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My Japanese Coach is Buggy PDF Print E-mail
Written by Vincent Diamante   
Friday, 17 October 2008 07:36

Maybe you guys are into video games or manga or anime, and maybe you've probably entertained the notion of learning Japanese once in your life.  Maybe you've taken a class or three while at college, or maybe you tried out one of those audio courses.  And maybe you've thought to yourself: "Learning Japanese through a video game would make so much sense..."

So now we've got Ubisoft's My Japanese Coach for Nintendo DS.  It's not bad.  Barely.

This isn't a full review (although a cursory glance through the internets tells me no one has done a review yet...) but I needed to point out some things I've come across...

It is impossible to place yourself where you should be beyond, say... a month or so of college Japanese 1.  I aced the placement test it provided at the beginning, and it still put me at around lesson 11 of 1145, right in the middle of learning hiragana.  If you've had some formal Japanese training, you will be very frustrated by this game.

The game is buggy.  There are some pretty bad oversights that weren't picked up by QA on this game, and that's bad for non-beginners but even worse for people approaching Japanese for the first time.  The first bug I came across was concerning katakana 'wa' or ワ.  The game says it is written with two strokes.  It has this little nifty animation that shows it being written in two strokes.  Very cool.

Then you lift your pen after writing the first stroke and the game says ちがう! noting an incorrect answer and immediately moving on to the next character or word to write.

Not horrible, especially considering how often that particular character comes up (that is, not often at all).  Since then, however, I've come across more bugs.  I've found that mini-games (especially multiple choice and flash cards) when played inside of a lesson will always use romaji instead of kana... even if you specify not to use romaji in the options.  The only solution is to play the games at the end of the lesson... but that's not a good solution since those games don't have the restricted vocabulary of the lesson itself.  In other words, if you want to go back and do a game with a specific lesson vocabulary, you can only use romaji.  Very bad.

Even worse are mistakes in designing the lessons.  In Lesson 31, there are five words missing from the vocabulary lists.  In their place are four words from later on in the lesson, duplicated.  Not cool when the lesson mini-games ask you to identify a word that hasn't been presented to you.

So the learning experience is really REALLY far from ideal... but I'm keeping on plugging away at it.  The idea of learning and writing out kanji with the Nintendo DS ist just too cool, and honestly: leveling up words is amazingly powerful.  The base gamer in me wants to see those yellow bars fill up, and the person in me ends up learning a couple more words.  Too cool.

But, I haven't gotten to the kanji and the kanji specific mini games.  This game has already taught me to write ワ the wrong way.  Who knows what it could teach me to do once I start writing the really interesting stuff...

I really should sit down with a good textbook... or even better: sit in a class.  

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