Learn Japanese with These Great English to Japanese Digital Tools

Japan Nakama
6 min readApr 27, 2021

Japanese is ranked by the US Foreign Service Institute as one of the hardest languages to learn for English speakers. The difficulty in going from English to Japanese (or vice versa) probably lies in the huge disparities between the two languages:

  • The Japanese alphabet is fairly complicated, consisting of hiragana (a phonetic lettering system), katakana (the alphabet used mainly for imported words), and kanji (the Chinese characters that have been adopted into the Japanese language).
  • Japanese is a pitch-accent language, meaning that the same word can have different meanings depending on the tone or pitch of a particular syllable. A classic example is ha-shi (chopsticks) or ha-shi (bridge), where the highlighted syllable in bold has a higher pitch than the rest of the word. [For more on pitch accents, we have included an excellent introductory video at the end of this article.]

So, is Japanese Really Hard to Learn?

At Japan Nakama, we are strongly of the belief that Japanese is not as hard to learn as you think. We’ve recently posted our very own beginner’s guide to learning Japanese, and many other resources also exist to help the beginner learner.

In this article, we are not looking to replace those resources, but aim to provide a list of supplementary tools that help you learn and use Japanese more naturally. These can be used when you just want a quick search whilst travelling in Japan (Google translate may not always be the best tool as words may be taken out of context), or if used to their full potential, reinforce your Japanese learning. In the list below, we have listed 5 tools, all of which are free.

1. Jisho

Jisho is essentially an English to Japanese or Japanese to English dictionary, but it is not your average dictionary. It consists of a very simple interface, where the input can be English text, or Japanese (hiragana, katakana, kanji). If you don’t have a Japanese keyboard, you can still type in the Romaji, draw the word, by the radical, or even by audio.

Once the word has been searched for, the results show all the words related to it with their possible definitions. In addition, it also shows…

Japan Nakama

Japan Nakama are a London based online publication that investigates and explores all aspects of Japanese Culture.