App Review: Japanese 101 – Particles
Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
Let’s face it, if you’re reading this then you, like me, think that learning Japanese is great fun. However, there are certain aspects of the language such as particles that can test even the most ardent Japanophile.
Surprisingly there are very few iPhone apps that cover this area of the market and even fewer that do it well.
This is where Japanese 101: Particles steps in to fill the void.
While its feature set is deliberately limited – it does what it does, very well and there is something to be said for that.
The app covers all of the particles you’ll need to master in the beginner to intermediate stages of learning Japanese, including は、が、に、で、と、も、や、を、にも、でも、より、か、まで and から.
In Study Mode you choose from over 160 sentences in JLPT N4 and N5. Each level can be reviewed sequentially or via a convenient shuffle mode, which helps to keep things fresh.
Each sentence is presented in Japanese and automagically read to you by a native speaker. The user must study the sentence and guess the missing particle highlighted with red crosses.
If you happen to miss the audio when the screen first loads, clicking the speaker icon replays the sentence audio, which is especially helpful for beginners with very little listening practice – a common issue for beginners who self-study.
When you think you have the answer, you simply tap anywhere on the screen to reveal the full sentence written in Japanese, romaji and English. The correct particle is highlighted with asterisks in the romaji version of the sentence.
If you get the particle wrong, you can choose to click on the “Notes” button at the bottom left of the screen to view a detailed grammatical explanation of why that particle was used in the sentence. This feature alone is worth the price of the app.
Apart from the use of romaji, the Study Mode is an excellent way to sharpen your particle chops before heading over to the Quiz section.
The Quiz Mode is where you put your new found particle skills to the test and there are two ways to go at this point – Multiple Choice and Fill in the Blanks.
Multiple choice offers the same sentence groups from the Study Mode plus the choice of two or four particles from which to choose your answer.
Clicking the start button takes you to the test screen and the first sentence is read aloud to you.
This is where things can start to get really tricky as there are no cheat sheets or hidden screens to help – it’s just you and the audio and particles on the screen.
After answering each question, you’re greeted with native Japanese audio feedback based on whether you answered correctly or not. This can range from “Well Done!” to “So close!” and everything in between. A nice touch.
A tally of your right and wrong answers sits at the bottom of the screen and at the end of the quiz you can then review any questions you missed.
The other option in the Quiz Mode is “Fill-in-the-Blank”.
The difficulty meter hits its peak in this challenge as you have to input your answer in Hiragana and there are no multiple choices to help you out here.
While it is far more difficult than multiple choice, this option will give you a very good idea as to whether you know your particles or not.
If you can make it through the Fill-in-the-Blank section without a mistake you’re well on your way to becoming a particles ninja.
Japanese 101: Particles, as well as most of the other apps Harvey has on sale at www.japannewbie.com, wisely focuses on just one aspect of the Japanese language at a time rather than trying to be everything to everyone.
The result is an app that will definitely help you achieve your goal of mastering particles. It can’t force you to memorise them or make sure you’re doing your revisions – that’s up to you of course.
My only negatives with Japanese 101: Particles are mostly aesthetic.
As some reviewers have already previously noted, the look and feel could do with a bit more polish but I guess that is purely subjective and wouldn’t bother most people.
Something that I do feel strongly about is the use of romaji. I’m not sure it belongs in any app and especially one teaching particles, where you could safely assume that the user is a serious student.
If the romaji must remain, it would be great to have the option to switch between Kana and romaji. End of romaji rant ^_^
At US$5.99, Japanese 101: Particles is great value for money. Most Japanese learning textbooks are in the US$20-$50 range and don’t offer any of the interactivity and feedback of this app.
So if you’re struggling with particles or just starting out, get over to the iTunes store now and grab a copy of Japanese 101: Particles – you won’t be disappointed.
Disclosure: I only review applications that I own and pay for myself. Hopefully this means you get a review without any hidden catches.