Language-learning app mixes study and manga

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

For those who came to Japan for the anime but are stuck instead studying flash cards for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), an Osaka-based company has made it possible to kill two birds with one app.

The JLPT Prep N4&N5 application by Wao Corp., created for both Android and iOS smartphones, distinguishes itself from other Japanese-learning software by taking the essence of the country’s manga culture and utilizing it as a learning tool.

“The app uses anime characters and manga to teach Japanese grammar and vocabulary,” says Gen Kobayashi, who co-developed the application. “By doing so, users can learn Japanese and prepare for the JLPT while enjoying the game.”

In the app, users play the role of a 17-year-old Australian girl named Emma as she goes through her daily routine in Japan. Manga-style pages provide a storyline of events, but they also include frequent pop-up questions that test the grammatical and conversational skills of the user.

Answering questions correctly unlocks new features of the game, winning the player special cards with illustrations of different anime characters for example. The application includes more than 60 minutes of animation, 120 minutes of oral lessons and 500 everyday phrases that can be played repeatedly.

“The game is intended for foreign nationals who are just beginning to learn Japanese, but can also be utilized for more skilled speakers to restudy the basics,” Kobayashi says.

Wao Corp., which operates a chain of cram schools, claims that no other app offers the complete learning experience in such a systematic process, let alone in an anime format.

Since going on sale in July, JLPT Prep N4&N5 is now on offer in more than 80 countries and recently has been downloaded at a rate of more than 1,000 times per week. The success has led to talks of developing a similar application for N1 and N2 examinees, according to Kobayashi. (J.H.)

For more information on the JLPT Prep N4&N5 app from Wao Corp., visit www.e-wao.com/shikaku/course/jlpt/index.html.