I picked up a set of German lingo cards not long ago and my kids LOVED them. They saw that there are other sets of cards and they BEGGED me to get the Japanese cards so that they could learn some basics of the language. I never pictured my kids wanting to learn a language like this, and was surprised they wanted to learn German when I got the first set of cards, so was quite shocked to hear they wanted to learn Japanese.
When I got the first set of cards, I worried about my limited knowledge of another language, being a native English speaker and having some limited Spanish. But that was nothing compared to trying to help them learn Japanese! I know how important it is to have the language modeled for you if you want to hear the inflection and intonation. It is difficult to learn how to properly pronounce a word if you do not hear it a few different times. And learning how to manipulate the language to conjugate verbs and such can be a challenge, too, until you become more confident in speaking, which is best done through immersion in the culture or with native speakers - all things we couldn't get from playing cards. But they are expressing an interest, therefore I am willing to help them learn.
This is the same size and feel as any normal playing cards. It looks great, better quality than some other cards I have gotten for the kids in the past. They have the same suits on them and are done the same as other cards - red and black. You even have your jokers in the pack. So even if you do not decide to use them as a language tool, you can always use them for playing cards.
But if you DO want to try out the language you have a fairly good tool to work with. Each card has the word or phrase in English and Japanese, as well as the phonetic pronunciation to help guide you in saying it correctly. The phonetics are based on English (US) and if you have a solid understanding of phonics, you can figure out how to read the words.
The problem is you miss out on the intonation and inflection mentioned earlier. I highly recommend you listen to the words being spoken, too. Do a search for the phrase using google and then listen to the pronunciation through whatever you find. Sometimes you can find translators that simply use audio recordings you can listen to, other times you can watch videos where you hear the speaking and see the word formation by viewing the person speaking. Regardless, seeing and/or hearing are important aspects to learning the language, too.
All of that said, these are impressive playing cards. I do like these cards and think the boys are enjoying learning basic Japanese, but I don't see these cards really teaching them the language. They are learning just the basics of the language, which is good for playing on their own, but not enough for them to be able to learn how to communicate with native speakers. I do think they are a great learning tool though and wouldn't hesitate to pick up additional sets in other languages to see which ones the boys enjoy using more.
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