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University students in Japanese city create app and pamphlet to help foreign residents

Aman Semwal, second from right, who developed the Japanese language learning app Vocab, and others are pictured at Nonoichi City Hall in Ishikawa Prefecture, on Dec. 14, 2021. (Mainichi/Saori Kawabata)

NONOICHI, Ishikawa -- University students in this central Japan city donated a Japanese language learning app they created to the local government on Dec. 14, plus English information pamphlets they made about contact points for the city's foreign residents.

    Aman Semwal, a sophomore at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology (KIT)'s College of Engineering in Nonoichi, Ishikawa Prefecture, who developed the app, said, "It's free to download, so I hope people all over the world who are studying Japanese will use it."

    In academic 2017, KIT launched a project in its English classes to find and solve problems faced by foreign residents, by doing English interviews with foreigners living in the city about their problems and needs.

    The interviews revealed that information about the city government's consultation services was insufficient and that some foreign residents did not understand Japanese well. So, as part of the class, students produced an English pamphlet on contact information for city services, and the "Vocab" Japanese learning app.

    Vocab can be used on smartphones and other devices running Google's Android operating system. Semwal came to Japan from India when he was in the third year of junior high school due to his father's job, and speaks three languages: Japanese, English, and Hindi. He studied Japanese in school and by watching the news. The 21-year-old said that his experience of wanting to learn proper pronunciation helped him develop the app.

    The app contains more than 1,000 Japanese words and phrases in categories including "Introductions" and "Emergency" displayed with the corresponding English. The app also plays a voice saying the words in Japanese. In addition, the app includes simple phrases that can be used in emergencies, such as "What happened?" and "I want to seek refuge."

    Vocab is designed to be used even when there is no internet connection in the event of a disaster, and Semwal taught himself the skills to develop it. He said, "I think I can make even better services, so I want to make improvements."

    The application can be downloaded from Google Play by searching for "Vocab: Learn Japanese & JLPT."

    (Japanese original by Saori Kawabata, Osaka Regional News Department)

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