Lately, I’ve been playing my very first Pokémon game, Pokémon Alpha Sapphire, very obsessively. I’ve been learning a lot about, say, which Pokémon types are strong against others, and I’ve started combing the game for secrets, as I hunt down “Legendary” Pokémon — rare, ultra-strong creatures.
But the game is also teaching me a few things that may be applicable to life outside of Pokémon. Like, say, a tiny bit of the Japanese language.
On TV screens throughout the game (mostly found in people’s houses in towns and cities) there are a number of cleverly disguised TV programs that give tips, hints, and yep, Japanese language lessons. One of these little programs is called “Koukan Talk,” another is “PokeQuiz,” and both give accessible, kid friendly little Japanese lessons.
True to the spirit of the game, it’s all related to meeting and greeting people (which supports the notion of Pokémon as a game about trading), or about the creatures themselves.
It’s an undeniably cool feature that’s further feeding my Pokémon addiction.
Take Turtwig for example. Turtwig’s name is Naetle in Japanese. The reason why is really cute and clever: “Nae means seedling in Japanese, and Turtwig has a seedling growing out of its head!” the little TV announced cheerfully. Squirtle’s Japanese name is Zenigame. The game enthusiastically explained that “‘Zeni’ is an old-fashioned word for money. Squirtle’s shells look like old coins, so that’s how they got their name!”
The Geodude Pokémon (an angry-looking rock with arms) is called “Ishitsubute” in Japanese. “‘Ishi’ means rock,” the game explained, “and ‘tsubute’ is like a throwing stone.”
Or, if I ever fall down this rabbit hole all the way and somehow make it out to a Japanese Pokémon tournament, my conversation starter will be “Ichibansuki na Pokémon wa?” which means “What’s your favorite Pokémon,” in Japanese. Or, maybe I’ll start with “Koukan shiyou yo,” which means “let’s trade.”