Nintendo DS imageWell, I finally got around to removing the shrink wrap on the 250万人の漢検 DS software. This was no easy task. Usually Japanese shrink wrapped items have a little pull string to help the poor guy who bought the item. But we are not so lucky today.
Before we start, if you don’t have a Nintendo DS, consider picking one up at Amazon. It is a great little toy that can be very educational too! It has been too educational for me; I really should buy a game for it…
Anyway, when you start 250万人の漢検 you are presented with five pages in order to set up your new account.

  1. Right handed or a lefty?
  2. Whether to auto submit a few seconds after writing Japanese or not. I would recommend setting this as 「なし」 meaning to not have it auto submit. You can change it later, but especially for non natives, having it submit before you are finished writing is a pain.
  3. Next you write your name
  4. Give your gender—Nintendo will know if you lie!
  5. Lastly you choose if you want to play using the ‘story’ or not. You can change this later. I haven’t tried the story mode yet since I wanted to get right to studying!

The game actually includes two dictionaries! But before you get too excited, they aren’t extremely useful. The Kanji dictionary is easy to use; you can look up kanji by their on and kun readings, by their stroke number or by the level they appear on the 漢検 test. However, no meaning or example jukugo are given. It lists the readings, what test it falls on, number of strokes and the radical. It does give an example sentence. (You have to click on 「れいぶん」) This is nice, but probably not incredibly useful for the non-native learner of Japanese.
The other dictionary is the 四字熟語 yojijukugo (four character compounds). Again no meaning is given, but there is an example sentence.
Of course you wouldn’t buy this software for the dictionaries.
The main study options are:

  • 漢字力チェック Kanji Power Check – Do this after studying and learning how to write kanji
  • 書く学習 Practice Writing – excellent and makes this software worth ten times the price (ok, maybe not…). After choosing which level you want to practice (10 is the easiest!), start with 反復練習 Repetition Practice. This allows you to practice writing kanji over and over with the answer shown in the bottom left. This way you can try to remember how to write a kanji but peak in the corner if you get stumped. Once you practice a group well, you can then go to the ‘real’ quiz to test yourself. See a screen shot below showing what the practice section does. The red line next to the katakana is the target word you need to write the kanji. The answer is shown in the bottom left box. If the word is a jukugo, the box will alternate quickly between the two kanji. That is a neat new addition to this version.
  • 読む学習 Reading Study – practices the readings for the kanji.
  • Practices counting the stroke number, stroke order and other parts of kanji

I took a video but at the risk of waking Makoto (He just went to sleep!), I won’t record my voice over until the morning. That means the video won’t debut until then!
Overall, this is something highly recommended for the language learner. The older 200万人の漢検 was awesome, but they’ve managed to improve on it with better stats, record keeping and a few other additions. It also has those two dictionaries, but I don’t see either as being too terribly useful for non native speakers. Nintendo DS at Amazon
Nintendo DS to Learn Japanese

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