If you have some form of small portable computer having apps on for Japanese practice is invaluable. They allow you to practice anywhere at (almost) any time. If you often find you don’t have time to set aside time to study Japanese using an app to practice if you’re commuting, or between classes, or even just in bed and can’t be bothered to move, is a great way to get that practice in every day so that you don’t forget too quickly. Use them for long enough and you’ll soon notice that you’re reaping the rewards.
I only recently got my first portable device over two months ago (I know, I’m slow!). I got a Nook (which is like a Kindle) and it runs andorid software so I was able to look around the Google Play Store and download a bunch of free apps. I found that after 2 weeks of using these apps in combination to each other, every day for an hour or so, I was retaining information a lot better compared with my previous study method. (Which was writing words onto paper and just repeating over and over, or writing out my own flashcards).
So I’ve put together a compilation of devices you can download, what levels they’re good for and why. It’s important to pick a few (rather than just one or all of them) that work for you and your learning style and that you feel comfortable with. (I use Android, so all Apple App recommendations I have received from other people)
Good For all Levels
Very similar to AnkiDroid but a LOT easier to use. It’s more like a game where you plant ‘seeds’ of memories, and the more you play the game the more your memories grow until you can remember them completely. It’s easy to create your own set or use other peoples, and there is a huge library of resources for all levels (Tofugu have a great review of Memrise). You can make an account for free and edit flash cards on your computer to use on a portable device later (or use on your computer if you prefer). FREE
Use with caution. Great for learning any vocab, kanji, grammar etc thanks to regular intervals between cards and keeps you focused on cards you have difficulty so you learn them. BUT not all decks that you can download work or are very good (depending on how you learn). So it’s often easier (and what I do) to build your own decks, which can take time but can also be an element of studying. FREE
Japanese keyboard. Useful if you want to write your own flashcards. FREE
Fantastic Japanese dictionary that can be used offline. On tops of standard dictionary vocab it shows you kanji readings and stroke orders. FREE
For kanji character recognition, along with learning the meaning and readings. Limits you to a short once a day practice of new kanji and review so that you don’t overload your brain. Separates kanji in JLPT categories. FREE
Vocabulary (and Kanji)
Over 8000 words broken down by JLPT level. You learn through quizzes and therefore your own mistakes rather than flashcards or lessons. Unfortunately cannot separate words you’re having difficulty with unless you write them down and put them into a flashcard deck in Anki. But does motivate you to get 5 stars on all your words and you can track how many words you know and how well you know them. FREE
711 verbs broken down by JLPT level. Can practice just verbs or verb forms (great for beginners who need verb form practice). (By the same makers as JLPT words) FREE
2136 Kanji flashcards along with example vocabulary, and 14,479 vocabulary flashcards. Separated into JLPT and Jouyou levels. Is great in terms of content but flashcard decks are random and cannot add specific cards to decks. Also no sense of motivation in terms of repetitive study or showing if you know a card or not. A bit like studying using a dictionary – probably better for Advanced learners. £0.95
A great app for all users (vocab and kanji seperated by JLPT level) but does have a large section on the kanas and kanji, counters, particles and even beginner-intermediate grammar. FREE
Exactly what it says on the tin, a series of quizzes based around the kanas, kani, particles, grammar and counters. Good for practising and retaining information but not as good for studying new information (ie no explanations of grammar).
Free app for android that teaches you through writing the characters.
Uses lessons, flashcards and quizzes along with sound bites (for pronunciation) and stroke order diagrams.
Good for all Levels
A dictionary with with a twist. All vocab and kanji have example sentences and words, as well as the ability to make your own flashcard deck from dictionary words. JLPT practice questions for vocab, kanji and grammar, and JLPT flashcard practice. Even records how much you know based on quiz results. $7.99 but worth it as it has everything you need for all levels of Japanese study! (I’ve had a play on this and it almost makes me want to get an Apple device, or that they’d at least make an Android version.)
Japanese dictionary. FREE
Almost exactly the same as the Andorid Anki Flashcard program but has a wider variety of flashcard decks to choose from. Great for learning any vocab, kanji, grammar etc thanks to regular intervals between cards and keeps you focused on cards you have difficulty so you learn them. BUT not all decks that you can download work or are very good (depending on how you learn). So it’s often easier (and what I do) to build your own decks, which can take time but can also be an element of studying. $24.99
Over 5000 kanji with 9000 example words divided by grade and JLPT level. Variety of quizzes to practice readings and meanings. $11.99 but worth it considering the large variety of kanji and vocab, and quizzes available.
2141 everyday kanji separated by grade and JLPT levels. Learn readings, meanings and example vocab, comes with quizzes. $2.99
Vocabulary (and Kanji)
By Hong Kong developers for English, Chinese and Korean users this app helps you learn vocabulary by JLPT level through a variety of quizzes designed to really test your knowledge from a lot of angles including going over vocab you previously learnt to make it concrete information in your head. HK$108 = about $13 (US)
A similar program to Japanese Sensei and cheaper (but apparently not as engaging) this program helps you study vocab, kanji, and kana through a variety of quizzes all separated by JLPT levels. £2.99 [Image on right is screenshot of a kanjibox quiz]
Personally I use AnkiAnki Free, JLPT Words, JLPT Verbs, JED and AnkiDroid (after stopping using Anki for a bit I couldn’t pick it up again so now I use Memrise which is a lot easier to use) almost everyday. But after investigating these apps I’m going to use Bekyo as well for more vocab, kanji and counter study. These allow me to practice kanji readings and meanings, along with relevant words which often cross over. What I’m doing at the moment is using these to go over my N5-N2 vocabulary and kanji once more because I’ve missed or forgotten words and kanji readings.
Although it seems that Apple users will have to dish out a lot of cash for good Japanese programs they certainly seem better than those available on Android. If I had an Apple I would defiantly invest in Japanese by Renzo and Kanji Box.
Use a variety of apps. Using a combination of apps everyday (or as often as you can) really helps you retain information. I.E a kanji readings app, and then vocabulary app used together, kanji that you study will often appear in the vocab app, re-affirming the kanji reading and allowing you to better understand the vocabulary. (That’s why I use 2 kanji readings apps and 3 vocabulary apps as often as I can.)
What apps do you use (and on which device)?
Have you used any of these? What do you think of them?
Any other recommendations I might have missed?