Ah yes, Japan and Japanese culture, the number 1 excitement for anyone who loves anime, manga and everything else Japanese pop culture offers. To be honest, I kind of like it myself, I just was never enough of a fan to actively join various online communities where people discuss what they like and so on. Still, I am intrigued and as a “language nerd”, the first thing that came to my mind was to research the Japanese language, more specifically, effective ways to learn it. I browsed for some apps and stumbled upon a list with the best Japanese learning apps. Here’s the list if you are interested and think you might find something useful.
After browsing, I initially thought to give my opinion on the top 3, but as these are the most obvious one, I decided to go a bit deeper and pick my personal top 3. After some extensive usage, here’s my review of the 3 apps.
Duolingo – User Rating: 4.7/5, Number of Downloads: 100M
I know, I said I won’t review the most obvious ones, but since my job is to provide useful advice, I had to include Duolingo. The fact the app is downloaded more than 100M times worldwide and endorsed by respected backers such as the New York Times, speaks for itself. Duolingo offers about 30 different language programs including Japanese and I honestly love how the app is designed. Obviously, you won’t become a pro speaker in just a few weeks, but I found the app to be extremely helpful teaching you the most relevant basics. Another fantastic perk that might be overshadowed by the rest is the constant rush of motivation you get to keep going. So many language learning apps focus on delivering the content, they forget to deliver intuitively. For me, this is the main advantage of this one.
Now, not everything is super peachy. Like any other app, so is Duolingo app supported. I am aware this isn’t specifically app’s fault as it’s just the way the app cookie crumbles. Another flaw is it tends to be a bit slow. But, if the main flaw is occasional software hiccups and not the service itself, you know they are doing something right. Highly recommend.
Advantages: Motivating, teaches you a bit of everything, all-around great design
Disadvantages: Sometimes it runs slow
App Summary: A great learning app that provides an enjoyable learning experience
Learn Japanese Phrases | Japanese Translator – User Rating: 4.5/5, Number of Downloads: 1M
Here’s the number thing I hate about learning a new language – pronunciation. Correctly pronouncing foreign words can be nerve-wracking, especially when there’s a strong difference between the language you’re learning and your native language. That’s the reason I included Learn Japanese Phrases | Japanese Translator if you’re looking for an app to help you in that specific area. Unlike Duolingo, it very straightforward as it has fewer features. You simply tap-to-hear words and phrases, spoken by a native Japanese speaker. Although simple, I found it to be useful if you want a quick daily boost for your pronunciation skills. The service is available offline, so I often found myself simply listening when I had a bit of free time. It’s tinny steps, but if you’re persistent, it’s likely you’ll see progress after a certain time. So yes, although it doesn’t offer an extensive learning experience as Duolingo, it definitely does a good job at one thing – speaking.
Again, I’ll sound like a broken record, but there are ads – luckily, you won’t get overwhelmed and you pay to completely remove them. This is one of those apps whose advantage is it’s flaw as well. The simplicity will definitely intrigue one group of people and dissatisfy the other. But if think it’s helpful, you’ll definitely get something out of it.
Advantages: User-friendly UI, Great for vocabulary, great for people who travel
Disadvantages: Can’t learn grammar, you might hit a wall quickly
App Summary: A compact app great for helping you straight away, but doesn’t offer long-term value
Learn Japanese – User Rating: 4.6/5, Number of Downloads: 10K
Although this app is certainly less popular than the first 2, that doesn’t mean it’s less useful. Where to start? My initial impression when using the app was how great the small lessons are. I became even more impressed when I realized it also teaches you Japanese alphabet (including both Hiragana and Katakana characters). And I’m guessing just like me, you know how hard that can be for people who speak English. It’s definitely less “polished” than Duolingo, there’s no denying that. But I found something in the app that has potential. I like how you can even choose an area of further focus when you’re ready – everything from grammar to Kanji to vocabulary.
If you are an app user, you know how the world works. The smaller the app, the more the developers need to work on financing it. Thus, as you use Learn Japanese, you’ll soon be greeted with a message to pay if you want more lessons. This is completely understandable and let me just say it might be worth it. I definitely suggest you try the app and if you think you can get some more value by paying for further lessons, go ahead.
Advantages: Teaches Japanese alphabet, quick & easy understandable lessons
Disadvantages: Pay for more lessons, still has room to develop
App Summary: A worth-while learning app that might get even better with time
No matter if you’re a fan of Japan or are planning to travel there, you probably either need or want to learn a word or two. This is where apps come in handy. Instead of paying for a complete lesson, you can simply pick what you need and most of the times, for free. So definitely try the apps and if you have any other app to suggest, let me know. Thanks for reading.