I’m well aware that I’m not the only self-taught Japanese student out there, so I’ll be reviewing different products meant to teach Japanese. This isn’t part of my Friday Review series (in case you can’t tell that it’s nowhere near Friday), but a regular post.
The product in scrutiny: Power Japanese! This software is very handy for forcing you to learn the kana. I’m one of those people who can stare at flash cards all day an never ever get the hang of them. I liken it to trying to learn the periodic table of elements just by staring at a chart, which is why I failed the test for it in eighth grade.
Power Japanese starts you off with hiragana, making the argument that learning the sounds of language first will not only help you with pronunciation, but will also ensure that you’re not totally illiterate if you go to Japan. I agree very strongly with this approach, especially since it can be tricky to get your words just right. That pesky American accent (or whatever accent you have) has a tendency to get in the way sometimes, even though Japanese is made of of fewer sounds than English.
First of all, you see all the characters, and clicking on them will allow you to hear what sound they represent as well as the stroke order in which you would write the character. Once you think you can remember them, you’ll be quizzed on sounding out words, and then drilled on “spelling” words you hear. It’s a lot easier than it sounds, since Japanese words, unlike English ones, are always written exactly a they’re said, since each character represents a single sound.
There’s also games to be played that reinforce your knowledge. There is one game, however, that will not work on an XP machine no matter what you do. It’s the tetris-like one, but I don’t think anyone will be missing much by skipping over this game.
The grammar section is also pretty weak. I had a hard time figuring out exactly what the program was trying to tell me, and rather than starting beginners off with a basic sentence, they will start you off with a monstrous one! I recommend that you skip over this if you’re just starting. If you already have some grammar under your belt, then go ahead and try it. However, for that reason I actually recommend you search out a torrent for the software rather than buy it. I’ll never do this with any other language software recommendation, but this is the exception.
All in all, Power Japanese will make sure that you know the kana and know them well, but its grammar section is probably overwhelming for the absolute beginner. I high recommend it, nonetheless.