Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Second childhood

Partly as a reward to myself for passing the JLPT 2 test, and partly to help with further learning, I decided some time ago to get a Nintendo DS lite. This took some time as the Yodobashi stores have been permanently sold out (and not even taking orders) and I didn't want it so much as to actually go to Tokyo and pay over the recommended price at the handful of shops that were price-gouging (yeah, "matching supply and demand").

By chance, I wandered in to the Yokohama store on Friday evening just as they had a batch in, so I joined the queue and am now the happy owner of a blue plastic child's toy :-)

As I said, it's for study really, and I've got a couple of kanji-learning applications, this Kanji Kentei drill program and this new release "Nazotte oboeru otona no kanji renshuu" (trace and learn kanji practice for adults"). Both of them go through the 1945 jouyou ("daily use") kanji in the standard order that every schoolchild takes about a decade to learn. The former application is aimed squarely at a series of kanji exams that this organisation organises, with lots of questions in that style. The latter is (despite the name) more like a children's learn-to-write program with patterns to trace over.

Although I had to learn to read about 1000 kanji for the JLPT test, that was just multi-choice with no writing required, so I'd hardly learnt any writing at all. In fact writing is completely irrelevant to my daily life in Japan (I've never found anywhere that normal Roman characters are not usable) and even native Japanese often struggle a bit when forced to write by hand. However I'm sure that the action of writing will help to embed the shapes in my memory and I'm also tempted to have a go at one of the kanji tests this year as the JLPT1 is too big a jump in one step and the Kanji Kentei tests are more finely graded.

I was rather surprised on starting up the Nazotte oboeru program that the first practice set of kanji which it presented me with were rather difficult ones which I had no idea how to read or write. It turns out that the program judges your starting level based on your age - I had thought it was a little intrusive to ask for date of birth along with name to personalise the game at the start, but hadn't thought it would really matter. So now according to the machine I am James aged 5 again :-)

Both the programs are aimed solely at Japanese, not foreign learners of the language. They rely on the user knowing a lot of vocabulary (written phonetically), and as such they are not really suitable for beginners. They certainly do not replace my home-brewed English/Japanese flashcard program but should augment it usefully. There's certainly plenty of japanese reading practice in the programs! I'm also going to try some graphic novel/adventure games, of which a select few are available in dual language Japanese/English versions.

1 comment:

Rich said...

Thanks for the info. I was looking at buying this to work on my kanji. I've been using Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten for a while now, but it doesn't really have a good drill mode for those of us who want to learn from a lower grade level. I had 6 semesters of Japanese about 3-4 years ago, and now that I'm all rusty, I want to improve my reading skills.