Best App or Courses for Learning Japanese


We as a family travel to Japan at least once a year, and always wanted to learn some Japanese so we can communicate on a basic level and be able to read at least some restaurants menu.

Just want to find out if anyone can recommend any good online or app based Japanese course for beginners



  • +3 votes

    I guess Duolingo would be okay to learn some basics of Japanese.
    I tested their Japanese course when it first released, and while it was too easy for me, I could see it helping beginners.

    I think if you really want to learn Japanese, you'll have to invest in some textbooks or classes.
    I used Yookoso to learn in university.

    I think with a good understanding of Hiragana and Katakana, you can read some menus.
    But some things will always be beyond beginner level, as Kanji can take years to learn.

  • +2 votes

    I use Mango Languages, I don't know, I just find it really fits me better, its pretty pricey but if you have access to a library a lot of them give you access for free. I also like to supplement the text with some sort of flashcard thing (Anki/Tinycards/Brainscape etc). It helps me remember all the words I learn and keeps a good database of all the words I should know. I've also used Duolingo, Busuu, Memrise, human japanese, lingoDeer which all seem alright.

    My biggest issue was I spent so much time jumping from one app to the next and never learning anything past the first few lessons.

    Honestly though, most people tell me if you really want to learn Japanese, its good to get a textbook of some sort (Genki/minna no nihongo?) Pick a level (N5) and work from there as it can give you some SMART based goals (you can actually test yourself for certain levels), the biggest issue I have with apps is while they teach some vocab, they usually don't teach grammar either very well or at all. Which a textbook seems to do quite well.

  • +1 vote

    Pimsleur audio books… Awesome


      I haven't done Japanese, but have done some French and mandarin though Pimsleur. I find it quite convenient in that you don't need to look at anything, it is all audio, so I can do it in the car on the way to work.
      On the minus side they don't explain the structure much, so sometimes things can be unclear, so you will need to go and look it up afterwards


      +1 for Pimsleur, great way to get started. Just FYI for OP and others… Pimsleur is very much an active listening/speaking thing, it takes a lot of mental effort. Would not recommend doing it while driving!


    Memrise, especially for reading.

    I used it for years for Chinese. Learning characters in particular was great with Memrise as it allows you to create your own lists etc. So I would go to restaurants, borrow a menu and then make my own sets in Memrise with the vocabulary on said menus. I did the same with flyers, newspapers, magazines etc.

    Obviously, the above method does require some original content in said language, but it can't be that hard to find online. There are also heaps of pre-made sets/lists.

  • +1 vote

    One on one lessons are always far superior to books, apps etc. Suggest you investigate online Skype lessons with a native Japanese speaker. Often these lessons can be less than $15 per hour.


    I went to TAFE for 18 months to study Japanese, my wife is from Japan so I wanted to be able to talk to her family and also get around in Japan by myself.

    I think you really need to be speaking it every day to really pick it up, I've forgotten a lot of what I studied as I speak to my in English as she didn't want to talk to me in Japanese when I was first starting to learn as it was like speaking to a baby. I can have a few basic conversations with her family, I understand a lot more that what I can actually speak. Learning hiragana and katakana I found was very useful especially when ordering food because I can read bits of the menu.


    Transparent Language is great.

    They have an app for phones, but I prefer it on the computer for typing reasons. It has alphabet lessons, grammar, speaking practice (speech analysis through the microphone), audio files of native speakers saying the words – everything you can think of really.

    I actually got a key for their Japanese program through a Humble Bundle a while ago, along with about 10 other languages. I don’t think I’ll get around to using it so if you just DM me I’m happy to send you the code free of charge :) It’s a 12-month subscription (valued at $150)


    I spent about 9 months learning Japanese for a trip I took last year. I was travelling through rural Japan on my own so I needed some basic Japanese to get by. I found Duolingo pretty good for the basics and getting me up to speed on hiragana and katakana and teaching some basic phrasing. I used a flash card app to learn new vocabulary (AnkiDroid) was the one I used.

    What I found most useful was learning some basic Kanji as well. Being able to interpret signage actually came in handy a lot. I used two apps called Kanji Tree and Obenkyo.

    Of course, now I don't need the Japanese I've forgotten most of it. Make sure you're keeping up the practising, perhaps find a native speaker who's willing to lend a hand?


    Thanks everyone for the Suggestions so far, will look into all the options mentioned.
    I think for long term, a proper Tafe or video link course with textbook would be best if I want to learn in depth.

  • +1 vote

    For beginners and those starting out, I would recommend Erin's Challenge. It's created by the Japan Foundation and is free:

    Next, when you want to start building up your vocab, look into Wanikani

    From what I recall, the first 5 levels are free for wanikani and then you need to pay to access the rest, it goes up to level 60.

    But nothing beat immersing yourself in the culture and speaking to a native speaker, you're already doing just that by going to Japan regularly, so good on you!

  • +1 vote

    Thanks @CityEnd

  • +1 vote

    big list of websites, tools, apps, flashcards and download links to PDFs, ebook, workbooks and Audio CD's,

    Minna no nihongo is also a really good textbook. All the universities usually have it as a prescribed textbook / workbook for Japanese 101. You don't have to buy it, just go to your uni library and borrow it.

  • +1 vote

    Udemy can be convenient if it’s important to you to access via an app, this course looks quite good for starting out:

    Genki 1&2 for beginner and Tobira for intermediate are well regarded text books.

    If you have an iPhone or iPad, Midori Japanese dictionary is excellent

    A native speaker to practice with will help a lot with conversation - in addition to the online options above, private tuition in person is usually not more expensive than a language school

    Or if you don’t mind a language swap arrangement, a lot of Japanese people wanting to learn English on this site

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