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Japanese Study

Apps, websites, books, etc. that I've found useful during my adventures in studying Japanese.

Renzo's Japanese Dictionary
Renzo's Japanese Dictionary is another one of my go-to Japanese-English dictionary apps.  It's free and incredibly feature-rich, so you can't lose with this one.

* Search using handwriting recognition, a hard-to-find feature.
* I like the list and flashcard features.
* Stroke order animations.
* It's free!

* The app frequently returns to the main search page, quickly losing your last look-up.

Nihongo is a feature-rich Japanese dictionary / flashcard app that addresses the shortcomings of many other popular dictionary & flashcard apps.  It's quickly becoming my go-to dictionary / flashcard app.

* Free (with paid add-ons), so no risk in trying it out.
* Responsive and functional dictionary search that sorts based on how common the word is.  I love how it gives you the "Best Matches" to help you determine the most natural Japanese-sounding choice.
* The flashcard function is far beyond the flashcard feature of other dictionary apps I've tried.  It takes the tedium out of making them yourself and tests you in ways usually found only in dedicated flashcard apps.
* Retains your search history, which it can then turn into flashcards.  Very cool!
* You can even add your own notes and mnemonics to your flashcards--a sometimes hard-to-find feature I absolutely demand.

* I wish it had "real" Japanese handwriting recognition (like Midori and Renzo's Japanese dictionary) instead of relying on the iPhone's Chinese input method.
* I wish it had kanji stroke order animations.

Midori (Japanese Dictionary)
by Sukolsak Sakshuwong
Every student of Japanese needs a dictionary app.  Honestly, I was hesitant to buy one since the free Imiwa dictionary app is superb.  But Midori comes with an unmatched, hard-to-find feature--integrated handwriting recognition.  Often I found myself shopping in Tokyo perplexed by an unfamiliar kanji on a product label.  With Imiwa I was out of luck.  But with Midori I can sketch the kanji with my finger and (if I guessed the stroke order right) find it.  Huge advantage.  Huge.  So huge it's worth the price.

Flashcards Deluxe
by OrangeOrApple.com
If you plan to study Japanese (or any foreign language for that matter), you have loads of new words to learn.  You're gonna need a solid flashcard program.  Sure, there are Japanese-specific study programs that have volumes of included flashcards, but there's a significant memorization advantage to making your own customized flashcards.  Namely, the words you'll study are relevant to your current Japanese study--they're words you're working on and/or covering in class.

I tried a bunch of highly-rated flashcard app demos before settling on Flashcards Deluxe because it was the only one I found with a critical feature I was seeking.  It allows you to create cards with up to 5 "sides."  So I put the kanji on side 1, furigana on side 2, meaning on side 3, and a mnemonic hint or note on side 4 (if I can come up with one).  This feature alone sold me on Flashcards Deluxe, but awesome also is the "spaced repetition" study algorithm and ability to import cards via the developer's website.

Flashcards Deluxe is now my go-to app for studying Japanese vocabulary.

Human Japanese
Brak Software, Inc.
The author of this app is a saint.  He has an uncanny gift for explaining the language in a transparent and comprehensible way, and has graced us learners of Japanese with this diamond of an app.  Points that I've struggled with for years and years have been melting away in flames of coherence.  "OMG!  So that's how that works!"  I wish I had this app when I first started studying Japanese.  It would've rescued me from countless nights crying myself to sleep.

* Free lite versions available
* 2 levels available (beginner & intermediate).  My fingers are crossed for an advanced level!
* It's an interactive textbook, so it stands out from all those other apps that flashcard the dictionary at you.
* Explains the framework of the language, building a solid foundation
* A bit on the expensive side of the app world, but well worth it.

Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese
Ronald Timoshenko
This is another on a short list of apps that works more like a textbook.  In a similar vein to "Human Japanese," it leads through concise explanations of the language's structure and fundamentals so that you'll have a sound framework to build upon.
* It's free.  What more could you want?
* Lots of examples to illustrate the text
* Comprehensive--goes up to a pretty advanced level

JapanesePod101 is a popular site for learning Japanese online.  It's a subscription service, but they offer a free trial and lots of free content.  It works out to be much more affordable than traditional classroom learning, and I can offer my readers additional discounts.

I wrote an honest from-the-heart review here:
JapanesePod101 - The Good and Not-So-Good

Making Sense of Japanese
Book by Jay Rubin
Jay Rubin's book "Making Sense of Japanese" proved a godsend for succinctly explaining Japanese language concepts in an incredibly clear and convenient voice.

Amazon Japan: "Making Sense of Japanese"

Amazon USA: "Making Sense of Japanese"

Japanese Sensei Deluxe
by Cole Zhu Inc.
Of all the vocabulary-building apps I've tried, this one is a lustrous diamond.  Most similar apps just take an open source Japanese dictionary and turn it into flashcards.  I didn't have much luck memorizing new words with these apps, and they were about as fun as reading the dictionary.  JSensei Deluxe breathes fresh air into this ubiquitous approach--the lessons are well-constructed with sample sentences, and there's a quiz at the end of every lesson.  It remembers the words you've been struggling with and pops them into the quizzes, even if the words were from previous lessons.

In fact, the quizzes are probably the best feature because they don't just cover the words from the selected lesson.  If they did, you'd probably pass them easily due to the recency effect (having just studying them).  Instead it challenges you with words from all previous lessons, keeping track of how well you know the words from each.

And if all that wasn't enough, this app also includes native-speaker audio pronunciations.  It's one of the pricier Japanese study apps, but well worth it in my opinion.