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How to learn Japanese for Free on iOS and Android apps

learn Japanese

It’s amazing how far we’ve come. If you go visit a country where you don’t know how to speak the language, you could use a free translator iOS app or a language learning app on Android. Needless to say, the options available to us are limitless and can greatly improve our social interactions with others. Now, with the Japanese language, there are not one but 3 different alphabets, so is it really that difficult to learn to speak Japanese? With the following information, you will learn how to speak this beautiful language in no time!


The first banger on our list is the famous Duolingo app! With this app, you can learn a language very fast. The creator of Duolingo, Luis von Ahn, claims that by investing only 5 minutes of your time per day, you could learn a new language easily with his application. With 100s of 5-star reviews on the Appstore, Duolingo is easy to use with its colorful visuals.

However, if you want the full experience, you will need to purchase a monthly or yearly subscription. There is a limited free version, but at some point, you will most likely need to invest some money if you want to continue your progress.


Babbel is a great mobile app for learning Japanese easily for free. That being said, only the first course of each language is free on the Babbel app. Afterward, you will need to pour some money in. A 1-year subscription will set you back around $80, which is not too bad considering the amount of knowledge you are going to get through the app.

Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone is an old-school software that existed long before the mobile phone industry was even a thing. Since the old days of the internet, Rosetta Stone has not stopped evolving, always bringing new and interesting updates to help its users learn new languages. You can learn Japanese on Rosetta Stone for free with a trial period of 3 months. Once the trial period has come to an end, however, you will have to shell out at least $100 a year for the subscription.


This Japanese learning app is made to learn Japanese and nothing else. It offers more than 2300 Kanji characters with their own little animation, so you can learn how to write them properly. Moreover, Obenkyo has over 14 000 Japanese words and expressions for you to learn. Everything is clear and precise, and on top of that, it is free on iOS and Android.


How hard is it to learn Japanese?

If you would have asked this question 15 years ago, the answer would have been perhaps a little bit different. As a matter of fact, there has never been a better time to learn Japanese symbols and alphabets than now! Yes, alphabets with an ‘s’ because there are actually 3 different alphabets in the Japanese language:

  • Hiragana
  • Katakana
  • Kanji

Do I need to know all 3 alphabets (Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji) to understand Japanese?

No, you don’t need to stress too much about those, because the one you will want to focus on at the beginning is the Hiragana alphabet. This is the alphabet that is the most commonly used in Japan and in the world. Moreover, young Japanese children will start to learn Hiragana at a very young age. They first learn how to write the letters and then how to form words and sentences with them afterward by adding the other scripts such as Kanji and Katakana. In other words (no pun intended), Hiragana will almost always be your first target.

How many letters are in the Hiragana alphabet?

There are a total of 46 characters in the Japanese Hiragana alphabet (sometimes referred to as syllabaries or characters). Each character or symbol represents a sound in the Japanese syllabary, which will be used for a word or a sentence when many of them are put together with Kanji and Kitagana symbols.

Do you need to learn Kanji to understand Japanese?

As mentioned above, letters of different alphabets are most of the time put together to form a sentence in Japanese. Did you know that, if you learn only 200 Kanji symbols, you will know how to read more than 50% of the Japanese language? These characters are often used in more formal ways and newspapers for example, while Hiragana is pretty much the opposite. Nevertheless, it is worth it to learn some of the most important Kanji symbols along with Hiragana so you will be able to quickly adapt to new information as you improve your Japanese speaking and reading level.

How to read Japanese?

Contrary to the common assumption, Japanese can be written both vertically and horizontally. When written vertically, you will need to read the symbols from top to bottom, and from right to left. On the other hand, when written horizontally, Japanese is read the same way as when you read English, so from left to right, and then you move down to the next lane in a downward pattern.

Does it take a long time to learn the Japanese language?

In general, it will take a little bit more than 1 year for the average person to learn Japanese or to have at least a good basic understanding of it. What’s difficult at first is to understand how the systems work behind the Japanese language. Where English is very direct to the point with its meanings and way of speaking, Japanese is more symbolic in its nature. For example, some symbols or characters will be used to represent a color or a texture, while others will be used to represent a noun or a verb (which are most of the time Kanji symbols).

Finally, it is interesting to know that the US Department of State found through its studies that it takes around 88 weeks or 1 year and a half for most English speakers to learn Japanese. In hours, this means that it would take you about 2200 hours to learn Japanese.