Learn Japanese with Tako for iOS – Review

Learn Japanese with Tako for iOS
Company: Grogshot Games
Price: $2.99 USD


A couple of years ago, I recommended some great iOS apps for learning Japanese on my website. I still like and use most of those apps regularly, especially Midori and Japanese.

Recently I found another Japanese study app for iOS that I’ve been using on a daily basis to learn and remember more kanji. It’s called Learn Japanese with Tako, and it’s a fun and novel app for learning hiragana, katakana, and kanji, as well as basic pronunciation.

This app is wild. It uses some of the same writing practice modes as other Japanese learning apps, but it frames everything with cute animations of two octopus (蛸 or たこ), known as tako in Japanese. One is the elderly teacher, and the other is the young one learning and practicing, representing the app user/student.

Takos Japanese 1

Takos Japanese 2

When you launch the app, you have a bunch of different learning options: Play, Study, Minigames, and Review.

Play mode basically encompasses the other three options. Choose hiragana, katakana, or different levels of kanji to study.

The Japanese writing system is comprised of three main types of characters: hiragana, which is used for most Japanese phonetic sounds; katakana, which is used for foreign words and technical terms; and kanji, which are the Chinese characters adopted by the Japanese. Kanji are symbols that represent an idea and can have several different readings and pronunciations. Kanji are widely used in Japanese for the main components of nouns, verbs, and adjectives, with hiragana providing the particles and inflections.

If you don’t know hiragana and katakana, you need to learn them before you start on the kanji lessons. They’re used in the reading tests and the pronunciation sections for identifying kanji. Kanji are more limited at the moment; the app currently has Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) N5 level kanji, and shows N4 on the screen, but that option is currently unavailable. I’m guessing that a future update with more kanji is in the works.

Takos Japanese 3

Takos Japanese 5

Takos Japanese 6

As you study kanji, you’ll practice writing, reading (matching them with hiragana and katakana), learning the Chinese and Japanese readings, and playing mini games that reinforce the learning through recognition and matching.

The best part about each lesson is that it forces you to go through each learning mode: writing, pronunciation, reading/recognition, and review with challenges and mini games. It’s a great way of reinforcement that drills the kana and kanji into your head while providing variety and character recognition under differing circumstances so that you’re not just remembering them based on one set of app test questions.

Study mode lets you choose any character from either of the three sets (hiragana, katakana, or kanji) and practice writing that character for as long as you like. You can also listen to the spoken character in this mode. This mode is unrestricted; you can study characters that you haven’t covered in Play mode.

Takos Japanese 7

Takos Japanese 9

The minigames option lets you play any of the games that pop up during Play mode. Each game lasts five rounds.

To see how the games went outside of Play mode, I chose the restaurant game with kanji as the target. As far as I can tell, it only used the sets of kanji I’ve unlocked so far, including the last one. If I hadn’t already known the kanji in the last set, which I’d unlocked but not practiced yet, I would have failed those.

Takos Japanese 10

Takos Japanese 14

Takos Japanese 15

I also tried hiragana, and it seemed to stick to the sets I’d practiced there in Play; whereas katakana, which I haven’t studied at all in this app, tested me with the katakana counterparts of the hiragana that I had studied. Grogshot Games clearly put some thought into how to handle cases where users haven’t finished studying everything before jumping around inside the app and trying different things.

There is little about Learn Japanese with Tako that disappoints, and much that delights and enlightens. If you’re like me and you have many apps to refer to and learn from but haven’t made consistent kanji (or kana) study a priority, Learn Japanese with Tako may well finally get you excited about your daily Japanese practice sessions.

My only complaint with the app is that it only provides the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) N5 level of kanji, which is the most basic level. It would be nice to have up to at least N3 (the intermediate level in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test) for more serious study capability. For that reason I’m rating this app an 8 out of 10 instead of a 9 out of 10.

Below is my video walkthrough of Learning Japanese with Tako:

Learn Japanese with Tako is a universal app, currently $2.99 USD, and is available for iOS devices in the iOS App Store.

MyMac.com review rating: 8 out of 10.

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