Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or have a social life with real people, you’ve probably heard about Apple’s crazy new product: the iPad. What is the iPad, you ask? It’s a 9.7-inch touch-screen tablet that lets you watch movies, listen to music, surf the Web, and read books. While all those other things are all nice and dandy, for those of us studying Japanese it may also turn into an amazing study tool. Those things are all nice and dandy, but what’s really exciting about the iPad is its potential to become an amazing study tool for those of us learning Japanese.
Here is how I see it. If you’re a hard-core learner of Japanese, you’ve probably got a bag full of study materials that you haul around everywhere you go. There’s your Japanese language grammar book, your kanji book, your electric dictionary, the Japanese children’s book you’re trying to read, your study notebook and journal, flash cards and note cards, and if you’re lucky also an iPod filled with J-pop music and maybe a Japanese movie you’re trying to get through. Now imagine you can replace all those things with an iPad. It’s not such a stretch.
Image from tofugu.com
First and foremost, Apple is trying to sell people on using the iPad as an eReader. Meaning you can download books from their store (just as you can download music from the iTunes store) and you read them on the go. Instead of carrying around four or five books you now just carry around a 1.5-pound iPad. The best part is you no longer have to decide which book to carry when you leave the house, because you’ll have them all with you.
The area in which the iPad will really shine is software. Since the iPad is running the same operating system as Apple’s iPhone, the iPad has access to any of the 120,000 iPhone applications that have been written. For example, all the Japanese learning tools outlined in this or this WIV article can be run on the iPad, no problem. What does this mean for you? Now you can leave behind your electronic dictionary, your flash cards and your notebook. The iPad can serve all these functions.
If that doesn’t thrill you, then how about watching videos and listening to music? You could download Japanese podcasts for studying, or put your favorite Japanese movies and music on your iPad. Plus, if you sign up for the Japanese version of the iTunes store you can have access to thousands of Japanese movies, TV shows, music and books to help you study. If you spring for the more expensive iPad (and a $30 wireless plan) you could use the always-on Internet connection to access any Web-based Japanese content you want.
While the iPad hasn’t been released yet in any country, it’s worth a look if you’re a frequent traveler and dedicated learner. And with an entry level price point of $500, it’s something that will be affordable to most people.