Review of Japan Newbie’s Japanese 101: Particles App

You love particles, don’t you? You’re overflowing with enthusiasm to learn every one of them as well as the seemingly infinite instances in which each can be used…

I know, I know, particles are probably the least favorite aspect of Japanese-learning for many of us.  Some of them have no English equivalents and most of them are used in a whole range of different grammatical patterns.  To make matters worse, explanations of how and when to use a particle are often way, way too much info at once.  They can make learning these relatively simple (yes, I said it) patterns into an intimidating and confusing task.

Well, now you have more of a reason to look forward to learning them:

Japan Newbie’s Japanese 101:Particles App

What is it?  A brief explanation of just what the app is and does.

This app is a simple, effective, and fun way to help you learn and understand the when’s, where’s, and how’s of particle usage.  (Without wanting to tear your hair out or cry.)  Sounds good, right?

In a nutshell, it’s a flashcard-based app with audio that uses a fill-in-the-blank format.  An example sentence with a missing particle (or two) is shown as audio for the sentence (also with a missing particle) is played.  When you’re ready, you flip the card to reveal the answers, as well as a romaji version of the sentence and an English translation.  Each card also has an optional “Notes” button you can hit to get a short and sweet explanation of why each particle was used as well as another example sentence.

There are 2 main modes: Study and Quiz.  In Study mode, you select a deck and study the cards, just as described above.  This gives you the practice you need for the Quiz mode.  The decks for quizzes in Quiz mode are exactly the same ones as the study decks.  You can pick as many as you like to include in your quiz.  In Quiz mode, there is the option of doing “Multiple Choice” or “Fill in the Blank”.  In “Multiple Choice”, you hear the audio with the missing particle(s) read aloud (as many times as you need) and choices for particles show up on the screen.  Your job is to select the correct missing particle from either 2 or 4 options.  The Fill In The Blank option makes things a little more challenging and just gives you a blank field into which you input the particle(s) you think are correct.

Cards are organized by JLPT level (N5 and N4) and divided into very do-able chunks.  There are currently 3 sets for each level, each of which could reasonably be completed in a sitting or two.

For a much more in-depth look at the program and how it works, check out the app page for it and/or Yonasu’s review.

How is it?  My own humble opinion

So, I used the app for the past few weeks, and here’s the rundown from my own perspective!

Favorite features:

  • Explanations of particle usage are clear, short, and sweet.
    The grammar explanations are one of the best features of this app and my personal favorite.  They’re crisp and understandable, and they only try to explain one instance at a time.  After being bombarded by complex and overly-verbose particle usage explanations, this is a welcome and relieving change.  It really helps to make things seem less complex and scary.  Whether an AJATTeer or a total text-book thumper, anyone will appreciate these explanations.
  • The quiz mode has audio only.
    That’s right, no text for you!   In the quiz mode, you hear a sentence read aloud but the only words on the screen may be the particle choices.  Listening tends to be a weak point on the JLPT for many test-takers, so this is really great practice for listening for the actual test!  It’s especially helpful for reading-dependent learners who tend to use text as a big, big crutch when they’re hearing things.  (That’s me.  I admit it.  Your turn…)

Other good stuff:

  • Clear, well-paced, native-speaker audio. (Not to be under-rated, think of all the painfully slow and frustratingly speedy recordings you’ve heard…”wuh-tah-shi-wahh…..mah-ri—-day–suuu….”  “hajimemashitewatashihamarydesudouzoyoroshikuonegaiitashimasu!)
  • The size of the decks makes for very attainable goals, and is therefore super-reinforcing.  (AJATTeers rejoice, little games!)
  • The sentences and examples for each section have level-appropriate vocab.
  • You can replay the audio clip for each card as many times as you like.  The more you hear it, the easier it gets to understand it.
  • Incredibly easy to figure out.  (Instruction-manual-haters rejoice.)
  • Free updates!  The most recent one added 25 new N4 cards and the Fill In The Blank quiz mode.

Potential places for improvement:

  • Completed audio clips.
    My number one want for this app would be to have audio with complete, particle-included sentences for the answer sides of the cards.  (As it is now, you can play the audio on the answer side, but the particles are still left out.)  I think it’d be really, really helpful for remembering the pattern.  I’m not sure about you, but I’m much more likely to be able to remember something if I hear it, too.
  • Kana over romaji.
    Currently, the answer side of the cards shows 3 sentences: the full kanji-fied sentence, a romaji version, and the English translation.  I would much rather see a kana-fied version of the sentence than the romaji.  This way, users could both see and hear the readings of the kanji in the sentence, in Japanese.  For those still learning kana, it would take away the option of defaulting to reading the romaji.  (The human brain likes to do things the easy, familiar way…)  You’ll never learn to really swim if you stay in that puffy life jacket.  What better way to get reading practice than with re-playable audio and just kana? Considering the app is designed around the JLPT, and there is no romaji on the test, I imagine this would be a more helpful format for all users.

Who’d benefit from it?

  • People studying for N4 and N5 of the JLPT.  The material focuses on JLPT N4 and N5, so naturally they’re a given.
  • People studying for N3.  I’m currently studying for N3, and the app is still be a gold mine of grammar explanations and listening practice.
  • Beginners through lower intermediates not studying for the JLPT.  Just because you’re not taking the test doesn’t mean you don’t need to know the particles, of course.

Where do I get it?

The app is available for $5.99 on the iTunes store.

So that’s about it!  All in all, I thought this was a fantastic and effective app with many great aspects.  The latest update was really useful and added a good bit to it, and it sounds like Japan Newbie is already planning more improvements in the future.  I absolutely and confidently recommend it.

Total disclosure-age: JapanNewbie kindly gave me a free copy of this and asked me to review it.  Of course, I was in no way bribed or asked to say it was awesome.  It really and truly is a nifty and effective app.

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8 Responses to Review of Japan Newbie’s Japanese 101: Particles App

  1. kanjiwarrior says:

    I might give this a try after reading your review. I noticed while doing lang-8 posts that I often can’t remember which particles are used where. I kind of just guess…

    • Hey Kanjiwarrior! Actually, eventually being able to “guess”, but not really guess and just “feel” which particles should be used is where you want to be. I think this app’s method will help you get there, because you’ll hear the gap and your mind will “jump” to try to fill in what should have been there.

      It takes practice and repetition to get the hang of it, but eventually you will. You might not be able to explain WHY a particle should go where it goes… but you’ll be able to spontaneously give many other examples sentences that use the same pattern. For those who like the detailed grammar instruction we include that in the app in the notes section, but the real approach is to build up your “gut” feeling for the Particles.

      ファイト!

    • veganliz says:

      Yes! Guessing/feeling it is where it’s at.

      Total agree-ness with Harvey. Getting the feel and knowing the patterns is way more important (and effective, in terms of comprehension and production) than knowing the why’s of the particles.

  2. zonjineko says:

    Nice review Liz – Harvey will think we’re ganging up on him with the evil plot against romaji ^_^

    If anyone wants to see it in action – I’ve done a quick video over at zonjineko.

    http://www.zonjineko.com/2990-app-review-japanese-101-particles

    • veganliz says:

      Haha, he just might!

      Awesome vid, zonjineko, and a great way to show people just what the app’s like. Check it out guys!

  3. Eric says:

    I will give this a try after reading your review

  4. Johnny Rapid says:

    Japan apps. Just the best in the World. spend the last few hours with this one, lots of fun.

  5. Hi there all, here every one is sharing such familiarity, so it’s pleasant
    to read this weblog, and I used to visit this blog every
    day.

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