Japanese Learning Apps for Practicing Japanese

  • July 10, 2017 / Lily Cernak

Japanese learning Apps for Practicing Japanese

This article is a detailed review of some commonly downloaded smartphone apps intended for learning and/or practicing Japanese. Please note that this is only a selection of apps: an app not appearing on our list does not necessarily mean it’s not a great app!

(Also, click here to view a listing of our other articles on technology and Japanese, including how-to guides about typing Japanese on a computer or smartphone!).


Japanese learning apps


Application: iOS, Android

Best for: Beginners and lower-intermediate



– Reads aloud

-Allows you to unlock some percentage of the lessons at the outset using a placement test

– Sends you reminders once every day to practice

– Lets you create language clubs, or join language clubs that others have created


-No grammar explanations

-The Japanese in the lessons is very standard, but the phrasing of some of the English sentences is a little strange (for example, “I put a lot of butter.”)

why get Duolingo?

Students should be aware before downloading that Duolingo will not teach hiragana, katakana, vocabulary, or grammar from scratch. But it is a good app for practicing all of these things once you have started to learn them from another app or a textbook.

For a free app, it is lengthy, with around forty lesson chapters. It has well made quizzes too. It includes both multiple-choice and questions and translation questions where the student must write the whole sentence themselves.

If you get a question wrong it will extend the quiz by one more question to force you to practice the material for longer. The words used in some of its practice sentences are a bit confusing. But in general Duolingo is a good way to get in some quick daily practice.


: 2 weeks free, then $30/month or $240/year

Application: iOS

Best for: Beginner through advanced

Japanese learning apps


-Contains a library of real-world video and audio material for all levels

-Contains some grammar explanations

-Can access any lessons and files in any order

-Reads text portions aloud

-Contains word lists geared specifically for JLPT study

-Subtitles can be covered/turned off or left on, allowing the student to do pure listening comprehension but also to pause and check for spelling or study grammar


-Grammar explanations are insufficient by themselves

-Flashcard word lists are useful for travel, but many of the “beginner” words will be unfamiliar to most beginners

-Organization within app is confusing; difficult material sometimes listed ahead of easy material


why get fluentu

is a bit pricey, but it is also one of the only services to collect audio and visual materials from across the internet for students of Japanese.

The files are well chosen, and are an extremely valuable resource for students of all levels, for several reasons:

1) It can be rather difficult to find really good real-world listening practice online, especially for intermediate students.

2) The videos include subtitles, which many videos from elsewhere online do not.

3) Real-world listening practice is an important supplement to textbook listening practice, which can be too predictable or stiff.

However, like many other Japanese learning apps, students should be aware that FluentU may be best if used for practice and quizzing purposes, while using an additional resource or textbook as your primary source of vocabulary and/or grammar knowledge.

Human Japanese (Intro version and Intermediate version)

Japanese learning apps

Cost: Intro Lite free, Intermediate Lite free, full Intro $10, full Intermediate $10

Application: iOS, Android

Best for: Beginners through lower intermediate


-Starts at the very beginning – absolutely no prior knowledge required

-Teaches hiragana and katakana

-Teaches grammar, with textbook-esque thorough explanations

-Allows you to skip chapters at any time

-Lets you have multiple accounts for one price

-Reads aloud

-Includes a lot of cultural and historical information, with pictures


-Limited opportunities within app to practice with vocabulary or grammar

-Menu allows bookmarking, but otherwise can be difficult to locate an exact page in a previous lesson if you want to go back

-Little to no pure listening comprehension

Difference between lite and full versions

In the lite version of Human Japanese’s Intro app, you can get eight chapters of material. In the full version, you will get forty-five chapters total.

The lite/full versions of Human Japanese’s Intermediate app are similar, with eight free chapters and forty-two chapters total.

why get human Japanese?

Buying and completing the full version of Human Japanese‘s intro app is roughly the equivalent of a quarter of a traditional textbook.

Buying and completing the full version of the Intermediate app is roughly the equivalent of three-quarters of a traditional textbook.

Genki I (one of the most respected English-language Japanese textbooks) costs about $50. So if you plan to purchase Genki I or something similar Human Japanese’s two apps (at $20 total) may not be worth the price. (Especially considering Tae Kim’s app is free – see below). 

But, there is always something to be said for using multiple resources for learning Japanese grammar. Especially when you are just starting.

Different authors explain things in different ways, and one explanation may click with you more than another; or one book/website/app might contain information that others don’t have.

If you want to study on the go and find that you don’t often have the time to sit down with a traditional textbook, Human Japanese is one of the best ways to gain reading skills and a solid grammatical foundation.

Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese

: Free

Application: iOS, Android

Best for: Beginners through upper intermediate

Japanese learning apps



-Starts at the very beginning – absolutely no prior knowledge required

-Teaches hiragana and katakana

-Teaches grammar, with textbook-esque thorough explanations

-Allows you to skip chapters at any time

-Contains video links with examples and pronunciation

-Contains some practice materials


-Practice materials are somewhat limited

-When clicked the sentences don’t read aloud 

-Limited cultural information compared with Human Japanese/traditional textbooks

why get tae kim?

Note: For simplicity all of our links to Tae Kim go to the Apple app store; for the Android Tae Kim app click here.
Tae Kim
’s app, much like Tae Kim’s website, is one of the most comprehensive free resources for getting a solid understanding of Japanese grammar. The explanations are textbook-equivalent in their thoroughness and very well written.

If you go through every lesson in the app, you will have learned more grammar than is covered in Genki I. The primary difference between Tae Kim’s materials and a traditional textbook is the limited amount of practice materials in the former. You will need to pair this app with one or more other apps for getting a practical handle on the vocabulary and grammar that Tae Kim teaches.

While Tae Kim includes highly detailed explanations of culture as it relates to language (for example, the complicated nature of the words “I” and “you” in Japanese) there is little other cultural information in the app, so you will need to go elsewhere for that as well.

All this being said, Tae Kim’s app is free and most others that are this in-depth are not, and even if you already have a textbook it can be very informative to read explanations of vocabulary and grammar from several different sources; so this app is probably worth downloading no matter what!

What Japanese learning apps have you found to be the most helpful? Let us know which apps you use, or which ones you are interested in getting more information on before downloading, and we’ll include those in our next app review!


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