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Do As Tokyo Does Let's Nihongo
(Entered Aug. 23, 2008)
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All of us expats have been there at one time or another. We wake up one day and realize that we've been living in our respective home away from homes for some time now, but still can't say much more than 'thanks' or 'beer' in the local language. So you sign up for some classes, or find a conversation partner, or heaven forbid, buy a book on the language and try to tackle it yourself. And what happens? The classes end up being too expensive, you never get around to meeting the conversation partner a second time, and the language books are boring. I know as I've tried all three, and all of them more than once. So where do you turn to next? Your computer of course!
My computer needed a bit of help though, and a company called Auralog - Tell Me More sent me a well timed email asking if I'd be willing to test their Japanese language software and blog about it. In return I'd get a free copy. Sweet!

Auralog Tell Me More Japanese

After a long journey over the Pacific, it finally arrived this Monday. It came with three different CD-ROMs (beginner, intermediate and advanced), a booklet on Japanese culture, plus a speaker/headphone set and retails for an impressive $250.00. I started with the beginner CD just for the sake of review, but it was way too easy for me. Intermediate was a bit more difficult, and by the 6th lesson it was finally starting to challenge me with grammar and kanji I didn't know or had long forgotten. The advanced CD was moderately difficult, but the pace didn't pick up to a much higher level like I had hoped. Still, it wasn't easy either, and there were a fair number of words and kanji that I didn't know.

Here's the user interface. To be honest I'm not sure what kind of connection a movie set has with learning Japanese. Maybe it's fun for kids, but I don't really need a gimmick. Just give me a simple user interface with a few small graphics.
So anyway, to start studying, click on one of the below objects which takes you to a different area. The notebook is for exercises, the guy holding that movie thingy is for conversation practice, the clothes are for choosing different lessons, the trophies are for your results, etc, etc.

Auralog Tell Me More Japanese

The exercises were grouped into 10 different sections like 'choose the right word from the picture', 'crossword puzzles', 'connect the English words with the Japanese words' etc. Some were more useful than others, but the fact that nowhere in the program can you write anything down gave me the overall impression that something important was missing. I understand the reasoning though. Auralog is probably thinking that a) most people are more interested in speaking anyway, and (b) most of their customers don't have a Japanese keyboard, or software that allows you to write in Japanese, so they didn't include it.

Auralog Tell Me More Japanese

The grammar section was well laid out and fairly concise, but it might've been better if it were more dynamic. As it is, it's just a book on your screen that explains various grammar rules. It does have clickable words that take you to lessons that incorporate those rules however.

Auralog Tell Me More Japanese

The most interesting part was the dialogue section, where you have a 'conversation' with the program. Altogether, there are 18 different topics that you can choose from. The conversation starts, you listen, and respond to whatever the program says to you, following one of the three choices below. It's quite strict with you actually. If you hesitate or make a mistake, the program makes you repeat yourself until it's satisfied with your pronunciation. Another nice feature is that if you don't know the kanji or word, you can just click on it to hear either its pronunciation or how to read it. The only complaint I have with this section is that you are limited to the three responses built into the program, so basically you're just reading a prepared script. Though I suppose that until AI comes along it'll have to do.

Auralog Tell Me More Japanese

Despite the limitations I mentioned above, Tell Me More - Japanese is a good overall program. It runs quickly, it's easy to follow and understand, it's fun to use, and is beneficial for people who want to improve their grammar, kanji, fluency and pronunciation.
Wanting to learn Japanese comes and goes in a wave. You know the urge, you start thinking about your life, and how everything will no doubt be 100 times better after you get that second language under your belt. This current wave recently started with Mike and Scott both saying they're taking the Japanese language proficiency test, otherwise known as the nihongo nouryoku shiken, this December, so I'm not about to let either of them overtake me! Maybe this program is just the thing I need to pass? It's definitely a good way to go if you like studying by yourself, but are bored of working with textbooks.
Getting the urge to study Japanese now? Order Tell Me More's Japanese language software here.



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