Recommended iPhone apps for studying Japanese

By Matt Canada

There are a surprisingly large number of applications for studying Japanese to be found in the App Store, and you can find applications suitable for all occasions and ability levels, from on-the-go cramming on the train or bus to several-hour study sessions at your local café. It would be a daunting task to cover all the Japanese study applications found in the App Store, but having tried a good number of them, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites. The following apps were all downloaded from the U.S. iTunes Store and paid for in U.S. dollars.

Japanese – $17.99, by codefromtokyo

If you buy only one application for Japanese study, buy this. The Japanese app virtually eliminates the need to carry around your electronic dictionary. At $17.99, it is the most expensive app on the list, but it is by far the best. Frequently updated, this Japanese-English/English-Japanese dictionary provides an extensive list of features. Included are plenty of example sentences, full conjugation charts, and a jump function activated by simply touching any word in an example sentence. These are just a few of the useful features available when looking up words. Japanese also allows you to make several of your own vocabulary lists, complete with notes and color-coded labels and allows you to study these words via a spaced repetition flash card program. In addition to the standard word look-up system, Japanese allows users to look up words based on classification topics such as sports, economics, or literature, as well as lexical categories such as nouns, verbs, onomatopoeia, and counters. I cannot recommend this application highly enough.

Cheaper alternative: Kotoba! – free, by Pierre-Phi di Costanzo

While not as feature-rich as Japanese, Kotoba! is more than competent as an offline Japanese-English/English-Japanese dictionary. Considering that it’s free, this application is perfect for those who are not in need of the bells and whistles found in the Japanese application.

iKanji Touch – $9.99, by ThinkMac Software

Another heavy-hitting study application, iKanji Touch is a fantastic flash card based kanji study application overflowing with useful features. All of the kanji are broken down into either JLPT or grade school levels, and are then further broken down into sets of 20. Browsing the kanji flash cards, which include readings, meaning, and radicals for over 2,000 kanji, is as simple as swiping your finger, while tapping the flash card will flip it over and show you the proper stroke order. Tapping the bottom of each card will bring up a list of vocabulary words and compounds that incorporate that particular kanji. An extensive testing system is also in place to help users actually learn new kanji rather than simply review them. The test system covers kanji meanings, readings, compounds, and stroke order. This is as close to having a comprehensive kanji workbook on your iPhone or iPod Touch as you’re going to get. Also try: ShinKanji – $5.99, by Benoit Cerrina.

KanjiBox – $2.99, by Unknown Genius Software

Recently updated to add the quiz modes found on the popular Facebook version, KanjiBox is perfect for kanji and vocabulary review in short bursts. You can choose from five levels of difficulty ranging from JLPT levels 1 through 4, as well as a more difficult “sensei” mode. For those not familiar with the Facebook version, the functionality is simple; it is a multiple choice quiz game where you will be presented with either a kanji or a vocabulary word and you must tap the correct answer. That’s it. KanjiBox is extremely simple yet highly addicting. The application will remember which words you consistently answer correctly and which words you tend to miss. Missed words will appear more frequently until they are learned. Also try: Kanji Flip & Japanese Flip – $5.99 each, by Proffitt Ink.

KanjiPop – $1.99, by Lima Sky

Another time-waster, KanjiPop is a time-based game where you are given the on-yomi, kun-yomi, and English meaning (which can be turned off) of a kanji, and you must tap the corresponding kanji character from a box of 16 possible answers before time runs out. This application is not ideal for learning kanji, but it is a fun way to review them. There are 127 levels of increasing difficulty, and you must complete a level in order to advance to the next. There is one drawback to this application in that you cannot choose which level you would like to play from the title screen. In order to play previously completed levels you must first “fail” a level and then select which level you would like to attempt from the “game over” screen. When you restart the application, you will be brought back to the highest previously completed level.

10 thoughts on “Recommended iPhone apps for studying Japanese

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  2. Great list, thanks very much. One question – I’m not in a position to get an iPhone, but I have been considering getting an iPod Touch. Do the apps you recommend work on that, too?

  3. Any app that works on an iPhone will also work on an iPod Touch or iPad. It’s all the same OS.

    The only problem would be if the app needed to have a constant internet connection, which usually isn’t a problem with studying apps.

    (PS, Kotoba is awesome as a free application. Everyone should download and use it when in Japan.)

  4. Another thumbs-up for Kotoba.

    Also check out smart.fm online and as an app – a very good language learning tool.

    Finally a reminder that you can turn on the full Chinese character writing capability in Seetings-Language (some people don’t seem to know you can draw your kanji directly and the phone will auto-predict what you want).

  5. Thanks gaininja. I always forget that myself.

    Using Kotoba with an iPhone/ iPod Touch/ iPad is probably a better overall deal (and far more useful) than spending 40,000 yen on an electric dictionary.

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  7. A new study app for the iPhone was just released last week called Japanese Flash. It has over 180 word sets, 145,000 word fast dictionary and you can make your own sets. It costs 800 yen or US$6.99 and is available now for download.

    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/japanese-flash/id367216357?mt=8

    DISCLOSURE: I work Long Weekend LLC, the maker of Japanese Flash. We think it is a good app that fills a real gap in the market. Please check it out yourself so I can avoid filling this space with mere self-appraisal.

    peace 😀

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