Learning a foreign language is never an easy task. Especially for someone that has grown up speaking English his entire life (with the exception of a few Spanish classes in high school). Besides taking classes in school there are some other ways to learn another language. Books and software are the most common methods now days.
Human Japanese is one of those software methods. It is, however, much more immersive than the standard memorization method you may find in some books and other software applications. It does teach you terms and phrases but really aims to help you actually understand the language. For a language like Japanese this is no easy task, but it is essential.
I’ve taken Human Japanese for a spin to see how this application works.
Introduction to the Course
Human Japanese is essentially a language course in the from of a software application. As with any application, understanding how it functions is crucial to being able to fully take advantage of its capabilities. The first section you’re taken through is a quick three page user guide to make sure you understand how to use the software.
It’s definitely not complicated, but it is nice to get a little direction to make sure you’re not missing something important.
Introduction to the Language
Learning a new language is difficult enough for the majority of us, and learning a new language that is as different from English as Japanese is is especially scary (at least for me). Human Japanese begins its course with an introduction to the Japanese language.
If you’ve never studied Japanese this little primer to the upcoming course was very reassuring; discussing some misconceptions and also being frank that some portions will be very difficult and will require a lot of hard work.
The introduction sets the tone for the rest of the instruction and it is written in a manner that excites you go get started and also prepares you for the workload ahead.
Human Japanese is structured like a book separated into chapters, each going over either a specific lingual topic such as pronunciation, verbs and interrogatives or topics which focus the lesson around things such as clothing, friends and family, and weather.
These are nicely intermingled throughout the course creating a mix of working with the technical aspects of the language followed up by some areas that combine what you’ve learned with practical application. For example, there is a chapter dealing with clothing that follows some topics about adjectives and verbs so you’re able to see some real world application of what you’ve just learned.
You’ll also find some historical references scattered throughout where it aids in understanding some concept of the language. There aren’t a ton of history lessons, but they can help to provide a little reference to what you’re learning.
Human Japanese is very different to a lot of books and other software applications that promise to teach you a language. It is much more than learning different words and phrases. It does do some of that, however, there is always a focus on helping you to actually understand what is going on. It is probably a more arduous way to learn a language, but the goal is to give you the tools to be able to learn more on your own.
Though the course is designed to progress through chapter by chapter you are able to bounce around to different chapters at your whim. Clicking on the Chapters link will drop down a listing of every chapter.
As I’ve mentioned, the course is structured like a book. Even down to the fact that you’re flipping through pages going through the course. A huge difference from the hard copy of a book is that the course is very interactive. Very regularly throughout there are clickable elements that will aid you in some way either visually or audibly.
Just about every time you see a graphic you are able to interact. Some of the most helpful interactive elements are the ones that help you to pronounce letters, words and phrases. Upon clicking you will hear a voice pronouncing the letter, word, or phrase correctly. It is infinitely helpful to be able to actually hear these things out loud.
In Lesson Self-Tests
Another interactive tool used throughout the course is quick in-context quizzes in the middle of chapters. They are very simple. You’ll see a phrase written in Japanese with a show translation link below. Clicking on the link will reveal the translated phrase.
Where necessary there are some clickable animation elements as well. In the early chapters while you’re learning Hiragana and how to write it, the animations are a great help. You’re told the number of strokes and clicking on the letter will display an animation of the strokes to complete it.
At the end of some chapters you’ll be tasked with completing a quiz. I always loved (yeah, that’s sarcastic) to take quizzes back in my school years, so these were welcomed. Seriously, quizzes are a great tool to test your learning comprehension as you’re going through any course and they hold the same function here. If you don’t do so well, you can just hop back and go back over the sections that tripped you up on the quiz.
The search bar is ever present while you’re going through the Human Japanese course. You’ll always see it in the side bar and can be used as a nice reference if there is something you can’t remember. You simply enter in a term and you’ll be presented with info about it. The nice thing is that all the information is kept in the same window and actually stays there until you perform another search even as you’re clicking through pages.
At the end of many chapters you’ll be presented with the option to launch a review quiz. This will launch a separate window and take you through a question by question quiz about the previous section.
Again, not the most entertaining things for most of us, but there is no doubt that they are an extremely helpful tool in learning. They are of standard quiz format. Click on the answer and you’ll be told whether you’re correct or not. A running tally and percentage correct is also shown as you go through each quiz.
As with the chapters, each review can be accessed via a drop down menu at the top of the application window. This is a nice feature that enables you to go back and re-quiz yourself at your leisure.
I have to say I was extremely skeptical about even attempting to learn Japanese. To be honest, I thought it would be an impossible task and one that I just couldn’t do. And though I am still extremely far off from actually learning the language, Human Japanese has showed me that it is certainly possible.
A big part of learning anything is that it needs to be entertaining and engaging, otherwise it is very easy to just drop. This course does an excellent job of doing just that. It’s written in a fashion that is interesting and the overall structure is very engaging. There are so many graphical and audible elements that are extremely helpful in not only learning the language but also in just keeping you engaged with the course.
Human Japanese is currently $14.99 from the App Store which is 25% off the standard rate. For the amount of information and the structure in which it is provided I find this an absolute steal. A free trial is available in the form of a Web application that will give you access to the first few chapters so you can see how it works.
There are also companion iPhone and iPad applications. Unfortunately, they do carry an additional cost and may or may not be worth it for you.
When I started reviewing this software I expected to spend some time messing around with it, do a write up and then put it aside. This application has not only shown me that what I once thought impossible is actually possible, but it has made me just flat out interested in the Japanese language.
We’ll see how it goes, but I’m going to continue along with the course and see if I can really learn Japanese…