I have mentioned it a fair few times in the past however during my years as a school student, I spent eight of them studying Japanese. I will not say that it was an exactly easy subject to take, especially in the later years when it came to more formalized assessment and bland (but required) textbook work but in its own regard, I did enjoy the classes, I appreciated the culture further and I am not sure I would be sitting here writing this preview if I had not taken it. While this is purely my own opinion without any academic reasoning behind it, I personally believe that one way to effectively learn a new language is through practical application…. not just through a dictionary or a textbook.
Sure, it may not be possible to suddenly move countries to learn a new language or anything along those lines… there are a number of ways to effectively learn in a more creative environment. For example, when I was in primary school this ranged from simple mnemonics for hiragana (Eg. お – Oh! A Hole in One to ふ – Mount Fuji) to quiz games to even simple things such as thinking up of songs to remember simple romaji. Another means of learning basic language skills in several languages is the upcoming software release of SanjigenJiten (三次元辞典) which is Japanese for “3D Dictionary“, or just SanJiten for short. The game is being developed mainly by the duo of Rob Howland and Emily Olmstead and is somewhat based on a habit I know I used at least once during my studies…. taping flash cards to various objects. For more information on the project – check out their Kickstarter Page or Official website. For now though, lets dive into the game to see how it looks.
Note: Preview is based on the games demo, and is not reflective of a final product. I have only covered the Japanese section of this game, however you can also play to learn English, Spanish and Chinese.
This is an alpha demo of the game, so you are only presented with a small subsection of the game to navigate around – namely a bedroom and ensuite. The world is filled with items, all of which you can click on to pull up additional menu displaying the item in the language. In the case of the Japanese example, this would be the item name in either Katakana or Kanji, with hiragana underneath. In addition a native speaker speaks the item name in the language. At least with the Japanese language, it is evidently either a native or very fluent speaker of it and is for the most part clear and easy to understand. The items can provide not only nouns, but verbs, adjectives and so forth according to the “To Do List”.
After compiling a list of – for example nouns or verbs you can take part in a couple of simple but effective games to test your memory of the characters including a time attack, where you must wander around the game world picking out stated items. Other than just wandering around and doing this, the demo is quite limited in what it offers but does show potential as a learning tool for both personal and educational use. It is an easy to pick up system that you can pick up and play through, making use of normal navigational keys on the keyboard and
This title has recently ended its Kickstarter Campaign, seeing a total of 1,258 backers and a total of $28,086 raised from a baseline goal of $12,000… so it is highly likely we will be seeing a formal release in the very near future. The demo is limited in content and they are intending on adding much more additional content from what is shown including more words, new mini-games, new languages, recording of new audio, save game functionality and an actual storyline. Depending on how dedicated they are to supporting this with new content and how much content is initially added I could see this being a great educational tool for someone who like myself might not necessarily to sit down and peruse a workbook for hours. Of course, knowing words is only the first step in becoming properly fluent in a language and in future releases I would love to see them incorporate sentence patterns and content along that line to provide practical use of the words learned and to make better use of the game would they are developing.
But overall I look forward to seeing where this piece of software goes. There is a sizable market already out there for language software so will it shine as something unique and become an integral part of the language studies of some students? Time will tell…
To download a demo of SanjigenJiten, visit its official website HERE.