Japanese Language Apps – Which Ones Work?

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[Guest blog post] I’m happy to introduce my first guest blog by Sarah at postcollegeadulting.com! Sarah is a fellow Japan-lover and will share her knowledge of a couple Japanese language learning apps. (Ikigai Connections has no business relationship with these services at this time.)

If you’re interested in learning Japanese, but don’t know where or how to start, you’re not alone! That’s where a lot of us started, and it can be hard – especially if you’re self-studying and don’t have easy access to a classroom full of fellow learners. Not to mention, if you’re a native English speaker, Japanese is just about the furthest thing from what you know, between learning an entirely new alphabet with thousands of characters, mixing up the grammar and syntax, and…well, you get the idea.

Fortunately, there are tons of resources out there to help! Of course there are plenty of textbooks (I learned using Genki I and II when I was in college), as well as several web resources and podcasts, but how about something a little easier? Something you can carry with you all the time, because who doesn’t constantly have their phone with them?

That’s right. There are apps for that.

Now, I should preface this by saying that one single app will not provide you with all the practice you need to learn a language. You’ll still want to do some digging for books and other resources that offer a more in-depth and explanatory learning experience. But these apps are great for a bunch of different reasons, including:

  • Practicing what you already know
  • Recapping what you’re currently learning
  • Speaking and listening practice
  • Practicing Japanese when you’re short on time, but still want to get a few minutes in

I’ve been trying to get back into practicing Japanese myself, but like many people, I don’t always have time to sit down and study. So, I recently downloaded two apps that have been helping me keep up with my studies.

The first is LingoDeer. LingoDeer is great for when you only have a few minutes to practice, but you still don’t want to neglect your studying too much. The app is free, though there is a paid version you can get (not to mention they offer you a massive discount if you purchase it in the first 24 hours after downloading the app), which I did.

LingoDeer has tons of great features that can help you learn:

  • Great for practice on your own time
  • Organized lesson modules
  • Offers the option to test out of each lesson, depending on your existing knowledge of Japanese
  • Video story scenarios at the end of each section, so you can hear a Japanese conversation and hear how newly introduced words and grammar patterns work
  • Speaking and listening practice
  • Options to tailor your learning to your level – you can set the app to display words in kana and romanji, kanji and kana, and so on
  • Reviews to practice your weak spots
  • Set goals and track your progress
  • Negatives: no interaction with other Japanese speakers, limited number of lessons (there are a lot, but they do run out), not a lot of explanation for grammatical patterns

All in all, I’ve found this app to be really useful. It’s kind of similar to Duolingo, but personally, I’ve found LingoDeer to be more helpful, organized, and more fun.

HelloTalk is another app that’s great for getting more natural practice. It’s is a language learning app that allows you to talk with other people all over the world in the language you’re trying to learn. It’s especially useful for talking with native speakers, and functions in a similar way to a language learner’s version of Facebook.

A few things you can do with HelloTalk:

  • Post “Moments” – brief status updates to share with the learning community all over the world
  • The Talk function allows you to have private conversations with native speakers and other learners – it’s a win-win if the other person is trying to learn your native language too
  • Make redline corrections to show the proper usage of a word or phrase
  • Listen to podcasts and lessons recommended to you daily that you can tailor to your learning level
  • Follow others members’ posts – this can be really helpful in learning new Japanese phrases, as some members post useful expressions to help learners of their native language
  • Get notifications of other resources to help you learn
  • A call function to practice speaking and listening by talking with another person
  • Negatives: If you’re looking for an effortless app, this is not it. I’m constantly looking up words and phrases and translations just to reply to the few private conversations I have going, and if you don’t yet have extensive Japanese knowledge, you’ll likely have to take your time with this one. Talking to other users can be pretty intimidating at first, though you’ll find that most people are happy to talk and learn with you. You’ll also get the occasional person who wants to use a language app as a dating app, but the block function takes care of that.

The thing about all language learning apps is they’re largely a supplement for more intensive studying. They’re there for you when you can’t do that kind of work on a given day. Of all of the language apps I’ve tried, HelloTalk is the most unique in that it’s set up so you can talk with native speakers, learn natural Japanese speech, and have it corrected within the app. The important thing here is to make sure you’re keeping up with it. That’s always the real challenge, isn’t it?

Have you used either of these apps before? Do you have suggestions for other useful Japanese learning apps? Let us know!

Sarah is a writer who loves animals and learning. She has been interested in Japan’s language and culture since her early teen years, and she first began studying and tutoring Japanese in college. Since then, she has discovered many self-study resources, which she is always eager to share with other learners. She also runs Post-College Adulting, a blog dedicated to sharing the struggles of early adulthood and her own experiences with it.

Ana Bernardo on Unsplash.com

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