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MotherTongue May 24, 2010

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brilliant words, Hello Kitty, Japan, Publishing Tools, Toys.


I’m weirdly proud of this application because it was my idea, although my friend Mark


programmed it (does this make it pirate software?).  It just takes random hiragana or katakana characters and reads them aloud while highlighting them, equivalent to a mother reading to her child.  I like to think that this would help someone learn Japanese kana a little faster than flashcards.

Next I would like to port it to WinCE 5, so I could put it on my phone.  Hey, it could happen.

This is an application that works well for two reasons: one, Japanese is a monotonal language, so the syllables mostly sound the same no matter what order they are spoken in (not entirely true, but largely) and two, it’s a syllabic language in the first place (each symbol represents an entire syllable.  It’s hard to misspell in Japanese).

This program (MotherTongue.exe) can be used with other languages for this reason.  Just put .png files of the syllables of your new language with .mp3 files with the corresponding names in the same directory as MotherTongue.exe and start it up.  Purists might wish to use a silent syllable between words, but I haven’t bothered. It will also work with other sound and picture files, but I haven’t tested it with them, since my needs are already met.  I have toyed with the idea of using it to read Japanese aloud, but parsing random English-transliterated Japanese is liable to be too tricky to ask my boss to code up over beer.  I would have to move up to better bribes.

Leave comments about this if you would like. I would appreciate it.


EXCITING UPDATE:  I have written a version this for Android.  It’s ridiculous to put it on GooglePlay since I’m writing something much grander for language-learning activities generally but I’ll send it to you if you leave me contact info in the comments.

Additional update: strangely, this ancient post is still getting hits from somewhere. there are much better kinds of language-learning tools out there, most especially Google Translate, which can read you text in Japanese and a huge number of other languages, works in your browser or as an app on your phone.
Seriously, I am only leaving this page up because I am in love with the sound of my own writing.


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