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Final thoughts on My Japanese Coach

These will be my final thoughts, for a while anyway, on My Japanese Coach, the new game for the Nintendo DS.

The lessons (pictured to the left) in My Japanese Coach sort of jump all over the place and aren’t nearly as methodical as lessons you’ll find in a Japanese textbook like Genki. If another company chooses to create a game that teaches Japanese on the DS, a more structured approach should be considered. Perhaps the first 40 lessons should focus on what is needed to pass the JLPT 4 exam. The next 40 could focus on JLPT 3 and so on. In this way a person could theoretically be prepared to sit for JLPT 1 by going through the whole game of 1,000 lessons. If nothing else, it will keep the programmer focused on keeping things simple early on (which isn’t always the case with My Japanese Coach).

The lessons in Japanese are a mixed bag. Some are OK. Others are poorly written, unclear, lack examples to illustrate a concept, or flat out wrong in places. I almost wish I could have been commissioned to write the lessons. 😉 Japanese need not be as confusing as the lessons can make things appear.

Many words are brought forward in non-dictionary form without explanation. This will prove very confusing to new learners of Japanese. For instance “drunk” is presented as yopparatta instead of yopparau for “to get drunk.” “Rude” is said to be shitsureina instead of shitsurei. It is true that a na particle will frequently show up after shitsurei, but that isn’t always the case.

Sometimes kanji are presented before they are learned in the program. Grammar is sometimes taught incorrectly. For instance, hoshii can only be used for oneself. I think My Japanese Coach may hint at that fact, but then in the examples it is used incorrectly. Other people are also sometimes used in examples without a suffix like san or kun, and that isn’t correct either.

The grade levels are very misleading. For instance, in Lesson 48 of My Japanese Coach you enter the 4th Grade, yet you only have learned only 20 kanji. Japanese kids entering 4th Grade actually know over 400 kanji. Even though 20 characters have been introduced, kun and on readings have yet to be distinguished.

In summary, I hope the strong demand for this product will light a fire under DS game developers to create a game like My Japanese Coach without all of the flaws. The task shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish. Some of the existing games for Japanese people (like Tadashii Kanji Kakitorikun Kanken Taisaku or Nazotte Oboeru Otona no Kanji Renshuu Kanzenhan) can be adapted with English translations. The only other thing that would need to be added is the lessons.

Another approach could be to just upgrade the Ubisoft product by having a native Japanese person work on the calligraphy, employ someone who teaches Japanese to re-write the lessons, improve the character recognition software, and replace some of the useless games with games that will improve a person’s Japanese language abilities (including kanji games like those in Tadashii… and Nazotte…). Add a kanji lookup dictionary like Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten and you will be talking about a fantastic product that Ubisoft can sell for over $50 instead of $30. I’d much rather pay $100 for such a product than $30 for My Japanese Coach. How long do you think I will have to wait for such a thing to come to fruition?

In the meantime, I’ll continue to go through the vocabulary in My Japanese Coach. My Japanese Coach is a worthy investment for a beginner (if it doesn’t build too many bad habits like incorrect stroke order and sloppy grammar) at only $30. Intermediate and Advance students of the Japanese language will want to stick with Japanese titles produced by Japanese companies to improve their Japanese at this point.

7 Responses to “Final thoughts on My Japanese Coach”

  1. 1
    Jamaipanese:

    thank you for this and all your other posts on My Japanese Coach. I just picked up my copy of the software for my DS and will start playing later today. I’d say I am a beginner that has been stuck at one level for quite some time and I intend to use this game to familiarize myself more with Japanese. I’ll definitely be looking out for the errors your mentioned and maybe others as well.

  2. 2
    TeveTorbes:

    Finally finished. Ugh, learned nothing from this game. The grammar lessons finish with nikui/yasui. This is definitely elementary stuff. I’m between intermediate & advanced. Some of the mini-games might help a beginner. Flash cards are always great. Would be nice if the DS could remember which flash-cards gave you trouble & increased their frequency of appearance. It might actually do that, but I didn’t notice.

    The continuous use of roman letters will hurt beginners. There’s no excuse for that.

    At least I can sell my copy while the game is still popular.

  3. 3
    Hippy of Doom:

    Thank you so much for your detailed posts on this game. I’m a beginner, but it sounds like My Japanese Coach would be more hassle forgetting the inaccuracies than learning from. Fingers crossed they make something more on the structure of the JLPT exams like you suggested!

  4. 4
    electohaze:

    I think My Japanese Coach is good despite it’s flaws. I have been struggling with learning Japanese for forever. It’s been a real help just keeping my on track with my studies. I have been bouncing from Rossetta stone, to MJC, to watching Japanese Dramas, other videos and audio lessons! MJC seems to be helpful with building vocab and learning forcing me to learn some kanji.

    I hope the high demand for products such as this spawn some more that are better.

  5. 5
    A:

    I just bought this, and I loved it. Now I’m worried if I’ve been learning the right things. I had noticed some things that were off, like the stroke order for some of the kana (although you can get away with writing it the real way on some of them). I’m gonna keep playing but while comparing it to other lessons. How disappointing!

  6. 6
    Simi:

    Can I ask you something, I have passed lection 100, and now I’m in the open lessons Section.

    So there are like 900 open lessons? And they are entirely random?

    Second thing I wanted to ask you about, what do you suggest that a Person which finished this game + also have learned Japanese from other sources (Internet, Books, Audio Books, etc.) is capable to do the LVL4 test maybe even the LVL3?

    Thank you for your time and answer

    Michael

  7. 7
    acase:

    The vocabulary after lesson 100 is random. The kanji is not random.

    I would suggest you move on to something like Kanken 3 for the DS and begin reading in Japanese daily from books at your level (kids books for starters–other, regular books once you know 1,000 or so kanji): http://traveljapanblog.com/wordpress/2009/04/kanken-ds-3-deluxe/

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