A nice beginner’s book for children studying Japanese
If you have a child interested in studying Japanese, you will find “My First Hiragana Activity Book” a valuable tool. It is easy to follow, with lots of vocabulary and cute pictures supporting each hiragana. Unlike most hiragana work books, which you use once and throw away, this book can be used to practice vocabulary words long after the hiragana has been mastered.
Learning hiragana is the first step to learning Japanese. You simply can’t make any progress in the language without it. Because of syllable-based structure of the language, being able to recognize and pronounce the various hiragana is a necessary foundation. There are only forty-six hiragana characters, so learning them is a fairly easy task. Much less daunting than the thousands of kanji one must master as your skills progress!
“My First Hiragana Activity Book” teaches the hiragana in the normal order. Each entry takes up a page, and has two blocks to trace over the character, then six blocks for practice. Each character is supported by about nine pictures that start with that character. For example, the first character “ah” is accompanied by the words like “ahiru” (duck), “ame” (rain), “ashi” (foot) and “atama” (head). The English readings are not given for the words, only a picture, which is a useful technique to allow association of that word directly with the image, rather than translating it into English.
A drawback to “My First Hiragana Activity Book” is that there are not really enough spaces for repetition of the characters. Writing a character six times isn’t going to be enough to master it. However, most people studying Japanese keep a separate notebook for repetition practice, and so the extra spaces aren’t really needed. Also, the book is squarely aimed at a child audience, and the style is similar to what one would find in a “My First Alphabet” book or something similar. Adults can still use this book and would find it useful in gaining basic vocabulary as long as they don’t mind the childish nature of the pictures.
One other thing I discovered, although I don’t think this was intended by the author, is that the pictures accompanying each character are a perfect size to be cut out of the book and used as flash cards for vocabulary practice. Cut them out and laminate them, and you have a couple of hundred flash cards for a very affordable price!