A while ago I tried (without success) to buy Shichida flashcards from the Japanese Shichida website. After a few days of scouring the internet, I found out that similar cards were available on taobao.com, from a retailer that claims that they are the only authentic, Shichida-approved retailer in China.
(Compare it with the ‘original’ flashcards on the Japan Shichida website)
There are certain similarities, for example,
- the total number of cards is 1800.
- it has 1200 nouns and 400 verb cards and 200 expression/opposite cards
- the cards are all packed in smaller boxes
However there are some discrepancies:
- the back of the japanese card only has english words while the china set has 8 languages
- the box is obviously different (which may still be ok, since it is the ‘China version’)
- no DVD in the China set
- price is different – 27,720 yen for the Japan set (is $349) and 2688 rmb for the China set (is $546) (Wow such a big difference!)
I had heard about taobao a while back but I successfully resisted buying things from there (the same cannot be said of gmarket) because I heard that some of the sellers are cheats and they may run away with your money. Also, some of the items sold are fake (usually the fake things are cheaper, but this may not be true all the time). Buying from taobao usually involves going through a third party (or ‘agent’) who has a receiving warehouse in China and will help you to ship the goods over to Singapore. There are many many agents out there and most of their websites are quite user-friendly so if you are intending to buy something from taobao you can google for them.
Anyway, the description of the flashcards on the website seemed so fantastic (the positive reviews also helped) so I decided to take the plunge and make my first purchase. The desire to buy the flashcards comes partially from getting tired of making new flashcards (almost) everyday for a month or so..
I used 65daigou.com (this is in no way an advertisement or endorsement, I am just merely stating the agent I used) even after reading a few negative forum reviews (the other agents out there also had negative reviews too, so after a while I just randomly picked one).
The flashcards were super heavy (22kg) so I had to get it shipped by sea to save on the shipping charges. In total, I paid $751, which works out to be about 41cents per flashcard. (I thought I saw a local trying to sell the exact same set online for more than $1k).
After half a month of waiting, I finally received my cards!
The box was slightly dented but the cards inside survived the ride..
The quality of the cards are quite good, the paper is very thick..probably 350gsm as advertised. The pictures look authentic, and comparing it to the ones on the Japanese website it does look the same.
The variety of cards is amazing, but some of the items are strange – there were pictures of children in various activities, to describe each day of the week? It didn’t make sense to me..
I like the cards for having both English and Chinese at the back of them, this allows me to teach Chinese sometimes. I don’t really care for the other languages – I can’t pronounce them well even if I had wanted to teach.
Interestingly, I observed that the ‘Animal flashcards’ the are flashed on the TV screen during the Shichida lessons have the same pictures as the cards that I have bought.
The set came with about 10 blank flashcards (Not much use to me), a (Chinese) guide on how to flash the cards, and a list of all the cards. They even threw in 5 pieces of rubber fingertips to use when flashing the cards. How thoughtful..
Now, there are some negative points of these cards (which probably apply to the Japan one as well, if it is indeed authentic)
- these cards are not arranged in sets of 10, which is the recommended size of each flashcard set. As a consequence of that I had to manually arrange these cards into sets of 10, plus minus 1 or 2 (because sometimes there were just 1 or 2 more cards of the same category).
- the first few categories were simple enough (animals, fruits, vegetables, food, occupations, sports…), but as we got to the back the cards didn’t seem to be readily sorted into categories. My wife and I had to spend about an hour trying to figure out how to place the ‘unsorted’ items into categories of 10.
- Even after doing up sets of 10, there was no title card, so I had to make title cards for them (imagine 1800 cards = 180 sets = 180 title cards)
- The cards have no corners cut into them so it was hard to differentiate one set from another when they were all stacked together (for those who don’t know about cutting corners, see this mummy’s blog). I didn’t want to cut corners into my expensive, lovely flashcards, so I managed to get around this problem by laminating all my title cards. After the A5 title card is laminated it stands out just slightly larger than the the rest, so just by running you hand at the top of the stack of cards you will be able to pick out one set easily.
- I know these cards are probably as ‘real’ as the ones you can get from Japan, but somehow I would still prefer pictures of real items then drawings..but that’s just my preference.
Overall, I would say that these flashcards are either authentic (they are really authorised by Shichida), or they are really good at making pirated stuff nowadays. It is very expensive though (cost a term of Shichida lessons!), but the amount of time it saves me..and the potential benefit it can bring to Samantha, cannot be quantified in terms of money..