Japanese Alphabet Study Guide

by Buddy Lindsey

From the creator or Tae-Kims guide to Japanese for the iPhone here is a guest post by a friend of mine, Ronald Timoshenko. This is a bit about his new application Japanese Alphabet Study Guide and why he decided to write it.

History

After completing the “Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese” app (or just “Learning Japanese”), I decided that I wanted to make an app that would be a great complement to the excellent content already written by Tae Kim. Grammar and special expressions are thoroughly covered in Tae Kim’s guide. So, I wanted to create something that could be used along-side that would assist users in learning Japanese in some way. That’s when I came up with the idea of the “Japanese Alphabet Study Guide”. Learning the Kana (Hiragana & Katakana) is one of the first steps in learning the language. And, since Romaji isn’t used in Tae Kim’s guide, it seemed like a great place to start. I decided to include Kanji as well because I wanted the app to continue to be useful, even after users had mastered the Kana.

Filling the Gap

I looked at some of what appeared to be the more popular Kana/Kanji apps and tried to include in my own app what users felt was lacking in others (based on the reviews they were leaving). Ultimately, I decided not to include everything I initially wanted to before releasing the app. It’s important to make sure the app is well-received before spending exorbitant amounts of development time on something nobody will use. Despite that fact, someone suggested I even reduce the functionality that I had already created, pointing out that perhaps I was trying to squeeze too much in the initial release. I would certainly like to build on what’s in this release (i.e., Kanji stroke order and stroke animations), but that all depends on how many people decide to download it. Such a thing is a significant effort, and as already mentioned, it makes little sense to invest in something that won’t be used (I’m reminded of the YAGNI programming mantra: You Ain’t Gonna Need It).

Personal Opinion

I think I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I’m kind of partial to going through the “Multiple Choice” mode with my own Kanji lists (you can create your own) and seeing how well I really know my Kanji. A “Flashcard” mode is also available, but you can’t say “Yeah, I think I know that one” with multiple choice. It’s either right or wrong, no “maybes”.

Anyway, I can tell you what I think of it, but I’m obviously going to be a bit biased. Try it out and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear some feedback. Thanks for reading.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 maja September 5, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Hi! I tried submitting a review to the itunes store, but I’m too impatient to see if it pops up, and this seems a better place to put it anyway. So, to repost:
First of all, this is the best application I’ve found so far for studying kanji. I’ve already learned hiragana and katakana, but I wish I had had this back when I was studying those! I can see myself using this to review katakana, which I sometimes find myself forgetting.
I have a few suggestions though:
First of all it would be nice to be able to randomize the flashcards, sometimes you remember the answer because you know which card will follow the other, not because you actually know the answer.
Second, for the words that are picked to represent the use of the kanji, it would be nice for a beginner like me if the word was a little more basic. Learning “monogamy” for the kanji for “one” isn’t very useful at this stage in my learning. The list of words attached to each kanji is a little overwhelming too, but I’m sure its great for more advanced learners. A request from me (as a Genki 1 level student) would be a shorter list of beginner’s vocabulary in addition to the long one. It would be great to pick out personalized vocabulary lists somehow, haha, but I guess that is a whole other application.
Third is an error I think I’ve found, the JLPT lists N3 and N2 appear to be the same list of kanji.

Otherwise I’m enjoying this application very much! Two thumbs up!

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2 Ronald Timoshenko September 5, 2010 at 8:31 pm

@maja, thanks for the suggestions! I’ll try to implement them in an update. Regarding the jlpt 2 & 3 sets being identical – that was intentional. The new 2 tests are the same as they were in previous years, but the 3 tests are a mix between level two and the old three. So I decided to make them the same set. I probably should have just made it into a single button… Thanks for the input. I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed my app!

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3 Theo January 20, 2011 at 1:34 am

Hey, love the app, absolutely 100% satisfied with it. I am just wondering if enough people downloaded it to where you’re going to add kanji stroke order? it would make your app pretty much perfect.

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4 Ronald Timoshenko February 15, 2011 at 3:48 pm

@Theo, Thanks! I’m glad you like it. I’ve got some big updates planned for the next major version. I’m working on a minor version update, and then I’ll release version 2.0 along with an iPad version after that. I’m trying to find the best way to include the stroke order… It might involve a complete redesign.

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5 Learn Hiragana June 28, 2011 at 10:52 am

Hmm… that looks like a nifty app, but… damn, something I really don’t like about most resources out there for practicing and reviewing the Japanese characters is that they rely on rote memorization: Drill the kana by hand so much that it hurts, repeat their stroke order so many times it is burned into your brain, cram your kana list everyday or forget everything…

There’s much better ways for mastering the Japanese characters, like using imaginative memory and/or pictographs for remembering the kana and following a method like Heisig’s method for learning and remembering the kanji. Also, nothing in the world like SRS software for reviewing those little buggers.

I would recommend you get Anki for the iPhone instead… it costs $24.99 I think, but it’s a LOT more effective.

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