Review : My Japanese Coach.

Title: My Japanese Coach
Genre: Learning Software (English to Japanese)
Platform: Nintendo DS
Developer: Ubisoft
Price: Ranging from $15-35 US, retails for $25-45 AUS.

I know technically, it's not a manga but obviously being able to read Japanese would open the door to a lot more manga titles that never end up being translated to English.

Without a doubt, learning Japanese is a long and hard road, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Normally the best way to tackle this task is to enroll in Japanese language classes, which is not always an option due to availability, cost, or just being too busy. The second best route is to use a text book or internet site, but text books don't provide any interactive or verbal training and internet sites are only available whilst sitting in front of a computer and are often just supplements to their text book counter parts.

Luckily Ubisoft have bridged the gap between language classes and text books with My Japanese Coach for the Nintendo DS. Giving your the ability to learn Japanese words, sentence structure, draw kana and use a variety of soloable mini-games to help you remember. All this without having to pay a high price or hassle someone to help you with your flash cards, as well as providing portable access so you can get some practice in on the bus or during a break at work.

Starting it up you're tasked with setting up a personal profile. The game allows a total of 3 separate profiles, so family members or friends can share the same individual software. You are then given a quick multiple choice quiz to see how much you know. Don't worry if you know nothing, the game was designed for someone with no knowledge of the language, this quiz is merely so the people who have already studied Japanese can skip the earlier, easier lessons.

Lessons are organized into segments consisting of 10-15 words or characters that are related. For example, a, i, u, e, o, ka, ki, ku, ke, ko in hiragana (the Japanese alphabet), or Konnichiwa, Ohayoo, Konbanwa, Sayoonara (Greetings). The lessons contain all kana, romaji readings and Japanese verbal pronunciation for the words and characters. Lessons are small and bite size, containing brief, but well written explanations. The Estimated total of lessons would be around 200, which can be revisited and revised at any time. Once a lesson has been read through, you are required to gain 25 points for each word or character before the next lesson can be unlocked. Points are acquired through the mini games. Obviously sometimes you will need to go over a lesson multiple times, just looking at the lesson once will not be enough, remember learning Japanese is still a hard and long process, you need to stick with it and repeat the exercises until you remember.

There are 12 entirely different games all up, including whack a mole, word search, multiple choice and flash cards. The word(s) you are asked to identify in these mini games are sometimes written in romaji, sometimes spoken and sometimes in kana, obviously to begin with most is in romaji (that's Japanese with english letters) as to make it easier for new comers to the language. There are games like fading characters and write cards which are used to assist with drawing characters by writing on the DS screen with the stylus. There is also a few games that help the user by getting them to arrange words to make specific sentences, helping greatly with sentence structure. These mini-games really give My Japanese Coach a big edge on all it's competition.

If the above features haven't already sold you this piece of software, it's also an electronic dictionary and phrasebook. You can type any word in english or romaji and the translator will show you it in romaji, kana and english with a description. It will also provide a verbal pronunciation of the word. If you own a DS, don't know Japanese and are going there for a holiday or work, this feature would be your best friend.

My Japanese Coach is probably the best Japanese solo-learning tool available, obviously, a class room environment is still preferable, but then this would also be the best supplementary study tool available, so purchasing this title is win-win for anyone who is keen to learn the Japanese language.

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