Get your Japanese on with Nihongo-busting iPhone app

Get your Japanese on with Nihongo-busting iPhone app

Japanese Flash a hit with visitors, long-stayers and even tsunami volunteers
Foreign Volunteers Japan
FVJ has been sending people and supplies to the tsunami zone since disaster hit in March.

Anyone spending time in Japan -- tourist and longer-term resident alike -- knows that local English-speakers are the exception, rather than the norm, meaning at least a dash of Japanese makes any stay considerably more enjoyable.

But, with the “How To Japanese” market drenched in (mostly soggy) materials, where to start getting to grips with Nihongo?

Old-school larnin’

You could do worse than load up your iPhone (other smartphones might just be available) with “Japanese Flash” from Tokyo-based Long Weekend, which uses the tried-and-true flashcard method to get those cranial cogs moving.

At ¥700, it’s a safe bet you’ll get your VFM hit PDQ and -- we’ll wager a shilling on this one too --enjoy the quirky range of vocab sets, most of which appear to reference beer and boozing. Essential linguistic tools in Tokyo, after all.

Tsunami relief

Better yet, the app developer is giving up half its proceeds in September to the charity Foreign Volunteers Japan to help it continue sending man- (and woman-) power northeast to the tsunami-zone cleanup.

“We know recovery efforts in Tohoku will last for years,” says Garin Dart, organizer of FVJ. “With the support of companies like Long Weekend and our individual volunteers, we believe we can contribute for as long as we are needed.”

Boots on the ground

Ross Sharrott, director of Long Weekend, points out that his pocket dictionary/textbook combo could be useful for visitors volunteering to join FVJ for a stint in the northeast and why the effort matters to him.

“Long Weekend has deep roots in Japan -- many of our products focus on Japanese learning.  After the disaster, we wondered as foreigners how we could help,” he says.

“By raising money, and the profile of FVJ, we want to draw attention to their efforts to rebuild this great country.”