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Six iPhone Apps to help Japanese learning

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

If you're learning Japanese, these Apps will definitely help.

News Manga (漫画の新聞)


News Manga has a team of around 100 artists who draw short mangas for news stories every day. Apparently it's to keep young people engaged with the news. Good for learning too, and available from the US App store. The news is way more interesting when you're trying to piece it together whilst waiting for a bus, with a sub-rudimentary understanding of kanji and some cartoons. And it's free.

It's all very clean and tidy and you zoom in enough to read it well:



Free Japanese dictionary based on the JMdict (Japanese-Multilingual Dictionary). Free, comprehensive and frequently updated. Of course the Nintendo DS Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten is better because you can write the characters straight on to the screen, but it's not free and this is a post about iPhone apps not Nintendo, so it's bewildering that I'd even bring it up, pointlessly making a long post even longer, but hey that's what happens when you get to publish without any editorial restraint I suppose. Here a screenshot for your eyes to skip distractedly to, and hopefully avoid this whole sorry paragraph:


Sim City

Sim City

I grabbed this when it went on sale a few weeks ago, presuming that it would be completely unplayable compared to the PC version (the Mac version is completely unplayable without any excuses), but for 99 cents it was worth a try. Surprisingly it's very good, redeemed entirely by the fact that you get to move and confirm everything you do before you do it. So you can't accidentally put a freeway through a shopping mall. Without that feature it would be useless. And, doubly-surprising, if your phone is set to Japanese the game has full Japanese text:

Sim City



This one I haven't used for a while, but was a good way to drill the hiragana and katakana in. It's reasonably well put together (I remember one or two words being clipped slightly, but that might have been fixed now) and the weird blue dog and yellow gremlin are oddly encouraging.



Anki is my SRS of choice and it's great. Not that I've used any of the others, so have no frame of reference to compare it, but the computer application works fine and it's free. For the iPhone I've been using AnkiOnline, which has a slightly complicated setup but does work fine. Now there is the dedicated iPhone App which is currently on sale for the princely sum of $24.99 which seems extoritionate compared to most of the other dross in the App Store. However, considering it's a language learning device, which seems to be a field of notoriously expensive aids and abettors, and also considering the desktop download and AnkiOnline are still free, I suppose it's quite reasonable for something you're going to be using many times a day for many years. I haven't bought it yet, but I think if I hit the wrong link on the AnkiOnline screen with my fat fingers one more time, thus being expelled from my deck to a definition page, I'll probably buy it immediately.

Here's a screenshot of the official App:

And this is AnkiOnline, showing an incredibly useful word that I plan to use everyday when I next go to Japan:

Human Japanese

For a well-written way into the grammar of Japanese I think this warrants a look, especially as there is a free version as well as the full $9.99 version. It has the usual slightly daft memory tile games that many apps seem to favour, but the best thing about Human Japanese is the conversational and encouraging tone of the writing. It actually makes grammar rules and sentence structure explanations almost interesting.

Besides these Apps, the iPhone is of course good for podcasts and music to help with immersion. And I suppose if you actually know some real Japanese people you could use the oft-neglected phone feature and speak to them in, if you're me, broken, stilted and incomprehensible Japanish with a bad accent. Which gets you laughed at.


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