Today’s technology connects us to vast amounts of information all the time. So, as you begin to study Japanese, you probably have the necessary tools right in your pocket! You can learn Japanese for free by tapping into online sources and apps that come in all levels for any student.

For those who are just beginning to learn Japanese online, what are the best free platforms and apps for your level? Rather than waste your valuable time searching among the hundreds that are available to learn Japanese for free, here is a list of the most recommended for beginners who want to study Japanese. You can try out a few until you’ve assembled a virtual toolbox that works for you.

desk space with computer, notepad, and smartphone

Why Students Like to Learn Japanese for Free Online

What researchers say about Apps shows that apps and other digital tools can really help with language learning. Many students report that they like the apps because they can make mistakes in private without being embarrassed. This eliminates performance anxiety that often stalls the progress of some students. Because of this, many classroom language teachers have come to embrace the use of apps, especially for practice and repetitive grammar work. This frees up class time for interaction between the teacher and students.

girl using smartphone at home

Top 10 Free Online Tools for Beginners

Here are the top 10 web-connected apps for those just beginning to study Japanese. These are in no particular order because the best tool for studuing Japanese for one student may not necessarily work well for a different student. Different people have different opinions and learning styes, but since these resources are free, you can try out a few until you find the best combination of tools for your needs.

1. Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese: Students learning any new language struggle with meaning in context. This guide tackles context well and provides lessons that are organized logically. It’s packed with vocabulary. Grammar lessons for beginners are provided, too, and there are conjugation tables that make sense. Kanji readings are provided and all are clickable. Available for iPhone.
2. DuoLingo: This app makes learning a language fun, with categories like family, work, school, food, and more in a game-like interface. Duolingo focuses on vocabulary and sentence structure. It relies on repetition until the user is successful and is particularly helpful for beginning students covering the basics. The app keeps track of your progress and presents more difficult exercises as you advance. Available for both Android and iPhone.
3. Japanese (by Renzo Inc.): Designed for mobile devices, this app is slick and easy to use. The search feature is fast and draws from a huge library of relevant results for words and sentences. It also provides handwriting recognition, a sorting feature for lists, and digital flashcards. Available for both Android and iPhone.
4. Imiwa: Translating approximately to “What does this mean,” this dictionary has over 170,000 entries but also offers example sentences where students can see the words in context. The app conjugates all verbs and the user can switch easily between polite and neutral language. Available for iPhone.
5. Obenkyo: This app shines when a student wants to focus on learning written Japanese: kanji, katakana, as well as hiragana. A grammar section is also provided. Obenkyo (which appropriately means “study” in Japanese) is written for the independent learner; there is no patterned progression of lessons to follow. It allows lots of practice using multiple choice questions, but the student is also given plenty of opportunity to write answers. Available for Android and iPhone.
6. Dr Moku: Creators of the app believe that learning can and should be painless, so this app uses humorous mnemonics as a drill to memorize Japanese characters. It also matches the symbols with funny pictures to cement the meaning. Available for Android and iPhone.
7. NHK Easy Japanese News: People all over the world read a newspaper every day. Creators of this app believe language students can learn Japanese by doing the same thing. They emphasize using the app 15 minutes per day without stressing about how much you are learning. NHK Easy Japanese News also has audio features that are free, adding another layer of education for aural learners. Available for Android, iPhone, and the Web.
8. Learn Japanese by Mindsnacks: Great for both adult beginners and children. The content is built into eight games that focus on reading, writing, and conversational skills. Every lesson has 20 Japanese phrases or words supported by audio clips. Users try to beat the scores of others who have played, making learning more like a video game than a language lesson. Available for Android or iPhone.
9. Hello Talk: Not only do you gain language skills in Hello Talk; you also get to connect with pen pal who is fluent in the language you are learning. As students chat with their pen pal, real-time corrections can be made to the learner’s written messages. There is also an audio feature to practice speech and comprehension. Available for Android and iPhone.
10. TenguGo Kana (Hiragana & Katakana): This app provides examples of pronunciation, flashcards, stroke diagrams, and quizzes as the student learns both alphabets. Both are also compared to kanji. Kana then extends the lesson by showing the student how the character is used in different words and contexts. Students review charts or take tests in order to see how they are progressing.

BONUS IDEA: Use resources on the web or free apps that are topics that interest you personally, like dance, music, anime, drawing, or others, to connect with your Japanese studies. You will learn Japanese for free faster when you are engaged with the topic.

For example, this article on Japanese music includes Japanese words that are tied to that topic. This alone will help you study Japanese, both the language and the culture. Do an internet search for your hobby or some other personal interest to get started!

man using smartphone next to a brick building

Expanding Your Study of Japanese

This list of apps available to learn Japanese for free online is just a start. You can uncover many others on your own or by asking for recommendations from your friends and teachers. By adding some variety into your study of the language, including blog articles about learning Japanese online, you have a better chance of long-term success to reach fluency.

The Speechling User’s Guide is full of helpful information, too. You will find audio for all learning levels, games and learning activities, a mobile app, many offline resources, and free language coaching. You can even experience the Speechling website in Japanese as you progress in your new language.