Studying Japanese with a Nintendo DS Get your game on and learn something at the same time

    When you’re not saving the Mushroom Kingdom from blood-thirsty turtles, you can use your un-educational Nintendo DS to study, improve, and practice your Japanese.

    Mario standing next to Princess Peach saying 読めない!

    There are several “games” out there to help you. Of course, there are several electronic dictionaries out there that do similar things, and it seems like everyone has them. I’m here to tell you that you should hold off and buy a DS instead. That’s right, buy a piece of gaming hardware for your education. You might even be able to convince your parents to do it for you, if you’re lucky. But why buy a Nintendo DS instead of an electric dictionary? First off, there is a good selection software you can choose from, and all of them do different things.

    Nintendo DS Kanji Dictionary

    using nintendo ds kanji dictionary to find kanji

    Sono mama raku hiku jiten そのまま楽引く辞典Kanji Sonomama 漢字そのまま is a great dictionary tool. How many times have you looked at a kanji and had no idea what it was? More than you can count, most likely. Once you stop reading children’s books, you’ll probably start to notice that there is less and less furigana going on (that’s the hiragana next to the kanji telling you how to pronounce it). Furigana will only stick around for very difficult kanji, and that’s why you need this software. All you need to do is write your kanji into the box (as ugly and as poorly as you want to) and it will decipher it and give you its meaning. What makes this “game” so invaluable, however, is that it will translate it for you into English. You can also translate the other way around (English -> Japanese). Here is what happens when you look up a word:

    Learn Kanji on your DS

    Tadashii kanji kakitori-kun 正しい漢字かきとりくん is a game for Japanese kids that can teach you how to write elementary level kanji up to the sixth grade level. Using your stylus, you can learn proper stroke order, how to write more beautifully, and have a tiny bit of fun doing it.

    Hiragana/Katakana Homebrew DS Game:

    Screen from Zoelen game

    Zoelen has come up with (so I hear) a pretty good app for the DS that allows you to practice reading and writing hiragana/katakana. This could potentially be perfect for a beginning student, because we all know where I think Japanese self-learners should start. I’m not exactly sure how it’s uploaded to your DS, but there’s go to be a way. I’m sure someone will comment on it down below somewhere.

    Kanji Chikara (Kanji Strength)

    The game jacket for Kanji Chikara

    This game was made for native Japanese folks, and it isn’t for the faint of heart. This “game” is tough. Native Japanese have trouble with this one. You have to figure out which kanji is written incorrectly in a sentence, choose the correct pronunciation of obscure words, and do all sorts of other things that test your kanji skill against a tricky computer. This might be a good game for people studying for ikkyu, but any lower than that and…I’m afraid this one’ll be a little past your level.


    There you have it. The Nintendo DS is a great tool for learning Japanese. Not only can you play any and all Japanese DS games on your American Nintendo DS, but you can study on it as well. When you’re bored of “studying,” you can pop in the Japanese version of Osu, Tatakai, Ouendan and sit back, knowing that you might be able to read something now. Good luck!