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June 19, 2003

Toying With English

There is a growing range of toys that help young children become familiar with English as they play. Recently released examples include Konami's Sound Cube-kun, a series of puzzles that can be assembled into different objects such as animals, vehicles or food. When complete, the toy speaks the name of the object in English. The toy is targeted at kids 2-4 years old and retails for ¥1,280. Another toy is a puzzle imported by Bornelund from Holland that has a letter on each piece. When assembled in alphabetical order, the ¥3,800 toy forms an open-mouthed crocodile. Gakken Toy Hobby sell the US-made Odyssey Globe (¥25,000), which uses a stylus to speak the names of places around the world in both English and Japanese. Other functions include a clock that announces the local times of selected locations in English. The globe also has prerecorded geography quizzes in English and Japanese including questions such as, "What is the capital of Japan?"

Meanwhile, according to a survey by Miki House Kosodate Soken, over 60% of parents chose English as the subject they most want their kids to learn in after-school private lessons.

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