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Posts tagged my japanese coach

My Japanese Coach is selling well

My Japanese Coach for the Nintendo DS is selling really well on amazon.com. It is ranked #1 in its category ahead of titles like Spore Creature, Cooking Mama, and Nintendogs. It’s in the top 10 for all DS games. I hope this shows other game developers that there is demand out there for a product that teaches Japanese to those who speak English. After playing the game for a few hours now, I’m hoping a Japanese company produces a similar title without all of the mistakes.

And what are the problems? As mentioned previously, intermediate students of the language are going to have to play the game for hours, maybe even days or weeks, before they learn something new. There is a way to skip to Lesson 30, but the developer has yet to reveal that cheat code. Hiragana yo and na, as well as katakana ka, ne, no, hi, and wa, show an incorrect stroke order. The characters are sometimes drawn poorly. Katakana i, for instance, shows the middle line way over to the right when it should be right down the center of the screen. The character recognition is not nearly as good as in some other kanji learning games like Nazotte….

Something else that would be nice to have in this game is a kanji lookup dictionary like that found in Nazotte Oboeru Otona no Kanji Renshuu Kanzenhan or Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten.

Based on the popularity of this title I hope Ubisoft will employ a native Japanese person to improve a second version of My Japanese Coach. If they don’t, maybe some other company will take up the charge to create a bug-free Japanese learning game that will be of use to both beginners and more experienced Japanese learners. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Until then, My Japanese Coach is still good for beginners who don’t mind learning a few things incorrectly but is frustrating to those past the beginner level who will get more out of Nazotte… and other titles aimed at Japanese people.

My Japanese Coach dictionary and other features

Within an hour of receiving My Japanese Coach for the Nintendo DS in the mail, my 12-year old son came home. Needless to say, that was the end of my experiments with the game until today when he went to school, allowing me to finally get a crack at it again. Apparently he found My Japanese Coach quite addictive and learned a few dozen words last night and this morning before school.

I went into the audio section of the program (pictured to the left) and played around a bit. Although the game doesn’t correct your pronunciation, it does offer you a native female speaker saying a word. You can then record your pronunciation of the same word and play them both back simultaneously. This is actually more helpful than it sounds, and the quality of the recording is quite good.

While the speaker is native, I have a feeling that much of the character (both kanji and kana) drawing in the program is not done by a native Japanese person. This is unfortunate. As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog entry, some of the stroke order is wrong. If you, as the learner, write it correctly you will be marked wrong. You have to write the character wrong to get it right. Ugh.

If you go under Options/Credits you can see all the names of the people who created the game. They are nearly all non-Japanese names except for the voice actor. All of the beta testers have non-Japanese names. Again, this is unfortunate. Ubisoft should have hired some more native Japanese speakers and character writers to create and test this product so that it is 100% accurate and bug free. People purchasing this game want to learn how to write like the Japanese, not like gaijin.

Finally, for today, I played around with the dictionary. There is both an ei-wa (English-Japanese) and wa-ei (Japanese-English) dictionary. The wa-ei comes in both romaji and kana versions. While the dictionary is quick and handy, it isn’t huge at about 10,000 words (compared to a good electronic dictionary with more than 20 times as many words). Also, it includes only a one or two word definition without any example sentences so its usefulness is limited.

My Japanese Coach for the Nintendo DS

learn japanese on the nintendo ds

The first DS game aimed at English speakers learning Japanese has finally hit the market. My copy of My Japanese Coach arrived from Amazon in the mail today. After playing with it for 20 minutes I have some good things and some bad things to say. I’ll give you more complete reviews in the coming weeks.

The first thing I was happy with is the placement test. I thought, “Great! Now I don’t have to go through dozens of levels before learning anything I don’t already know.” Unfortunately, even if you score perfect on the placement test with tons of time left on the clock you will only skip the first 10 levels.

I also can’t change to kanji/kana until I get through 20 more levels. I can change the difficulty level for games, but they are still too easy if you know much Japanese.

The next problem is a bigger one. I noticed the stroke order as taught in My Japanese Coach is incorrect for some characters. Those include the hiragana yo and the katakana ka. I hope those are the only two, but I’m guessing there will be more. (After all, I’ve only played the game for a less than a half hour.)

The games look fun, varied, and comprehensive so I don’t think anyone that wants to learn Japanese will get bored quickly. I’m excited to delve further into all the features, and will share them with you, but I wish the creators at Ubisoft would have made things more friendly to intermediate and advanced users. More importantly, I hope there aren’t many Japanese errors being taught (like incorrect stroke order).

Made it through 6th grade!

I passed the sixth level tests on Nazotte Oboeru Otona no Kanji Renshuu Kanzenhan (なぞっておぼえる大人の漢字練習完全版) for the Nintendo DS. This means I can read and write about as good as a Japanese kid finishing elementary school. I could probably pass Level 5 of the Japanese Kanji Aptitude Test (日本漢字能力検定試験). To get through the sixth level on Nazotte Oboeru Otona no Kanji Renshuu Kanzenhan means you have mastered all of the kyoiku kanji (教育漢字) or about 1,000 kanji. I can probably read another few hundred, but I probably can’t write many more. That will all change as I continue my Nazotte Oboeru Otona no Kanji Renshuu Kanzenhan studies.

The joyo kanji include almost twice that many characters. The next 900+ that I learn/relearn are known as the other general use characters. Although they aren’t as common, it’s important to learn them in addition to the kyoiku kanji as you’ll be looking up lots of characters if you don’t.

When I previously mentioned passing the fifth level I showed you some of the screens in Nazotte Oboeru Otona no Kanji Renshuu Kanzenhan. Here are some more for a different part of the Nintendo DS “game.” These deal with its kanji lookup capabilities.

Let’s say you come across a kanji that you don’t know. On the main screen, above, click on 書き順検索.

You’ll be presented with a blank screen on the bottom. The top screen basically says to write the character on the lower screen and then select the character that will appear on the left that is the one you are trying to write. Stroke order and neatness are not important. I’ve yet to have the kanji I’ve drawn not appear as the top selection on the left.

I wrote this character in; notice that four possible matches magically appear on the left of the kanji I drew. The top one looks good so I select it.

The “game” now provides me with a screen on the bottom where I can practice writing the character using proper stroke order. I also get, from the top screen, the on and kun readings of the character. No, there is no English translation here, but it is still pretty cool don’t you think?

My Japanese Coach for the Nintendo DS is supposed to be available in mid-October of 2008. I will give you a full review soon after my pre-ordered copy has arrived. I’m guessing that it won’t be as good as Nazotte Oboeru Otona no Kanji Renshuu Kanzenhan for Intermediate and Advanced level students of Japanese but will probably be very good for beginners, including those who can’t read hiragana or katakana yet.

Nazotte Oboeru Otona no Kanji Renshuu Kanzenhan

This will likely be my last Japanese-related post for a while. Tomorrow we leave for Denmark! So for those of you only interested in Japan stuff on this blog check back in mid-August. From then until the end of time the vast majority of my blog entries will be about Japan, learning Japanese, etc.

Yesterday I passed the fifth level on Nazotte Oboeru Otona no Kanji Renshuu Kanzenhan (なぞっておぼえる大人の漢字練習完全版) for the Nintendo DS. Hurrah! What does this mean you ask? It means I could probably pass any kanji test thrown at a 5th grade Japanese kid (11 year old). That may not seem too impressive, but it was fun getting there, and I learned a lot along the way. I haven’t had the DS game that long and hope to pass all of the levels before this time next year. Stay tuned.

The fifth level brings one up to almost 900 kanji. Tests aside, I can probably read about 1,300 kanji well at this point and write about 800 well. Before buying this game those figures were probably about 900 and 100, respectively, and not as well as now. I’ve forgotten much over the past 20 years, but it is coming back quickly with study.

 Let me show you a few screen shots.

kanji ds

On the above picture you can see that I passed Level 5 by the skin of my teeth. Passing is 80%. Reading I received 100% on, but I have more difficulty writing. Lucky for me, reading is far more important from a practical standpoint. In fact, I really only practice writing because it helps with reading. On the rare occassions when I have to write Japanese I’m usually on a computer. The computer pulls up the possible characters for you so you really only need to be able to read to write Japanese (on a computer) these days.

The tests on this “game” are not so easy, as they aren’t multiple choice or true/false questions. You either know how to read or write it or you don’t. I’m guessing that real Japanese 5th graders have it a bit easier with multiple choice tests.

learn japanese nintendo ds

One of the nice things about this “game” is you can learn from your mistakes and review what you did very easily. After clicking on my “Graduation Certificate for 5th Level” (表彰状LV5卒業) the above screen shows which kanji were correctly answered (with a circle mark) or incorrectly answered (with no mark). You can click on any of these (including the ones marked correct) to review the kanji, including on/kun readings, stroke order, etc. Watch what happens when I click on the kanji I missed.

learn kanji on the nintendo ds

First, I should note that the screen isn’t all grainy like you see on the last two screen shots above. The photos clear up if you click on the images.

You have your on (音) and kun (訓) readings on the top screen along with the number of strokes. On the bottom screen you get walked through the proper stroke order. For more practice you can click on お手本 and practice writing the character as many times as you’d like. Nazotte… will show you how correctly you are writing the kanji.

There are many other features (like daily practice drills, a dictionary that allows you to look up unknown characters, and mini games). I’ll go over some more details and show you some more screen shots once I’ve made it through another level or two.

If you already have intermediate or advanced Japanese skills you can check out the features in Japanese here. You really don’t need to know anything more than hiragana to get much out of this game though. Someone, for instance, studying for JLPT Level 4 could use Level 1 of Nazotte… to study. For JLPT Level 3 one could use Levels 1, 2, and 3 of this game. JLPT Level 2 is through about Level 5 of Nazotte… And if you master through Level 9 of Nazotte… you’ll easily pass JLPT Level 1.