Japanese for children
June 20, 2012 12:21 AM   Subscribe

Are there any very basic resources to introduce spoken Japanese to young English speakers?

My daughter was born in Japan, and is now six. This Summer we are all going back to stay with friends to try to introduce her to the language a little. My wife and I can speak some, and do talk to her, so have got up to hello, yes, please, thanks and so on.

I would love if there was something focussed on basic vocab, in the way I think Dora the Explorer is for Spanish.

My daughter already enjoys watching anime, especially Ghibli films, in Japanese. While these are great for exposure it would be good to have some English to contrast with.

Finally, I have looked at the Rapanese cds, can't really tell whether they are an appropriate level.
posted by fizban to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This site seems pretty good for basic stuff, quite nicely implemented at least:

posted by lith at 2:27 AM on June 20, 2012

I teach English to non-native-speaker kids around the same age as your daughter.

The easiest thing? With her, color/cut out/make picture-only flash cards and drill them for a few minutes a day in fun ways. ("Drill" is just a way of saying "practice", but can be a useful keyword in the jargon-y world of looking for activities online.) Matching games, shouting/whispering the words, pictionary, etc. When she gets good at them, add in new ones but still recycle the old ones. More here on how flashcards work, and more here on some different activities to try.

You can use the pictures-without-words flashcards you find in any ESL/EFL material online or at the library for things both Japan and the US share (apple, car, etc.) but would probably have to draw your own cards for, say, seaweed or daikon radish. :)

If you'd rather avoid the drawing (or want to work on them at work while your daughter's at school and surprise her with some new ones when you come home...), a simple way to do this is to make a table in Microsoft Word, pop in images from Google Image searches, print them, and cut them out. Perhaps your daughter can help you pick the prettiest/coolest/best images for her cards?

It's nice to keep them all the same size so you can shuffle them easily. Perhaps make a stencil or precut some paper for her to draw/color on on her own, and then you can help her define the words she wants to know.

This works well with single-word nouns that are easy to pronounce and that don't change form too much, but knowing nothing about Japanese, I assume simple subject-verb combinations ("he's running", "they're fishing") might work too. Beyond that, flashcards can get kind of unwieldy.
posted by mdonley at 7:58 AM on June 20, 2012

Thanks mdonley, we have already started those kind of introductions. I was looking for something a little more conversational, ideally something she could just soak up.

Lith, that website is far beyond what she could use at the moment, but looks like it might be fun for a quick revision for me!

If nothing else are there any low-vocab anime aimed specifically at toddlers, but without too much babytalk? I suppose something like a dubbed-to-japanese version of In the Night Garden might suffice...
posted by fizban at 1:17 PM on June 21, 2012

No idea about conversational resources for kids, although a good way to master the basics is to read to your child. Our local library has Japanese books for small children, and I imagine yours might too.

A good way to teach basic vocabulary is to buy a Hiragana-hyou while you're in Japan. It's great for games and learning basic vocab.

The Japan Society also has resources.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:56 PM on June 21, 2012

Please check your MeMail.
posted by alms at 1:54 PM on June 22, 2012

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