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Review: Chugakusei Kanji Kakitori

7 Feb

Japanese: 中学生漢字(書き取り編)
Level: All
Format: App
Available on: iPhone/Android
Price: Free
Publisher: Gakko Net
Site: http://www.gakko-net.co.jp/

Chuugakusei Kanji Kakitori 4This is the second app published by Gakko Net designed to test your knowledge of kanji. Chugakusei Kanji Kakitori follows on from the previous app in the series, Shougakusei Tegaki Kanji Drill 1006 (see our earlier review here). Both apps work off the same formula and design features however this version doesn’t introduce any new kanji but does continue to test your knowledge of vocabulary.

The vocabulary appearing in this app is of a higher difficulty than that in the Shougakusei edition and is generally around N3 or N2 level. The kanji are presented more frequently in kanji compound words (熟語), which require you to know a kanji’s onyomi reading. This is in contrast to the Shougakusei app where kunyomi readings are more common. This isn’t that surprising considering the app is designed for middle school children so naturally they will have a much larger understanding of their language.

Words are divided into three difficulty levels with two groups per level. In total there are 600 questions, which means just only half of the 1006 kanji taught in the previous app appear here. This is a bit of a shame as it would be nice to have the ability to review all of the kanji available in the other app.

As in the Shougakusei version you draw the missing kanji in the compound on the screen to answer the question. This app is also pretty good at recognising handwritten kanji but we did encounter an occasional problem where it wouldn’t accept the correct kanji we had drawn. The answer button makes an appearance again providing you with the correct kanji for you to trace.

We did find a couple of glitches while testing the app that made us answer the same question twice in a row. Overall the stability of the app was good on our Android test device. We also noticed that the advertising along the bottom of this app was slightly more intrusive but it’s free it is a small compromise to make.

Chugakusei Kanji Kakitori is a decent app to practise your knowledge of kanji readings and handwriting. It isn’t as thorough as the previous app in the series since it is lacking quite a number of kanji but nevertheless makes a good revision tool. We recommend completing the app designed for Shougakusei students first before moving onto this app as the difficulty is significantly higher.

Score: 7/10

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Review: JLPT N2 Grammar Drills

6 Feb

Level: Upper intermediate, N2
Format: App (Android)
Publisher: Sanshusha Publishing Co. Ltd.
Site: http://www.sanshusha.co.jp/np/index.do

N2 Grammar Drills 1

JLPT N2 Grammar Drills is exactly that – an app designed to drill all the grammar that appears in level N2 of the JLPT. Developed and published by Sanshusha, this app is currently only available for Android devices and can be downloaded for free. The app is very user friendly and navigation requires no knowledge of Japanese.

There are nine units, each of which contains around 30 questions. Each unit focuses on grammar that is similar in either meaning or structure. Generally, around 20 grammar structures are included per unit, so given the limited number of questions you should only expect to see one or two questions per structure.

The questions themselves are multiple choice and require you to choose the correct answer from four options (and on the rare occasion from five). If you answer a question incorrectly you are given the right answer on the next screen.  A nice little addition is the kanji button in the top corner. When you press this button the app displays the readings of the kanji in the question. Though for some reason not all the kanji in the question are included, which we feel makes it a bit pointless. Once you’ve completed the unit you are shown an overview of your answers. Three quizzes that cover all nine units are also included so that you can review grammar terms from all units at once.

JLPT N2 Grammar Drills isn’t the prettiest app we have ever seen but the fonts are easy to read and it is nice to see a free app with no advertising. Throughout the test phase we didn’t experience any crashing on our Android device running ICS either.

If you are looking for an app that will teach you N2 grammar, then you should give this one a miss. Since there aren’t any grammar explanations this app is only really useful if you have previously studied the grammar from some other source (such as Kanzen Master N2 Grammar). It might be useful for doing a quick revision while on the bus to your exam site or in the days leading up to the JLPT, but overall the app’s use is rather limited.

SCORE: 4/10

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Review: Shougakusei Tegaki Kanji Drill 1006

30 Jan

Japanese: 小学生手書き漢字ドリル1006
Level: All
Format: App
Available on: Android, iPhone
Price: Free
Publisher: Gakko Net
Site: http://www.gakko-net.co.jp/Shougakkou Tegaki Kanji Drill 1006 (1)

This is a fantastic app for anyone who is learning kanji. Shougakusei Tegaki Kanji Drill 1006 covers all 1006 kanji learnt by students in Japanese elementary school and tests your ability to be able to recall and write kanji from memory. The app is available for both Android and Apple devices and best of all it’s free!

All kanji in this app are categorized based on the grade in which they are taught at Japanese elementary school, so 上 belongs to level 1, while 密 belongs to level 6. There are only 80 first grade kanji while there are in excess of 150 kanji for each of the remaining grades, again reflecting the curriculum taught at school in Japan. Within each grade, kanji are broken down into groups of five and when completed gives a score based on how well you did.

The app is easy to navigate with bright colourful menus and cute anime-style characters. However as the app is designed for students in Japan, there is no English to be seen. But as we are all students of Japanese, this shouldn’t pose too much of a problem! After selecting the level and group of kanji you would like to practice, a blank canvas appears with a word written in kanji or hiragana at the top.

A circle (or maru in Japanese) indicates which kanji you need to draw onto the canvas. Continuing with the above example, for 上 the phrase つくえの○ is given, and for 密 it’s 綿○な計画. The higher levels can be quite challenging, particularly if the word given is unfamiliar. You might find yourself having to rely on your knowledge of onyomi and kunyomi to make an educated guess! If you are completely stumped then the answer button is always there to save you…

Most of the time the app can accurately read the kanji you have written, or at least it will match it to the kanji it thinks is the closest. Sometimes it will ignore stroke order mistakes, while other times it will refuse to accept what you have drawn. On occasions we became so frustrated with the app not accepting our drawing, despite it being correct, that we hit the answer button and traced the kanji just so we could move on.

One thing we love about this app is the flexibility it adds to your study schedule. If you find yourself with five minutes or even an hour to spare, you can just whip out your phone and do a few reviews. Another great thing is the portability. It is great to be able to do kanji practice while on public transport, waiting for an appointment or laying in bed without having to lug around a huge kanji textbook!

As the app is free it is unsurprising that a small advertisement banner appears across the bottom of the app. This is no way detracts from the app’s usability and do not intrude on the user experience as a pop-ad may do. We didn’t experience any stability issues or crashes on our Android device while using this app either.

For those studying Japanese who are keen to practice kanji on-the-go and already have some knowledge of kanji, we highly recommend this app. Intermediate students will probably benefit the most from Tegaki Kanji Drill, as beginning students may find that they are unfamiliar with some of the words or the readings of kanji. Likewise, advanced users will find the earlier levels simple but will get a nice challenge out of the higher levels. Best of all it’s free, so really you have nothing to lose!

Score: 9/10

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