Studying Japanese with an Android Phone

Recently I've started using a android phone (the Samsung Galaxy S). Smartphone's using Android are pretty much a small computer in your pocket and there are lots of helpful applications to use when studying Japanese.

The Galaxy S has unicode support as standard and has no problem displayed Japanese characters.


I use the inbuilt music player to listen to Japanese audiobooks - when commuting and sometimes at night (the speakers are good enough for it to play music loud enough to hear even on a bed side table). It plays .m4a files which is the format my audiobooks tend to be in - which is great, few other music players seem to do this.


I keep my anki deck on the phone itself. When reviewing I plug the phone in using USB and tell it to mount itself as a hard drive. (This needs to first be set up in the phone settings). As I take the phone everywhere, I now have anki everywhere with me.

Even better there's an anki app for the android; Ankidroid.
 You may wonder what this strange black and white box is to the left - it's a type of barcode and they've used in a Japan for a few years now. Android has an application called Barcode Reader. This particular barcode is for ankidroid. Using your phones camera you can have it recognise this image and it will automatically give you a prompt to download ankidroid - cool right?

Ankidroid works well for me but at this time I don't get pictures or sound, hopefully this will be resolved in subsequent updates.

Vertical Text Reader

Have you heard of Project Gutenburg? It's a collection of free ebooks (mainly books that are old enough to have no copyright). Well there's something similar for Japan - Aozora. But a lot Japanese books have the sentences going from top to bottom instead of left to right on the page.

To read the book easily you'll need a specialised app and Vertical Text Reader fills that niche.


DroidWing is a dictionary viewer for android. You need to have some EPWING dictionaries files but then you can used this dictionary view to search them. It also sports a recently searched items list. The barcode is to the free version but there is also a paid-for version (they're the same but the paid one helps support the developer so if you use it a lot consider upgrading). You have to type the paths to the dictionaries in manually which can be frustrating.

Droid Comic Viewer

This comic book viewer is a great way to read manga or just folders of scanned jpgs. It has the nice pinch to zoom action but also has a number of other annoying actions enabled by default (tap too hard the page turns, press the screen in a certain place the page turns - these can all be turned off so it's no problem.) Excellent file browser too, something I wish DroidWing had.


You can view Japanese - but how do you input it? There's no standard way to enter Japanese on the Galaxy S (though it does have Korean annoyingly :D). Simeji comes to the rescue and provides a number of different keyboards to enter Japanese. Unfortunately it totally replaces the default English input and I rather like the English hand writing recognition. My preferred method for inputting Japanese would also be handwriting which isn't supported (a lot of DS apps do an excellent job so it can't be that taxing! There is an app called HanWriting, in beta, that handles korean, chinese and Japanese but it's not quite good enough to be usable yet, in my opinion.)

There are lots of other apps out there but these are the core ones I use.


Amy said...

I've been considering getting the Samsung Galaxy, mainly because of the emerging Android concept and as an alternative to an Apple iphone 4. But the Apple iphone 4's design is more impressive which wins me over.

I'm starting to lose patience with waiting for an Apple iphone 4 and now re-considering getting a Samsung Galaxy.

youtube said...

Glad you found Droid Comic Viewer useful.

If you want to give us a hand translating Droid Comic Viewer to Japanese, please stop by the forums.


D. Brown said...

Thanks for the info!

Where do you get your Japanese audiobooks; I would love to start listening to more spoken (non-music) Japanese.

D. Brown said...

Can you tell me where to find Japanese audio books?

Nicolas_Raoul said...

Thanks, very interesting :-)

AnkiDroid should work with pictures and sounds, can you describe the problem? Or send us your .anki file so that we have a look and fix the problem.

Good luck with studying Japanese!
Nicolas Raoul

Honey said...

uhm..can galaxy s read korean characters and many other characters too???

Dan said...

Wait a few mere years and I will reply to comments :D

A later update of Ankidroid did fix all my issues with sounds and images.

Yes the Galaxy S can do Korean - it's Samsung so being Korean I'm guessing they're happy to include it everywhere. Not only can you read Korean you can put the phone in Korean mode.

I don't have anywhere at the moment I'd recommend to get japanese audiobooks. Harry Potter 1 and 2 seem to be floating around the net, iTunes is good but you need a Japanese credit card or prepaid cards.