Recommend an iPad kanji writing flashcard app or JP app review site?
July 31, 2014 1:43 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any suggestions for a flashcard app for iPad for practicing *writing* kanji? Or any recommendations for Japanese review sites for iOS apps?

My situation is a bit unusual: I'm a fluent Japanese listener, speaker, and reader, but because of computers, I haven't actually *written* kanji out by hand in over a decade. So while I can read stuff like 「攪拌機で均等に掻き混ぜる」, I get stuck writing the most simple, basic kanji. I'm therefore looking for an app, preferably a flashcard app with spaced repetition or the like, that I can use to go back and practice kanji, from the true basics through the whole set of 常用 kanji.

I would imagine that these would be largely be apps aimed at Japanese folks, for passing the kanji kentei or the like, so Metafilter is not the best place to ask, which leads to the second question: I'm new to iOS (in fact, I'm not even getting the iPad until tomorrow), so I have no idea which review sites are decent and which are paid shill crap. This is especially true for the Japanese iOS market, because Japanese review sites are, on the whole, paid shill crap. So even if you don't have any kanji writing flashcard app recommendations, can anyone recommend any Japanese iOS app review sites whose reviews are even worth looking at?
posted by Bugbread to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
when i was learning japanese (i am not even close to as advanced as you are), i used japanese my way. i found it pretty comprehensive, and easy to use. one of the nice things is that there's a quiz mode that marks you wrong if you mess up the stroke order. in learning/flash card mode, it will tell you the correct order.

it's a little pricey for an app, but i found it infinitely helpful. another reason i bought it was it was based on the kanji book i was using at the time, but it also has a few others built in.
posted by koroshiya at 2:05 PM on July 31, 2014

I know you want iOS, but since the market for this is really Japanese school kids, Nintendo DS is way ahead. A few years ago I used a couple of DS games for this kind of practice. You could pick them up used at BookOff pretty cheaply. There were various kanji kentei training products but also some games that focussed on speed. Handwriting recognition on the DS screen was reasonably good. Most of the iOS stuff I've seen has been vocabulary development which you don't need.
posted by Gotanda at 4:56 PM on July 31, 2014

Skritter does Japanese. The default is a "snap to" the example strokes mode, where if you get close enough, it replaces your stroke with the perfect looking one. It does have a "scribble" mode, though, where what you draw is what you get, so you can practice drawing it nicely (vs. just remembering the character.)

Not so great on a desktop with mouse and/or trackpad. It's good on a touch-screen mobile, though.
posted by ctmf at 8:13 PM on July 31, 2014

Oh, and skritter is a SRS flashcard system, but you can load it with any from a pretty huge library of lists. So, most people probably go through the Grade 1, etc. but you don't have to.
posted by ctmf at 8:16 PM on July 31, 2014

Response by poster: Whoa, Skritter looks great, but $15 a month is way too expensive for me. I'd be cool paying for an app, but not an ongoing subscription.
posted by Bugbread at 8:35 PM on July 31, 2014

Seconding Skritter. It is excellent. If you decide to give it a try, I will shameless ask that you use username Tanizaki as your referral so we both get a free extra two weeks on our subscriptions. It costs $15/month but I think it is worth every penny. I would say that the writing area might be too large on an iPad screen. I find my iPhone screen to be the perfect size for mimicking writing with a pencil. (Link to my most recent Kanken cert is in my profile) I see in your update that the price is too steep for you, but I really recommend that you consider whether your writing ability is worth $15/month to you or not.

For non-subscription options, if you search the App Store for 漢字検定, you will get a ton of apps. I'd start with 漢検 あなた何級?and then start with study materials for whatever level it puts you at. There is also a series called 漢検 X級に挑戦 that have practice test sessions. I am sorry that so much is Kanken-related but that is just how the kanji drill market is. Most are free, although there are a few that cost a modest amount, usually $5 or so.

If you have a DS, two DS games that stick out to me are なぞっておぼえる 大人の漢字練習 完全版 and 財団法人日本漢字能力検定協会公認 漢検DS3デラックス. I think that both are excellent, although なぞっておぼえる 大人の漢字練習 is probably a bit more fun. Either should be pretty easy to find used at Book Off or a similar store.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:38 PM on July 31, 2014

I like Kanji LS Touch, a spaced repetition kanji writing trainer that I've got on my iPhone. Here's a YouTube video demonstrating its features, and here's the documentation.

It's got a database of 5012 kanji, and you can study one of the 14 predefined subsets (1st grade, 2nd grade, ..., 6th grade, the whole of secondary school, the jōyō kanji, each of the five JLPT levels or all the JLPT kanji together) or define your own. You can practice stroke order to your heart's content, then test yourself based on definition or on reading, as you prefer. So, the app tells you to write 'water' or みず and you give your best rendition of 水 then compare your strokes one by one in a split-screen with the canonical ones, and tell the app whether you got it right or not. Some people don't seem to like the fact that it doesn't try to decide for itself how well you did, but I think that's a strength; it means, for instance, that I can practice kanji on a rattly old train without being penalised for every unintended slip of my finger.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 12:59 PM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Belated caveat, sorry: my Japanese is only beginner-level, so there may be issues with that app that a beginner wouldn't spot. Also, it's not free, and I remember it being one of the more expensive apps (maybe as much as €10 when I bought it 3-4 years ago); but I can't find out how much it costs now because I already have it installed, so the App Store offers an "Open" button instead of a price on a "Buy" button.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:07 PM on August 1, 2014

Response by poster: ManyLeggedCreature, that looks really nice. The price is fine, too. There's only one thing that I'm curious about (and as a beginner, you might or might not know it). Some kanji don't really get used by themselves, only in compound words (can't think of any specific examples right now, though). All the examples I see are of individual kanji (Prompt: "grove, forest, はやし, リン" Answer: "林"), which is great up to a point, but do the default sets contain any compound words, something like prompt: "Confirm, カクニン" answer: "確認", or is it all single kanji only?
posted by Bugbread at 3:33 PM on August 1, 2014

I'm pretty sure it's only ever going to ask you for single kanji, but:

- one of the test types is "Missing Kanji", where the prompt is e.g. "_的地 place of destination", leaving you to fill in the blank with 目

- you might want to take a look at the sibling app Japanese, a vocabulary trainer that looks to support the same direct-entry /stroke-order-check answer style.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 12:01 AM on August 2, 2014

Response by poster: Okay, that missing kanji function is just what I was looking for, so that may be perfect.
posted by Bugbread at 2:06 AM on August 2, 2014

Response by poster: Just to provide closure: While I appreciated y'all's advice, I couldn't find something that was just right, so I ended up going a different direction: I searched through the App market for some free 漢検 programs, got the 小学生手書き漢字ドリル and 中学生手書き漢字ドリル, and Flashcards Deluxe. I'm now doing the drills, and when I don't get a question right, I add it to the Flashcards Deluxe manually. It's a great solution for my specific situation, but I doubt this question will be of much use to others. Sorry.
posted by Bugbread at 7:57 PM on August 9, 2014

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