Using conversations on QuickTime video combined with sentence-by-sentence and word-by-word translations, this software instantly immerses you in practical situations, such as ordering food or traveling by train–exactly what you need before you head to Tokyo next month, right? Best-suited to students who've already had about one year of Japanese, this CD-ROM applies "authentic language" and "communication gap" exercises–widely used university approaches. In lay speak, this means you will:
* Watch videos of native Japanese speakers interacting naturally with each other (the acting's not half bad, either)
* Read printed versions of their dialogs
* Listen to the dialogs word by word or segment by segment
* Practice pronouncing dialogs word by word or segment by segment, using the included microphone
* Apply vocabulary by filling in new words from the dialogs, or in other gamelike activities, such as crossword puzzles
Transparent language successfully uses this model in its other language packages. Its Japanese adaptation is equally successful, with two main differences: Japanese needs better-integrated politeness and gender-specific language practice, and at this level it should print dialogs in kana instead of roomaji. (The separate practice module for the kana is a bit of an afterthought, so pick up a separate kana review, too.)
Overall, this is a unique system that will both entertain and challenge you. Each sentence is given with a full translation, and each word with grammatical details, such as tense, etc. You can slow down videos and recorded speech to hear them better, and you can play back your own pronunciation to compare it with native speakers'. This is painful, we know, but helpful.
Note that you should know at least some Japanese first and be fairly comfortable with concepts like -masu forms and "object particle." Also, the software gives pronunciation feedback with gimmicky graphs that will make sense only if you've studied acoustic phonetics before; nonetheless, the interactive pronunciation and the videos are the most useful features. Caveats: the software works with both Mac OS and Windows, but some extra stuff on the Bonus CD works only with Windows. (This should not at all dissuade Mac users, however.) Also remember that it's rather antisocial to practice conversation only on the computer, so here's a great excuse to sit at the sushi bar. –Erik Macki
Participate in real dialogs with native Japanese speakers at your own speed. You'll hear how words are pronounced, see the spelling, word meanings, and actually hear yourself speaking. In no time, you'll be confidently conversing in Japanese!
Files: 8x50MB +1x5MB (Main CD + Bonus CD)