All these apps are free or have free lite versions. I love learning languages, but the app store is full of a lot of duds to say the least. First I’ll show you the apps that were my favorite, then I show you the ones that I thought were duds. (And why I say they are duds)
My favorite Japanese apps:
This is your basic flashcard app, but allows you to select as many categories as you want. For example, I started with easy ones such as “animals” and “parts of the body” in my flashcard set. This app also has a hands free option where it will read the flashcards to you. This is great for killing time in the car. There also a multi-choice quiz option.
This is your app for vocab learning games. Each set of vocab has up to 9 games you can play to quiz yourself. The games quiz you in different ways, from matching, spelling, and speed recognition. One feature I love is that it gives you “Quests” or achievements to aim to. For example, spell 3 words correctly in a row in the game “Birds”. Quests keep the app from getting too stale because there is always something new to shoot for. Unfortunately, you only get the first of 50 lessons for free. To purchase all 50 lessons its $4.99 (which in my opinion, is well worth it) Try out the first lesson, and I’m sure you’ll fall in love.
This is your international chat app. Search for people by what they speak, and what they want to learn to speak. And if you get stuck mid conversation, there is a translate button, right there in the app. One feature that is wisely excluded is attaching pictures to chats. Since there’s no pictures, there’s less creepy guys fishing for selfies.
This is your “I’m in another country and don’t know how to read signs” app. Using your phone’s camera, this app translates text in real-time without requiring internet access. This is also fun to point at things in English, and see how it translates.
This is your “I have no idea where to start to learn Kanji” app. It starts out easy, and shows you the pieces/radicals that make up the kanji you’re studying. One feature that I love is that you can type in memory tricks into your flashcards. With this app I was able to power through near 150 kanji in a day or two.
This is your “I don’t understand how this Asian language works” app. Its a general good intro to the concepts you’ll need while learning Japanese. At the end of each chapter there is an optional vocab quiz and an optional chapter review quiz.
Now here’s the apps that were NOT my favorite:
I searched the internet for what other people suggested for apps, and after trying them all, I declare these the duds.
Gengo Lite – These are flashcards with pictures. Pretty basic, but pretty boring. And if you want to do anything above weather or fruits, you’ll have to pay $
Learn&Play Japanese – Phrase flashcards with pictures. Only good for basic greetings and numbers.
JA lite – flashcards plus multiple choice quizzes. Basic vocab and phrases. Pretty boring.
Tae Kim’s Learning Japanese – Japanese concepts. similar to “Human Japanese” but not as enticing to read through. Also no quizzes.
Japanese (book icon) – This is a phrase book. Might be helpful in a pinch for reference, but otherwise, pretty boring.
Kana – flashcards for hirigana and katakana. Also a multiple choice quiz option. Interface isn’t the best. Pretty boring.
Japanese (parrot icon) – This is a phrase book. Might be helpful in a pinch for reference, but otherwise, pretty boring.
Japanese (J) – Talks about different things in Japanese culture, has a short phrasebook, and has a kana game. The kana game is the biggest/only plus for me. However, the game is good for reviewing kana, not learning. The app is also a little confusing to navigate.
Little Pim – flashcards with pictures. targeted towards children. basic vocab. very basic.
HiraganaLite – Hirgana learning with picture memory tricks. multiple choice quiz. Free version only gives you some hirigana. Also has a phrasebook. If it had all hirigana in the free version, this might have avoided the dud list.
DuoLingo – Tries to be rosetta stone but is not. They expect you to have a good grip on the language immediately but it is too stiff with answers. You can type in a correct sentence, but since it’s not the exact wording they want, it’s wrong. And since you have to type a lot of answers it’s frustrating.
WaniKani – basic kanji list and quiz, but the interface is pretty confusing and you can only do a couple of kanji at a time.
Kanji Connect – Kind of like a word find game, but you have to know a lot of vocab to play this. Plus the interface is confusing
Japanese (penguin icon) – vocab in chapter form while talking about japan. short quizzes at the end of the chapters. Meh
Japanese Learning – great art, but only one short game for a couple basic kanji. Lists all kana and has basic dictionary.
Flashcards (pink talk bubble icon) – flashcard phrase book
JapaneseKana (chalkboard icon) – Kana list, not the best interface
i-Sokki (sakura icon) – all this app is, is a quiz of complex things no beginner will know
J idioms (Japanese wave icon) – Great app for learning Japanese idioms or “figure of speech” Not a bad app, but idioms come later down the road of learning.
translator (tongue icon) – just a type and go translator
mojigaki – targeted towards Japanese children. everything is in Japanese, so hard to navigate
Japanese Pocket Trainer (cat icon) – multiple choice vocab quizzes, and kana list
Skritter – I couldn’t get this one to work outside the tutorial portion
HelloTalk – Similar to LexTalk. can’t search via location. can’t have multiple languages you’re learning. However it does have a nice option to correct the person you’re talking to. you can also add pics and doodles to your chats. While that can be nice, it can also be annoying.
hirigana (a icon) – targeted towards Japanese children. everything is in Japanese, so hard to navigate
Learn Japanese – few flashcards with pictures