WordReference is one of the best websites for single-word translations. It uses a combination of its own dictionaries and Collins’, depending on the language, and relies on professional translations rather than machine-translations. With each word you look up, you will receive multiple examples of how to use it, nuances of each meaning, and a list of how to incorporate it into multiple phrases. Whereas sites like Bab.la seem to have machine-translated examples that sound quite random at times, WordReference’s examples can be applied directly to your everyday conversation.
You can also find conjugation tables and the Collins COBUILD English Usage dictionary, which shows you how to use individual English words correctly — through its explanations, English learners will be able to differentiate between words that are easily confused (such as ‘current’ and ‘currant’). If the explanations don’t make sense, you can ask questions in the WordReference Language Forum — there you will find an active community of language learners discussing language learning topics.
Unfortunately, not all words have audio pronunciation, but those that do can be played back at different speeds and with different accents (depending on the language).
Although WordReference is a thorough resource, SpanishDict is probably a better option for Spanish learners, and Pleco is the only dictionary you will ever need for Chinese. Linguee is also similar to WordReference but specializes in formal language, and Forvo has millions of words pronounced by native speakers in hundreds of languages.
MyTest Migii helps you practice for the N5-N2 JLPT tests. It provides a comprehensive explanation of the JLPT test, in addition to 40 mock exams that provide specific recommendations for how to improve your weaknesses at the end.
The practice sections are organized to train specific skills — the vocabulary section includes Kanji reading, orthography, and contextually-defined expressions, while the grammar section will improve your sentence composition. You can read passages of Japanese texts with reading comprehension or thematic comprehension activities, or test your listening comprehension with a variety of different tasks. The app’s SRS flashcards will support your studies, dividing grammar and vocabulary into separate flashcard sets. Furthermore, there are detailed explanations about sentence structure, which are accompanied by audio pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and a link to the dictionary with stroke order and example sentences.
The app seems to have a couple of bugs, and you may find that some of the tests contain vocabulary or grammar not suitable to your chosen level. Furthermore, it seems to use text-to-voice instead of native speakers for its listening activities, and the flashcards are not as developed as Anki or other SRS apps. Nevertheless, it’s worth checking out, and there is a lot of free content to explore before deciding whether to dive into an annual or semi-annual membership.
Kanji Study’s user interface for Android is simple and intuitive. It will help you study hiragana, katakana, and over 4000 kanji with interactive flashcards. You can race the clock with multiple-choice questions, study through rote memorization, or physically write out the characters on your screen.
It also includes an extensive dictionary of characters. Each character page includes stroke order animations, writing practice, definitions, On-yomi, Kun-yomi, notes for mnemonics, and a unique visual decomposition of radicals that make up the kanji. The pages also identify the JLPT level of each kanji and provide a list of example sentences. Some of this information may be overwhelming for a beginner, but the beginner Kanji, katakana, and hiragana are free, so try it out!
Kanji Study extends its support beyond the app to help you learn new words. Although you can’t study compound words within the app, you can add words you want to learn to AnkiDroid with two taps. At any point during your Anki review, you can tap on the word to link back to Kanji Study for a more detailed explanation.
For intermediate to advanced learners, the flashcard part of the app will require a one-time purchase — however, it is affordable and can definitely support you in mastering your writing skills.
Another great, free dictionary app is Takoboto, which has a slightly more organized interface, but less interactive flashcards.
Shirabe Jisho is a Japanese Dictionary app for Apple users. You can search over 170,000 dictionary entries in both Japanese and English using handwriting, radicals, and romaji.
Each entry is comprehensive, with stroke order diagrams for several thousand Kanji and example sentences from the Tatoeba project. It also provides positive, negative, and masu conjugations when relevant. You can customize your own word list or choose from the pre-made lists that include common words, expressions, slang terms, colloquialisms, JLPT levels, and parts of speech. Unfortunately, the app uses text-to-speech pronunciation, but you can use Forvo on your desktop browser to listen to native speaker pronunciations for free.
The lists of similar kanji under each kanji entry are especially helpful to identify potential mix-ups. Although Shirabe Jisho’s breakdown of kanji components is not as comprehensive as in Kanji Study for Android, it still provides a helpful list of the basic components.
If you have both an Android and an Apple product, Kanji Study for Android is still your best bet. However, for Apple users, Shirabe Jisho is a 100% free and ad-free dictionary option that is well worth your time.
Genki, along with Minna no Nihongo, is one of the most popular Japanese textbook series around – and for good reason.
There are two volumes, and each of them has an accompanying workbook that you can buy. The main text will teach you reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, and more. The chapters are focused on a specific activity, e.g. going shopping, which helps you to immediately put the language in context. While not designed to align with JLPT or CEFR levels, studying both volumes should take you roughly up to A2/N4.
Genki is slightly more accessible than Minna no Nihongo: it uses English-language explanations and overall teaches less vocabulary and grammar, while still giving you a fairly decent introduction to the language.
That said, you’ll find Genki easier to use if you’ve already studied the kana. If you haven’t yet, don’t worry – it won’t take you long to master that with an app like Skritter (review) or LingoDeer (review).
In short, if you’re looking for something beginner-friendly with English explanations, or are just learning Japanese as a hobby, Genki is an ideal textbook. If you’re planning to move to Japan, however, or want to challenge yourself with a more comprehensive textbook, check out our review of the Minna no Nihongo series.
Speechling is a website and app that makes it easy to improve your speaking skills in several languages. The free version is an incredbily valuable resource that makes it easy to practice mimicking native speakers. The Unlimited Plan provides unlimited corrections of your recordings by a teacher.
Lingodeer may not be as well known as other language learning apps, but it’s actually better and cheaper than most of them. You’ll practice the language by completing lots of different types of exercises. They also include plenty of grammar explanations and opportunities to review what you’ve studied. All in all, it’s one of the better options for getting started learning a language.
Satori Reader is a Japanese learning method available on your computer and smartphone/tablet. It focuses on Japanese reading skills and teaches Japanese grammar and vocabulary by providing weekly annotated articles and dialogues. Satori Reader also contains a built-in vocabulary repetition app that uses new vocabulary learned from the articles. A basic free version and a premium subscription version are available.
Beelinguapp makes it easier to read and listen to interesting content in a number of languages. You’ll find short stories, news, fairy tales, music, and more. Their side-by-side reading functionality highlights the sentence in the language you’re learning, as well as in a language you’re familiar with. The karaoke feature makes it easy to follow the audio with the written text. Some of the content and features are available for free, but there are also premium plans to unlock more.
Learn Japanese: Bunpo
Learn Japanese: Bunpo provides simple and clear grammar explanations from JLPT N5 to N1. The app is not intended to be used alone in order to become fluent in Japanese — rather, it is a support for those who want to have a better grasp of Japanese grammar. A good portion of each section is spent on quizzes to test your understanding (although some people may still find that they advance a bit too quickly).
There are some improvements that could be made, but overall Learn Japanese: Bunpo seems to be an effective resource for anyone who wants their grammar practice in one place.
Learners new to Japanese can enjoy a free introductory level that will provide you with a basic foundation of vocabulary, hiragana, and katakana. For N1-N5 learners, you can try the first section from each of the levels without making any purchases. The paid version includes SRS review, listening exercises, and chat functions with native speakers for support. You can choose to pay monthly, but the Lifetime option is more economical.