Many absolute beginners of learning Japanese start learning the language by romaji, japanese words written in alphabet. But if you ever want to stand a chance of learning Japanese for real you need to learn the Kana (hiragana and katakana). First you learn the kana – then you can start learning the kanji!
Kana is the name for the two Japanese “alphabets” hiragana and katakana. They each consists of 46 “letters” that represent phonetic sounds. The hiragana are used for Japanese words and katakana is used for foreign words. The 46 characters are the same in both sets but written differently. For example: A is あ in hiragana, but written ア in katakana.
Sound difficult? No, it’s pretty straight forward. If you use one of the apps in this list a little every day you should be able to read them all in just a week or two. Once you know them a whole new world of Japanese will open up and you will be ready to start to learning some kanji.
1. TenguGo Kana (Hiragana and Katakana)
This app is very easy and straight forward. You can practice both hiragana and katakana with the help of quizzes, lessons and flashcards. There are also audio files so you can practice your listening. If you are interested you can also read about the history of the kana and how it’s been used through the times.
The app is not very pretty but it fills its purpose. And since you’ll learn all the hiragana and katakana in just a week or so you won’t need the app for long.
2. Kana Town: Hiragana & Katakana
This is another popular app for learning the hiragana and katakana. You can practice kana of your choice or let the app give you practice from how you’ve performed in previous tests. The difference between this app and many other kana apps is that it doesn’t give you multiple choice answers. Instead you have to memorize all the answers. A bit trickier but maybe a better way to actually learning the hiragana and katakana.
This app is more basic than the previous apps since it only contains the hiragana. But it’s a good app if you want to start slowly and focus only on the hiragana. The app has more of a game approach with small mini games as well as audio. And it’s all in (easy) Japanese.
4. Get Kana
Another popular app that includes practice in both hiragana and katakana. You can practice both reading and spelling out the kana, but nothing else. No games, no history, no nothing besides hiragana and katakana practice. Perfect for quick learning and making use of the time you spend on the bus or the subway. Just whip up the Get Kana app and start learning.
5. Write It! Japanese
This is an app that focus on writing the hiragana and katakana by hand. For some it’s easier to learn while also writing. You can practice with guides and lessons before challenging yourself with a writing test. You can of course also practice reading the kana. An easy app to use but unfortunately only available for Android. For Iphone there are other apps for writing, for example: Kana Writing.