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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Learning some Japanese -- Book Reviews

Disclosure: Tuttle Publishing gave me a copy of these products free of charge. All opinions in my review are my own and I did not receive any other compensation. As in all my reviews I am providing links for your ease, but receive no compensation.

As I explained last Monday, we have begun to explore Japan with some fun books from Tuttle Publishing. They sent us some beautiful books and a set of flashcards. Today we are going to look at the ones that help teach a little of the Japanese language. Last week I reviewed My First Book of Japanese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book by Michelle Haney Brown. This book starts to introduce a small amount about the language and really helps teach something about the culture in Japan.

This week I am going to begin with Japanese For Kids Flash Cards by Timothy G. Stout.


In this box of flash cards, you get 64 double-sided flash cards, an audio CD, a wall chart and a learning guide. Each flash card has the Japanese word written in Japanese and then the pronunciation of the Japanese word (called Komaji) and a picture of what the word means on one side. On the other side is a table with the Japanese, Komaji and English then two sentences in all three as well as a black and white copy of the picture. The 64 cards are separated into word groups: Family, Colors, Numbers, Clothes, Animals, Food, Body Parts, and My Day. The learning guide suggests working with only one group at a time to make it more manageable. 

The audio CD begins with sixteen basic words and sayings that do not lend to pictures (for examples: yes, no, hello, goodbye) which are spoken slowly in Japanese and then at a regular speed and then in English and then has four songs in Japanese. Then it goes through each flash card saying the word in Japanese slowly, then at regular speed, then in English, then reading the sentences on the back side of the card in Japanese and English. I love that Hazel gets to hear the word how it is suppose to be pronounced and not just my interpretation of it. The learning guide also has games and activities to try in Japanese to help learn some of the words in a different way and the words to the four songs in Japanese and English. We decided to focus on numbers for awhile because the next book started with numbers as well.

Did you know there are three different writing systems in Japanese? There is Kanji which is the writing system that came to Japan from China in the 6th century; Hiragana is a script women in Japan developed 1,000 years ago; and Katakana is the set of characters to represent foreign words and names. Kanji has 2,500 different characters to know. Japanese children learn these starting in elementary school and continue through high school. Hiragana has 46 different characters and sounds. Japanese children learn all of the Hiragana characters in first grade. Katakana has 46 characters to match the 46 sounds of spoken Japanese and all are learned in first grade. Japanese children also learn Romaji which is the 26 letters of the English alphabet. (Source: All About Japan: Stories, Songs, Crafts and More by Williamare Moore--a review of this one coming soon!)


Our second book for today is My First Japanese Kanji Book: Learning Kanji the fun and easy way! by Anna Sato and Eriko Sato. This book helps children learn how to write Kanji. Usually Kanji is learned after Hiragana and Katakana are already mastered. We however began with it. This book has 36 lessons. Each lesson includes a poem in Japanese and English and then lessons on some of the words from the poem. The first lesson teaches you to write the words for one, two and three. 

Each character has a certain order to how it is to be written and it is said that teachers can tell when you do not do it in the correct order. Hazel and I began trying some out first with just regular colored pencils and I realized we were not getting the thickness of the lines correctly so I pulled out some calligraphy pens. Hazel loved this activity!! She wanted to do some more while I started making dinner.
Hazel's Kanji Trials

This book comes with an MP3 Audio CD. Each lesson is on the CD with the poem read in Japanese and English. Again I love that Hazel gets to hear the correct pronunciation. (Spoken languages have never been my strong point even if I was in Honors Spanish classes throughout middle and high schools.) I also showed her how to listen to the poems on her own if she wants to try some while I am busy. This really excited her. She actually asked if we could try some lessons every day. 

My Kanji Trials
The book provides a place to practice each character, but we decided to do them on separate paper. I often donate the books eventually to our public library or Hazel's school library, so I didn't want to mess them up and it gave us both a place to work without being in the others way. 

I have to say all three of these products are a wonderful introduction to the Japanese language. Each provides a different way of learning a bit about the culture and all are of the highest quality and are beautiful. 

For more books and activities to learn about Japan check out:
Also check out some of our other reviews of Tuttle Publishing Books:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing. These tools would really helps us a lot. I love the Japanese Flashcards for Kids and My firsrt book of Kanji.

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