In 4+ Hours, Learn to Speak Japanese Online Through the iOS Kana App and YouTube

We live in a time where we can learn so much due to the internet, YouTube, Anime (including hentai), and a number of smartphone applications. Well that is when you’re not posting your topless bathroom pics.

If you are not looking to physically attend a Japanese language class, this approach can be a leisurely way to get you started, or an intensive way for you to learn to speak Japanese, along with reading (kana) and writing Japanese (Nihongo).

Learn Japanese in 4 hours – All the basics you will need to continual lessons all for FREE

Btw, before you read on, I get absolutely nothing to promote these individuals/apps/companies, etc, not a thanks, a side-eye, or even a glance of acknowledgement – I just do it because they don’t suck.

The channel learn Japanese with JapanesePod101 is a FREE channel, but the reason why I recommend it, is because it’s not a struggle to watch (it’s enjoyable because everything is very well done from the camera work, sound, motion graphics, etc.)

Now that you spent 4 hours learning the basics, try learning how to put that new found knowledge to practical use.

In her own words: “Hi, I’m Miku. My mission is to teach Japanese in fun and effective way! I’d like to connect Japan and the world.

I hope my videos can help people who love Japan and Japanese language. Thank you so much for learning my language!”

The best thing about her vids, nothing feels totally staged like it’s an online course, but it feels more real because she’ll do skits (roleplay where she plays both roles dressed up or with a partner).

You Only Need the Kana App to Start Off With

Yes, only one app that I am recommending because I have been through a number of them, and I concluded this is the best one out of the bunch, and I’ll explain why.

Photo Description: the app icon for the iPhone (iOS) Kana app. The icon has the kana character for "a" along with 4 vertical colors of RED, BLUE, YELLOW, and GREEN.
This is the best iphone app to learn Japanese.

The Features of the Kana App

A lot of the other apps have the same basic features, but like with anything, it’s all about the execution and Kana is a step above in regards to the overall UX (user experience), and especially with their UI (user interface) which is something I have a background in.

This is Why I Love the Kana App

The biggest issue that I see with competing apps is with their UI (user interface) because some are beautifully designed (Drops being one), but they fail because of the user experience which is predictable/deductive (it is fluff over substance).

Photo Description: this is the opening screen of the Kana (learn to speak Japanese, read, and write) app. The screen is black with several kana floating around with an open illustration of an open box, along with the text in romaji that says "Kana."
Opening up the app to activate my brain since I don’t use it at work.

The main opening screen.

Starting off, I start only with learning hiragana because my small brain has a hard time remembering things, and I literally have to pummel things repetitively into my brain till it finally sinks in. Oh, and like they say, if you don’t use it, you…. (I haven’t said that phrase in a while, but it was related to the point I was trying to make).

Photo Description: the first screen (the home page) after the opening screen contains your progress, along with a kana table.
Sometimes the iconography can be like deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, but not so with this app.

The visual design is very intuitive because it mimics the design language and interaction design that is not that far off from iOS (maybe that’s why they do not have an Android version). Since, I actively use this app, I can tell you how smartly designed the app is.

Photo Description: this is the kana table which is only ONE click away from the opening screen which is why it's super useful.
Simple, clean, well thought out design.

This is the kana table which is only ONE click away from the opening screen which is why it’s super useful.

If you have ever used the Drops app, their focus is on their iconography and excessive interaction design (it feels and looks cool tho) that has you learning anything but increasing your vocabulary. Instead, you inadvertently start to remember what their illustration of an almond looks like versus remembering “almond” is アーモンド (an illustration isn’t necessary).

Photo Description: the quiz scope page of the app. The slider button allows you to select either "smart quiz" or "customized."
The top right, 2nd icon in, you can set reminders for certain days or weekly ones.

The other aspect I like is that you are not locked into a set curriculum, and you can take on as much as you can handle which can be broken down into sets:

Gojuon (basic kana)
Dakuon & Handakuon

Photo Description: a second click away from the home screen is the "practice" aka "Quiz Scope." There are two settings which are "smart quiz" or "customized." (I typically go with customized).
I will sometimes add additional hiragana sets to make learning a little more manageable.

This is where the app really starts to shine which is with the way the quiz works which has two levels: easy and hard.

This is the approach most apps take which gives you a question with 4 options to choose from which is easier because you can make a total guess.
This is my favorite mode because you are required to type in the correct response with your keyboard, and to draw input for the writing portion (a few other apps have the latter feature too).
In this mode, the quiz gets harder if you got the question right last time, easy if not.

Photo Description: the background is black with a very prominent white kana character being the only thing on the screen. All you have to do is type in the correct answer.
My only fear is not being able to recognize other typefaces out of the app, but so far it has not been an issue.

Just type in the correct answer (if it were only that easy).

This is also the part that makes this app a thousand times more effective than others. The reason that is, is because other apps will have their cutesy little icons, along with a multiple choice answer which makes it all too easy to guess. This is something that is not going to help you in real life, so all you’re doing is playing a game – till we have augmented reality where options appear in real time, this does nothing to help me learn.

Photo Description: this is the same black background with the white kana character, except in this shot, the keyboard is shown with the user typing in the romaji "so" for the hiragana character (the right answer).
The way I remember this is “so ZC” which is an engine designation for a Honda/Acura engine.

My lil smokie like little sausage fingers will sometimes fumble over the keyboard causing an incorrect answer, but the developers have thought out everything, and they allow you to give yourself a pass for the questions you incorrectly typed in. Also, if you don’t want to form the bad habit of using romaji (a crutch), you can go to the harder level where you are required to draw out the character although I know there have been times I have been off, but the app read it as a correct which is why the app update no longer relies on your ability to “come close” to the character. They now allow you to do things on the honor system by asking you if you got it correct (I love this app and the developers are extremely good).

Photo Description: the background is black with a very prominent white kana character being the only thing on the screen. All you have to do is type in the correct answer.
“Eazy E”

Just like slot machines in Vegas that no longer has real change dispensing from it (they still have the sound of change hitting the metal tray), this game has a very rewarding chime when you get the answer correct which is why I turn on the sound when I play.

Photo Description: the quiz scope statistics page. The page has four rectangular sections on the upper half of the page which display "total score, hiragana, total time, and katakana" The lower half is a bar chart of the score of the last 20 quizzes.
Statistically I bet nobody thought I would be a writing a blog a decade or two later after a 1.6 GPA in high school and college.

Every time you take the quiz it gets tallied up, so you’ll be able to see all of your results which will let you know how much progress you’re making.

You will know how much time it takes you to answer each question correctly to how many you got correct/incorrect.

I could go on and on with an in-depth breakdown of their UX, UI and possibly the interaction design, but that would only appeal to the designers of the app and other User Experience designers which this blog post is not gear toward. It was meant for you, the person looking for an app that will effectively help you learn because you need all the help you can get (I say that because I’m a slow learner, and I can’t wait for Elon Musk’s neuralink).

Photo Description: the Apple app store icon. It has the iconic Apple logo, along with the text "Available on the App Store."

Sorry, iPhone users only

Seller Romain PELLEN
Size 83.2 MB
Category Education
Compatibility Requires iOS 11.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
Language English, French
Age Rating 4+
Copyright © 2020 Romain PELLEN
Price Free

I’m sure once you use this app, you’ll realize that is one of, if not the best app to learn Japanese…. just saying.

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