Speak! Japanese, by Linguashop, is a learn Japanese language program that tries to be an interactive learning resource but ends up just rehashing Japanese textbooks. The menu offers different modules that focus on grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Even though there are audio clips to illustrate words, the lessons are given more or less in a textbook fashion. Most of the course, especially the grammar lessons, isn’t especially engaging because of this.
While this program does not include as many features as the programs we have previously reviewed, it does include a speech recognition system which will allow you to practice pronunciation and get immediate feedback. This is done is by the program showing and pronouncing the word, then you repeat it. Your voice is recorded as you say the word, which allows the program to compare your pronunciation with that of the original version. By doing so it can show you where you made mistakes. The speech recognition isn’t quite as accurate as some of the higher-ranked programs, but it is still useful for gauging your progress.
You can also listen to how a word from the dictionary is pronounced to make sure you are accurate. This program will teach you how to correctly use Japanese grammar by showing you how verbs are used and by explaining common expressions. In addition it will go over the overall sentence structure, as well.
There are 10 levels of grammar and vocabulary exercises which will increase in difficulty as you progress through the program. The dictionary included in the software has thousands of words and phrases which you can bring up at any time during your exercises. However, it isn’t as complete as the ones in some of the other programs and it doesn’t offer as much help on the three Japanese alphabets.
One of the best, and most unique, parts of Speak! Japanese is the Stories section. This program allows you to learn Japanese through actual stories. This is a great feature because you insert the appropriate words into the tale, meaning that you learn words and grammar in context.
One of the biggest drawbacks we found when using this program was that there is no way to really practice conversations, except the ones you may see in the Stories section. Unlike many of the higher ranking programs, there are no interactive excises or videos with native speakers where you can have virtual conversations. This can be problematic once you do try having a Japanese conversation, as you have had no real previous practice.
This software is easy to use, but that’s mostly because it is a simple program. The help section usually has the information you need, but if you don’t find what you are looking for you can contact the company. The technical support can be reached by telephone (the only numbers available are from Germany and Canada), or by email.
Speak! Japanese is very basic program, offering a good foundation to learn Japanese. The problem is that it isn’t as comprehensive as most of the higher-ranking programs. It also does not offer the wide vocabulary and writing selections that many of the other so do. If you want complete fluency, you may want to consider trying one of the products that ranked better.
Speak! Japanese has a story unique section for learning conversation skills.
Speak is not an especially interactive software program.
Speak! Japanese is not as advanced as many of the programs out there and does not have as much to offer.