Learn Japanese Through A Game Or As A Game?

The concept behind this site is pretty straightforward by now. Treat learning Japanese as a game, where you are the hero. For a long time I thought about what would happen if you could take it a step further. A fully immersive and exciting game that by playing it you will learn Japanese. This seemed like the next logical phase, as why treat something as a game when you can just play the game?

Learn Japanese Through A Game Or As A Game 2

However I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it’s not the game, but the game elements, applied to your actual life, that hold the real power. There is no more realistic and important game than life, and you already have all (most?) of the hardware/software ready.

What’s wrong with an actual game though? This must be the future?

It comes down to 3 things:

1. You can’t get around the hard work required

You still have to learn the Japanese. Even if you made Japanese the ability of the main character, that you develop and refine throughout the game-play, you still have to work at studying and remembering everything. You are still trying to turn education into entertainment.

2. It won’t be tailored to you

1000 learners learn and have the motivation to study Japanese in 1000 different ways. Learning Japanese is extremely personal. Sure, general things most people like can be added, but there will never be something that is suited for you more than the game you create.

If you aren’t convinced yet, it really comes down to the following:

3. You aren’t studying Japanese to play a game about studying.

You are studying because you want to enjoy X. The game will never be a substitute for X. The best way to learn Japanese for you will be to eventually use X.

So if you love anime, you want to get to anime as fast as possible, and reach a point where that can be your primary “studying.”

Learn Japanese Through A Game Or As A Game

A game gets you through the basics slower

There is a race to immersion, and getting your way to what you enjoy as soon as possible before you burn out. Efficiency is your goal. It’ll be hard work, but the sooner you blast through that work, the closer you get to a more enjoyable path.

A Japanese game would have to sacrifice that efficiency for entertainment, and probably to an extensive amount. In order to make a game fun and absorb the players, there would have to be a lot of “non-study time” to make it work, slowing down your ability to get to what you actually want to do.

There is still a load of value

A Japanese study game can still act as a great study tool and motivator to boost you in the beginning stages. There are already games that do this like “Slime Forest Adventure” and games in the future coming out like “Koe” that can be just what you are looking for in order to push you towards your goals. I’m not saying at all that they aren’t great tools. So go ahead and enjoy using them if that’s what you like.

However, they pale in comparison to your game.

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


Learn Japanese Through A Game Or As A Game? — 9 Comments

  1. I was going to make a game that would act as an interface for Anki. It would be a classic final fantasy style jrpg, where the user could “load” an anki deck and it would be used during random battles in dungeons or the overworld. I had a nice design for the whole game, a good battle system etc. But I don’t want to delay my real goal (to master japanese). Maybe some day in the future, when my japanese is good enough.

    • Sounds like an interesting idea. If you do ever decide to create that come back here and let everyone know.

  2. Something I’ve been thinking about but never seen: a novel series, e.g. Harry Potter, where the first page is in English. Then the next page they introduce a Japanese word and from then on whenever that word appears in the series it is in Japanese and the rest is in English. Each page a new word or grammar point is introduced. Half-way through you would have a very weird and garbled ‘language’ which might be part English set out in weird order and part Japanese not quite right. By the end it’s proper Japanese.
    The idea being that interest in the novel sustains you, you get exposure to bits of Japanese in deep context, and natural repetition.
    The downsides I can see is that the rate of material would be slow, only 300 points in 300 pages, and you have a very strange jumble of a language partway through.

    • Since English and grammatical structures are waaaay different this would fail really quickly. At most you will have 貴方 です 太い けど あたし 好き 貴方。This literally says “You are fat, but I love you.”, but doesn’t make any sense in Japanese, not to mention that it encourages bad habits. Automatically switching from this to proper Japanese would confuse Readers. So, I think it’s not possible.
      The closest thing I could imagine as working is if Adam decides to turn Beginner’s deck into stories :P.

      Anyways, I agree with this post. The summary is : You don’t want to study Japanese for the rest of your life.
      You want to enjoy media available IN Japanese, and reach a point where enjoying=studying. So it doesn’t matter HOW you reached that point (by “cheating” or brute force) , because the real journey starts after that point

    • Someone once mentioned a few years ago about a French novel that did close to what you are saying. Can’t remember the name now.

      Also I’m not sure if you were visiting the site at the time, but a few years ago I was working on creating a novel where the goal was to have the main character naturally learn Japanese through the story which would allow the reader to do the same. Unfortunately after a few chapters, interest for it kind of fizzled out, partially due to the reasons I mention in this article.

      • Are you talking about Legends of Japanese? I understand why it stopped but I still have it and I think it was well done, considering the problems mentioned in this article :p

        • Yeah that’s it. Thanks for remembering it! It was fun trying it out, but just wasn’t turning out the way I imagined.

    • I’ve only been with Jalup and learning Japanese one year so I didn’t see that before.
      If you watch Star Trek you learn vocabulary like Phasers, Klingon, Tricorder without any effort. And I remember playing a RPG where you were on an alien world and learned another language. Again, without any conscious effort you just picked it up.

      Here’s an example of what it might look like:
      the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog
      (no articles)
      quick brown fox jumped over lazy dog
      (fox = キツネ)
      quick brown キツネ jumped over lazy dog
      (sentence order, verb goes at the end)
      quick brown キツネ lazy dog overjumped
      (to jump over = 飛び越える)
      quick brown キツネ lazy dog 飛び越えるed
      (dog = 犬)
      quick brown キツネ lazy 犬 飛び越えるed
      (direct object particle を)
      quick brown キツネ lazy 犬 を 飛び越えるed
      (topic marker particle は)
      quick brown キツネ は lazy 犬 を 飛び越えるed
      (polite past tense …ました)
      quick brown キツネ は lazy 犬を飛び越えました
      (connecting particle の)
      quick brown の キツネ は lazy の 犬を飛び越えました
      (quick = 速い)
      速い brown の キツネ は lazy の 犬を飛び越えました

      Maybe I got the Japanese wrong – sorry. It’s true that in the middle you have a garbled mess. But in theory at no point is there a lack of comprehension, someone could follow an engaging story easily, and you are genuinely picking up and reinforcing vocabulary and grammar rules.

      I know there are serious criticisms to be made of the idea. I just thought I’d throw it out there. As the article says, if you’re learning Japanese there is no ultimately getting away from having to learn Japanese!

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