10 Useful Apps To Learn Japanese For Travel 2023

by Erika Shinomoto
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Discover the 10 best apps to learn Japanese for travel, navigate with ease, and unlock authentic experiences.

As a seasoned traveler with a passion for exploring diverse cultures, I’ve always found that learning the local language, even at a basic level, enhances the travel experience immensely. 

This is especially true for Japan, a country rich in history, traditions, and a unique linguistic landscape. 

While English is increasingly understood in major cities, venturing beyond the tourist trails requires a basic grasp of Japanese to truly immerse yourself in the country’s captivating charm.

Fortunately, technology has made language learning more accessible than ever before. With a plethora of language learning apps available, mastering essential Japanese phrases for your travels is within reach. 

In this article, I’ll guide you through the 10 best apps to learn Japanese for travel, drawing from my extensive experience as a language enthusiast and avid traveler.

A quick glance at best apps To learn Japanese for travel:

Apps To Learn Japanese for TravelBest forProsCons
DuolingoBeginners, casual learnersFree, gamified approach, bite-sized lessonsLimited depth of instruction, lack of grammar explanations, limited speaking practice
MemriseVocabulary building, visual learnersEffective memorization techniques, extensive vocabulary collection, user-generated contentLimited grammar instruction, quality concerns with user-generated content, limited speaking practice
LingoDeerGrammar enthusiasts, structured learningStructured approach, emphasis on grammar, suitable for beginners and intermediate learnersLimited speaking practice, less emphasis on cultural context, limited free content
DropsVisual learners, quick learning sessionsVisually appealing interface, gamified approach, focus on visual cues, quick learning sessionsLimited grammar instruction, limited speaking practice, repetitive exercises, limited free content
BusuuInteractive learners, feedback seekersInteractive approach, community features, feedback from native speakers, structured lessonsLimited free content, quality concerns with community feedback, limited speaking practice
PimsleurPronunciation focus, auditory learnersEmphasis on pronunciation, gradual progression, focus on listening and speaking skills, suitable for auditory learnersLimited visual aids, limited grammar instruction, repetitive exercises, limited free content
Rosetta StoneImmersive learning, dedicated learnersImmersive language acquisition, comprehensive curriculum, variety of exercises, suitable for dedicated learnersLimited free content, steep learning curve, limited grammar explanations, limited speaking practice
HelloTalkConversation practice, cultural exchangeReal-time conversations with native speakers, cultural exchange opportunities, community features, free to useQuality of language exchange partners can vary, limited structured lessons, potential for distractions, limited grammar instruction
italkiPersonalized instruction, conversational practicePersonalized lessons with professional tutors, wide range of tutor options, flexibility in scheduling, focus on conversational skillsCost, tutor selection process, limited structured lessons, self-discipline required
JapanesePod101Listening comprehension, podcast enthusiastsPodcast-style lessons, focus on listening comprehension, variety of lesson formats, structured learning pathsLimited free content, limited speaking practice, grammar explanations could be more in-depth, mobile app limitations

Best Apps to Learn Japanese for Travel: Your Digital Language Toolkit

Duolingo: Gamified Learning for Beginners

Apps To Learn Japanese for Travel

Duolingo’s playful approach makes learning Japanese fun and engaging, especially for beginners. Its bite-sized lessons and game-like elements keep motivation high, while its focus on basic vocabulary and everyday conversations aligns perfectly with travelers’ needs.

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Pros:

  • Free, accessible, and gamified approach
  • Bite-sized lessons and focus on practical language skills

Cons:

  • Limited depth of instruction and lack of grammar explanations
  • Limited speaking practice and repetitiveness of exercises

Related: Best Books To Learn Japanese for Beginners

Memrise: Memorization Made Easy

Memrise utilizes spaced repetition and mnemonic techniques to help you effectively memorize Japanese words and phrases. Its extensive vocabulary and phrase collection will equip you with the linguistic tools to navigate various travel scenarios.

Pros:

  • Effective memorization techniques and extensive vocabulary collection
  • User-generated content and gamified elements for engaging learning

Cons:

  • Limited grammar instruction and quality concerns with user-generated content
  • Limited speaking practice and repetitiveness of exercises

LingoDeer: Structured Learning for Grammar Enthusiasts

LingoDeer offers a structured approach to learning Japanese, with a strong emphasis on grammar. Its comprehensive lessons cater to beginners and intermediate learners, providing a solid foundation in Japanese language structure.

best japanese language app

Pros:

  • Structured approach with a strong emphasis on grammar
  • Suitable for beginners and intermediate learners
  • Variety of exercises to engage different learning styles

Cons:

  • Limited speaking practice and less emphasis on cultural context
  • Limited free content and less gamified elements compared to other apps

Drops: Visual Vocabulary Building

Drops’ visually appealing interface and gamified approach make vocabulary building a breeze. Its focus on visual cues and quick learning sessions is ideal for travelers seeking to expand their Japanese vocabulary on the go.


Pros:

  • Visually appealing interface and gamified approach
  • Focus on visual cues and quick learning sessions

Cons:

  • Limited grammar instruction and speaking practice
  • Repetitive exercises and limited free content

Busuu: Interactive Conversations and Native Speaker Feedback

Busuu immerses you in real-life conversations, simulating the interactions you’ll encounter during your travels. Its community features and feedback from native speakers provide valuable insights into authentic Japanese usage.

Pros:

  • Interactive approach with real-life conversations
  • Community features and feedback from native speakers
  • Structured lessons covering various language aspects
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Cons:

  • Limited free content and quality concerns with community feedback
  • Limited speaking practice and grammar explanations could be more in-depth

Pimsleur: Audio-Based Learning for Pronunciation Mastery

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Pimsleur’s audio-based approach hones in on pronunciation, a crucial aspect of Japanese communication. Its emphasis on listening and speaking skills makes it ideal for auditory learners.

Pros:

  • Emphasis on pronunciation and gradual progression
  • Focus on listening and speaking skills, suitable for auditory learners

Cons:

  • Limited visual aids and grammar instruction
  • Repetitive exercises and limited free content

Rosetta Stone: Immersive Language Acquisition

Rosetta Stone replicates the natural language acquisition process, immersing you in Japanese through interactive exercises and real-world scenarios. Its comprehensiveness caters to dedicated learners seeking a deep dive into the language.

Pros:

  • Immersive language acquisition and comprehensive curriculum
  • Variety of exercises and suitable for dedicated learners

Cons:

  • Limited free content and steep learning curve
  • Limited grammar explanations and speaking practice

HelloTalk: Real-Time Conversations with Native Speakers

HelloTalk’s language exchange feature connects you with native Japanese speakers for real-time conversations. This app is a gem for practicing speaking and improving fluency, allowing you to gain confidence in communicating with locals.

Pros:

  • Real-time conversations with native speakers and cultural exchange opportunities
  • Community features and free to use

Cons:

  • Quality of language exchange partners can vary
  • Limited structured lessons and potential for distractions
  • Limited grammar instruction

italki: Personalized Lessons with Professional Tutors

italki offers personalized lessons with professional Japanese tutors, providing structured guidance and personalized feedback. This app is perfect for those seeking a more traditional learning approach with expert support.

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Pros:

  • Personalized lessons with professional tutors and a wide range of tutor options
  • Flexibility in scheduling and focus on conversational skills

Cons:

  • Cost and the need for careful tutor selection
  • Limited structured lessons and requirement for self-discipline

JapanesePod101: Podcast-Style Lessons for Listening Comprehension

apps to learn japanese

JapanesePod101 delivers podcast-style lessons, catering to those who prefer audio-based learning. Its focus on listening comprehension and natural conversation makes it ideal for improving your understanding of spoken Japanese.

Pros:

  • Podcast-style lessons and focus on listening comprehension
  • Variety of lesson formats and structured learning paths

Cons:

  • Limited free content and limited speaking practice
  • Grammar explanations could be more in-depth and mobile app limitations

What to look for in an app to learn Japanese for travel?

When choosing an app to learn Japanese for travel, consider these key factors:

  1. Focus on practical language skills: Prioritize apps that emphasize everyday phrases, travel vocabulary, and essential expressions for navigating common situations like ordering food, asking for directions, and making polite requests.
  2. Emphasis on pronunciation: Choose apps that provide clear audio examples and pronunciation guides to help you develop accurate and natural-sounding Japanese pronunciation.
  3. Cultural context: Look for apps that incorporate cultural insights and explanations to enhance your understanding of Japanese customs, etiquette, and social norms, making your interactions more respectful and enjoyable.
  4. Variety of learning methods: Opt for apps that offer a mix of learning methods, including interactive exercises, gamified elements, and engaging audio or video content to cater to different learning styles and keep you motivated.
  5. Offline accessibility: Choose apps that allow for offline access to lessons and practice materials, ensuring you can continue learning even without an internet connection during your travels.
  6. Travel-specific content: Prioritize apps that provide travel-specific content, such as phrasebooks, location-based vocabulary, and cultural tips tailored to travelers’ needs.
  7. User-friendliness and interface: Consider the app’s user interface and overall design. Choose an app that is easy to navigate, visually appealing, and provides a seamless learning experience.
  8. Cost and value: Evaluate the app’s pricing model and compare it to your budget. Consider free trials or introductory offers to assess the app’s value before committing to a paid subscription.
  9. Reviews and user feedback: Read reviews and user feedback to gauge the app’s effectiveness, identify potential drawbacks, and determine if it aligns with your learning preferences.

Embark on Your Linguistic Journey: Unlocking Japan’s Cultural Riches

With these 10 apps at your fingertips, you’re well-equipped to embark on your Japanese language learning journey. 

Remember, consistency is key. Dedicate a few minutes each day to practicing, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you progress.

As you explore Japan, armed with your newfound linguistic skills, you’ll uncover a world of cultural riches and authentic experiences. 

From conversing with locals to deciphering menus and navigating hidden gems, your Japanese language skills will become an invaluable asset, transforming your travels into a truly immersive and unforgettable adventure.

Advantages of Japanese learning apps: 

  • These Japanese apps are easy to use and learn the language. Most of the apps are free so if you’re keen on learning just for fun, you can do it easily. 
  • Most Japanese learning apps include all three Japanese writing systems- Hiragana, Katakana as well as Kanji which is important to become fluent in the language. 
  • You can use these apps to learn the Japanese language from anywhere and at any time. Most of the apps also have offline access which makes it a lot more convenient. 
  • It will teach you grammar as well which is the most crucial part of learning a language.

Best Apps for Learning Japanese: FAQs

Are Japanese learning apps good?

Japanese learning apps are an excellent way to up your grammar as well as language skills. Most of them are free and have a lot of features like pronunciation audios, free tests, and quizzes, etc.

Is Duolingo good for learning Japanese?

Duolingo is one of the best-rated free apps to learn Japanese for beginners. It makes learning fun by adding games and quizzes. However, if you’re an advanced learner, Duolingo might not be the best choice.

Which app is best for learning Japanese for free?

There are various apps to learn Japanese for free like Obenkyo, Duolingo, Lingodeer, HiNative, etc. However, some of the apps only have the basic version free and there’s a minimal fee for advanced learning.

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