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Posts tagged Nazotte Oboeru Otona no Kanji Renshuu

Finished “Otona no Kanji Renshuu” Level 7

After many attempts I finally passed the seventh 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. If you can read the above Japanese and are wondering what アル is, that’s my name–Al.

The first six levels corresponded to how Japanese kids learn kanji in school–200 or less a year. The 7th level was a giant leap forward and hence was much more difficult to get through. Not only are the kanji much more difficult, on average, than those in the first 6 grades (kyōiku kanji 教育漢字), but there are also over 315 to learn and be tested on in Level 7. Ouch!

Level 8 appears to give users a minor break with “only” 286 kanji to learn. Would you believe me if I said I’m not that excited to jump into another 286 characters right away? 😉

The above screenshot shows that I can read kanji better than I can write them which is good for me since I rarely have to write them.

Here are a few more screen shots I haven’t previously shown. I’ll walk you through them in case you are thinking about purchasing this game. Explanations will be below the photos.

My normal routine is to do “Today’s practice” (the upper left big button). There you get 5 new kanji to learn and practice reading and writing. After doing 4 of these for a total of 20 characters I move on to “Promotion test” (the middle left big button). To pass the test you have to read all 20 of the kanji recently learned in “Today’s practice.” The characters are presented in random order and you never know if you will have to provide an on or a kun reading. The jukugo words may, or may not, be the same as those you were given in “Today’s practice.”

After passing the reading test, I take the writing test for the same 20 characters. Again, the questions are presented in random order. The recognition of my writing is very good by the program–much better than My Japanese Coach, but sometimes you are given a false positive if you are slightly off or haven’t drawn the last stroke.

After completing all of “Today’s practice” and “Promotion tests” for a level (except the final comprehensive exam for a level which is much more than 50% more difficult when it is over 300 characters instead of 200 characters or less) I go into “Weaknesses” (the middle big button on the right).

The above screen shows that I cleared out the final 4 kanji I previously made a mistake on by correctly writing them this time.

Once you have mastered all of your previously missed kanji under “Weaknesses” you earn the above certificate.

The above screen indicates that you have no previously missed kanji to review since the top button is grayed out. The lower button can never be cleared out. It provides short, 10-question quizzes (5 reading and 5 writing) for any kanji you have ever missed in the program. If you click on the lower button you see the following:

This means that at some point I incorrectly read 260 kanji and incorrectly wrote 541 of the 1,322 kanji studied so far. You can’t reduce these numbers by taking the 10 question quizzes and answering them correctly. This is good as you can always come back to review these kanji that you may now know fairly well without having to wade through the ones that you know really well and never miss.

The 60% indicates that when I have taken these 10 question quizzes of previously mistaken kanji I score an average of 6 out of 10 correct (usually 4 or 5 out of 5 for the reading and 1 or 2 out of 5 on the writing in my case).

I would like to see the creators (Nowpro) of this program put out a new edition of Nazotte Oboeru Otona no Kanji Renshuu Kanzenhan. While this is the best DS game for learning Japanese that I have tried so far, three enhancements would make it even better.

1) On the screen showing the on and kun readings, include a definition in Japanese and English.
2) On that same screen include three or four example jukugo.
3) When a user makes a mistake reading or writing a kanji (in any setting including the tests), take the user (or at least allow the user via a button option) to go to the on and kun reading page mentioned in 1 and 2.

If you have mastered this DS game then you are in luck. Nowpro is coming out with a variation early in 2009. Advanced students of the Japanese language will want to check out the latest offering in this series: Imi made Wakaru Otona no Jukugo Renshuu Kadokawa Ruigo Shinjiten Kara 5-Man Mon (意味までわかる大人の熟語練習 角川類語新辞典から5万問).

My Japanese Coach is selling well

My Japanese Coach for the Nintendo DS is selling really well on 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.

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.

Kochi-Kame (こち亀 or こちかめ)

kanji game for the nintendo dsAbout a month ago, I decided to upgrade my previously mentioned なぞっておぼえる大人の漢字練習 for the Nintendo DS to the new version called 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). The new version has about 300 more kanji and some other nice new features. For only a few dollars more than what I could sell my old version for on ebay, I figured it was worth it (and have been very happy with that decision since the arrival of the “game”).

kochi kameAnyway, since YesAsia offers free shipping I decided to grab a manga while I was at their site since the only manga I can obtain locally are all in English, and that’s no fun. So I rather randomly selected this Kochi Kame one. (The full title is a mouthful, Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kōen Mae Hashutsujo or こちら葛飾区亀有公園前派出所.) My selection wasn’t totally random as I figured my kids would like it given the cover (which turns out to be quite different from all of the other Kochi Kame covers).

For under $10 I wasn’t expecting much. To my surprise, it’s almost 200 pages in length. I started reading it this past weekend, and the content has exceeded my expectations as well. I laughed out loud several times. Apparently this series has been running for decades. I didn’t encounter it when I lived in Japan in the 80s, but I didn’t actively read, seek out, or purchase manga then either.

About the only manga I read in the 80s were a few books given to me. One was What’s Michael? (ホワッツ マイケル?). Another was Osamu Tezuka’s (手塚治虫) Buddha (ブッダ). And then I also had one or two Doraemon (ドラえもん) books that I think I found. Kochi Kame is actually the first one I ever purchased.

kochikame ryotsuI was happy to find furigana next to every kanji which made for easy reading. I only had to look up, on average, the meaning for about one word a page. Kochi Kame stars Ryotsu (両津) who, although sometimes in his police uniform, has yet to do anything police related in the four episodes I read this past weekend. Instead, he has some money-making scheme in each that always ends in disaster and/or failure. Although the first few installments began to seem somewhat Scooby Dooish in their predictable outcomes, I can’t imagine becoming bored by them anytime soon, and the fifth episode (that I read today) had a completely different storyline that wasn’t formulaic.

My son finished learning hiragana this past weekend so he was very proud to be able to read real manga in real Japanese for the first time too. Now I just have to help him understand what the sounds coming out of his mouth mean. 😉

Multifaceted approach to learning and improving Japanese language abilities

I’m a teacher by profession, and one thing I try to get across to my students is that it is difficult to learn something merely by reading about it once or twice. Reading a textbook isn’t all that effective; nor is it enjoyable. To really learn something for the long term, one has to do more than read. Tackling your target from many angles, or in other words, doing, and doing in different ways, seems to be most effective for long-term comprehension and retention. So I encourage my students to read, practice using one method (maybe practice quizzes), practice using another method (maybe doing problems and then checking answers), practice using another method (maybe flashcards), practice using another method (maybe tutoring someone else), etc.
ds game for learning japanese kanji
So why should I do any different in my quest to improve my Japanese language abilities? Unfortunately, I don’t have a Japanese tutor or even anyone that I can speak Japanese to and/or hear Japanese from on a daily basis. I’ll have to save that method for when I’m in Japan next year. I do have a wide variety of ways that I’m studying Japanese though. I’ll list them here in no particular order. On a good day I’ll do at least 15 minutes of each.

Nihongo Journal

1. Practice reading and writing kanji with Nazotte Oboeru Otona no Kanji Renshu (なぞっておぼえる大人の漢字練習) for the Nintendo DS. I look up any unknown phrases or words as I go so I learn new vocabulary in addition to kanji.

2. Read Nihongo Journal (日本語ジャーナル)including taking all practice JLPT tests included. I also listen to the tapes or CDs for the issues in which I own the accompanying audio. I have about 50 issues and that should keep me busy for the next year.

3. Read Mangajin (漫画人). This is easier and more enjoyable than the above two. You can read Mangajin online, but I’ve found the scan quality to be pretty poor so I’ve purchased about 50 issues and prefer to read them in hard copy format.
4. Read other Japanese books in Japanese. I’m currently reading Harry Potter in Japanese–ハリー・ポッターと秘密の部屋 to be more specific. While reading I look up any unknown words in my Canon Wordtank V90 electronic dictionary. The reading is actually pretty easy because furigana are placed next to most kanji.

5. Subscribe to various email lists that send a different kanji, word, or grammar via email each day. These are available through the links in yesterday’s post–specifically the kanji-a-day and yokooso sites.