How to use Free Software to learn Japanese, and more.

Our Immersion Learning Toolset

February 03, 2021 — Tatsumoto Ren


At Ajatt Tools we're designing tools to help you connect with another language. We hope that they and other libre projects developed by the community will help you in your language learning journey.


Technical instructions on this site target GNU/Linux users. That's what I use. But most of the software I list here is cross-platform. So if you're currently not using GNU/Linux, don't worry! You should be able to use the tools on any OS in the meantime while you're preparing to upgrade to the better system.

How we choose software

All software that we use and approve must respect the users' freedom. The point of free software is that we have control of our software and our computing. A proprietary program doesn't qualify because there is no way to tell if it doesn't have hidden malicious functionalities. Often it is the case. The good news is that the majority of language learning software that exist today is already free. So as far as language learning goes, feel lucky that you're learning Japanese because we have some killer tools and resources.

Moving on, let's dive into our immersion learning toolset!


If in doubt: Do I have to run GNU?

GNU/Linux is a suitable replacement for Windows or macOS.

I favor Arch Linux and distributions based on it, but any other distro is fine as long as it's not overly complicated or difficult to use as a daily driver. If you've ever used a Debian-based distro, you know how slow the package manager is. On the other hand, the package manager used in Arch-based distros is one of the fastest package managers out there.

Possible options:

  • Arch Linux. The default installation is very minimal, installation steps have to be executed manually.

  • ArcoLinux. Arch Linux made easy and beautiful. Whether you’re just starting with Arch Linux or have been using it for years, there’s an option perfectly suited to your level of expertise and requirements. ArcoLinux installs with a graphical installer (Calamares) with ease and comfort. There are 3 major projects- Arconet(XFCE), Arcopro(bare arch-like install), Arcoplasma. Video

  • EndeavourOS. A successor of Antergos, a lightweight distro close to Arch Linux. A really good, user-friendly starting distro. Video.

  • Garuda Linux. A rolling release distro based on Arch Linux with Chaotic AUR enabled by default.

  • Manjaro. Aims to be user-friendly and offers lots of goodies out of the box.

  • Parabola. A fully free/libre equivalent of Arch Linux.

    Parabola doesn't ship proprietary firmware and uses the Linux-libre kernel. Devices that require proprietary blobs will not function. A lot of WiFi-cards on laptops are affected.

    Software packages tend to be outdated, especially the kernel.

  • Hyperbola. A distro that aims to be stable and secure, as well as fully free/libre.

  • Artix. Arch Linux without systemd.

Alternatives suggested by our members:

Also read: Reviews of All Linux Distros.


Create, manage and review flashcards to remember the words, phrases, and grammar points you've studied.


mpv is a video player with support for user-scripts.


Make instant Anki cards from movies and TV shows.


Passive listening is one of the key components of the AJATT method, so it is useful to make it as convenient as possible. impd is a small tool for managing background immersion. Create condensed audio, automatically add episodes of TV shows you've watched to your mpd playlist, and archive audio that you've listened to enough times.


Goldendict is a libre dictionary program for GNU+Linux and other operating systems. It offers an easy-to-use interface and supports a variety of dictionary formats. It allows users to quickly look up words and phrases, create Anki flashcards, and can especially help during and after the monolingual transition.

GoldenDict can be enchanced by adding external programs as dictionaries and displaying their output in the search results.


A QT-based EPWING dictionary viewer. Qolibri lets you search multiple EPWING dictionaries at the same time, so for any word you look up you get a list of different definitions. Since using a Japanese to Japanese dictionary can be difficult for beginners being able to see one word described in multiple ways makes it easier to understand what it really means.

External resources:


A cross-platform open source e-book reader using crengine-ng.


Look up unknown words with the hover of a mouse and make Anki flashcards with a single click.


Anki Media Extractor Script. Allows you to easily add screenshots and audio recordings to your Anki cards.


Related: Cross Profile Search And Import

A small utility that allows you to mass-generate Anki decks based on your favorite foreign language movies and TV shows to aid in the language learning process. For example, if you had a Japanese movie and the accompanying Japanese subtitle file, you could use subs2srs to automatically create an Anki deck with one card for each subtitle line, along with the corresponding audio and snapshot.

subs2srs opens up the possibility of making large amounts of high quality, original sentence cards extremely quickly. It also allows you to have native audio on all of your cards, which is extremely useful.

The downside of subs2srs is that in order to use it, you need to acquire the file for the show/movie you want to use, along with a correctly timed subtitle file for that show/movie.


Having a mobile device is not strictly necessary for learning Japanese, but it can be handy. It can be used to review Anki flashcards when you're not home. You can use it for passive listening if you load it with condensed audio. Some people are even able to do active immersion on Android, though I think it's a torture with such a small screen.

Not all Android phones or tablets are safe to use out of the box. If you do own an Android device, be sure to install F-Droid, which is an application catalog for libre programs. Liberate your device by flashing a new aftermarket ROM with no Google applications. GrapheneOS is a popular choice, but requires a compatible phone. If aftermarket ROMs are not available for your device, you could at least obtain root access and get rid of Google Play and other Google applications.

F-Droid can be flashed using TWRP (or other Android recovery) or installed as a Magisk module to allow for automatic background updates.

Most Android devices can't be fully liberated because they depend on non-free drivers and firmware. These drivers control things like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, microphone, camera.

Don't buy iThings, you can't install a free OS on them. Most Anki decks linked on this site come with ogg/opus audio and webp images. These formats are not supported on iThings.

Some people would like to completely reject mobile phones because they are surveillance tools.

Further information:

ROM suggestions:

  • LineageOS, a custom ROM that supports many devices.
  • /e/OS is a privacy-enabled ROM with no Google apps or Google services accessing your personal data.
  • GrapheneOS.
  • CalyxOS.

Tags: guide