[UPDATE: The giveaway has now closed. Thank you to all who entered and congratulations to those who won!]
A few weeks ago, the lovely people at Tuttle Publishing got in touch and sent me a little package of Japanese goodies. I already had a Pocket Japanese Dictionary that Ashley had bought for me a couple of years ago and I loved it so I was excited to see what these things had to offer. Before we get into it, let’s just talk about Tuttle. Tuttle are a publisher of books on all things Asia. With my interest in different scripts right now, their website is like an Aladdin’s cave. There’s just so much good stuff there! But what did they send me?
I was so excited when this arrived! The first thing I opened was the Japanese Hiragana and Katakana Flashcards set. Therefore, this will be the first reviewed product. But don’t worry if you’re interested in the others! There’ll be more reviews (and giveaways!) soon, so be sure to follow on Facebook or Twitter to keep in the loop.
Japanese Hiragana and Katakana Flashcards
I’d never really thought about buying an individual product solely for Hiragana and Katakana. I mean, I’d done alright learning them with just Memrise and some light reading and writing. With that in mind, you can imagine my initial blasé attitude to this product. I thought I didn’t need it, I thought it was unnecessary, and I thought it didn’t need to be the same size as the Kanji kit (we’ll get to the Kanji kit in another blog post!). I was SO wrong. Like more wrong than chocolate cheese.
The box states that the kit contains 200 flashcards, an organising ring, audio recordings, and two wall charts. For some reason my brain didn’t pick up on this, and the flashcards were all that were in my head as I opened it up for the first time. It was like opening the door to Narnia. “Ooo, a ring to put them on! Ooo, a CD! Ooo, posters!”. Tuttle really do give you everything you need to get started with Hiragana and Katakana, including a short booklet with many suggestions of how to use the flashcards, an index of the cards, and an English to Japanese mini dictionary of all of the words featured on the cards.
“Words? But I thought it was Hiragana and Katakana we’re learning here!”
Uh huh. Let’s look at the, in my opinion, perfectly designed cards in more detail.
Firstly, the cards use a nice blue colour for the text and diagrams. I like this because it’s just a bit brighter than plain ol’ black ‘n’ white. Secondly, each card is numbered. This is SO useful once they’re all on the ring together and you want to get back to where you started! The first side of the card has the Hiragana or Katakana in question nice and big on the left hand side, with a stroke by stroke guide to writing it underneath. The next big thing on the front of the card is the list of 6 words that use that Hiragana or Katakana. Oh, and there’s one more thing on the front of the card. (This is my favourite bit – so clever!) In the bottom right hand corner, you’ll spot a ≠ (does not equal) sign, followed by similar looking characters. THIS is the stuff I’m talking about. THIS is what was missing from my lazy Memrise/reading/writing Hiragana and Katakana learning routine. Such a simple little idea but very useful as there are so many Hiragana and Katakana that are easily confused in the early stages!
As if all of that info on the front of the card wasn’t enough, the back is just as loaded. The stand out thing for me is the image using the Hiragana or Katakana. With Chineasy being incredibly popular right now, this will be relatable for a lot of people. These images are also on the posters so there’s a nice crossover link there. There’s also a short mnemonic to help you to remember how the image associates with the Hiragana or Katakana. As well as this you have the “answers” to the 6 words given on the front of the card. Firstly written again in Hiragana or Katakana, then in Romaji, then the English translation. Handy, handy stuff!
Once you’ve gleefully removed the paper tabs from the card piles, you can put them on the ring! The ring is big enough to fit all 200 cards on if you’re feeling brave and the join can even act as a divider between Hiragana and Katakana, or between the words you know and those you don’t (if you keep the ring upright or on a hook of course!). So then your flashcards can go with you on the plane, on the train, and in your automobile. Hooray!
But don’t set off just yet! Be sure to put the CD in your car, or burn it to your MP3 player or phone. Every single word written on the cards is pronounced slowly and clearly on the CD, in clearly labelled tracks for each card. Brilliant! And then of course, when you get home, your posters will be gracing your wall to keep the learning up. The same images that are on the cards can be found on the posters. I also love that the posters contain both the basic Hiragana and Katakana but also the additional characters – another lazy pitfall from my previous learning methods.
So if you haven’t guessed it by now, I think this kit really is worth the money. It’s so thorough and gives you all the tools you need as an independent learner to ace Hiragana and Katakana. However, I always like to be fair and give a couple of negatives. Or at least try to. It would be nice if the posters were in colour, or even the cards. But as I mentioned, I love the simplicity of the blue on the cards, and the posters using the same blue does work, so I get it. The only other negative I could possibly think of (and I’m clutching at straws here!) is that perhaps the cards could be a tiny bit thicker. But they are nicely glossed and feel like they would last well. So again, trying to be even, end up being rather positive!
The Tuttle Hiragana and Katakana Flashcards set is lovely. Clean, simple, well explained in the accompanying booklet, just a joy to use. I feel like with a lot of language products, especially in the flashcard genre, it’s very much aimed at children. Or it’s trying not to aim at children and so aims it far too….not even high, just dull. And the thing is, I don’t want dull and I don’t want children’s products. Tuttle have found the perfect happy medium. It feels mature, respectable and honest, which is also something else rare with language products, or any product for that matter. It’s very easy for a company to promote their product as “100% guaranteed weight loss” or “Spanish in 30 days” or “if you buy this record your life will be better”, but without input from the customer, that ain’t gonna happen. Tuttle gives you 5 pages of great strategies for using their product to get you those results. The method that stands out to me? “Try to find the most comfortable way to use the cards for you”.
And now for the giveaway!
Tuttle have very kindly agreed to give away two copies of Japanese Hiragana and Katakana Flashcards – so you’re in with double the chance. Not only that but I’m now using Rafflecopter for giveaways, which means you have more chances to win. A blog comment below is worth 5 entries AND unlocks the chance for 5 more entries into the draw! The giveaway is only open for 2 weeks so you’ll have to be quick! Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway is open to UK and international residents. Entrants must be over 18 years of age. Entrants are entitled to ten entries per person if all entry options are used. Entrants must log in via Rafflecopter and answer the question in the widget in the Disqus comments below – this is the ONLY mandatory task. Entrants can gain extra entries in the draw by tweeting a link to the giveaway, following Lindsay Does Languages on Twitter, or visiting the Lindsay Does Languages Facebook page. Entry closes at 00.00 on Tuesday 24th March 2015. The winner will be picked at random on Wednesday 25th March 2015 and contacted via the email given on your Rafflecopter account. If I cannot contact you this way, then I may attempt to contact you via Facebook in alignment with these rules. If I cannot make contact with you, I will have to offer the prize to another entrant and pick another winner at random. The winner will be announced on the blog and/or social media. The prize will be dispatched from Tuttle Publishing. There is no sponsorship or affiliate link to this giveaway or in this blog post. Tuttle Publishing have been kind enough to send me some of their products in exchange for blog reviews and giveaways. Thank you!