Understanding Written Japanese I / II (Contact Person: Hiroshi Nara)
System Requirements: CD-ROM drive; Hypercard 2.2; Apple Sound Manager
Price: To be announced when a distributor has been found
Review by Cliff Darnall, Elk Grove High School (IL), first reviewed
for ACTFL '92
Interactive Japanese: Understanding Written Japanese I / II provides
the user with a great wealth of realia-based reading material for computer-assisted
study. The first set, reviewed in 1992, is primarily aimed at students at
an advanced beginner to intermediate level in their study of written Japanese.
Though the examples below refer to the first set, the second set, which
is aimed at advanced learners and contains advanced texts, continues the
thorough and praiseworthy emphasis on crucial reading skills.
The central part is a set of ten lessons, each containing several sublessons
based on real-life-type examples of Japanese script and focusing on various
reading skills such as skimming, scanning, complete comprehension, critical
reading, or task-oriented reading. Through pull-down menus, students can
easily remind themselves of what reading skills they are focusing on or
see a listing of important grammatical topics incorporated into the text.
Students can also easily call up the meanings of words, phrases, and sentences
in each text. Many of the selections in UWJ are task-based, such
as choosing a restaurant based on information the learner can glean from
shop fronts or reading the directions on a package of curry or frozen pizza.
Lessons 1-5 are primarily realia-based materials, much of which is in the
form of scanned-in photographs of signs or products. Lessons 6-10 are more
in the form of memos, diary readings, directions, letters, and short essays.
A useful feature of lessons 6-10 is that any sentence in the texts can be
heard read by a native speaker by simply clicking on the sentence and using
a pull-down menu option.
Each sub-lesson includes clearly stated objectives and instructions. The
program provides comprehension questions which tie into the nature of the
reading task being focused on. Scanning and skimming tasks have time limits
which the user can adjust to provide an appropriate level of challenge.
The program keeps track of each user's score and the amount of time spent
on a task. This information can be saved on disk for students' or teacher's
Tests are included at the end of each lesson, but some are more like games
than the typical tests students take. In chapter one, for example, the learner
becomes the mother who must take her bratty five-year-old son Ken-chan to
the department store, reading road signs along the way, finding him a lunch
at the restaurant which he will eat given his likes and dislikes, finding
the closest men's bathroom, and finding the emergency exit sign when a fire
breaks out. My high school students loved it and wanted to do the test again.
In chapter 7, students assemble a jigsaw-puzzle-type map based on information
in the text.
Interactive Japanese: Understanding Written Japanese also contains
an abridged on-line version of Nelson's kanji dictionary containing
1850 commonly used characters and several search options, as well as an
on-line Japanese-English dictionary containing all the vocabulary needed
for the various texts and exercises in the package. The reader can also
search for English words appearing in the definition section, allowing the
dictionary to be used to some extent as an English-Japanese dictionary as
Although I have a few minor concerns, overall the program provides a very
motivating and pedagogically sound introduction to the world of written
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