What app will help me learn rudimentary Japanese?
February 18, 2015 10:26 AM   Subscribe

I am planning to take a trip to Japan sometime this summer and I'd like to brush up on my very rudimentary Japanese before going. Is there a good app I can use?

I took a year of Japanese in college, but that was 10 years ago and now I only remember how to ask silly things like, "Excuse me, is that a pork cutlet over there?"

Can you recommend an app that will give me some basic knowledge? I'm looking to actually learn the language and be quizzed on it, not just be given a list of phrases. I'm really happy with the structure of Duolingo, but I was disappointed to discover that Japanese does not seem to be one of the languages they offer.

Arigatou gozaimasu!
posted by chatongriffes to Education (10 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, Duolingo has decided "we'll deal with that later" when it comes to languages with non-Latin scripts (although Russian is in the incubator).

For an app, I think your best bet is if your library offers Mango Languages. It will run on your smartphone or desktop web browser.

I'd also recommend going through the Pimsleur audio course. It, like Mango Languages, uses spaced repetition to quiz you. It's expensive, so borrow it from the library.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:35 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

A great app for learning Kanji and vocabulary is WaniKani. It uses a spaced repetition system and fun mnemonics to help recall, as well as a "level" system that kind of gamefies it for lack of a better term.
posted by hypercomplexsimplicity at 10:44 AM on February 18, 2015

Yeah, there are plenty of flashcard spaced repetition apps for kanji (I use Memrise) but not aware of any more general learning ones.
posted by thefoxgod at 11:07 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

You might be able to get Mango through your library. I haven't done any of the Japanese modules, but the Polish & Spanish ones are quite good. Definitely a strong focus on spoken language.

On preview, what Tanizaki said.
posted by carrioncomfort at 11:30 AM on February 18, 2015

You can try Tae Kim's Guide (cc licensed). It is grammar and quizzes and available free for Iphone
posted by vacapinta at 12:51 PM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am sorry to post again but to expound a bit, I recommended the two methods I did because I don't take from the question that OP wants to learn Japanese long term but want to prepare to "get around Japan" for a short trip. That's why I didn't recommend any kanji learning apps or grammars. I think the focus here is on spoken language. "Rudimentary Japanese", as the question states.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:05 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Pimsleur CDs from the library. A lot of rote learning, not much theory and grammar, but it's geared toward introductory, business and travel situations. I've found it worthwhile for working the speech muscles in between times I get to speak with native Japanese speakers.

Human Japanese is about $10. Trial/lite version available. Clear explanation, vocab, hiragana and katakana, and frequent reviews and quizzes, all with audio. I'm quite happy with it. (There is this weird gamification thing where you earn experience points, but you don't do anything with them and can ignore them.)

If Pimsleur's not your style, see if Michel Thomas CDs are available. I listened to the German audio course, and it's a very different presentation: the instructor discussing the language from the ground up with two other students (and you listening in). The other students are also asking questions, figuring things out, etc. There's very little of the scripted "Say to her, 'I'll have lunch at 12 o'clock.' (pause) Watashi wa..." I haven't listened to the Japanese course, but it might click with the sort of knowledge you're looking for.
posted by kurumi at 2:08 PM on February 18, 2015

For quiz-based learning, there are a lot of Japanese decks on the Memrise flashcard site, many with audio. Basic grammar, core vocabulary, et cetera.
posted by bertran at 4:46 PM on February 18, 2015

For dictionary use, consider "imiwa?" -- it's pretty good but picky about spelling.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 3:26 AM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding imiwa. One of the fun little parts about the app is that it will ask if you want to import text that you've copied. It does a word by word translation of the text, complete with pronunciation of the kanji. It's not straight up translation, but it is a really helpful way of trying to figure out the gist of an all Japanese email.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:50 AM on February 22, 2015

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