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The Best & Worst iPhone Apps for Studying Japanese

NOTE: I now document my favorite iOS apps for studying Japanese in the directory:

The Best Apps
Flashcards Deluxe

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.

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Studying Japanese With Mnemonic Devices

I learned in my psychology classes that memory is most deeply encoded when associated with concrete imagery.  That is, memories are strongest when they appeal to all the senses and can readily recreate an imaginable scene or context.  Rote memorization (e.g. reviewing flashcards over and over) is considered a weak encoding technique because it relies solely on repetition to encode memory.  Herein lies the problem with remembering new vocabulary, especially new vocabulary in a second language.  Is there some way to study it using "stronger" memory encoding techniques?  Rote flashcards are boring and don't work very well.  The memory of them is literally gone in a flash.

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The Best Software For Studying Japanese

Being an IT guy and a student of Japanese, I'm expectedly a fan of using software to study.  I've tried just about every type of Japanese learning software there is, so here I've compiled a list of my favorites:

The Rosetta Stone (PC / Mac) -
The Rosetta Stone is the Ferrari of language learning software.  It's fun and extremely interactive, engaging all the senses to maximize retention.  It's automatic lesson review feature quizzes like a real teacher, and it's the only software I've ever found that supports voice recognition, making speaking practice possible.  It's by far the software that comes closest to classroom learning.

Read more: The Best Software For Studying Japanese