For a child to become motivated to learn a language, she must enjoy the experience. Language-learning games can turn boring and predictable classes into compelling learning experiences. Games give children a context and incentive to use the words they're learning. It also gets children laughing and talking with one another in the targeted language. Teaching a child Japanese is made simpler with the use of games.
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Online Japanese Language Games
With access to a computer, a child can practice Japanese vocabulary and sentence structure even without a teacher present. Online Japanese language games such as Digital Dialect's interactive Japanese games teach kids how to pronounce words in Japanese --- as spoken by a native Japanese speaker --- and grabs their attention with colourful pictures. When the child has learnt a lesson's words, she can reward her efforts by playing an interactive game in which she matches pictures to the Japanese word that is either spoken or written.
Fuku Warai ("Lucky Laugh")
When you teach Japanese to a child with a game that Japanese children play, you can educate the child about both culture and language in one go. The Japanese game "Fuku Warai" is reminiscent of the Western game "Pin the Tail on the Donkey," only it employs a human face in place of the donkey.
Before playing, the child prints out or draws the outline of his own face as well as separate drawings for eyes, ears, a mouth, a nose, eyebrows, hair and a beard. Cut out these shapes and teach the child the Japanese words for the parts of the face. Place the shapes on a table, blindfold the child and ask him to pick up each shape. It's your job to call out the Japanese word for the part of the face the child is holding, after which he tries to place the part in the right area on the face outline on the table.
Another traditional Japanese game that can help kids learn Japanese is "Karuta," or "cards." "Karuta" is a game best played with a large group, but as little as two kids playing and one teacher moderating can make the game amusing.
To play, choose a vocabulary lesson to be the subject of the game. For example, if you just taught the kids the words for animals, play "Karuta" with animal words. Draw or print out pictures of these animals on index cards--- the more cards, the better. Place all of the cards face up on the ground in no particular order and ask the children to sit in a circle around the cards. As the moderator, it's your job to say a Japanese word from the lesson one at a time. The kids' job is to search through all of the cards and grab the right card. The first child to choose the right card gets to keep that card for the duration of the game and earn a point; the child with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Imaginative Roleplaying Game
One of the aims of learning Japanese is to be able to use the language in everyday situations should the child ever go to Japan or speak with native Japanese speakers. Rather than just teaching kids a lesson out of a book, engage the children in imaginative roleplaying games at the end of each lesson.
For example, if the Japanese lesson focused on words to use while shopping --- such as how to ask the cost of an item or how to count out money --- bring in toy props and set up a "store" in the classroom. Ask one child to play the shopkeeper and other children to play the shoppers. Have the children use Japanese to conduct a transaction.
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