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Learn Japanese for FREE with these 5 language apps

With the Coronavirus preventing travel to Japan, there has been no better time than now to learn Japanese. Thankfully, there are several free Japanese learning apps available on both iPhone and Android.  

A lot of people think that Japanese is a very challenging language. And it is! However, if you want to pick up a new language during your spare time, learning Japanese can be enjoyable and rewarding with a gamified language app. 

Below are our favorite FREE Japanese learning apps. Happy studying!

1. Bunpo 

Bunpo is a grammar study app that offers courses from beginner to proficient (JLPT N5) level and has a very straight-forward, interactive UI. The app provides a variety of lessons that help you practice the language on-the-go, with detailed explanations at the beginning of each lesson.

The English translations, accompanying audio examples as well as a series of multiple-choice quizzes make it easy to grab the language. If you make an error during a quiz, there is an option to correct your answers and move to the next lesson.

The Bunpo course includes over 1,800 example phrases, 8,000 quiz questions, and a Smart Japanese kanji dictionary that is helpful if you are starting from a beginner level.

Paid Subscription Details: While Bunpo offers a lot of free content, if you want to access additional features like Personalized review, priority support, etc., you can choose one of these paid options :

Monthly ¥850, Annual ¥2,100, Lifetime ¥3,680

Download Links:
iPhone / Android

2. Busuu

Another language app that has been liked by many is Busuu. This app allows you to learn Japanese as well as other languages (the free version allows for only one language at a time). It’s interface is quite fuss-free, user-friendly, and intuitive.

After signing up on the app, you can choose your initial goal, course level, days in the week you would want to study, specific time, and the duration to generate your basic study plan.

The lessons are laid out in an interactive manner using a flashcard system that features an audio recording, translation, related picture, and fun tips. The system keeps you engrossed and helps you remember the vocabulary faster. The only thing that we found a little irritating was the constant reminders to go Premium.

Paid Subscription Details: You can choose to go Premium with a 7-day free trial and ¥12,000 for an annual plan. This gives users access to grammar lessons, vocabulary trainer, an offline mode, and other features. A further upgrade to Premium Plus offers a personalized study plan and official certificates as well.

Download Links:
iPhone / Android

3. Drops

Covering 39 languages, including Japanese, Drops offers an enjoyable way to learn with bitesize 5-minute lessons every day. The lessons use interactive images or drawings to help you learn and remember the words.

It divides lessons into various categories like travel talk, food & drinks, animals, business & tech, and many others. This allows to you can start with a lesson in a category that you relate to most or use the most in daily life. For each word in any category, you can either swipe up if you already know the word or swipe down to learn the word. After you finish learning words in a particular subcategory, you will receive a percentage score, and you can move to the next set of words if you score 100%.

If you don’t have a paid version, you will have to wait for 10 hours till you can access the next lesson. However, you can access the words you have already learned and practice them again.

The app is useful for those who have a grasp of the Japanese language and want to enhance their vocabulary. Still, for a sheer beginner, it can act as a supplementary app along with another app/course.

Paid Subscription Details: 7 days free trial and ¥7,800 for an ad-free, all-access annual plan.

Download Links:
iPhone / Android

4. Duolingo

Duolingo is definitely one of the most popular apps among language learners for its engaging, gamified lessons. You can begin your course as a beginner or start with a placement test to know at which level you should start the course.

The course includes audio and typing lessons, but it’s best to keep a pen and paper handy to practice the characters you learn on the app.

The progression of the course is relatively slow, and if you answer a few questions wrong and lose your hearts (that you gain by watching ads or practice lessons), you cannot proceed with your current lesson.

However, the good part is that it detects typos quickly and awards you points even if you typed incorrectly, but the answer was correct. Another unique feature is that you get Lingots, i.e., the app currency which you can spend through the Shop feature on unlocking bonus skills or streak freezes (that allows you to keep your streak going even if you miss a day).

One thing that Duolingo does right is to get you to be consistent – whether by constant email/app reminders or through the leaderboard within the app that motivates you to log in every day and catch up on more lessons.

Paid Subscription Details: Duolingo does offer the majority of its features in the free version as well, but the paid version at ¥8,600 per year provides you unlimited hearts, mastery quizzes and allows you to go ad-free.

Download Links:
iPhone / Android

5. Learn Japanese!

This is one of the few Japanese language apps that allows you to practice your Japanese writing skills using your finger on the phone screen through guided typing lessons and audio clips.

The app offers six levels of courses: Hiragana, Katakana, basics, verbs, questions, and adjectives. Learn Japanese works well for absolute beginners who also want to learn how to speak and write basic characters. The app first unlocks a subcategory like vowels which you have to clear first with practice before unlocking the other categories.  

It also works as a great Japanese dictionary with 2,000+ essential Kanji characters and 3,000+ compound words. The app helps you enhance your vocabulary by breaking up the words for pronunciation and offering a quiz-style teaching method.

There are some basic settings that you can change on the screen like speech speed, writing practice On/Off and font style. 

The best part about the app is that it keeps track of the characters you have become familiar with and the ones you still need more practice with, thus recording your progress.

Purchase Details: The app is free to download but offers an in-app purchase option for unlocking all lessons at just ¥980.

Download Links:
iPhone / Android

While many other apps would help you master your Japanese language skills, these definitely caught our fancy. So next time, if you are out of activities to kill your time, download one of these apps, sharpen your language skills, and be on your way to becoming multilingual.

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