Free Japanese learning apps for Windows Phone 7

At the time when I bought my Omnia 7, the marketplace contained less than a few thousand apps and good free Japanese learning apps were few and far between, which soon prompted me to develop my own. Since then, the situation has improved, so let’s look at some of the more interesting free WP7 Japanese language-related applications out there:

NihongoUp

I’ve developed this app when almost no alternative was available, but tried to make it the best I could from the start. The app is based on the database from my other Japanese learning apps, but integrates tightly into the whole WP7 experience and UI style.

Features:

  • Quizzes covering hiragana, katakana, kanji, vocabulary, particles, counters, and transitive verb pairs
  • Save unknown sentences and review them later
  • Hiragana, katakana, and vocabulary pronunciation audio
  • Japanese language cheat cards
  • Convert text in romaji to hiragana or katakana (and send it as an SM, email or tweet)
  • Translate between Japanese and over 30 languages, playback the translation
  • Progress statistics

As the app is complimentary to the online Japanese textbook, it is primarily a reviewing tool and does not allow one to learn the individual aspects of the language.

Eng-Japan Dictionary

There aren’t many Japanese dictionaries available yet (mostly because WP7 won’t allow Japanese text input until later this year), but the Eng-Japan Dictionary is free and a very solid offering. The app does not require internet connection, uses the EDICT database with over 188,000 entries, and the interface, while functionalist, is very pleasant to use.

Features:

  • over 188,000 dictionary entries
  • supports both portrait and landscape mode
  • you can search kanji or whole words only

This app has great potential and I hope it’ll be updated with a word of the day live tile and other features after Japanese input is added to Windows Phone 7.

Lost in translation

Testing the quality of Google’s and Bing’s translation tools has always been a popular topic for Japan-related web mash-ups. Lost in translation is here to help you and give you a few laughs while on-the-go.

The app has a simple, pleasant interface, although it does feature and ad at the bottom of the screen. The first screen allows you to enter an English word or phrase, an then recursively returns translations of the translation of the translation of its Japanese translation 🙂 This is both useful (it’s always a good idea to check the back-translation of anything you take from a dictionary) and fun (as automatic translations are far from perfect and often return absurd results).

Features:

  • share and favourite re-translations
  • recent re-translations from other users
  • number of steps till balance (return to the original input)
  • in-app voting for new features to be added

JPinput

As stated above, Windows Phone 7 won’t have native Japanese input until next year. However, JPinput is here to the rescue! This is an extremely powerful Japanese IME with plenty of features. However, it is meant for the Japanese, and so you may have some problems getting used to its interface unles s you know Japanese and have used similar IMEs in the past.

Features:

  • full featured Japanese IME
  • choose between Social-IME and Google IME
  • conversion prediction
  • copy, search, send as sms, email, tweet, bing, google, search on YouTube, and Wikipedia. You can even add custom search providers to this list.

This is an exceptionally full featured Japanese IME and I’m sure it’ll stay popular even after the introduction of an official IME with the Mango WP7 update. You may also want to check out Utakata Japanese TextPad, which has a very similar feature set but a slightly different user interface which may suite you better.

Tango Master

Last but not least, there’s Tango Master, one of the best Japanese reviewing tools available on any mobile platform. It has a very pleasant interface, integrated EDICT dictionary with live search as you type, tons of options, vocabulary lists, and review modes.

Features:

  • many predefined vocabulary lists by topic and JLPT level
  • integrated EDICT dictionary
  • choice between kana or romaji mode
  • review (flashcards), quiz (multiple-choice), and rapid fire mode (timed right/wrong)
  • statistics

This is one of the best language apps on the marketplace with great gestures support, beautiful UI and innovative rapid fire mode.

Of course, reading is far from enough, and I highly suggest everyone to listen to as many Japanese podcasts as possible. Feel free to read my guide to podcasts on Windows Phone 7 and selection of good Japanese podcasts.

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