I’ve been delaying this part of the page for a little while now. It’s not that I don’t want to write a review, it’s that I never have. I’ve been thinking of starting up some sort of review site for Japanese language learning tools “after I learned Japanese”. We have all seen how well I stick to such things.
Since I put this page together, I figured it would be a great way to give other people who are looking to learn the language some tips on what I considered good (or bad) investments.
I know the big review I have in my pile is Rosetta Stone. I also figure there are people who would like to know if it’s worth the kind of money that one would need to invest in it. So, since it’s such a major review, I’ve decided not to do that one for you today. It’s not to be mean (okay, it might be =P). It’s because I want to develop a “style” of reviewing before I try to tackle that one.
Like many people, I find the numbering (or star) system lacking in many ways. I’m just going to give you my opinion and tell you what I found to be good or bad about each one.
For my first review I’ve decided to start with something simple that I would recommend to people trying to learn the language.
White Rabbit Press
by Max Hodges and Tomoko Okazaki
I really enjoyed using this product to learn Kana. My initial attempt to learn the Kana was with a flashcard program for Linux. While the program did its job pretty well, I found myself never loading it up. I then attempted to make my own flashcards, but I have some of the worst handwriting you’ve ever seen (it’s even worse when you don’t know the stroke order). So, I got my hands on some officially made cards.
I suppose I should talk about the box and then move on to the cards themselves. Well, I’m not one to describe box art to people, but it gives a nice idea of what to expect from the cards themselves. The inside is actually filled with a hard plastic they shaped to fit both decks of cards in a nicely organized little container.
The cards are really nicely made. They’re more resilient than any playing card I’ve ever purchased while still being slim and light weight. The edges are rounded to avoid paper cuts, and the cards are numbered so you can keep them in order.
The cards are color coded (red for Hiragana and blue for Katakana) allowing you to shuffle them easily and still keep the whole setup organized.
So, we’ve established that they are nicely made, but how do they hold up? The cards have a nicely designed front with the character you’re learning displayed in a huge font in the top left. Just to the side of the character they have a small box that shows you four other common ways that people write this character (you have no idea how nice this is until you can’t read characters you thought you knew =P). Along the bottom of each card is the stroke order (with little arrows) showing you how each character is made.
On the rear of the card it writes the pronunciation in Romanji along the top. They have the character again, but this time they’ve placed an image next to it to use as a mnemonic device for each character.
An added bonus:
In addition to the character learning, each card features 5 words (total of 450) written on the front below the character that you’re learning in Hiragana or Katakana (depending on which deck you’re using). All of the definitions are on the reverse side written in Romanji/English, just like the pronunciation of the character.
The decks also include several extra cards for easy reference. There is a card that has all of the Hiragana and Katakana written on it (front and back respectively), both of which have the pronunciations listed below each character. There’s another set of cards that show you all of the various combinations for both Hiragana and Katakana. Example: Ki and Ya become Kya.
Nothing is perfect:
There are several characters which can be modified by Dakuten. The cards do list these, however they only appear on the answer side, making it more difficult to quiz yourself with them.
I thought that they were definitely worth the investment. I never used the mnemonics on them, but they did end up working out well for me. I think if you’re looking into flashcards to use, you should check out their sample download and see if it’s something you’d be interested in.
I personally enjoyed their cards so much that I intend to order the Kanji cards very soon.