My favourite language apps

Tablets and smart phones are powerful platforms for language learning. Here are some of my favourite iOS apps for studying Japanese. Most of them are free, while a couple cost very little.

Japanese (free, by renzo Inc.): This is my Japanese–English dictionary of choice. It offers three ways to input kanji (including writing by hand). Many words come with sample sentences, so that you can see how they are used in various contexts. Words you have looked up can be saved in lists and you can then test yourself on them later.

StickyStudy (price depends on what packages you want): This flashcard app is helpful for memorising kanji and vocabulary. It’s particularly useful if you’re studying for one of the JLPT exams. Vocabulary has audio so you can hear how words are pronounced. You can set goals (e.g. learn all vocabulary for the N2 JLPT exam in six months) and the app will set daily targets for you. It also includes sample sentences that show how words are used in context.

iBooks (free): This is my preferred app for reading books in Japanese. Two touches are all it takes to look up unfamiliar words you encounter in a Japanese–English dictionary. The iBook store offers a wide range of books at all levels, from picture books and manga to novels for adults. For all books, you can download free samples of the first 20 pages or so, which are great for getting free reading practice in Japanese before deciding whether to purchase the book or borrow it from a library.

SmartNews (free): This app is good for reading news in Japanese. Again, it’s simple to look up words by simply highlighting the word and selecting “Define.” Newspapers such as Mainichi and Yomiuri post content on it, as do many local newspapers. Articles vary in size from a short paragraph to about a dozen paragraphs. It gets updated regularly during the day.

Accordance (app is free, but the Shinkaiyaku costs US$25): While not my favourite Bible-reading app, this is the only one I’ve found that uses the Shinkaiyaku. By using the split-screen view, it’s possible to create a parallel bilingual Bible with your preferred English version. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have an option for displaying furigana (hiragana over kanji to indicate pronunciation), so you have to copy and paste unknown words into a dictionary app to find their pronunciation and meaning.

Other Bible Apps:

Olive Tree’s Bible Study has the Shinkyōdōyaku (New Interconfessional Translation), usually for US$10.

Faithlife’s Logos Bible has the Shinkaiyaku in its PrePub program—you can hasten its development by placing a pre-order for it.

Life.Church’s Bible has the Japanese Living Bible, with audio when connected to the Internet, and the Kōgoyaku (Colloquial Japanese, 1955) version, both for free.

iTunes (free): If you have a Japanese credit card, the iTunes store is convenient for renting or buying Japanese movies and songs.

Podcasts (free): Podcasts are good for improving listening comprehension. There are many Japanese-learning podcasts available as well as many for a Japanese audience.

If I’ve missed an app that you find very useful for studying Japanese, please let me know, and I may include it in a later article.

Simon Pleasants works as an editor in the Tokyo office of a scientific publishing company. Originally from Wales, UK, he moved to Australia in 1988. He helps maintain several Japanese-related websites, including Reaching Japanese for Christ: www.rjcnetwork.org

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