Learn Japanese Online Language Course Reviews

11 Best Japanese Learning Software Picks

Best Japanese Learning Software

Whether it’s for personal travel, business or family connections, you’ve decided you want to learn to speak Japanese online. So, how do you know who offers the best Japanese learning software? Have no fear, we have done our research and tested over 50 apps. The following are our top 10 picks for the best Japanese language-learning program.


1. JapanesePod101

JapanesePod101 offers over 10,000 hours of videos and podcast lessons to teach you to speak Japanese. You will find grammar lessons, cultural lessons, and the latest Japanese news and events.

JapanesePod101 Video Lesson Preview

There are four subscription levels from $4 to $47 per month. There is also a free subscription which offers a lot of material. You can also find coupon codes to discount the monthly cost.

Tons of learning content Little speaking practice
Useful learning tools Not great for advanced speakers
Grammar and culture lessons Understanding kanji is necessary
English is phased out in advanced lessons

Price  3 / 5 stars

Effectiveness 3 / 5 stars

User Experience 5 / 5 stars


2. Olly Richard’s Japanese Uncovered

This is a new addition to our list in 2021, as we hadn’t tried this course until recently. Japanese Uncovered is a beginner Japanese course (intermediate also available) created by Olly Richards, a polyglot who believes in the power of story to learn a language.

Japanese Uncovered Olly and Ai Sensei
Japanese Uncovered’s hosts: Olly Richards and Ai Sensei

Our editors recommend this as one of the most entertaining and effective structured courses for learning beginner Japanese.

Read our full review of Japanese Uncovered.

Price 3 / 5 stars

Effectiveness 5 / 5 stars

User Exprience 5 / 5 stars

3. Pimsleur Japanese

Pimsleur Japanese uses four key principles put together by Dr. Paul Pimsleur with the belief that you learn a foreign language best when you learn it like you did your native language—by listening and repeating. These principles include focusing only on core vocabulary words, optimally-timed repetition, the principle of anticipation and organic learning (as mentioned).

Pimsleur Japanese Review - Lesson 1 Screenshot

Pimsleur is $14.95 each month you choose to use it. You can upgrade to Premium features for $19.95 per month. These features will include more, but not extensive, emphasis on writing and grammar.

All lessons are 30 minutes or less Lacking grammar explanations
Audio-only lessons can be accessed anywhere One of the most expensive programs
All vocabulary taught is useful Lessons can be boring
Easy-to-use interface No writing or reading lessons

Price  2 / 5 stars

Effectiveness 3 / 5 stars

User Experience 3 / 5 stars


4. Anki

Anki is an app available for smartphones and desktops. It consists of spaced-repetition flashcards designed to help you memorize kanji and Japanese vocabulary. Spaced repetition introduces new words at varying intervals that are optimized for memorization. After each flashcard, you determine whether it was easy, medium or difficult. You will see your difficult cards more often until they become easy.

Anki is a free download for Android devices and $24.99 for iOS devices. With the ability to import your own cards from textbooks and even JLPT lists, it is well worth the money.

Anki’s algorhythm enhances memorization Not a complete language program
Useful learning tool Does not offer grammar explanations
Can make your own flashcards Difficult to write characters

Price  5 / 5 stars

Effectiveness 5 / 5 stars

User Experience 5 / 5 stars


5. Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese for iPhone

Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese is a book based on the principle that Japanese simply cannot be taught in English. It has been converted into a mobile app for easy access and covers grammar in-depth along with vocabulary with kanji and hiragana and katakana with content that his relevant and interesting.

You can purchase the book or use the desktop version or app for free or donation if you choose.

The most comprehensive covering of Japanese grammar Not much audio/video content
Variety of tools, books, videos to assist in learning Some type mistakes
Listening, speaking, writing and reading practice
Now available in iOS and Android

Price  5 / 5 stars

Effectiveness 5 / 5 stars

User Experience 5 / 5 stars


6. Lang-8’s HiNative-Language Learning

Lang-8 is unlike most other language-learning programs in that is is basically a social blogging sight in which you post and comment with others speaking Japanese. Native speakers proofread and correct your text for you. An absolute beginner might have trouble jumping right in, but it is a great way to get authentic, native dialogue going and possibly even make friends. Lang-8 is easy to use and you can sort blog entries by language or topic.

Native speakers help correct Japanese Brand-new users will have trouble jumping in
Easy to use interface No direct language lessons
Fun way to study and make friends
Ideal supplemental learning tool

Price  5 / 5 stars

Effectiveness 4 / 5 stars

User Experience 5 / 5 stars


7. Duolingo Japanese

Duolingo Japanese is a fun and motivating way to learn Japanese. It is designed to feel like a game complete with level-ups and rewards. On the flip side, you will also find that you lose “lives” and cannot always proceed when you get something wrong. Duolingo is excellent at motivation and introducing hiragana, katakana, kanji and romaji right from the beginning.

duolingo Japanese character sounds

It offers little, if any, grammar explanations and introduces new phrases and topics quite fast for beginners. Duolingo is free as an app or desktop version with Premium features for $9.95 per month.

Highly motivating and fun Little grammar and writing
Useful phrases Moves quickly for beginners
Includes hiragana, katakana, kanji and romaji Some translations are confusing

Price  5 / 5 stars

Effectiveness 2 / 5 stars

User Experience 4 / 5 stars


8. WaniKani

WaniKani uses mnemonics to teach you radicals, the building blocks of Kanji. All words come from the official kanji guide put forth by the Japanese Ministry of Education and are useful in everyday communication. It uses spaced repetition flash cards to help you memorize radicals, kanji and vocabulary words.

WaniKani is free to try for the first three lessons and then there is a small monthly charge. It is also highly recommended that you have a good understanding of hiragana and katakana prior to starting this program.

Uses mnemonics for memorizing Should know hiragana and katakana beforehand
Words learned from the Japanese Ministry of Education Not a grammar program
Teaches radicals to learn kanji Cannot go back and retake levels
Example sentences for vocabulary

Price  4 / 5 stars

Effectiveness 3 / 5 stars

User Experience 4 / 5 stars


9. LingoDeer Japanese

LingoDeer Japanese is another game-like way to learn to speak Japanese. It claims to have you learning to speak Japanese from your very first day. Using a building-block approach, LingoDeer slowly adds to what you’ve learned in previous levels. It uses audio from native Japanese speakers and integrates culture and grammar into each lesson.

LingoDeer costs $11.99 per month, but you can purchase lifetime access for a one-time purchase of $99.99. There are also three-month and yearly subscription levels.

Fun and motivating game-like app Lack of speaking practice
Heavy focus on pronunciation Not a well-structured course
Grammar tips and notes within lessons

Price  4 / 5 stars

Effectiveness 3 / 5 stars

User Experience 5 / 5 stars


10. Memrise

Memrise uses a three-step approach to learning Japanese based upon how you learned your native language. First, it uses real-life scenarios to keep lessons interesting. Next, you are immersed in video and audio lessons from native speakers. Finally, you practice speaking. Memrise’s smart learning engine automatically adapts to each learner.

Memrise Japanese offers both a free version and a PRO version. The PRO version is $129.99 for a lifetime membership or you can purchase monthly or yearly access. Upgrading to the PRO version will yield you the ability to converse with chatbots, adaptive technology and access to your learning statistics.

Great content for beginners No structure to learning format
Customization options Absolute beginners may get confused
Interesting content and visually appealing
Native speakers supply information for lessons

Price  4 / 5 stars

Effectiveness 3 / 5 stars

User Experience 4 / 5 stars


11. Rocket Japanese

Rocket Japanese is an extensive program designed to take you all the way to Japanese fluency. Based mostly upon interactive audio lessons, you will encounter comprehensive explanations of grammar and pronunciation.

Rocket Japanese is different from other programs in that you purchase your lessons instead of monthly subscriptions. There are a total of three lessons designed to take you from absolute beginner to advanced speaker. You have the option of purchasing one, two or all three lessons for a one-time fee—anywhere from $99.95 to $259.90.

Extensive language-learning program Sometimes technical difficulties with microphone
Customized learning Lengthy, unnecessary explanations
Quick lessons Confusion when beginning lessons
Plenty of speaking activities

Price  3 / 5 stars

Effectiveness 5 / 5 stars

User Experience 4 / 5 stars


The Best Japanese Learning Software: Final Thoughts

Every person has a different learning style and focus in their language study. That said, whether you’re looking for an extensive Japanese course, a kanji learning app, a supplemental app for a more extensive course, we think you will find it in this list!

Related posts

Kanji In Context Anki File

Is JapanesePod101 Free?

4 Ways to Find Interesting Japanese Content to Read for the Kindle

Leave a Comment