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Doraemon on Disney XD

28 Jul
Doraemon_LG

image from animeherald.com

I’ve blogged about Doraemon (ドラエモン)before, but if you haven’t heard of it, it is a very popular cartoon/comic that has been around in Japan for many many years. The cartoon books are great for kids, and I’ve been looking into getting my 6-year old this Doraemon Kanji Book. 

I was recently clicking through the Disney Channel and had to do a double-take when I saw “Doraemon” in the lineup! I guess Disney X D has started airing an English-language version of Doraemon starting this month (news article by The Japan Times HERE). I’ve set my DVR to record a few episodes, and am excited to see what the show is like in English. You can see a little preview on the Disney X D website HERE.

Here are some of the first episodes of Doraemon in Japanese, with English subtitles.

 

Have you watched Doraemon in Japanese or English?

Japanese Kids Websites: Kids Club and Online Books

19 Dec

image from 2kids-club.com

The makers of the popular website Origami-Club have a newish sister site called “Kids Club” that’s worth checking out. It has printable mazes, coloring pages, and instructions for kirigami, ayatori, etc. You can view the site in Japanese or English.

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They also have a wonderful site called E-Douwa (Douwa means “children’s stories”) where you can read many children’s books, in Japanese, online! This is a great resource if you are having a hard time finding Japanese books to read. There are Japanese folktales, Aesop’s Tales, stories from the brothers Grimm, etc.

image from e-douwa.com

image from e-douwa.com

 

PS I hope you and your loved ones have a very happy holidays!! Search my blog for  “Christmas“, “New Years“, etc for Japan-related activities ! :)

App GIVEAWAY: LinguPinguin Japanese!

25 Feb

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This giveaway is now closed. Winners were announced in THIS POST

I have a wonderful Japanese-learning app to share with you today. We recently downloaded the “LinguPinguin English/Japanese” app  by Elevision Film on our iTouch and my kids have been loving it! It is easy enough for my 2-year old and interesting enough for my almost 5-year old to play with too. It is like an interactive English-Japanese dictionary for children. You choose a topic, such as “Animals”, then when you click on a picture of an elephant, it will say “Elephant” if you are in English mode, or “ぞう” if you are in Japanese mode. The animations are really cute! After children have learned the words, there is a quiz they can take. Here are some screenshots:

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Click HERE to watch a video of the app in action. There are many different versions of the app available (Japanese, French, Chinese, etc) : Click HERE to visit the Lingu Pinguin website and see all the different languages available and read more about this app.

At just $1.99, I think it is a GREAT deal for a quality app. You will definitely get your money’s worth.

We all love FREE though, right? So Lingu Pinguin has generously offered to give away two promo codes for the Lingu Pinguin app! Yay! To enter the giveaway, simply comment on this blog post sharing why you or your children want to learn Japanese. Then come back Wednesday morning, February 27, to see if you won! Promo codes will be emailed to the winners. (App is for iPhones, iPads, and iTouch).

Have a great week, everyone! またね!

Ready Steady NihonGo!

1 Nov

Ready Steady NihonGo!” is another wonderful Japanese-learning/teaching resource by the Japan Society. The website provides ten 45-minute lesson plans for introducing children to the Japanese language and culture. The lessons are fun and interactive… it makes me want to be a Japanese Teacher! Each lesson includes printable flashcards and sample dialogue.

Here’s a description of this program from the Ready Steady NihonGo! website:

*****
Ready Steady NihonGO! has been carefully structured to tie in with
the National Curriculum Objectives for KS2 Modern Foreign
Languages. These aims are all clearly stated in the initial summary
and also at the start of each lesson plan. Curriculum links to other
subject areas are also listed, thus making Ready Steady NihonGO!
a complete and relevant unit of work in any upper primary classroom.

*
Ready Steady NihonGO! also ties in with the latest ‘Oracy’,
‘Intercultural Understanding’ and ‘Knowledge about Language’
learning objectives as stated within the Key Stage Two Framework
for Modern Foreign Languages (autumn 2005). Points of particular
relevance include the following:

*
• providing children with the opportunity to imitate and play with the
sounds and sound patterns of the target language
• asking and answering questions on a range of topics
• learning about the cultural traditions, celebrations and literature of
countries where the target language is spoken and making
comparisons with their own
• recognising the language (Japanese) uses a different writing
system, has different ways of expressing social relationships and
borrows words from other languages

*
Targets discussed within the new ‘Languages Ladder’ can also be
applied to Ready Steady NihonGO! and any child who completes
the ten week course can be expected to show progress up the rungs.
Foundation stones in language awareness will also have been laid
and these will support any future study of Japanese.

*****

If you are a parent teaching your children Japanese or a Japanese Teacher looking for a wonderful resource, please check out Ready Steady NihonGo! You’ll be glad you did!

Dino Lingo Japanese Review

29 Oct

Have you all heard of Dino Lingo (dinolingo.com)? I had seen it online and was curious about how effective the program is at teaching children Japanese, so I was thrilled when Dino Lingo contacted me and sent a free Japanese set to try out and review.

Here’s a brief description of the Dino Lingo program from their website:

  • Dino Lingo Japanese for Kids is an award-winning language teaching program pedagogically designed for small children.
  • This program consists of 5 DVDs, flash cards, posters, books and the parents guide.
  • After watching the DVDs several times and playing with the flash cards, most children can easily name everyday objects and understand basic phrases in Japanese.
  • Dino Lingo Japanese for Kids is suitable for all children between the ages of 2 to 7 years old.

My package arrived quickly and looked like this:

I received a set of 5 Japanese language learning DVD’s, plus some flashcards. Here’s what each DVD covers:

DVD 1 – Let’s Count: Numbers and colors / 35 min.
DVD 2 – Let’s Eat: Food, fruit and vegetables / 35 min.
DVD 3 – Let’s Play: Toys, house items, vehicles / 35 min.
DVD 4 – Let’s Jump: Verbs, actions and nature / 35 min.
DVD 5 – Let’s Learn: Family, body parts, and clothes / 35 min.
Daily conversations, greetings and animals are included in all five DVDs.

There are flashcards for numbers, colors, animals, body parts, etc. There are even more Japanese-learning products to choose from online such as workbooks and posters. My daughter, who knows most of her hiragana, got right to work reading all the words on the flashcards.

Of course, my children wanted to watch the DVD’s right away. My son was excited about all the dinosaurs and vehicles used in the show. They liked the first DVD enough to where we watched it twice in a row. I noticed my 2-year old son saying the Japanese words out loud the second time… so repetition works!

Here are some things I liked about the DVD’s:

- Lots of repetition which is great for younger learners

- I can tell a native Japanese speaker is saying the words

- Kept the kids’ attention

Some areas I thought could be improved upon were:

- The graphics/animations are not up to par with other children’s shows (don’t expect Disney quality)

- I thought there were some wasted minutes between segments with unrelated animations

Here’s a sample video of what the shows are like:

Overall, I am thankful to Dino Lingo for creating this program for teaching children basic Japanese. There really isn’t a lot of resources out there for teaching kids Japanese right now! This set is a great option for a family who wants to expose their children to other languages at a young age (Dino Lingo offers DVDs in MANY languages other than Japanese too). It might be wonderful for a family planning to host a student visiting from Japan, or a bilingual family who wants to expose their children to as much Japanese as possible. I think these DVD’s would also be great to show at a bilingual/immersion language school.

Simply watching these DVDs will not make your child fluent in Japanese (there’s not much conversation in the videos). It is more for building vocabulary. It may not be the  best option for families where the parents are native Japanese speakers (that would be like showing Dora the Explorer to a native Spanish-speaking family).

If you are interested in Dino Lingo, there is a Halloween special going on right now! Enter the code TREAT10 at checkout to receive 10% off your oder :) This deal expires on November 1st.

ありがとう、Dino Lingo!

AWESOME Japanese-Learning Website: “Erin’s Challenge! I Can Speak Japanese”

16 Oct

Oh my goodness, I just found the BEST website for learning how to speak Japanese, called ”  エリンが挑戦!にほんごできます。/Erin’s Challenge! I Can Speak Japanese.” I might as well just stop blogging now, this site is so good. Do you all know about it, or am I the last one to discover it?

Erin’s Challenge is a free Japanese-learning website for beginners and more advanced students (perfect for those who will be visiting Japan as an exchange student!). It is made by the Japan Foundation (their website is worth a look as well). Their goal is to help people living overseas learn the Japanese language and learn about the culture too. The website has very helpful videos where “Erin”, a student from England, moves to Japan and slowly improves her Japanese. In addition to videos, there are manga, quizzes, and games to help you review what you have learned.

Things I love about this website: It is very easy to navigate, you can view the website in Japanese, English, or a bunch of other languages, the videos are high quality and the acting is great, the content is with the times and relevant, and it truly is helpful for both beginners and those who are mostly fluent! I also love  that the actors are Japanese, so you can hear REAL Japanese pronunciation.

Don’t just take my word for it, please go visit エリンが挑戦!にほんごできます。 /Erin’s Challenge! I Can Speak Japanese. I plan to show the videos to my children, and use the site to improve my own Japanese as well. Please come back and let me know what you thought!

Here’s a video that shows some of the features on this site:

There’s also a separate website by the Japan Foundation, “Japanese in Anime & Manga” that teaches you about Japanese words and phrases that are used in manga. Some of you might be interested in that as well!

I Want to Teach My Child Japanese- Where Do I Begin?

3 Oct

from fumira.jp

I have had a few readers ask me, “I want to teach my children Japanese, but I don’t know where to begin. Can you help us?” This is a tricky question to answer, because everyone has such different life circumstances, but I will do my best to offer some suggestions. In my experience, here are some things you can do to help your child learn Japanese:

IF AT LEAST ONE OF THE PARENTS IS FLUENT IN JAPANESE:

- Speak Japanese as often as possible!! I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Speak Japanese during meals, in the car, everywhere!

- Read as many Japanese books as you can get your hands on to your children. (You can subscribe to books online).

- If you watch TV or listen to music, make sure a lot of it is in Japanese.

- Sing songs in Japanese.

- Send your child to a Japanese School.

- Set up playdates with Japanese-speaking children so they can learn though play.

- Start exposing your child to hiragana and katakana as early as possible.

- Visit Japan if possible– the longer/more frequent the better.

- Visit Japanese-speaking relatives, or talk to them via Skype.

IF THE CHILD’S CAREGIVERS DO NOT SPEAK JAPANESE:

- Do as much of the above as possible.

- Invest in a Japanese tutor, conversation partner, babysitter, etc. The more authentic Japanese they hear, the better.

- Subscribe to Benesse’s Kodomo Challenge program.

- Watch Japanese TV (get TV Japan through your local cable provider) or find videos online. (Click on “YouTube Videos” under “Categories” to see what videos I’ve found to be good).

- Experience Japanese culture by cooking Japanese food together, celebrating Japanese holidays, folding origami, playing games, etc. (A lot of these activities can be found by searching my website).

- Make flashcards and learn new vocabulary words every day.

OTHER ADVICE:

- Set goals, such as “We will speak only Japanese for 2 hours every day”. My children are most ready to learn in the mornings, so we have set a goal to speak only Japanese in the mornings.

- Improve your own Japanese skills so you can be a help to your child.

- Even if your child is a baby, speak Japanese to him/her. It is amazing how quickly they learn, and it’s good to get in the Japanese-learning/teaching habit early.

- Every little thing you do makes a difference. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away, and don’t compare your child to other children.

- Keep it fun.

- As children become older, the schoolwork gets harder and harder. I don’t know many older children who LOVE going to Japanese School or love being taught Japanese by their parents. BUT I also don’t know any adult who has regretted going through the “hardship” of learning Japanese when they were young. So keep that in mind when the learning gets tough… it’s worth it!

- Search my website and try all of the activities! I have found dozens and dozens of great websites with ideas for activities, crafts, printable worksheets, children’s songs, etc for you. Don’t just read my blog… actually DO all the activities with your children!

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE?

How did your parents teach you Japanese? What are some things you are doing that are working/not working for your family? Please share with us! And if you enjoy reading HiraganaMama, please share this blog with your friends who may be interested in Japanese. The more readers we have, the more we can share and learn from each other!

The Benefits of Siblings for Second-Language Learning

17 Jul

Trying to help one child become bilingual is a lot of work. Trying to teach two kids, I thought, was going to be twice as much work.

I’m starting to believe that I might be wrong. Here are the reasons why:

1) When I was trying to teach my first-born Japanese, I often felt like I was talking to myself (when my daughter was a baby/toddler). I would talk to her, sing to her, etc, but since my husband doesn’t speak Japanese, I felt like my daughter never got to hear Japanese conversations in real situations.

My second-born has the advantage of hearing my daughter and I converse together in Japanese. Since my daughter never stops talking, he gets to listen to a lot of Japanese words every day!

2) Being a mother of 2 kids who don’t attend school yet is busy. I wish I could have more one-on-one time with my kids. When I read to my daughter, my son isn’t interested. When I read books to my son, my daughter isn’t interested, because their levels of knowledge and interests are very different.

BUT we have now reached the magical age when my daughter knows all of her hiragana and thinks reading out-loud is a lot of fun! So when I am busy with housework, I can say, “Please go read this book about trains to your brother.”, and she does! My daughter enjoys reading, my son enjoys listening, and I get to feel less guilty about doing housework instead of spending time with my kids. This situation is working perfectly for us right now because my daughter is only able to read easier books… which is what my son enjoys.

3) My son is currently a “terrible two” :). I love him to pieces, but he loves to say “no!” and run in the opposite direction of where I tell him to go. Thankfully, he thinks his big sister is the coolest and will copy whatever she does, even in the language department. So when my daughter says a word in Japanese, my son will repeat it. When my daughter and I play Shiritori in the car, my son wants to play too.

 

What about you? Are you raising more than one bilingual child? How do siblings affect the ability to learn and maintain a language?

Buying Japanese Children’s Books, DVD’s, etc.

17 May

“Dog Loves Books”, by Louise Yates

Over a year ago, I wrote up a post about “How to Get Japanese Children’s Books.” It has been one of my most popular posts, so there must be many of you out there searching for books for your children! A year ago, it was very difficult to find Japanese books online. I am here to tell you that it is now easier!

I have been browsing eBay recently and have been pleasantly surprised to find that there are now many more people selling Japanese children’s books, DVDs, other educational materials, and toys… and at pretty decent prices. Here are some of my favorite finds today (hurry and snatch them up if you are interested! Dear Sellers, You are welcome.):

1. Nontan DVD, $20

2. Electronic book that plays 6 Japanese children’s songs, $16.99

3. Hiragana magnets set, $11.99

4. Katakana magnets, $10.99 (I am really tempted to get these!)

5. Hantai Kotoba Cards/Game, $12.99 (I really want these too)

6. Set of 2 “Kaiketsu Zorori” books, $9.99 (elementary-aged kids love this series!)

I thought the seller that had the best and most products was kat14kw. This person is shipping from Japan, but the shipping charges are decent, I think. She is selling a lot of hiragana charts, for those of you who are still looking.

To search on your own, just go to eBay.com and search for “Japanese Children’s Books”, “Japanese Children’s DVD’s”, “Kodomo Challenge”, “Anpanman”, “Hiragana Charts”, or whatever it is you are looking for, and you’ll probably find stuff. I should probably go through the stuff I don’t need anymore and sell them on eBay too!

Amazon.com (the American version) still lacks a great selection, and the books are very expensive. One of my readers, Louise, emailed me to let me know that a book she has written called “Dog Loves Books” is now available in Japanese. It looks adorable! Good job Louise!

Joechip.net has written a good post about other online retailers that sell Japanese Children’s Books.

If you and your children enjoy Japanese children’s magazines like ベビーブック and たのしい幼稚園, you can order an issue or subscribe for 6months~year at shop.mitsuwa.com. They also have subscriptions to “Kodomo no Tomo“, a company that sends you children’s books each month. I have a local friend who does this for her daughter and they really enjoy receiving new books each month.

Don’t forget about Benesse’s Kodomo Challenge program too (with Shimajiro). Read my post about it HERE.

***

Whew! Did that help anyone out there? Have you made any cool discoveries lately? Where do you buy your Japanese books?

P.S. I am not getting paid by anyone to advertise their stores or products!

Is Raising Bilingual Children Worth the Costs?

19 Feb

image from fumira.jp

Are you wanting your child to become bilingual? Get ready for fun… adventure… frustration… joy… and spending money :) I wrote the following for In Culture Parent magazine about raising bilingual children. Bilingual education doesn’t have to be expensive but in many cases, the things you want to do for your children does cost money. Of course, our children are worth every penny (at least that’s what I try to tell myself), right?

***

“I am the daughter of born-and-raised-in-Japan parents and also a proud American citizen. I grew up bilingual because both of my parents spoke only Japanese at home, but at school, I only heard English. I think this is one of the most ideal ways to become bilingual—to be immersed in one language half the time, and in another the other half. I was very lucky; being bilingual has helped me in my education and given me neat volunteer and work opportunities. Although my English is ten times better than my Japanese, I am grateful for the rusty bit of Japanese that I know.

I am now married to a so-white-it’s-almost-blinding husband, who only speaks English, and together we are attempting to raise bilingual and bicultural children. It is both easier and harder than we anticipated. Oh, and more expensive.

Raising bilingual children is easy because little children are naturally just amazing. Their brains are super sponges. They hear a word once, and they’ve got it. It’s locked into their brains. No need to teach grammar or use flashcards—all you have to do is talk, and they just get it. My daughter (now three) was slower to begin speaking than some of her peers. She didn’t say her first words until she was nearly 18 months old. We attribute this to her listening to two languages and trying to figure it all out. By the time she was two, you could never get her to shut up. She would turn to my mom and blabber in Japanese, then turn to my husband and blabber in English. We were floored. We did it! She’s bilingual! We are awesome parents.

After awhile though, my daughter figured out English was easier. She learned that most of the people around her speak English, not Japanese. And because of the lack of necessity, she started to speak more English than Japanese. I was terrified. What do I do now? Is it all downhill from here? I put forth extra effort to speak more Japanese in our home (hard), made her watch Japanese shows on YouTube and organized more playdates with Japanese friends. It kind of worked. Her Japanese got a little bit better.

But I knew more was needed. This is where money comes into play. I enrolled her in the local Japanese School ($$$). I bought many Japanese children’s books ($). We found a Japanese music teacher ($). We want to take her to Japan for a few weeks ($$$). And maybe someday, if we have any leftover money after all that, we will get cable ($) so she can watch more Japanese children’s shows on TV.

Some may say all those extra things aren’t necessary: “Just try to speak Japanese more at home.” That may be true, but remember, my Japanese is not great. I don’t want her to learn poor Japanese. Plus, I really want to take advantage of these early years when the brain learns the quickest. I have a feeling that once she starts attending school full-time, it will all of a sudden become much more challenging to keep up her Japanese.

I don’t want to be a “Tiger Mom” and have my kids hate to learn Japanese because I’m pushing too hard (I know I hated studying Japanese when I was young). I hope I can help my children realize the value of bilingualism at an early age and that I will be able to find fun ways to teach them the language and culture. Raising bilingual children isn’t always easy and it can be expensive, but its rewards are absolutely priceless.”

 

{This is a re-post of an article I wrote for In Culture Parent magazine last August}

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