It’s great when languages (like Japanese) are offered as a school/university elective, and this definitely helps establish a learning foundation you can build upon. But what about those that didn’t get this opportunity or have only just decided to start learning Japanese? Yes, I’m sure you’d be able to find an independent Japanese language school, but what if you don’t have the time to go to classes or the money to do it in the first place? This is where these three language learning apps come in handy!
When learning a new language, a dictionary is a must! Forget carrying the old school dictionary books or even online dictionaries that will usually just translate the word or sentence you put in. With Midori, it is so much more than just a dictionary! Here are its main features:
Do a search in English or Japanese (either by typing the word, writing the Japanese character, or searching by radical). Once you’ve done a search, it will give you the related results, and when you open a result, it goes even further by giving you the word’s meaning, examples of the word in use, character readings, and word conjugations/compounds.
The list feature is a list of folders that show words by kanji (漢字) grade level, frequency, JLPT level, kana (かな), parts of speech (e.g. nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc.), and loanwords (words from different countries). It can be really interesting to see Japanese broken down this way, and some people may even find it handy as a learning tool!
This is basically the section where any words you have bookmarked go. You can create folders, too, which can help – especially when you want to customize your learning experience.
There is also the translate feature where you enter in the Japanese text and then get the English translation. This works best for single words. But if you do enter in a sentence, it will break down the sentence and give you translations for the individual words.
*This is not a free app and is only available on the App Store.
When learning Japanese characters, kanji is the most difficult – you have to learn its stroke order, meaning, and different readings (kunyomi [訓読み] or onyomi [音読み]).
With this app, you learn all of that and have a higher chance of retaining the information because they teach you using mnemonics, radicals (so it’s easier to build on your kanji knowledge), the kanji itself, and also vocabulary.
Your learning is broken down into lessons and then regular reviews, and your reviews are done using a spaced repetition system so that you can easily retain and recall what you have learned.
It’s a great app if you want to learn how to read Japanese, especially if you fancy reading manga in its original Japanese print, plan on working or living in Japan for the long term, or just because!
Learning on your own is all well and good, but can definitely be a challenge if you don’t get the chance to practice it (reading, writing, and speaking). So this is where HelloTalk comes in handy. It is a language exchange app and isn’t limited to Japanese.
Through HelloTalk, you can connect with other people wanting to learn the same language as you or speakers of the language you are learning who want to learn your language. So an English speaker wanting to learn Japanese, and a Japanese speaker wanting to learn English.
You can chat with one person or join group chats, and you even get to post “moments” (similar to a Facebook post) that people can like and comment on.
When chatting, you get the opportunity to correct a person’s sentence (and vice versa), which definitely helps with the learning process. And when receiving a message in Japanese, you get the option to either translate the entire message directly or get the romaji (ローマ字) reading for it so that you can read it and go from there – the latter helps, especially if you are not familiar with the character.
You can also send audio messages which will help with the listening and speaking side of learning Japanese.
Now even though these apps either require a one-off payment or are based on subscriptions, they can potentially be worthwhile investments. This will obviously depend on how each person learns. Luckily, they do have trial versions for you to try (not including Midori) so check them out if you’re interested. And if you do decide to go ahead and try them out, hopefully, they help you learn Japanese more efficiently!