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Me and Kids studying Japanese before our trip. Advice...

Los Angeles
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Me and Kids studying Japanese before our trip. Advice...


My two kids and I have been studying Japanese with a tutor since June. Our tutor had us learn katakana first, which is atypical, but still the kids (ages 10 and 8) got it pretty quickly. We're now working on our hiragana and it's going more slowly than I would like, mostly because she can now only come once a week. The tutor is also teaching us vocabulary every week and now starting some sentence structure and grammer.

My question is this: I would like to add language study to the actual tutor's homework and think I want to do that through a computer program that's interesting to the kids. I've heard lots about the Rosetta Stone, but awhile ago read some reviews that said it was confusing for that particular language because it's in pictures and it's easier if you know the syllabries.

I have also heard about another language program called Tell me More (I think that's what it's called) that some reviewers were raving about. Has anyone here tried either program, or another that they recommend?

I know that I would be fine with either program but I wonder which my kids would enjoy more? Also if you have any other ideas for language study with kids that would be great. I would put them in a language class with other kids, but those are far away and unfortunately interfere with Saturday sports (Karate and soccer).

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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1. Re: Me and Kids studying Japanese before our trip. Advice...

I can't help you with spoken language, but it might be fun for the kids to learn some basic kanji, not to get a reading knowledge but so they will recognize them on your trip.

Your tutor may not approve, but a book that I like is Read Japanese Today, available from Amazon (no, you won't read Japanese today, but you will know which is the men's room and which train goes to Tokyo). Aimed at adults, it introduces about 200 characters by tellina a story (which may or may not be true) showing the picture from which the character evolved. These stories become helpful mneumonics (spelling?). The characters are ones that you're likely to see walking down the street or looking at a map or riding a train. I've seen a book aimed at a younger audience, which uses drawings as memory aids, but I have not looked at it critically.

Nashville, TN
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for Himeji, Kobe, Osaka
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2. Re: Me and Kids studying Japanese before our trip. Advice...

Hiragana is pretty straightforward; personally I would have started there. There are a number of books and Websites dedicated to learning the language; but the best way to learn the alphabet is by rote, unfortunately, followed by reading, reading, and more reading.

This site has some good resources:


Look at the educational resources in particular. Also do a general search on 'learn Japanese online' and you'll get a slew of free resources. Also, the Yamasa Institute has a good online resource:


John W.

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3. Re: Me and Kids studying Japanese before our trip. Advice...

if you interested, try http://smart.fm/

This site is not practical but fun for kids!

Tokyo, Japan
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4. Re: Me and Kids studying Japanese before our trip. Advice...

You don't need to buy expensive language CDs like Rosetta Stone. Google search "Nihongo." There are many free Nihongo (=Japanese language) learning resources available online. If you like to pay money for learning, I suggest you to have web lessons which are doing by Skype with a licensed(=JLPT) Nihongo teacher. The belows are just for example.

Online lessons, game, songs....:



Web lessons:




One of well-known Nihongo textbook is "Minna no Nihongo" by 3A (publisher). They also have published texts for kids, "Kodomo no Nihongo." There are Kanji lesson on their web site. It used to have some kid's flash cards, but I couldn't see now.



Ganbatte ne!

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for Pompano Beach
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5. Re: Me and Kids studying Japanese before our trip. Advice...

I respect your interest in learning Japanese for your trip. We visited Japan to be with our college aged son who had three years of Japanese study at the time. His Japanese was still limited and was little help for us to "get around".

All this said, the conversational Japanese we used was helpful in breaking the ice. We picked that up in a number of days with a simple conversational guide. My son had a game for his hand held device which translated kanji when we couldn't find signs in English. However, it is very difficult to master this language in short time.

What saved the trip was the fact that the JR trains announce stops in English and so do most subways. Spend your time planning your trip and obtaining detailed city maps in English, so you know where you want to go. The people are very helpful in Japan and will make every effort to point you in the right direction. All you need to do is ask - feel free to stop someone in the street.

Good luck with your preparation and have a wonderful trip!

Birmingham, Alabama
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6. Re: Me and Kids studying Japanese before our trip. Advice...

Do you happen to have a Nintendo DS? I have taken 2 years of Japanese language study, and am working through the 'My Japanese Coach' program as a refresher.


It's a little basic, and the grammar instructions are pretty confusing, but in conjunction with a tutor or class I think it would work really well. It's something I actually ENJOY using to study!

Also of note is the kanji dictionary for the DS (Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten, http://www.play-asia.com/paOS-13-71-9g-49-en-70-198v.html). You can use the DS stylus to write in unfamiliar kanji characters you might see while you're there. However, since the program is in Japanese (although it does Japanese -> English translation) it might be difficult to utilize. I found this review helpful in deciding if it would be a useful thing for me to have on our upcoming trip: animeyume.com/blog/…

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7. Re: Me and Kids studying Japanese before our trip. Advice...

You might enjoy the Kid's Web Japan site. Start here:


then click on Kid's Web in the center of the page. Great interactive learning about Japan, but also a little bit of language play.

In looking for Japanese language software a few years ago, I found Rosetta Stone to be excellent for kids the ages of yours.

Los Angeles
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8. Re: Me and Kids studying Japanese before our trip. Advice...

Wow, thanks everyone for all the great suggestions. I have checked out the websites and am going to get those books from Amazon. Very helpful!

BTW, I did order a computer program that I think the kids will also like. It's called Human Japanese. It's 24.95 which is about 1/20th the price of Rosetta Stone and it gets rave reviews. Check it out at humanjapanese.com or on Amazon they have bunches of info and reviews. Just received it today and I can't wait to try it. But these websites listed on this page are excellent too and i'm sure I will use them too.

I don't plan on getting very good before I leave in march. Just travel proficient. And the kids too. They will feel so great if they can read a few signs and say a few phrases correctly. This would never happen if I just stuck a phrase book in front of them. Anyway, thanks all!

9. Re: Me and Kids studying Japanese before our trip. Advice...

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