For beginners in the learning journey of languages, one of the most popular choices is the Japanese language. But, how and where to start your language learning journey? Most beginners will also have to grapple with this question as they seek to attain fluency.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways of learning Japanese, especially online language learning tools for beginners. All you have to do is find a suitable way. Aside from a traditional Japanese course in a classroom, you can learn Japanese online, with a private Japanese teacher, or even using videos on YouTube. Moreover, your mobile device can simulate attending a Japanese language course too!

Most people, nowadays, despite a desire to learn new languages, or any other subject, for that matter, have very little time to do so in a conventional classroom setting, let alone pay a visit to Japan to learn the language from native speakers!

This raises the question, how can you learn to speak Japanese when you don't have much time? If you want to learn all about the Japanese writing system on the move, use your smartphone or tablet! 

You use your smart phone for everything else, so why not learning Japanese too?
Your app will make you travel as far as Japan and China!

Smartphone apps are very useful for learning Japanese. Whether you want to learn Japanese cuisine on the spot, become one of the many travelers in Japan, visit the archipelago, participate in matsuri, or other traditional festivals, there are mobile applications tailored to your every need, profile, point of view, and expectations!

Bilingual Language Applications

Bilingual applications are thriving when it comes to all foreign languages. Japanese is obviously part of this equation. Apps for learning basic Japanese usually focus on Nihongo, the form of Japanese taught to any new learner.

Smartphone or tablet applications also have the advantage of enticing you to be much more involved in your learning.

Indeed, whether you are a beginner and you want to study Japanese words and phrases in order to introduce yourself and know the basic greetings before you go to Japan, or you are intermediate but want to become fluent in order to work in Japan, you will find something that fits.

  • If you are a tourist and plan to travel to Japan to see Kyoto, the capital, Mount Fuji, or temples and shrines, your learning objectives will generally be limited to understanding a simple conversation when you're there.
  • If you want to settle and live in Japan or work with a Japanese corporation, your learning goals will have to be higher as you will likely need to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

Linguistic applications take into account the degree of investment in your learning. Some apps target a beginner audience and are just a basic introduction to Japanese while others require some common knowledge of the kanji or katakana language before they can be used.

Regardless of your aims, you will more than likely find something that meets your needs. Whether it is speaking Japanese itself, or the nuances of grammar, reading and writing Japanese words and phrases, using Japanese kanji, and hiragana and katakana, there is an app out there for almost all these learning needs.

Benefits of Learning Japanese via Smartphone Apps

Compared to studying Japanese through textbooks, applications have the advantage of being practical and usable in all circumstances.

Learning Japanese on your smartphone via an app is much easier in circumstances where you are short on time and would prefer learning on the go. And it's just as effective as learning Japanese using textbooks, or attending Japanese learning classes.

Make the most of your commute to work by learning Japanese
You can learn the Japanese language anywhere now, including on your way to work!

If you are looking to travel to Japan, then learning the Japanese language with or without apps is definitely important. Japan is a country where learning the language brings a lot to the table.

Though it's possible to travel to foreign countries without speaking the native language, your experience will be largely shaped by your ability or inability to see beyond the surface of Japanese culture. When you lack the ability to communicate in the native language with Japanese people, you can not fully participate in day-to-day life, nor understand the culture.

Learning via an app can be more engaging and interactive than with books. With an app, you are directly interacting with your Japanese learning.

When you know the language, you have the comfort of being able to successfully navigate all sorts of situations, like order meals in restaurants, ask for and understand directions, find accommodations and perhaps negotiate cheaper prices, and meet and talk with natives, to name only a few. In most countries, people will appreciate attempts to use their language. You will be able to communicate more completely and have a deeper, more satisfying travel experience.

You don't necessarily need to speak fluent Japanese, or even have a conversational level. But whatever you do, make sure you at least memorize a few Japanese phrases and expressions before you travel.

Find a Smart(phone) Japanese Teacher

Here are our top picks from the world of language learning through smartphone applications.

Hiragana Quest

If you are a beginner in the world of learning Japanese then you’ll have to start with Hiragana and Katakana. Hiragana Quest is a unique application that uses mnemonics to help you learn both sets. Once learned, you will carry them in your head forever!

Kanji Study

Kanji Study shows that the business of teaching languages is not just about making profits. They offer a free version with lower -evel kanji as well as hiragana, katakana, and radical study options.

The higher levels, though chargeable, introduce users to a world of extensive functionality. Sort by JLPT levels or a range of other options including Japanese school grades, frequency in media, and many more.

Learners are also encouraged to create custom sets for learning. Choose between flashcard study, quizzes, and writing challenges.

Track your learning progress by setting targets and recording your daily progress. Each character has its own dedicated page which includes stroke order, definitions, all readings (including playable options to hear the reading out loud), recommended words, and a range of example sentences.

The wide range of functional features makes it worth the investment if you wish to obtain the full range of kanji. The features undergo regular updates to keep in line with government standards and JLPT updates. Moreover, it has full functionality offline.

Japanese (by Renzo Inc.)

For those aesthetic-loving people, Japanese by Renzo Inc. offers a design treat with a beautiful and clear interface. It can guess what and how a user thinks.

When you open the app, you are greeted with a search bar to immediately type in and a handwriting, kanji component, and SKIP search option, all on the same page.

The app also stores audio clips for all entries, along with the most precise layout for examples with hiragana above the kanji used and each kanji displayed underneath with their meanings. Overall, the app offers a world of choices in learning the Japanese language.

Use of technology for education
Use your smartphone to check your daily progress on the learning apps | Source: 3rd Planet Techies

DuoLingo

DuoLingo is one of the most preferred learning apps in the world when it comes to languages. Lessons in Japanese are designed for people who might not have any previous knowledge of hiragana or katakana. 

Users who advance from the beginner's level can also test their knowledge and understanding on the app.

All the lessons are grouped into interesting categories, ranging from food and family to Japanese culture, history, and subcultures. There’s even an Olympics category in anticipation of the Tokyo 2020 games.

Once a category is mastered, a power bar appears beneath it. After a while, the bar will start to recede, prompting you to review that lesson. Along with focusing on vocabulary, DuoLingo emphasizes sentence structure.

The app offers exciting quizzes, testing users in interesting ways. Eventually, you’ll find yourself translating English sentences into Japanese or selecting English terms from a word bank to recreate Japanese sentences. 

Summary

There are many tips for learning a new language, but perhaps the most important is knowing your motivations and expectations. As we have seen many times before, profiles and needs vary greatly between someone wanting to work or live in Japan and someone who just wants to go on holiday to Japan, or even someone who is simply interested in learning a new language.

If you are looking for a great application to learn Japanese which can satisfy both beginners and intermediate students, we recommend you download any one of the smartphone apps listed in this article.

If you are experiencing a mental block with apps, you can always take private lessons (use the Superprof website to find a Japanese tutor in your local area).

As you can see, some applications are intended to provide you with a comprehensive knowledge of Japanese, while others are very useful to meet specific needs. So, which one is your choice?

Need a Japanese teacher?

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Shreyanjana

Shreyanjana is an archaeologist who ironically finds the written word to be the most powerful means of storytelling. A travel buff and a photography enthusiast, she has been writing and sharing stories of all sorts ever since she can remember.