The 12 Best Apps to Learn Japanese Like a Boss

Using a smartphone to study is undoubtedly a new frontier in language studies, and apps to learn Japanese are aplenty in today’s marketplace.

It’s debatable whether or not an app will ever make you fluent in a language, but there’s no doubt that the Japanese apps listed in this post will enable you to improve your Japanese speaking, reading and/or writing ability, 

Whilst some Japanese learning apps are, undoubtedly, better than others, the right one for you really depends upon:

👍 Your ultimate language goals
👍 Your study strategy and commitment
👍 How your brain learns – (e.g. whether you are a visual or aural learner)

Read on to find out which apps will provide an effective approach to improve your study plan and ensure you maintain continuity when learning Japanese. 

Pimsleur Japanese: Perfect for audio learners

image of Pimsleur Japanese Dashboard

Pimsleur Japanese is an internationally recognized set of linguistics classes. Its mission is to get you talking Japanese fast!

Each lesson is an audio 30 minute video that makes you listen and repeat Japanese conversation, before participating yourself.

This app is extremely good for those who want to study the Japanese language through audio. There are no written components to this course, which is great for several people but difficult for others.

So, be sure to think about your personal learning styles.

Available for iPhone : mobile / tablet – mobile/ tablet. Price: $19.95 monthly subscription or $100 per level one-time costs.

You can take a 7 day free trial to see if this helps! Cancel within this time if you don’t want to pay.

Pimsleur

Effectiveness

Value for Money

4.0 out of 5.0 stars3.0 out of 5.0 stars
Effective at improving listening skills and overall language comprehension through repetition.More expensive than many competitors.
7 Day Free Trial included.

Ease of Use

Languages

5.0 out of 5.0 stars5.0 out of 5.0 stars
Modern dashboard. Very easy to use and navigate on desktop and app.40+ languages available, including Spanish, French, Italian, German and Chinese.
✅ Pros
❌ Cons
👍 Huge library of audio lessons
👍 Modern, user-friendly dashboard
👍 Proven, effective method
👍 Encourages speaking practice
👎 More expensive than main competitors
👎 Repetitive with limited reading practice

Summary


Pimsleur is a great option for anybody looking to improve their understanding of a foreign language. Each Premium Plan includes more than 75 hours of audio content, taking you from beginner through to advanced level. Native speakers feature throughout the course to get you used to hearing the language.

Pimsleur's method is effective but repetitive. We'd like to see Pimsleur incorporate better grammar explanations into their lessons.

FluentU Japanese: An app with Japanese videos

image of FluentU app on iphone
FluentU is a unique concept for a language learning app that uses video content to teach Japanese, spoken by native Japanese speakers.

This app enables you to learn Japanese from video clips, including journalistic material, soap operas, cartoons, anime and more.

Most of the videos come from YouTube, but the FluentU team adds interactive subtitles in order to help you learn.

Just hover your mouse over every word on the list of keywords if you want detailed information on the words, vocabulary or phrases.

You can also list new words for each list or write your own dictionary quiz.

FluentU is great for people wanting to learn Japanese by listening to authentic content. However, it doesn’t provide much opportunity to speak.

FluentU

Effectiveness

Value for Money

4.5 out of 5.0 stars3.5 out of 5.0 stars
Highly effective at improving listening skills, reading skills and overall comprehension.More expensive than its main competitor, Yabla, but more video content available. 14 Day Free Trial included.

Ease of Use

Languages

4.5 out of 5.0 stars5.0 out of 5.0 stars
Modern dashboard. Very easy to use and navigate. Spanish, Chinese, Italian, German, French, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, English and Japanese.
✅ Pros
❌ Cons
👍 Huge library of video content
👍 Modern, user-friendly dashboard
👍 Interactive Subtitles
👍 Wide variety of games and activities
👎 Not the cheapest option on the market
👎 Limited speaking practice

Summary


FluentU is a great language immersion tool. The real-life and simulated videos encourage you to see the language for yourself in a realistic way, emulating real-life experiences. There are features for quizzes and flashcards as well as a dictionary to look up vocabulary that you are unfamiliar with.

In terms of grammar explanations and speaking practice, FluentU is lacking a little. We recommend seeking additional tools to really strengthen those skills.

$20 p/month (Free Trial for 14 days)

Rosetta Stone Japanese: A veteran in language learning

Rosetta Stone Japanese is a great option for people who want to learn Japanese at their own pace through imagery.

The app teaches you the basics of the language and incorporates phrases, grammar lessons, and culture lessons.

It also gives you an opportunity to speak with native speakers both inside and outside of the app.

Rosetta Stone Japanese is a great way to start learning a new language, but intermediate learners may prefer a language app with a more academic approach.

Rosetta Stone

Effectiveness

Value for Money

4.0 out of 5.0 stars4.5 out of 5.0 stars
Effective at improving listening skills and overall language comprehension through repetition.This rating is based on a one-time purchase for access to all languages. Still more expensive than many competitors if you purchase a subscription.
3 Day Free Trial included.

Ease of Use

Languages

5.0 out of 5.0 stars5.0 out of 5.0 stars
Modern dashboard. Very easy to use and navigate on desktop and app. Can be used on two devices at the same time.40+ languages available, including Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Korean and Chinese.
✅ Pros
❌ Cons
👍 Variety of exercises
👍 Requires constant engagement
👍 Proven, effective method
👍 Encourages speaking practice
👎 More expensive than main competitors
👎 Repetitive with robotic dialogue

Summary


Rosetta Stone is a better option than Pimsleur for anybody who relies on visual elements to learn. Visual learners will benefit from its library of images and the way it uses them to teach vocabulary.

Whilst the tool is excellent at teaching vocabulary, little context is provided until further into the course. Rosetta Stone's method is effective but repetitive. We'd like to see more natural conversation included in its courses.

Sensei: Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese

Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese consists of organized, logical lessons which are well explained through conjugation tables.

It enables you to learn new words, as well as see how Japanese grammar works in context.

All kanji within this guide are clickable, so you don’t need to refer to the dictionary.

There are even exercises for the first chapter on basic grammar.

The vocabulary list includes some examples and definitions which correspond to each lesson needs.

image of Tae Kim's Guide to Japanese Dashboard

Jsho: A Japanese dictionary app

Jsho is a learning program which enables the search of Japanese and English phrases with multiple options and example sentences.

It is widely considered the best app to learn Japanese by language teachers as you can switch easily between your language and the target language.

In Japanese, you can input words using hiragana, kanji or romaji – these are the three writing scripts in Japanese.

There’s a useful filter for Japanese verbs and adjectives and, when you click on the word, language learners can see the breakdown of every kanji character.

The is exclusively available on Android and boasts an offline functionality (so no internet connection required) that uses little space.

It offers a full variety of conjugations for each word from polite to negative versions. It may be a real saver for the trickier pieces of the JLPT practice.

Rocket Japanese: The best app to learn Japanese

Rocket Japanese is the most advanced Japanese course we have come across in several ways.

Its lesson features, audio lessons, comprehensive courses and culture lessons make it better than the majority of its competitors for beginners and intermediate learners.

It is more expensive than many short term because it requires a one-time payment, not a subscription. There is a free trial available for all learners. Access is available completely free for a whole week, enough time to listen to the grammar rules and improve your reading skills.

Rocket Japanese is a popular app for many other Asian languages and particularly popular for those learning Kanji.

Rocket Japanese

Effectiveness

Value for Money

4.0 out of 5.0 stars4.0 out of 5.0 stars
Highly effective at improving listening skills, reading skills and overall comprehension.Not the cheapest option but justified pricing based on features and benefits available.

Ease of Use

Room for improvement

4.0 out of 5.0 stars3.0 out of 5.0 stars
Simple, modern dashboard designed to be as easy as possible to use.Would be great to see live tutor option.
✅ Pros
❌ Cons
👍 No Subscription Fees
👍 Very Good App & Website
👍 Comprehensive Course
👍 Money Back Guarantee
👎 One-Time Payment Required
👎 You May Require a Language Tutor

Summary


Rocket Japanese is one of the more advanced language learning resources we have come across. Its lesson features, comprehensive courses and culture lessons make it better than the majority of its competitors for beginners and intermediate learners.

It is more expensive than many short term because it requires a one-time payment, not a subscription. There is a free trial available for all learners.

One-time Payment For Access to Full Course After Trial

Kanji study: The best app to learn Japanese Kanji

image of Japanese Kanji Study dashboard
There is a free version that offers lower level Kanji in addition to hiragana, katakana and radical study choices.

The higher levels are highly useful though, since functionality is comprehensive.

You can create your own set of learning modules and choose between flashcard studies and tests.

Almost every character on this page is detailed including its stroke order definitions all reading suggestions recommended words and examples of sentence.

Users can also see the stroke order including part highlighted as a result of common mistakes people made AND the list of other kanji that are frequently confused with the one your reviewing.

The app also boasts an offline dictionary.

The Kanji King: Kanji Recognizer

Kanji Recogniser is a simple app which recognises handwritten kanji and makes learning the Japanese alphabet easy.

It is a great way to incorporate writing practice into your language studies, often overlooked by many Japanese learners.

A good user interface and a good page layout makes this language app much more intuitive than many counterparts.

The Japanese dictionary app: imiwa?

ImiWa is an offline dictionary which includes many useful sources for searching Japanese words.

You can search using romaji and Japanese characters, but you can also search for Japanese kanji by SKIP (System of Kanji Indexing by Patterns), multi-radical and Chinese radical.

Its clear and intuitive interface allows the easy creation of lists and favorites. There is also a quick copy to clipboard / export to e-mail features.

Its content appeals to people who don’t have English as their first language, making it one of the best apps to learn Japanese for non-native English speakers.

Learn Japanese from day one: LingoDeer

LingoDeer is a fun learning experience that looks more like a game.

Each lesson uses grammar and vocabulary that you learned from the previous lesson, using several tools of examination.

The app features native speakers and Japanese language audio. It integrates words, phrases and Japanese culture lessons naturally, allowing you to prepare for real life scenarios.

The free version is most popular, but paying a small cost for the premium version includes all lessons including covering N5-N3 pronunciation and grammar. It also provides an opportunity to practice writing.

Other great features include the ability to turn on furigana, so you can study kanji and learn the meaning and context of a particle with a simple tap.

HelloTalk: One of several language exchange apps to learn Japanese

HelloTalk is a language exchange app that aspires to connect Japanese language learners and all users to every continent.

It makes learning Japanese simple. Just create a profile in the native language, then learn Japanese from English.

You will be able to communicate with Japanese speakers who have learned English.

After finding your language partner, you can send text / text messages / voice messages / video calls.

The app comes with several helpful features which can help you improve your spelling and written Japanese by receiving feedback from friends taking the same Japanese courses.

Recommended for: anybody interested in speaking Japanese and practising Japanese writing.

Available on: iPhone and Android phones for free (in-app purchases are required for certain features, such as using multiple languages in a single app and it is free).

Memrise Japanese

image of memrise japanese dashboard
Memrise is an app that helps you learn new languages by associating words with images, sounds, and context, all thanks to a native Japanese speaker.

The app was created by Ed Cooke, a Cambridge English graduate who found it very difficult to learn German during his studies.

It is now available in five different languages, including Japanese. The best part about Memrise is that it’s free!

Memrise is a great way to learn Japanese on the go. It is also popular amongst visual learners.

However, Memrise is not suitable for anybody wanting to learn to read and write with proficiency in a foreign language.

Final thoughts: The 12 best apps to learn Japanese

Learning a new language is no easy task. It requires plenty of time and effort, but with the right tools it can be much easier than you’d think.

We compiled these 12 apps to learn Japanese in different ways to help make this process as painless as possible for you.

Some of these apps compile Japanese words in a dictionary style to boost your Japanese vocabulary, whilst others enable you to practice writing and Japanese grammar through native speakers.

You may find one or two that resonate with your learning style more than others, so we recommend testing out free trials on each before committing to purchasing anything.

Learning Japanese is always going to be challenging, but it is crucial you find the right app or Japanese courses in order to do so.

After testing out a few free trials, you should be able to find an app that matches your learning style and is compatible with the pace of your study.

Want some help finding the best Japanese language apps? Check out our more extensive list of Japanese language resources!

Affiliate Disclaimer

This site earns money from affiliate sales.

If you click on a link and end up purchasing that product, there is a chance that we’ll earn a small percentage of the sale. This is at no additional cost to you whatsoever.

However, the review and blog content this site is not dependent on the value of any product or the percentage of the sale we may receive. All reviews and language articles on this site are the opinion of that particular writer.