I get that seriously studying Japanese or any other language would require at least some financial investment on things such as books, online courses, and maybe even actual schools. However, you don’t always have to break the bank. Just because something does not come with an expensive price tag does not automatically mean it’s no good. In fact, I can guarantee that the apps I will be introducing to you today would do wonders to your Japanese language studies and would not cost you even a cent.
By the end of this video, hopefully I would have convinced you about how great these apps are and that they will indeed help you with your studies. A note before you get them and start studying away though, be sure to download the exact apps with the name and logo shown in this article. Most of them have similarly named and designed counterparts which, in my experience, are not as effective as the ones I’m recommending.
TODAI EASY JAPANESE NEWS
First of all, be warned that this app does have a premium option which would cost you 3,180 for a lifetime subscription. However, don’t let that discourage you from checking this out in your search for free Japanese-learning apps. In terms of content, the free and paid versions are exactly the same. The perks if you are willing to fork out some cash is that you would have an ad-free experience as well as will be able to download the materials for offline use (which, honestly, I don’t think is necessary and will just probably burden you in terms of storage). Going for the paid version will also give you an unlimited amount of reads per day while the free one has a limit of ten. With regards to this, I think 10 is already more than plenty.
HOW IT WORKS
On the daily, the app is updated with short and current news articles picked up from different sources around the internet such as NHK, Livedoor and CNN. Within the app, the articles are divided between an Easy and a Difficult tab allowing users to filter content based on their level.
Inside the article, you can highlight any word or expression to look up its meaning using the app’s own dictionary. Yes, this also comes with a dictionary!
Reading the article, you would also see certain words underlined in different colors indicating what level of JLPT they belong to. In addition, users have the option of turning off furigana marks altogether or turning them on for words up to a certain JLPT Level. While reading, if you come across expressions you have not yet mastered and would like to review in the future, you can choose to add it to your favorites or to a ‘notebook’. Words saved for review can then be accessed as a list or as flashcards! Below each article, there is a portion where you can review vocabulary and grammar found in the reading material.
Following the articles tabs, you get a section where you can try JLPT mock up tests (with time limit and all). There are 36 of the mock-ups in total but a free subscription would only let you open 16 (but seriously, that’s not bad at all).
After the JLPT portion, you get the app’s dictionary where you can search for words, kanjis, sentences, grammar and even images.
The final tab is named video but is actually further subdivided into a video and a podcast section. There are a wide variety of videos available – from official music videos, news to children’s programs. For each video, you get the transcript written both in Japanese and in Romaji. For some of them, you can even review the article’s vocabulary grouped based on their JLPT Level.
WHY I LIKE IT
First of all, its news – current and actual facts which are of immediate concern to me. Sure beats trying to study Japanese using hypothetical ‘whos’ doing hypothetical ‘whats’.
I think the articles themselves are also great. Of course, this is not the only app out there that lets you practice Japanese by reading or listening to the news. However, these apps usually fall into 2 categories – super difficult or excessively dumbed down. The news in this app, as far as I can tell, have achieved a balanced level of difficulty.
Another thing I absolutely love about this app is the fact that you can simply highlight difficult expressions to know what they mean, and, with just a few more taps, save them for review. Plus, the app automatically generates flashcards using the words you saved. I mean, how great is that? Before I found Todai Easy Japanese News, I would have to use 2-3 separate apps to go through the same process!
The points above are already great selling points that the JLPT and Video sections, for me, are frankly just welcome extras!
midori (japanese dictionary)
As the name suggests, this app was developed mainly to serve as a dictionary. Because of this, I initially did not give it much thought because for years, I have been a loyal user of the app Imiwa (which is also free and not bad either). However, after exploring Midori, I am now completely sold on it and would probably no longer be using Imiwa. Let me tell you why.
HOW IT WORKS
The main dictionary feature is great. There are four options for inputing your search – you can type (in Japanese or Romaji characters – either foreign or Japanese words), finger-write, use the SKIP method or use radicals. You can further choose to do a general search, one for names/nouns or for sample sentences containing the character. The app has a massive storage of 190,000 words and 12,000 kanji entries. Once you find the word you’re looking for, you will see its definition, reading and sample sentences.
If you happen to have searched for a verb, you would also get a complete list of its conjugations.
The next tab titled ‘Reference’ would, at first, seem like just a bunch of folders that are the database for the dictionary. However, these folders would allow you to review their contents as flashcards which you can even choose to be shown either sequentially, in random or using spaced repetition.
You can even pick out exactly what information you would like the flashcards to contain. Other features of the app is letting you create notes and ‘favoriting’ entries for future review.
WHY I LIKE IT
My absolute favorite part of this app are the references and how you can create flash cards from them. Particularly, I think I would get a lot of use out of the ‘Kanji by JLPT Level’ and ‘Words by JLPT Level’ folders. In the past, I used Anki for flashcard-type reviews. I honestly am too lazy to create my own deck of cards so I would always end up using pre-made ones from around the web. Although they served me well, I was always weary that they might not be complete and contain only words that the creators needed reviewing. With Midori’s flashcard feature, I can rest easy that I would get all of the vocabulary needed. Plus, I could customize what I want shown on the flashcards depending on the current level I am in.
I also appreciate that the verb entries contain complete conjugations since not a lot of dictionary apps did this. lol
learn Japanese: sensei
This is an app version of the widely popular guide to learning Japanese grammar by Tae Kim. It is 100% free and, if the many people who have tested Tae Kim’s method in the past are to be believed, can take even a beginner all the way through to master level. Even back when I was just starting to learn the language, I have already heard of Tae Kim and his website. I even gave it a try but I never did have the chance to finish it before getting occupied with other study materials. That said, I have a feeling that this app will finally help me do just that.
HOW IT WORKS
The way I see it, the app is actually just a digital book – albeit a very organized and well-designed one that also happens to have some awesome additional features. Divided among five chapters, you will get 68 lessons which will take you from an introduction to the Japanese writing systems to advanced grammar topics. Some of the early lessons come with exercises to review what you have learned.
The grammar points discussed are accompanied by sample sentences within which there are green-colored words. If you click on these words, you will be shown their writing order and would even have the option to hear its pronunciation. At the bottom of each lesson, there is a self-evaluation portion where you can rate, from 1-5, how well you have understood it.
WHY I LIKE IT
To start with, I like that it’s free – no strings attached. The interface is straightforward and easy to get around. I’m also genuinely excited to complete it to see if it lives up to the hype and just how effective it really is – hopefully very.
There you have it, 3 amazing & free apps which you can download right now! Hopefully, you will enjoy them as much as I do. If you have other app recommendations, do let me know in the comments!