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Dino Books Review! Read Bilingual Stories Online

2 May

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You’ve probably heard of Dino Lingo, a company that has made a language-learning program for kids. If not, I have blogged about that program HERE.

Well, they have recently launched a brand-new site called DINO BOOKS (dinolingo.com/books). If you’re teaching your child a second language, you’ll want to learn more about this site!

Dino Books is a site where children can read hundreds of stories (they currently have 5000+ books) in 20 different languages. In addition to stories, there are some nursery rhymes, songs, tongue twisters, and games. There’s also “stories” where the kids can build their vocabulary too (colors, numbers, things in the house, etc.).

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So for example, we can pick a story, and then choose “Japanese” and “English” as our languages of choice. Then as we click through, we can have the story read to us in both languages. This was so nice because if my kids heard a word they didn’t understand in Japanese, they could simply listen or look at the English version right below to figure out the meaning of the unknown word.

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Ideally, I would be sitting right by my kids and reading books to them for hours every day, giving them my undivided attention. But in real life, that doesn’t happen. I’m often trying to multi-task, helping one kid with homework while helping the other fold laundry while keeping another child from climbing onto the countertop while trying to make dinner… LOL. Can you all relate? So sometimes, it is nice to just be able to say “Hey, read some books on Dino Books!”. My kids can easily navigate the site themselves and read several stories in one sitting while I finish making dinner. You can even use a tablet to read the stories.

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Does this sound like something you need in your life? A Dino Books membership is normally $99/year (less than $10 per month…less expensive than buying hundreds of bilingual books for sure). But you can visit the site and read the first few pages of most books for free first before you decide.

They also have a Mother’s Day special going on right now for 20% off with code MOM20 !

Here is a sample video:

 

 

Dino Lingo has generously offered to give away a FREE YEAR of Dino Books  to one lucky Hiragana Mama reader! To enter this giveaway, simply visit Dino Books, then leave a comment on this blog post with the following information:

  1. Why do you want to win this giveaway?
  2. What languages would you choose to read the stories in?
  3. Your email address (if you don’t want to leave your email address, just make sure you come back to see if you were the winner and then email me. Sometimes people win my giveaways and I have no way to contact them!)

Sometimes it takes me awhile to check and approve the comments so please don’t worry if your comment doesn’t show up right away.

A winner will be chosen at random on MONDAY, May 9th, 2016 and will be announced on this blog post. Be sure to check back to see if you were the winner!

P.S. Don’t forget, Children’s Day/ Kodomo no Hi is on May 5th!

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Thank you Dino Lingo for this giveaway. Dino Lingo did ask me to try out Dino Books in exchange for a review, but all my opinions expressed above are honest and my own.

“Friends” by Aiko Ikegami

15 Apr

 

It is no secret that our family is obsessed with books, both English and Japanese. We go to the local library every week and come home with piles of books. I often do my research online beforehand, looking up the most recent award-winners, reading Amazon reviews, etc so I know what I’m looking for.

A few weeks ago I walked by the “New Books” section at the library and this pretty book caught my eye:

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It is “Friends”, by Aiko Ikegami. I was lured in by the cover illustration, and when I saw that the author was Japanese, the book immediately went into my library bag.

We were pleased to find that not only were the illustrations beautiful, but the story was wonderful as well. Here is the synopsis:

A girl from a faraway place begins her first day at school. She doesn’t speak the language and she looks different. She just doesn’t fit in. But one day, she makes an unexpected friend–a squirrel! Then a rabbit joins them. Soon the girl’s fuzzy woodland friends are followed by human ones and school becomes more fun! When a surprising new student joins the class, the girl and her new friends know just how to make him feel at home.

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I don’t know about you, but I can relate all-too-well to being the new kid at school. I moved around several times as a child, and can tell you that it is nerve-wracking to begin life at a new school, and especially in a new language. My children have never moved, but they got a taste of this feeling when we visited Japan last summer and I enrolled them in school for a few weeks. My kids were shocked at how different everything was. The food–the routines–the discipline–the bathrooms–the language– ! But the wonderful thing about children is, they are great at making friends, even with a cultural or language barrier. This book shows how easy it is to reach out to someone new and help them feel welcome.

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I highly recommend this book for all children. It is simple and short but can help you begin a conversation with your children about what to do if a new kid joins their class- or might help ease their worries if THEY are the new kid. I was thinking it would be nice to have several copies on hand to give out to any new kids in my children’s classes. How thoughtful would it be to gift them a book like this with a hand-written note? Might be wise for teachers to have a copy as well.

One last idea– this would make a sweet farewell gift for a Japanese student returning to Japan, or an exchange student. You could include a message about how you’re glad to have become friends!

Anyway, I liked the book so much that I looked up the author/illustrator online. She has a website at: aikoikegami.com. I was thrilled to discover that she lives in the same city as my parents and immediately sent her a note telling her how much we enjoyed her book and if we could meet someday.

Aiko was kind enough to send me a signed hardcover copy of her book to give away to a blog reader! If you would like a chance at winning this book, simply leave a comment on this blog post saying who you’d give this book to and why. (Book giveaway only open to U.S. residents). I’ll announce the winner on Monday April 18! (Don’t worry if your comment doesn’t appear right away… sometimes it takes me awhile to check and approve the comments!)

Giveaway is now CLOSED! I used Random.org, and the winner is commenter #1!!

“G”, please email hiraganamama@gmail.com within a week to claim the book! Thank you everyone else for commenting!

Thank you, Ikegami-san! We look forward to reading your future books!

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“Friends” by Aiko Ikegami can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Benesse Challenge Touch Review!

9 Sep

 

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Last year I introduced you to Benesse’s Challenge Touch/Kodomo Challenge program on this post. The program is for elementary aged children and offers a monthly downloadable curriculum. Many of you were just as interested in this program as I was.
This summer when I visited Tokyo, I happened upon their new Aoyama Area Benesse in the Shibuya/Omotesando neighborhood. The one in Aoyama is the flagship store, but there are locations all over Japan. These “Area Benesse” offices can help you answer questions about Benesse programs and products, sign up for services, try out materials, etc.

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When we entered the building, we were immediately greeted by very friendly staff. One staff member helped my 7 and 5-year olds get started on some activities while I asked another staff member questions.

The biggest question I had was, “Can we use the Challenge Touch program in the United States?“.

The answer was yes… and maybe. Yes, as long as you have reliable internet connection, you can use the Challenge Touch tablet and download the monthly curriculum anywhere. The only problems you then face are:

  • Benesse will only ship its products to a Japanese address (at least that’s how it is currently). So you will either need to go to Japan and buy it while you are there (we had them ship the tablet to our hotel) or have it sent to a friend or relative, then have them ship it to you.
  • If your tablet happens to break, you will need to pay the shipping back to Japan, as well as have your friend/relative ship you the new one, which can be costly and a hassle.

We decided to take the risks and sign up to do the Challenge Touch program for one year. I thought the pricing was very reasonable. With the exchange rate the way it is now, it came down to about $25 per month (and the tablet is free as long as you continue the program for at least 6 months!). I also signed up for the insurance program, which was only about $15 per year. If you sign up for insurance, if your tablet breaks, you can get a new one for around $30 (otherwise I think they said a new tablet costs about $300).

A few days after putting in our order, our package arrived. In it was our tablet computer and some paper educational materials like workbooks and a kanji dictionary. (They actually sent us materials for the wrong grade at first. I contacted them and they immediately sent me the correct grade level).

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We charged up the device, entered our login information, and then downloaded our first month’s program. It was pretty easy! (If you don’t know Japanese well, all of this might be difficult to navigate. The program is designed for children grades 1-6 who can speak Japanese already, not for adults learning Japanese for the first time).

The program was very easy for my second-grader to figure out on her own. She had a lot of fun playing with all the features. She completed her first two assignments in Kokugo (Japanese) and Sansu (math) and declared it was awesome. The program does a really great job at keeping kids motivated and having fun while learning. We are currently going on month 3 of using the program and she still loves using the Challenge Touch every day.

Other things we love about the Challenge Touch program:

  • There is an online library where you can borrow 5 electronic books at a time. There are hundreds of titles to choose from! This is included in the monthly fee.
  • You can practice writing kanji and play a game where you learn the multiplication tables, even when you are not connected to the internet.
  • My daughter enjoys sending me emails every day.
  • Just 3 months into the program, I can already tell my daughter is better at reading and writing kanji.

Some cons:

  • I didn’t realize Benesse sends out paper materials every few months, even if you just signed up for the electronic version. This is great, except I feel badly my aunt in Japan has to go through the hassle of forwarding all these materials over for us. I wish I could just pay a little extra to have everything sent to the U.S.
  • I am constantly worried my kids are going to break the tablet, haha. We have a rule in our house where they MUST be sitting at a desk if they are using it (no standing, walking around, laying on the couch, etc). We’ve also lectured them about not pressing too hard with the pen. So far so good.
  • The voltage is different here. Easy problem to fix though, we just use a transformer:

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My kids normally use headphones as well when doing benkyou (study) on the Touch. We highly recommend this one! It is sized perfectly for kids’ heads, had a durable cord, and I don’t have to worry about the volume being turned up too loud. Headphones are a must for us because with 3 kids running around our little house, it can get quite noisy and hard to concentrate.

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Bottom line is that we are so glad we took a chance and decided to try the Benesse Challenge Touch program. I can see us continuing for the next few years, and may even get a second device for our son when he begins first grade. I hope that someday soon they will make the program downloadable for iPads– wouldn’t that be nice?

Read more about the Kodomo Challenge program HERE and feel free to contact them if you have any questions. They are very nice!

 

I am NOT affiliated with Benesse and have NOT received any free products or compensation for writing this review. 

Japanese Math App for Kids: わかる!算数

30 Apr

IMG_1713 There are SO MANY apps for teaching Japanese these days! Our current favorite is called: ”わかる!算数 for iPad” by GAKUGEI Co., Ltd.  (“I See! Math”) I downloaded the app for 1st grade ($4.99) and 2nd grades ($5.99). Both of my kids (ages 5 and 7) love working on their math skills with this app. The children first learn a new concept (addition with carrying over, telling time, etc), practice, then take a quiz. The animations are cute and rewarding. My kids have been using this app daily for about two weeks and they don’t seem to be tired of it yet. IMG_1714 I am pretty fluent in Japanese, but sometimes struggle explaining new math concepts in Japanese, so this program has been a great help. My kids are learning how to tell time, identify shapes, solve story problems, measure in centimeters, etc., in Japanese!

Here are the links by grade:

First Grade Math

Second Grade Math

Third Grade Math Part One, Part Two

Fourth Grade Math Part One, Part Two, Part Three

You can try out I See! Math for FREE (trial version) before you decide if you want the full version or not. There is also an option to switch the entire app over to English if you’d like. You can view all the apps created by Gakugei HERE. IMG_1715   What are your favorite Japanese apps for kids these days?

NOTE: I was not asked by anyone to write this review, and I did not receive any free products or compensation. I bought this app after doing my own research and this is all my honest opinion:)

Using Labels to Learn Japanese

25 Mar

I recently came upon the realization that I really need to work on my children’s vocabulary. So one night while they were sleeping, I used masking tape+marker to label items around the house in Japanese! When they woke up in the morning, the kids had fun discovering what I had labeled in the kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedrooms. I think this will help us learn some new words and use them in context. The labels are an eyesore, but I plan to remove them once I’m confident we have mastered the use of that word.

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If you would like to do the same, just walk around your house and write down the things that your kids would not be able to name in Japanese. There may be some words that you’ll have to look up in a dictionary! Use a permanent marker to write the word on masking tape, and stick it on the corresponding item. When everyone in the family has learned the word, you can remove the masking tape.

Doraemon on Disney XD

28 Jul
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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!

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