A Review on Learning Japanese with Renshuu

Here at Coto Academy, we have been writing a series of reviews for different apps to learn Japanese. Today, we examine renshuu. Renshuu (literally meaning “practice” in Japanese), is an app started in 2020. Since it’s so new, it’s not as popular as bigger names such as Anki or Duolingo. However, this app has a lot to offer!

With smartphones becoming more applicable to our day-to-day lives, it’s no wonder that many have turned to apps for language learning. But, where do you start? Opening up the app store and looking at language apps will give you a whole host of options, and it can be overwhelming! Which ones are trustworthy? Which ones fit your style of learning? Which ones actually help you learn? Read on to see what renshuu includes and how it can help you master the Japanese language.

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The Basics of Renshuu

One of the best ways to see what an app has to offer is to log in. When you first download the renshuu app, you will be asked to create an account; this is so you will be able to keep track of your progress and personalize your learning (don’t worry, you don’t have to pay anything)!

review on renshuu learning japanese app

Once you login, you meet Kao-chan, the app’s mascot. They will ask you how you are currently learning Japanese. If you are studying for a proficiency test, you can then select which JLPT level or Kanji Kentei you are working on. If you are using a textbook, you can then select the title from a list that includes many popular resources (such as Adventures in Japanese, Genki, Tobira, Yookoso, etc.) as well as what lesson you are on. If you are learning on your own, you can choose the option that best suits your skill level (understand basic vocabulary, conversational, etc.) This shows us that renshuu is very flexible and can be used by many different learners.

After that, Kao-chan mentions that they have some mastery schedules you can use; mastery schedules are pre-made learning modules that appear on your dashboard and match with the learning option you chose (proficiency test, textbook, on your own). 

review on renshuu learning japanese app

Schedules look different depending on which option you chose; however, all cover learning new words (with pictures, audio, in sentences, by writing), new kanji (with examples, mnemonics, drawing guides), new grammar (grammar rules and examples), and sometimes new sentences for reading comprehension. Thus, those who know how they learn best (through listening, writing, etc.) can choose the technique that suits them; those who don’t know can play around with all of them! When learning each new topic in the mastery schedule, a quiz goes along with the lesson. After the quiz, you can see the questions and additional information – pretty useful! 

review on renshuu learning japanese app

As mentioned before, the mastery schedules appear on your dashboard, which is where you go after answering all of Kao-chan’s questions. You will see what level of learning you are on (aka your progress), some daily challenges (such as answering 10 questions correctly or studying grammar), the mastery schedules, and options for editing your dashboard. This section is the main area you use to study Japanese. At the top, you also see options for Community (talked about more in the Community section), Garden (talked about more in the Games section), and Stats.

review on renshuu learning japanese app

Stats allows you to see your study progress (such as terms learned, grammar expressions mastered, and so on). There are also buttons for the homepage (which takes you back to your dashboard), FAQ, and a dictionary (which includes search options for words, kanji, grammar structures, and sentences).

There’s also a drop-down menu that lists four additional tabs: Resources, Tools, Games, and Community. Keep reading to see what else renshuu includes!

Phew! That’s quite a lot of information! So, to recap, renshuu allows learners of all backgrounds to choose their learning methods (proficiency test, textbook, on your own) and get mastery schedules that go along with those methods. Every schedule is packed with different ways to learn the content, and all of this is customizable to your needs! All of these options do seem a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re new to using language learning apps. The dashboard presents you with many tasks to do (daily challenges, mastery schedules), which might also be overwhelming and stress learners out. However, once you figure out what you want from the app, everything you need is right at your fingertips!

Resources on Renshuu

review on renshuu learning japanese app

It might seem like you don’t need anything else since renshuu already offers so much. And, depending on what you want out of the app, that might be true; however, if you are looking for some additional help or practice, you can find it here. Tapping on the Resources link gives you five options: Japanese Basics, Lesson Center, Kana Charts, Radical Chart, and Grammar Library. Japanese Basics are mini lessons that go over the fundamentals of the Japanese language; this includes learning about Hiragana and Katakana, simple grammar, and kanji. This section is very useful for beginners, who might find it handy to refer back to as they learn! The Lesson Center is where you can find lessons designed by you, by renshuu, by your friends, or by your chosen textbook. If you want to find lessons different than what is displayed on your dashboard, this is where they are. It might seem a bit redundant to offer so many lessons, but if you are struggling with your current lesson plan, it would be worth it to look here.

Kana Charts are pretty self-explanatory; charts of hiragana and katakana are found here, along with options to hear them pronounced, see how to write them, and learn mnemonics. The Radical Chart is similar; this shows you all of the radicals that can make up kanji, as well as common kanji that use that radical. You can search by stroke number, name, or meaning. Finally, Grammar Library allows you to search for specific grammar patterns. You can search by JLPT level, study level (beginner, intermediate, advanced), or just by scrolling through the index.

is renshuu a good app to learn japanese

         Overall, the Resources tab (just like the rest of renshuu) offers a lot of information. Some of this can seem intimidating or redundant, depending on your viewpoint. However, if you are looking for extra help outside of the mastery schedules, this tab can be very helpful.

Tools in Renshuu

The Tools tab serves as an additional way to find information (sort of like a short-cut). When you tap on the link, you see four options – Kanji Index, Japanese Index, Text Analyzer, and Worksheets.

kanji index

The Kanji Index allows you to quickly mark kanji that you want to study or already know; you can choose kanji from proficiency tests, textbooks, mastery schedules, or import your own. You can also see the meaning, kunyomi and onyomi, and stroke count.

The Japanese Index works in a similar way. It allows you to find words, kanji, grammar, and sentences in order to create lessons, block from studying, and more. However, this system is a bit complicated. (There’s even a little warning at the top that this is “an advanced tool and is not recommended for beginners.”) 

review on renshuu learning japanese app

It’s best to leave this section alone unless you want to customize your learning at a higher level. The Text Analyzer serves to break apart sentences into understandable chunks; you can enter Japanese text (or choose a file) and then click on each word or particle to see its information (meaning, reading, grammar function). Finally, the Worksheets section contains blank practice sheets for essay writing and single or multi-kanji character practice. (You can enter the kanji you want to practice onto the sheet). You can customize how the sheets look and then print them out.

In general, this tab can be a bit tricky to navigate. The Kanji Index and Japanese Index are really only meant for advanced studies, while the Text Analyzer and Worksheets are something that anyone can use. (In fact, they might be better suited for the Resources Tab.) If you are looking to fine-tune your learning experience though, this tab is the place for that!

Games in Renshuu

Of course, one can only do so much studying without tiring out. Sometimes, you just need to take a break and do something fun! Luckily, renshuu has some games that allow you to relax and learn more at the same time. Playing games can also help you learn better, since you will naturally pick up words and structures as you go along. renshuu has 6 games: Quick Draw, Shiritori Cat, Counter Punch, Crosswords, Shiritori, and Hanko Maker. 

japanese games to learn japanese

Quick Draw is a game that lets you practice your writing skills while defeating evil monsters; you can practice writing hiragana, katakana, and kanji. When drawing, you can choose how much time you get, how strict the grading scale is, and how to draw. 

Shiritori Cat allows you to practice your vocabulary skills by coming up with words that start with the same kana that a previous word ends with. This is the basic premise of the shiritori game, but renshuu adds to it by using cats to represent levels of difficulty! 

Counter Punch helps you learn what counters to use for what things. (A counter is a suffix you attach to a number when counting objects; the counter you use in Japanese changes with the object category). You learn through counting actual objects, which is great for visual learners! 

Crosswords are fairly straightforward – it’s regular crosswords, but with Japanese words. Shiritori appears again, but this time instead of playing with cats, you can play with other users! As a group, everyone adds words to make as long of a chain as you can! 

Lastly, Hanko Maker is a tool that allows you to make a traditional hanko (or seal) using whatever words you like! This isn’t so much of a game as it is a fun way to play with calligraphy styles.

On the whole, the games are a good way to practice Japanese (mostly vocabulary) with lots of variety. Different levels and enemies to defeat is also good motivation to keep coming back for practice.

As mentioned in The Basics, there’s also a Gardens section seen on your homepage. Clicking on this will lead to a virtual garden that you can fill. By completing the “quests” that are listed underneath the garden, you can earn coins and use them to buy items for your garden; these include items such as statues, backgrounds, and plants (which will grow the more skill levels you achieve)! While not a game per se, this is an example of gamified learning, and the desire to expand your garden can drive some to practice more.

Community in Renshuu

Lastly, we have the Community tab. Talking with others is a key part of learning a new language, as it allows you to encounter real-world situations using Japanese. Plus, being able to meet others with similar interests is a lot of fun and can be a big motivator to becoming better at Japanese! The opportunities to get involved with others on renshuu are many; in the Community tab, you can find Haiku, Word Gardens, Question Corner, Forums, Leaderboard, Translation Center, and renshuu Discord. Haiku is where you can read haikus written by other users and upload your own! There are different themes that run each week.

is renshuu a good app to learn japanese

Word Gardens is a section where you try to write a sentence using the given words; you can read other submissions by users, and just like haikus, the prompts change every week.

Question Corner poses a weekly question in Japanese that you and others can respond to. Forums is a section where you can ask questions and find answers about using renshuu, Japanese study, exams, and Japan in general! You can also search for specific topics and filter out already-read posts. Leaderboard shows who is doing the best in different categories (such as number of correct kanji answers or grammar quiz accuracy) as well as how you compare.

Translation Center allows users of different languages to help translate English definitions into their own language.

Finally, clicking on the renshuu Discord title will give you a link to join a Discord group; here, you can find scheduled group lessons, extra help, practice partners, and more!

As mentioned in The Basics, there is also a Community section seen on your homepage. Clicking on this will give you an overview of all of the current events happening within the renshuu community (such as the week’s haiku prompt or current shiritori game). All together, renshuu has a lot of different ways that you can engage with others, which isn’t seen in a lot of other Japanese learning apps!

Our Overall Review on Renshuu

Generally speaking, renshuu is a great app that has a lot to offer for Japanese learners of all skill levels. It can be customized as much as you want and includes many different ways to learn. Renshuu also allows you to practice writing, reading and listening in many of its lessons. However, there’s no oral component (unless you join the Discord community), so this is an area where renshuu misses the mark. 

There are many resources built into the app (such as the grammar library, textbook lessons, or dictionary), but all of these options may seem a bit overwhelming – especially if you are not sure what you want to use to study. In terms of usability, this does make navigating the app harder than one would expect. However, the fact that there are so many resources is also convenient, as everything you could need for learning is in the same place. The community is also very easy to interact with and has a lot of options for engagement

However, if you want to learn Japanese with a native teacher, private or in a group, check out Coto Academy. We have fun, casual lessons focusing on conversations. If you are interested, contact us and schedule a free consultation today! 

Is Renshuu app free?

There is a free version of Renshuu app that you can use without limited time.

Is Renshuu a good app to learn Japanese?

Renshuu is a great app that has a lot to offer for Japanese learners of all skill levels. It can be customized as much as you want and includes many different ways to learn. Renshuu also allows you to practice writing, reading and listening in many of its lessons. However, there’s no oral component (unless you join the Discord community), so this is an area where renshuu misses the mark. 

What is Renshuu in Japanese?

Renshuu (literally meaning “practice” in Japanese), is an app started in 2020.


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