one that meets your requirements.
Every language learner has a different goal, and each app has a different focus, and it’s critical to understand both.
Make a list of what you want to accomplish (speak a language on holiday, understand cinema or literature, etc.)
Try to find an app that will help you achieve that goal.
Many excellent choices are available, but not every app will be the best fit for you.
Jot down ideas
While doing everything on your phone is convenient, studies have shown that writing things down makes them easier to remember.
Don’t be afraid to scribble down some notes, even just to keep track of what you’ve learned.
Make it a social event.
While many apps already include a competitive component, nothing beats doing something with a friend. Try to find someone in your area who is also interested in learning a language.
It doesn’t have to be the same as long as you can keep each other entertained.
Remember to speak
It’s easy to use an app casually while typing answers, but don’t forget to practice speaking it.
Why learn Japanese with an app?
Apps are a great way to start your language-learning journey for several reasons:
Most apps have fine-tuned the process to make it as simple and enjoyable as possible while covering some of the most important topics.
Each app takes a different approach, but you will learn Japanese regardless of which app you use.
A low entry fee
One of the most appealing aspects of learning through an app is how simple it is to get started.
Most apps are free or offer a free trial, so you can always try them out to see if they’re right.
Though learning through an app may appear to be simple, most apps employ a large team of linguists and language learners who ensure that the content you are learning is actually useful.
Though some of the phrases may appear strange, they have been considered by others.
The randomness of some sentences can help you think more deeply about what you’re saying rather than writing on autopilot.
Top tips for learning Japanese
Now that you know what the best apps to learn Japanese are, here are some pointers to help you get the most out of your lessons:
Learn how to write in Japanese.
Focusing solely on expanding your Japanese vocabulary is tempting, especially given the complexity of the Japanese alphabet and kanji. However, learning to read and write will aid your language comprehension.
Keep in mind that your native tongue is not the same as Japanese.
Nihongo is a completely different language from English and other languages. Its own grammar rules, politeness levels, and conjugations are all unique. If you’re serious about learning Japanese, you must accept these differences.
Limit yourself to one or two apps at a time
It’s difficult to say which is the best app to learn Japanese. You must determine your learning objectives and test your options before deciding. However, limit yourself to one or two so you don’t become overwhelmed.
Immersion is crucial.
To improve your listening and reading skills, surround yourself with Japanese content. Watch Japanese movies, read Japanese books, listen to Japanese music, and use textbooks to learn Japanese. Maintain your immersion and put what you’ve learned into practice.
Read: 20 Best apps to learn Italian in 2023
Just go for it.
Don’t be put off by common misconceptions about the Japanese language. Choose an app and get started. Ultimately, your interest and commitment will keep you motivated to learn the language, no matter how difficult it is.
Best apps to learn Japanese in 2023
Mondly is the best app to learn Japanese overall as it has multiple features that make learning Japanese more immersive than other apps.
20 Best apps to learn Japanese in 2023
- Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese
- Rocket Languages
- Hiragana Quest
- Kanji Study
Mondly is for you if learning Japanese with cutting-edge technology appeals to you.
It is a beautifully designed app that offers daily bite-size lessons, chatbot conversations, language exercises, audio guides, and tests in over 40 languages. The app includes speech recognition, augmented reality, and even virtual reality for an immersive learning experience.
Its best feature, however, is that it allows you to learn languages in any combination. Any language, not just English, can be used to learn Japanese.
Mondly works best for:
Quick and engaging Japanese lessons.
Students who are also learning through other channels and are looking for complementary lessons.
If you think learning Japanese is boring, the Japanese vocabulary app from MindSnacks will prove you wrong. This app uses addictive games to teach you over 800 words and phrases.
Kana (syllabic Japanese characters), kanji (logographic Chinese characters), and romaji (Japanese characters) can all be used to practice reading and writing (romanization). Memorization is aided by the app’s colorful and beautiful images, which makes it ideal for children. Pronunciation is also aided by audio clips provided by a native Japanese speaker.
This app features 50 Japanese lessons designed by expert instructors, with each lesson containing 20 words. The enhanced review mode lets you replay previous lessons, too.
MindSnacks works best for:
Adults and kids alike who enjoy visually appealing and fun lessons.
Beginners who need that extra push. Beating high scores should be enough motivation.
Pimsleur is more than just a language learning app. It’s a technique for learning a language.
Pimsleur is a language learning system created by Paul Pimsleur, a linguist, and educator (spaced repetition system). Learners are exposed to new words at ever-increasing intervals, and each time they remember more than the last time.
The course begins with fundamental phrases, vocabulary, and practical grammar lessons, progressing to an intermediate level of speaking and comprehension. Pimsleur Japanese is unique in that it includes reading lessons for hiragana, katakana, and a few kanji characters.
Pimsleur works best for:
Absolute beginners who prefer practical vocabulary and grammar lessons
Busy learners who like listening to audio lessons while doing chores or driving
Strengthening listening and speaking skills
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Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese
Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese on iOS and Android is a great and systematic grammar guide that is frequently listed as one of the best apps for learning Japanese.
This app version of the popular online grammar guide contains all of the information you’ll ever need about Japanese grammar.
It’s not the most attractive app (it’s laid out like an eBook), but it does a good job of explaining Japanese language structure, grammar, and vocabulary. Hiragana, katakana, and kanji are taught in the beginning.
Are you a Japanese aficionado? Don’t write this app off just yet. The final chapters cover more advanced topics and more difficult aspects of the language.
Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese works best for:
Beginners who prefer comprehensive Japanese lessons.
Learning and mastering Japanese grammar.
Advanced learners looking to go over more complex lessons or brush up on what they’ve learned.
While self-studying with a Japanese language app is a good use of your time, hiring a Japanese language tutor, especially if you’re a beginner, makes a lot of sense. A tutor will teach you not only how to read and write Japanese, but also how to speak it. Italki was created for this purpose.
Italki connects 5 million language learners with over 10,000 professional and community tutors who can help them learn a variety of languages. On Italki, over 600 Japanese teachers offer conversational Japanese classes and structured lessons tailored to your specific needs.
Lessons are done via video chat, typically through Skype, and prices cater to all budgets.
Italki works best for:
Beginners who want to coach from native speakers
Anyone who wants guidance and quick feedback while studying Japanese
Learners who prefer personalized lessons
Without a doubt, one of the best apps to learn Japanese, JapanesePod101 by Innovative Language uses podcast-styled audio lessons to teach grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and reading.
Each lesson features real-life Japanese conversations with native speakers. The hosts will then break down the grammar and vocabulary in the conversation. Cultural context is also provided, as well as audio transcripts so you can read along or review later.
Innovative Language: JapanesePod101 works best for:
Beginners to advanced learners who want to improve their Japanese listening skills.
Learning Japanese with a cultural context.
Rocket language is one of the best apps for learning Japanese if you prefer structured learning. You’ll learn useful Japanese phrases and work your way up to the finer points of the Japanese language and culture through interactive audio lessons.
Rocket Languages gives you a well-rounded Japanese education by covering grammar, vocabulary, writing, reading, listening, speaking, and even culture. How to write in Japanese is also demonstrated in step-by-step videos.
Rocket language works best for:
Beginners to intermediate learners looking for a balanced way to learn various aspects of Japanese, including writing and reading.
One of the best apps to learn Japanese is the Japanese dictionary app.
Imiwa contains over 170,000 Japanese entries and corresponding English translations. A good number of these entries have German, French, and Russian translations. The app also suggests conjugations, so you can switch between neutral or polite forms at the touch of a button.
Imiwa’s best feature though is its comprehensive kanji information (13,000+ kanji). Handwriting animations for about half of those kanji are also available. This is a great way to read and practice writing kanji!
Imiwa works best for:
Learning how to read and write kanji.
Intermediate to advanced learners who need more reading and writing practice.
Travelers, this is one handy dictionary app that you can use as a translator.
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Takaboto has over 200,000 entries with English translations. You can search for words in kana, kanji, romaji, the English alphabet, or even through voice. Sample phrases, sentences, and conjugated forms are also provided.
What’s great about Takaboto is that it also functions as a Japanese reading app. Flashcards, ready-made study lists, kana tables, and pitch accent displays are available for studying. There are even grammar links to external websites. Best of all, Takaboto is available for offline use.
Takaboto works best for:
Learning how to read and write kana and kanji.
Intermediate to advanced learners who want to supplement their existing method of studying.
This Japanese language learning app specializes in teaching how to read and write Hiragana (the Japanese alphabet) and Katakana (a special alphabet for foreign words). Most beginners find the Japanese writing system intimidating but Hiragana Quest has managed to make it fun.
This Japanese flashcards app has two mascots, Hirako and Katato, who help you learn Japanese through simple stories and mnemonics. Pronunciation guides help hone your accent while stroking guides and tracing functions help practice writing.
Hiragana Quest works best for:
Gamified, interactive learning.
Learning how to read and write Japanese characters.
Make no mistake, this app is one of the best apps to learn Japanese overall and not just kanji. And it has a dictionary, too!
The free version of the app has lower-level kanji as well as hiragana, katakana, and radical charts and sets. The paid version includes the full range of kanji and higher JLPT (Japan Language Proficiency Test) levels and lets you create custom sets for studying. You can study with flashcards, quizzes, and writing challenges.
Kanji Study works best for:
Serious learners of the Japanese writing system.
Travelers, the dictionary function, and offline access are handy.
One of the most user-friendly apps to learn Japanese, Busuu’s Japanese lessons are systematic and efficient. The app has lessons on how to read and write hiragana and katakana, vocabulary, and grammar that start with the basics and progress to more advanced levels.
Busuu’s Japanese lessons can be structured and personalized into custom study plans. You can decide when you want to study Japanese, and for how long, and the app will keep you in track.
The Conversations feature is worth checking out. Here you can speak with or write to Busuu’s community of Japanese native speakers who will give you feedback to help you improve.
Busuu works best for:
Travelers who want to learn basic Japanese phrases and speak to locals.
Japanese speaking practice with native speakers.
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We all know that the fastest way to learn a language is through immersion. But if you’re not in Japan or don’t talk to native speakers, how can you do that. Enter FluentU, one of the best immersive apps to learn Japanese.
FluentU helps you learn Japanese through real-world videos. These include Japanese music videos, commercials, movie trailers, news, and more. The videos are subtitled in Japanese and have English translations.
FluentU works best for:
Immersive and interactive learning.
Audio-visual learners who thrive in contextual learning.
Intermediate or advanced learners who already have a grasp of the Japanese language.
One of the most immersive apps to learn Japanese, LingQ lets you learn Japanese through audio, video, and written content that you are actually interested in. This method helps you learn in context and helps you retain what you learn.
Choose from a variety of interests and topics (i.e. books, podcasts, food, entertainment), and LingQ will convert these into interactive lessons. Master what you learn through spaced repetition method. Granted, LingQ’s grammar and writing game isn’t strong but it’s got loads of Japanese speaking practice for you.
LingQ works best for:
Unstructured but immersive learning.
Learning in context.
Intermediate to advanced learners who need motivation. Your preferred content will keep you interested.
What if you can learn a language and a culture while also teaching your own language and culture? The language exchange app HelloTalk lets you do just that.
With over 150 languages supported and more than 250 million members to chat with, this is one of the most collaborative apps to learn Japanese. You learn how to speak Japanese by actually speaking the language with native speakers who help you correct whatever mistakes you make.
You can have conversations with your language partner through chat, voice calls, or video calls. Learning with your partner, or with a group chat, also gives you the opportunity to make friends and learn about each other’s culture.
HelloTalk works best for:
Learners who thrive in collaborative and social environments.
Learning Japanese language and culture with native speakers
Writing and speaking practice.
There are plenty of reasons why Duolingo has over 300 million users in the world. With more than 90 courses in 38 languages, it has mastered the gamified way of teaching a language.
While it mainly focuses on Japanese vocabulary, hiragana, and kanji, it is lacking in grammar lessons. But it’s still one of the best apps to learn Japanese if you only have five minutes to study per day. The bite-size, gamified lessons are fun and will keep you interested.
Duolingo works best for:
Busy individuals who can’t commit to long hours of studying Japanese.
Those who are learning Japanese through other venues.
With over 4,600 Japanese words and phrases and over 10,000 native speaker audio and video clips, Memrise is one of the smartest apps to learn Japanese. It’s also practical because it uses real-life words that native speakers use.
Through naturally-voiced audio and video clips, you train your ears and learn to speak Japanese the way a local would. There are no grammar lessons but the use of SRS and the abundance of the content does help with vocabulary and conversational skills.
Memrise works best for:
Building practical Japanese vocabulary.
Strengthening listening and speaking skills.
Beginners and casual learners.
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LingoDeer is a strong contender for the best free app to learn Japanese. For one, Japanese was one of the first languages that LingoDeer focused on so you can expect well-developed and contextual lessons that you can apply in real life.
This app helps you learn Japanese vocabulary and grammar through flashcards and bite-size lessons. Reading and writing lessons are also available, and audio clips help with pronunciation. The Learning Tips feature explains grammar nuances and concepts.
LingoDeer works best for:
Absolute beginners to intermediate learners.
Learning Japanese through a variety of exercises and formats.
Building practical vocabulary and learning grammar in context.
Anki is not exclusively used for learning languages but it’s great as a Japanese flashcards app. Simply put, Anki is a program that lets you memorize anything through spaced repetition system. Language learners swear by this method.
You can create your own flashcards deck or load any existing decks created by other users. Anki will then employ SRS to help you memorize your flashcards. Since Japanese is popular in the Anki community, you can be sure that there are lots of pre-made decks to learn Japanese.
Anki works best for:
Quick, on-the-go learning.
Intermediate and advanced learners who want to retain what they’ve learned.
Expanding your Japanese vocabulary.
Last but not the least, Obenkyo is one of the most efficient apps to learn Japanese if you want to master the Japanese writing system. Catering to all levels, from beginner to advanced N1, this app teaches kanji, hiragana, and katakana.
Obenkyo tests your writing skills through multiple-choice quizzes and handwriting tests. It has an impressive handwriting recognizer that not only corrects your form but also assesses your stroke order. How cool is that?! It also uses Tae Kim’s guide for grammar lessons.
Obenkyo works best for:
Independent, disciplined learners.
JLPT takers. Kanji lists can be displayed according to JLPT levels
Japanese writing practice.
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FAQs on 20 Best Apps To Learn Japanese In 2023
Even if English is the only language you speak, you’ll find Japanese fluency perfectly achievable even if you’re working on your own.
Mondly is the best app to learn Japanese overall as it has multiple features that make learning Japanese more immersive than other apps.
It’s possible to become conversational in Japanese within one year, as long as you study consistently.
It’s neither difficult nor easy. It’s easier than Arabic or Chinese, but harder than German or French for a native English speaker. The main aspect of Japanese that is most difficult for English speakers is the alphabet. However, with consistent study, you can learn the Japanese alphabet pretty quickly.
With this list of Japanese learning apps and tips, you should be able to get started studying the language. Choose one of these apps and get ready to speak Japanese in no time.