Free Apps for Learning Nihongo

Welcome to my friend Rosa who is helping me to review these fun and useful iPhone apps which are great for learning Japanese. Rosa is also from Oxford, but she’s currently on her year abroad studying Japanese and Literature at Kobe University. She has plenty of experience of studying Japanese, so it’s super to have her to help!

  1. Kanji Solitaire – By Exsulto Corporation (Lite version free; full version £0.79 on App Store; free with in-app purchases on Google Play)

Kanji solitaire“Find words, use all the cards, and clear each puzzle. Tap or slide the first kanji of a suspected word, and available moves will highlight. Choose a second kanji to complete a word. Repeat this process until you complete the puzzle”

Rosa: It’s really fun. It helps you to think about which words you can make with kanji. It’s a creative process. And it’s a very innovative way to learn kanji. Are you actually writing everything I say? Oh god.

  1. Yomiwa – by Yomiwa (£3.99 on iOS App Store,; free with in-app purchases on Google Play)

Yomiwa.jpeg“Yomiwa is an easy offline way to translate Japanese with your camera. The app displays a pop up with English translations of single kanjis and words as soon as you point to Japanese characters with your iPhone or iPad. You can as well take a picture or pick one from your camera roll and navigate it to translate chosen characters. Yomiwa also lets you recognize Japanese characters by drawing them on your screen.”

Oh wait?! Is this the one where you can take pictures and it –? It’s worth getting an iPhone for this. Oh man, give me some kanji. Your face doesn’t say anything. That’s actually really sad. Oh there’s some kanji! Kanji! Spotted! [The app recognises a word] That’s so cool! I have a dictionary on my phone but it’s really difficult for looking up kanji. Yomiwa is freaking cool.

  1. Learn Japanese by MindSnacks – by MindSnacks (Free with in-app purchases on App Store only)

Mindsnacks.jpeg“Learning Japanese can be intimidating, but we make it easy with 8 addictive games designed to build essential reading, writing & conversation skills. When learning involves beating old high scores instead of flipping flashcards, it’s amazing how quickly you’ll start to speak, read and write Japanese.”

I’m actually pretty excited about this one, not gonna lie. Mindsnacks! Oh first topic is food. Food! Oh the free version is just one lesson. Ok, let’s try a game of swirl. Argh oh my gosh why does it have wings it’s a fish?? Jdddjjjsssss. AHH. I know this but it’s just really stressful. I feel like I’m gonna kill the fish. Ittsssutsuutsuuj. Also there are no characters. It’s all in romaji which– URGH I got killed again. 260mph? Ooh it indicates how well I know each word. That’s quite cool. Um it’s fun and um AW squirrels and there are loads of pretty pictures um and ooh I’m doing a kayak game I think. Oh oops. Ok they don’t do the language and the script and the learning vocabulary all together. It focuses on one skill at a time. The time-pressured games are about speed and in other ones you have enough time to get it right. It’s really well designed. Ooh yay I made it to level 2!

  1. StudyChat Japanese – By Guiix Pty Ltd (Free with in-app purchases on App Store only)

StudyChat.jpeg“Practice Japanese with anime conversations.”

I’m just so fun that a lot of these apps don’t look fun enough to be fun to me. Oh this one has lots of pictures! [I unlock the app store purchase using Touch ID] Oh you can unlock it just by touching?! The world has moved on quite a lot without me realising. That’s insane.

Ohhhhh. It is quite cool. The animes are fun. It also uses the alphabet which is cool, but I think it assumes you know the alphabet. It teaches you phrases and kind of explains it but I don’t think that you have the opportunity to learn or change them. It’s useful that there’s sound because you can hear how things are pronounced in a Japanese accent. I reckon it’d be easy to learn from it and it teaches you sentences. It also offers Chinese and Korean!

  1. Learn Japanese Free – By Bravolol Limited (Free with in-app purchases on App Store and Google Play)

Learn Japanese“Learn Japanese is a collection of commonly used Japanese phrases and vocabularies for beginners and travelers. U
sing this app, you can learn from our Japanese speaking parrot. The parrot works together with you to practice your speaking and listening skills, wherever and whenever you are. Learning Japanese can never be easier.”

Oh the first lesson is animals! It has the kanji and then it has romaji to learn, but the tests are just in kanji, which is difficult. But if you like kanji, this is a good app. It tests you which is useful, but the graphics aren’t that good. It has hiragana and katakana charts but they’re unexplained. I’m not sure that this is too useful. Also you have to download each lesson and you have to pay for them.

  1. HiNative – By Lang-8, Inc (Free with in-app purchases on App Store and Google Play)

HiNative.jpeg“HiNative is a global Q&A community for language learners and people that are curious about the world. Ask questions, get answers, and connect with native speakers from over 170 different countries!”

Ok I actually love this site. I wish I could get it on my own phone. This is really good and much better than any translation thing with proper explanations. It’s also good for use at any level of Japanese. So I will definitely use it!

Thanks so much to Rosa for featuring on Thinking Japlish!




Feature image credit: Clarissa Combe

Author: Naomi

Twitter: @Naomified @ThinkingJaplish

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