I don’t usually play a lot of Nintendo DS games. My wife and son usually take the honor of playing these games. However, recently I bought the DS game “My Japanese Coach” for my son to get him more exposure to languages. After putting in the game and getting him setup as a user he was given a basic test to rate if and how much Japanese he knew.
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Since my wife speaks some Japanese at home, and I speak some also he actually got a lot of the basic questions which was a nice surprise to me. At this point the game basically is broken into “lessons” and the first section is lessons 1-29. My son moved to lesson 5. For the next hour or so my son was consumed by the games and lessons and moved ahead 3 or so lessons. He retained a lot of the new words (maybe 30 or so) and was speaking and could understand them.
He took off to bed in the normal routine and after charging the DS a bit I took my turn. I have been speaking and studying Japanese off and on for about 16 years or so after I took it in college. I think of myself as mid-intermediate. I set up my account and took the test. I jumped to a lesson and took off.
My initial through (before I even opened up the game) was that this was pretty easy stuff and more for kids to use to start to learn a language. Wow was I wrong, and for the better. I was sucked into fun games, lessons, and training and really started to get into it. At the higher level it goes into verbs, adjectives, and the different writing styles (katakana, hiragana, and some Kanji).
This along with the game able to recognize Japanese writing was a really nice challenge. The writing system goes slow where you trace the characters with the stylus and after you trace it a few times it fades away and you have to write it without help. Even though I know all of the basic characters it really was nice to be able to practice my writing in a controlled manner. Then there are games to backup your writing with recognition games and speed.
I was only playing the game for few hours and I am only 10% in, it looks like! The difficultly slowly raises, but it is a fun and an interactive way to memorize and retain the language. If you have kids or your want to study a language this is a great way to start the adventure. I have only done the Japanese version and do not know how the other versions of the coach compare.