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Free Apps for Studying Japanese

There are many free smartphone apps available for learning Japanese. This article introduces some of the better options.


This app teaches hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Users can test their ability through a variety of methods, such as writing or answering multiple choice questions. The app includes kanji lists for different levels of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, aiding preparation for this popular examination. Users can also practice writing hiragana and katakana with a finger on the screen.

Obenkyo offers kanji lists for users studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

Developer: Atomusk

Availability: Android only

Google Play link

Kanji Recognizer

Kanji can be a major hurdle for many learners of Japanese who grew up outside East Asia. Kanji Recognizer was made to help these people, allowing users to swiftly handwrite characters and obtain their readings, stroke orders, and basic meanings. The screen displays on-yomi and kun-yomi readings in katakana and hiragana, respectively. It also indicates the JLPT level of each kanji.

Kanji Recognizer helps make learning characters easier.

Developer: Nikolay Elenkov

Availability: Android only

Google Play link


Japanese learners as well as students of other languages can use this app to directly ask questions to native speakers. The set formats for questions—such as asking how to say a word in the target language or whether a phrase sounds natural—make it easy to find answers to learning difficulties. Pay it forward by answering questions about your own language.

HiNative lets language students pose questions to native speakers.

Developer: Lang-8, Inc.

Availability: Android and iOS

Google Play link   App Store link


This comprehensive dictionary app is very useful for Japanese learners and has a clean, easy-to-understand layout. It’s simple to find kanji categorized by JLPT level and school grade and to make personal vocabulary lists using the favorite function. Users should note, however, that example sentences are of varying quality.

Use imiwa? to check meanings and make vocabulary lists

Developer: Pierre-Philippe di Costanzo

Availability: iOS only

App Store link


Although the name is uninspired, this dictionary app is extremely useful for learners from beginners on up. It provides several examples to show how to use vocabulary correctly along with the readings for each kanji. Users can also check pronunciation by touching the audio icon. The app has a list of verb conjugations and classifies all words by JLPT levels. Users can search in hiragana, katakana, or kanji.

Japanese provides meanings of characters and examples of usage.

Developer: Spacehamster

Availability: Android only

Google Play link

Learning Japanese

The popular website by Tae Kim in app form provides the grammar principles of the Japanese language. After introducing the three writing systems, it dives into the grammar, moving from elementary essentials to advanced topics. The explanations are clear and simple to follow. Example sentences have full translations and it is also possible to tap on individual words for readings and meanings.

Learning Japanese breaks down grammar.

Developers: Ignatius Reza (Android), Ronald Timoshenko (iOS)

Availability: Android and iOS

Google Play link   App Store link

Kotoba: Advanced Japanese

The app contains thousands of words, expressions, and example sentences with English translations. Along with vocabulary for different JLPT levels, it includes 20,000 common words from the Mainichi Shimbun. The app remembers which words users have answered correctly, enabling them to concentrate on the vocabulary they do not know.

Test your vocabulary with Kotoba: Advanced Japanese.

Developer: Yutani

Availability: Android

Google Play link

Kanjiryoku shindan (Kanji Skill Check)

The interface of this app is entirely in Japanese, making it more accessible to advanced learners. Users can test their kanji knowledge in many different ways, including practicing the kana readings for characters or writing the characters themselves on the screen. Those who enjoy this download should try the accompanying vocabulary app (Vocabulary Skill Check).

Japanese language learners can check their knowledge of characters with Kanjiryoku shindan.

Developer: Nowproduction

Availability: Android and iOS

Google Play link   App Store link

(Banner photo: The Japanese app in action.)

  • [2016.09.19]
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