5 Best Free Japanese Learning Apps

5 Best Free Japanese Learning Apps

So you want to learn Japanese online. But you aren't sure which free Japanese learning app is best for you?

With so many apps out there for learning Japanese, you can have a hard time finding the ones that are worth your time. That's why I've put together this selection of the 5 best free Japanese learning apps.

Technology has drastically changed how we do things, making products more efficient, cheaper and faster. And that includes methods and materials for learning a foreign language.

In this post, you'll discover how mobile apps can boost your Japanese learning, for free! No need to find time in your schedule for lessons. You'll find apps for android and iOS and even some web versions.

Note: Apps are great, but if you really want to learn Japanese with confidence and fluency, you need a more comprehensive programme. My top recommendation is Japanese Uncovered, my in-depth online Japanese course for beginners that teaches you through the power of story.

Anyway, back to the apps…

Smartphone at the ready – let's get into the list.

5 Best Free Japanese Learning Apps

The internet is a goldmine when it comes to gathering information and learning. But the internet also has many flaws. Just like the inside of a goldmine, to find value you have to sift through tonnes of worthless rubble.

In this post, you'll discover where to find the 5 biggest, shiniest pieces of Japanese-learning gold. Plus you'll find out how to get the most out of these language apps. And why they are ten times better than whatever traditional method you are using right now.

These are the best five free apps that you can download right now to help you learn Japanese, regardless of your current level.

Not an app person? There are other ways to learn Japanese online including through the power of story – if you're a beginner, I recommend getting started with Japanese Uncovered.

1. Japanese Dictionary App Imiwa


The. Best. Free. Mobile. Dictionary. Ever.

Download this app to save yourself the $100+ your teacher wanted you to waste on an outdated electronic dictionary.

Imiwa is free but it packs in high-value content.

It's an offline Japanese dictionary with extensive Japanese-English entries (currently over 170,000). It's also filled with sentence examples and kanji stroke order indications.

You can expect Imiwa to be updated all the time. No pushy dictionary salesman trying to sell you the new edition of the Oxford Japanese-English dictionary every new year.

With Imiwa, you will be getting new entries and example sentences for free.

Imiwa's search system sets it apart from the competition. Both kanji and vocabulary can be searched either via keyboard input, radicals search or JLPT levels.

This is a key function. You can't learn Japanese at your successfully without it.

There is one more great thing about Imiwa. Just like the other 4 tools you will find in this article, Imiwa is just an app. It weighs nothing.

Advances in technology now mean a dictionary is something you can carry with yourself at any time, just like Imiwa.

Do you want some advice for making new friends in Japan? Don't bring an 800-page Japanese-English dictionary out and about with you!

The app is free. And awesome. Download it, play with it a little – you'll love it.

2. Anki Flashcards App


Do you have a bad memory? Or do you just need a more effective way of memorising?

This flashcard app helped me learn the most common 1,000 Japanese words in less than three months with only 30 minutes of study per day.

After six months, I had already passed the 2,500 mark.

Anki is a free SRS system available for studying flashcards both online and offline.

Of course, you could just make your own flashcards from real-life pen and paper. But do you really want to?

In Anki you can create your own. Or you can use one of the thousands of high-quality Japanese flashcard decks already provided.

There is no debate about SRS systems being the best tool to learn Japanese words. And Anki is one of the best SRS apps out there.

Anki does have one tiny flaw. The web version of Anki is free for all. And if you're an Android user the app is free for you. The downside is that Apple users will pay a fee to download a mobile version from the app store.

But to put this in perspective, if you can afford a $700 phone to watch cat videos, you can afford a $15 app to learn Japanese.

If you've never used an SRS system before, it might take you a couple of minutes to figure it out. Go and download it now and then let me know how much you love it.

3. Tae Kim's Japanese Grammar Guide

Tae Kim's guide

Learning Japanese without studying grammar is like buying IKEA furniture without nuts and bolts: you're going to have a lot of pieces of fancy wood, but every time you try to build something, it collapses to the ground.

Japanese grammar is a lot easier than that of other foreign languages. But there is a lot to learn. And I mean A LOT! Japanese grammar is simple, but plentiful.

The good thing though is that the percentage of grammar points you actually have to master is a lot smaller than you'd imagine.

So what's the best free resource to study the grammar you need to know?

Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese.

I'll be honest with you – grammar is one thing in Japanese that isn't all fun and games. Unlike kanji and kana (the Japanese “alphabet”), there's no real easy way around it.

One top tip I’'d give for learning Japanese grammar is this – find a clear systematic grammar guide that explains to you what you need to know. Tae Kim's app is just that.

If you're serious about learning Japanese, I'd still recommend using an online course with video lessons like Japanese Uncovered which is designed to take you from beginner to intermediate level through the power of story.

However, if you are on a shoestring budget, this app will be enough to help you.

4. Learn Hiragana & Katakana Mnemonics With Dr Moku

Dr Moku

I laughed so hard when I first saw this app to learn Japanese writing. Their advert was just hilarious.

What blew my mind was how Dr Moku drilled the kana into my head through funny mnemonics in just a couple of hours.

In this app, Dr Moku associates all the kana with funny pictures, which make it impossible for you to forget them.

My personal favourite is how he turned “?” into a cow making a smelly yellow mustard fart. Watch the app trailer to get an idea of how funny this actually gets.

If you have used Anki before, you know already how powerful mnemonic tools are.

Rote memorisation when compared to mnemonic hacks is like hot air balloons versus airplanes in terms of efficiency.

When was the last time you flew over the Atlantic Ocean in a hot air balloon? Mnemonics are much more useful for learning vast amounts of information.

Download the Android or iPhone version and test it out. After 30 minutes of learning with this app, your mind will be blown.

5. NHK Easy Japanese News

NHK easy Japanese news

Odds are, you don't live in Japan. If you do, good for you.

If you don't, it might be hard to constantly find interesting Japanese content to read and learn from.

Here's the problem with most of the Japanese reading material online – it's either too easy or too difficult.

Content designed for beginners is dumbed-down and over-simplified. More advanced content is, well, designed for native speakers.

The NHK Easy Japanese News app is the most successful attempt I've seen so far at finding a happy medium.

It is a simple way to practice your Japanese reading skills every single day, while actually learning real relevant information about the world.

The app also has free audio features, allowing you to get a wider spectrum of training.

The best way to use apps like this one without being overwhelmed is to set a timer on your phone and just do 15 minutes a day.

Don't worry about how much you learn every time, just focus on putting in the time.

The improvement you will see is going to surprise you. A lot.

Apps For Learning Japanese, Whenever, Wherever

5 best free Japanese learning apps conclusion

So there you have it – the 5 best free Japanese learning apps out there to help you learn Japanese online whenever and wherever is convenient for you.

There's no denying that apps have become part of the toolkit to learn languages. They make it easy to fit in a bit of language learning throughout your day, during dead time like commuting for instance.

And of course, there's no contest for convenience between a huge paper dictionary and an app like Imiwa. Or a set of hundreds of  paper flashcards to carry around and an app like Anki.

But an app won't do the hard work for you of speaking the language.

You can't fluent in Japanese just by using an app.

For that, you'll need something more comprehensive. That's why I created…

Japanese Uncovered

japanese uncovered course

Japanese Uncovered is my comprehensive beginner programme teaches you to speak Japanese through the power of story.

It's not an app, but you can still use it on ANY device – computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet.

This comprehensive beginner programme teaches you Japanese through a fun and natural method that makes learning a pleasure, and grammar a breeze!

It goes far deeper than the Japanese smartphone apps listed above and will give you a very thorough grounding in Japanese.

You see, language apps might appear flashy and modern…

But they lack the depth you need to truly master Japanese.

The only way to achieve a high level of Japanese is to immerse yourself in Japanese language! And that's what you do in Uncovered by learning through story from Day 1.

With stories, you can:

Watch this video clip to see how the learning emerges from the story in Japanese Uncovered:

Pretty effective, right?

To find out more about Japanese Uncovered or to enrol in the programme, click here.

Looking for more helpful Japanese learning tips?

Check out 42 of the best ways to learn Japanese as recommended by successful language learners and polyglots from around the world.

Have you tried any of these apps? Give them a try and let me know in the comments what happened!

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