Last updated: January 7, 2023

Overview: the best free app to learn Japanese

Number 1: Duolingo


The Duolingo Japanese course starts by teaching you the Japanese writing system – hiragana, katakana, and 90 core kanji characters. After the hiragana lessons, you’ll begin learning basic grammar and vocabulary through a series of exercises. These game-like translation exercises make it easier to recall information later.

Because Duolingo is meant to be fast-paced, it is excellent for anyone that wants to learn Japanese in their free time. It’s easy to squeeze in a bite-sized lesson in under 5 minutes. Through a series of translation and audio exercises, you get an experience that moves fast enough to prevent boredom.

Learn Japanese from an absolute beginner levelLacks in-depth grammar explanations or lesson plans
Learn Japanese writing and symbolsCan get repetitive 
Limited use without a subscription

Number 2: Japanesepod101


JapanesePod101 is a well-rounded platform that includes a mobile app, YouTube channel, video and audio lessons, transcripts, lesson notes, vocabulary lists, and flashcards. 

It’s a solid all-in-one resource for learning Japanese. You’ll learn how to read and speak Japanese from a total beginner level through short video and audio lessons. With a premium plan, you’ll get access to your own native-speaker Japanese tutor via a chat, where you can send audio and written messages. 

Downloadable PDFs and vocabulary listsTeachers only available via messenger
Personalized quizzesIt requires a greater time commitment than other apps 

Number 3: KanjiStudy


This popular learning Japanese app, helps students study and master the written aspects of the language. The app also has a notable grammar section, but it’s with written Japanese that it truly shines the best. Obenkyo teaches kanji,  katakana, as well as hiragana.

Obenkyo isn’t structured like a traditional course. It’s more for independent learners. You’re free to learn Japanese and explore all of the content of the app at once, versus walking through a step by step lesson system.

Advantages Disadvantages
Great way to learn over 2,000 kanji
Kanji only
Various exercises to improve memorization and writing skillsThe user interface can be confusing

Number 4: Obenkyo


Obenkyo offers lessons in Japanese grammar, vocabulary, and writing. The content is broken down into several proficiency levels, so you’ll have no trouble finding content that’s appropriate for your skill level.

There are flashcards to practice characters with, and handwriting software checks how well you’re mastering your strokes. This is another good option if you want to improve your Japanese writing skill, but it doesn’t offer much beyond that.

Good practice for Japanese writing No in-depth lessons in the Japanese language 
Broken down by learner’s levelApp design is outdated

Number 5: Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese

ProductTae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese

Tae Kim’s no-frills approach to learning Japanese is a great tool for any learner, especially if you understand some Japanese already. There are various grammar exercises in all three Japanese writing systems to help you hone your skills on the go.

Plenty of examples sentences put concepts into practice, dialogues, and tips for using what you learn. This app is an excellent tool for grammar, but it is limited elsewhere. There are no listening exercises and no chance to speak, either.

Free to useNot a comprehensive Japanese course
Focuses on Japanese grammar 
It may be too difficult for beginners 

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