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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Using Games as Japanese Language Learning Supplements

I have been slowly yet successfully learning Japanese for some time now for a number of reasons.  Even though I haven't learned a huge amount yet and do not consider myself anywhere near fluent at this point, I say successful because I have easily retained everything I've learned without memorization.  The way I've been learning is by creating an immersion environment where I read, speak, and write Japanese.  I don't mean one of those gimmicky computer-program immersion environments though.  I mean actually surrounding myself with the language as much as possible in my daily life through any medium available.  Since I've met many video game enthusiasts who are interested in Japanese culture and language, I've decided to discuss how I use video games to help immerse myself in Japanese.

As some of you may know, PSP and PS3 games are region-free, making it easy to play Japanese games.  Above is my copy of Dragon Ball Z Shin Budokai.  This is an easy game to navigate and play even if you are only vaguely familiar with the language.  It offers a story mode where you can read Japanese text in between fights, and I find this game to be a particularly helpful and fun learning aid because of that.

Japanese Super Nintendo games or Super Famicom games, allow me to keep on retro gaming while immersing myself in Japanese.  The Derby Stallion series is a popular horse breeding/racing/gambling simulator.  While helpful, this game is very text heavy and more advanced so it might be a bit overwhelming for beginners. Unfortunately, playing Super Famicom games on an American system requires you to modify the system by breaking off a couple plastic tabs located inside the cartridge bay.  There are alternatives to this method, such as playing on a Super Famicom system or using a pass-through like I use.

This is a simple pass-through which allows you to play Super Famicom games on a SNES without modification to the system.  I have no idea where this particular device came from as it was attached to Derby Stallion when I purchased the game at no additional charge and it has no branding.  There are many pass-through devices such as this available online.

Fire Emblem is probably the most helpful game I play regularly, as it is by far the most fun to play.  It's a very enjoyable strategy game which has stood the test of time extremely well.  I highly recommend playing it should the chance arise.

Game Boys happen to be region free, and as incredibly successful as the Game Boy was, there's no shortage of Japanese Game Boy games to be had.  Pictured above is Super Momotarou Dentetsu, a very enjoyable board game style game much like Monopoly where you ride around on a train.  Pretty fun and not too difficult to get the hang of once you know some of the vocabulary used.

Another Japanese game I have is Magical Taruruuto-kun which is a fun little platformer, but won't really help you learn much Japanese.  A good game to take a break with if you tire of reading.

This is Animal Crossing for the GameCube, a game which I imagine would be very helpful as a learning aid if I had some way of playing it at the moment.  GameCubes are not region free so your options are to mod your cube, get a disc known as a free loader, or buy a Japanese GameCube.

Another useful resource related to games, are Japanese gaming magazines such as this one published by Nintendo I picked up at a Japanese book store due to it's articles on the upcoming 3DS.

The magazine also includes some fun comics based on Kirby, Animal Crossing, Pokemon, etc. which are very helpful as they're geared towards a slightly younger audience.

One of the neatest things about the magazine was it came with an Animal Crossing manga book, which is a great learning aid just like all children's books and comics tend to be.

That's all the game-related Japanese what-not I have lying around at the moment, so I hope you enjoyed seeing it, and if you're learning Japanese (or any language for that matter) or interested in doing so, I hope it gives you some ideas of how you can help immerse yourself in a foreign language.


  1. I've heard countless times that total immersion in a language is the sure-fire way to get it learnt properly. This is a dead interesting way to get the job done mind you. I needs to be getting me a GC freeloader disc.

    I can't help but notice the guy on the right of the Derby Stallion III cart looking like Mario's hillbilly second cousin...

  2. Ha! I thought the same exact thing when I saw the Derby Stallion cart. Yeah I need to get a freeloader as well so I can finally play that Animal Crossing game. I've got a chip in my old PS1 now so I've been looking out for some fun PS1 imports.

  3. Ha! Totally enjoyed this post. I once learned Japanese while playing the import version of Final Fantasy IX. Unfortunately I didn't push myself hard enough and consequently forgot most of what I learned. I can still read katakana though since that's so easy :D

    -toadhall on racketboy

  4. Cool! I don't think I'll ever forget Hiragana at this point since I've read so many children's books in it, but I still tend to forget some Katakana characters. I need to actually sit down and practice those ones. Thanks for checking out my blog!

  5. Gaming can also help you to learn an extra language, its a great idea.

  6. That's a great idea! It can help in easy learning of things. I have never tried this, but I think this definitely help a person who want to learn.

  7. There are many supplements for learning Japanese such as videos, apps, online courses, and more available online.