We were surprised to see a new Japanese language learning TV program from NHK starting a couple of weeks ago in the Friday 11-11:20am slot formerly occupied by 新日本語で暮らそう (ShinNihongo de Kurasou)!
The new show is 「エリンが挑戦！日本語できます」 (“Erin ga chousen! Nihongo dekimasu”, or “Erin’s Trying! You can learn Japanese”), and it follows the adventures of Erin, an ostensible exchange student studying at a Japanese high school. The first couple of episodes had her giving a short self-introduction to her classmates and taking a tour of the school.
While it may be early for first impressions, the show seems a little disappointing so far. 新日本語で暮らそう was cursed with the fastest-speaking human being outside of an auction hall, Rumi Sei, as a teacher, but it had really believable situations and roleplays, and made an effort to be all-inclusive by translating important points into five (5!) different languages on air. It also covered a good deal of material in a clear and concise way.
エリンが挑戦！, however, picks one or two simple phrases from a convoluted skit that doesn’t apply to 90% of the potential viewing audience, and explains them badly and only in Japanese. It manages to stretch a little material over 20 minutes quite easily. And the actress playing the exchange student, Erin, was born and grew up in Japan, thus speaking perfect Japanese!
There is one redeeming factor we should mention: after the introduction of this week’s phrase or grammar point, there is a montage of that phrase being used in a variety of real life situations. For example, the second episode included the phrase 「て下さい」 (“~te kudasai”, or “please do x”). The montage after included people asking for a haircut, asking for a demonstration of toys in a toy store, and more. These little clips were done very realistically and naturally, and really help to show the way that a phrase is used in normal life. It’s a very nice piece in an otherwise slightly disappointing series, that seems aimed at only a tiny part of the potential viewing audience.