This article is the first part of a serie dedicated to the different softwares for the Nintendo DS to learn the japanese Kanji.
The software 正しい漢字 かきとりくん “Tadashii Kanji Kakitorikun” was developed with the cooperation of 陰山英男先生 “professor Kageyama Hideo”, the vice-director of a primary school and honorary member of the special governmental commission in charge of the national education reform. He is known for 陰山メソッド “the Kageyama method”. It is mostly based on a healthy life style (breakfast, sleep early and wake up early, no exercise late at night) and on a regular practice with reading, writing and calculation ???? drills. The 百ます計算 “10 by 10 calculation table” is the quite famous in Japan because of the software version of the drill for the Nintendo DS. You can read this article on the Kageyama method to understand all the details. For now, let’s dive into Tadashii Kanji Kakitorikun for the Nintendo DS.
Tadashii Kanji Kakitori Kun
The Kageyama method used in the software Tadashii Kanji Kakitorikun is based on the concept of 漢字プリント “Kanji printed sheets”. It consists in filling up the blanks in sentences built around the 1006 Kanji that are learned during the first 6 years of the primary school. This software also has the advtantage of using a technology called DS美文字トレーニング “DS training for beautiful characters”. This technology was built by Nintendo and should be featured in an eponym software whose release date has not yet been announced. Unlike the other softwares in this category, this unique technology allows Tadashii Kanji Kakitori kun to evaluate the correctness of the Kanji you wrote. Another important feature of this software is that all the in-game japanese instructions shows the reading in hiragana. This is especially important for those who just started learning japanese. Let’s review in details the different functions of Tadashii Kanji Kakitori-kun.
User profile creation
When studying with Tadashii Kanji Kakitori kun you hold the Nintendo DS like a book. So the first thing that you will be asked is to select if you are 右利き “right handed” or 左利き “left handed” in order to get a correct orientation of the touch-screen. Then you will be able to enter your name in hiragana. Professor Kageyama will welcome you and explain how to use Tadashii Kanji Kakitorikun.
A Kanji a day
Everyday you will start by 毎日かきとり “learning a Kanji a day”. The software allows you to choose between 5 Kanji that are not yet learned. The main screen is used to show a reference model of the Kanji. You have to reproduce the model on the touchscreen and ask professor Kageyama to grade your Kanji. The Kanji is considered correct if your grade is above 50 points out of 100. The grade is based on several aspects such as the order of the strokes, the global shape of the Kanji, the shape of each strokes, the proportion and intersection of the strokes… When the evaluation is done you can verify the correct order of the stroke and check the professor’s comments.
After this quick test, professor Kageyama will greet you and mark your attendance on 出席簿 “the attendance calendar”. The greeting depends on your usage, on the time and the date. On a similar note, professor Kageyama also wears different clothes during the weekend. I suppose that there are others surprises on certain dates but I have not yet found any at the moment.
Learn how to write the Kanji
The first function of Tadashii Kanji Kakitori kun is かきとり “writing” that allows you to learn how to properly write the japanese Kanji along with the hiragana. However, there is nothing for the katakana.
You can choose to work on the hiragana or the Kanji studied during each years of the primary school. You can also display the highest grade that you obtained for each character in order to improve your writing. The presentation is similar to Mainichi Kakitori except for the facts that you can display the model in a transparent layer on the touchscreen and that you can verify the order of the strokes from the start. You need to score 50 points to access the exercices using this particular Kanji.
There are two types of exercices. The 漢字ドリル “Kanji drills” consist in filling up the blanks in sentences by writing the reading or the Kanji on the touchscreen. There are between 15 and 50 sentences for each years. If you forgot how to write the right Kanji you can access a dictionnary by taping on the area under the hiragana. The dictionnary allows to you to verify how to write the Kanji, its reading and some idioms. After you complete the sentence you can ask the professor to evaluate your answers. A symbol is drawn on top of the different Kanji : a blue cross for a mistake or a symbol that shows how well you did (triangle, circle, blue star, silver star, gold star). The answers are shown on the next screen where you can also check the Kanji by taping them. Unfortunately, there is no way to exercise your writing at this point.
The 熟語ドリル “Japanese idioms drills” focus on the reading and writing of words made of two or more Kanji. The main screen is used to show 熟語 “the idiom”, either written in Kanji or in hiragana. A hint that explains the meaning of the word is also displayed. You are asked to write the different Kanji or their reading on the touchscreen. You can also access the dictionnary just like in Kanji Drill.
The last feature of this software is called 力だめし “force + trial”. Its purpose is to allow you to check your knowledge of the japanese Kanji. There are two options: 力ためしテスト “force + trial + examination” where you can select a quizz for each year of study and ミニゲーム “mini-games”. The quizz is a mix between Kanji Drill and Jukugo Drill and the final score is based on the the total of the grades obtained for each Kanji that were drawn.
There are two mini-games. The first one is 漢字をつくろう “build a Kanji”. It consists in building a Kanji from a hint and its parts. You need to clear all the sentences for a particular year of study in Kanji Drill to be able to access this mini-game. There are 6 levels. When cleared, a small part of a picture will be revealed which might be entertaining for the intended public but it most certainly won’t be the case for you.
The second game 漢字をつなごう “link some Kanji” is a sort of crossword puzzle. You need to clear the exercices for one year in the Jukugo Drill. The game consists in drag-and-dropping Kanji into a grid to form Japanese idioms. There are also 6 levels per year and a picture as a prize for your efforts.
There isn’t a lot of options to deal with. You can toggle the background between static and dynamic mode, mute the sound effect or the music, delete your data, look at the roll cal and displays the credits. I have to admit that I have no idea about the sound effects or the music as I usually turn them off right of the bat.
- An evaluation based on the correctness of your writing,
- Clear and consistent presentation,
- Systematic method,
- Large and detailed Kanji
- Transparent layer to show the reference Kanji,
- A dictionnary showing reading and japanese idioms and their meaning.
- The dictionnary is not always available from the different features,
- You can’t train yourself on the Kanji you got wrong during the drills,
- Relatively slow interaction: for instance, you are always asked if you want to watch the explanation or start the exercise.
- During the drills or the examination, you can cheat by looking at the recognized Kanji to achieve a better writing. A reduced version of one’s own writing should be displayed to avoid that.
- The ‘erase’ button does not work as expected in the Jukugo drill. For instance, when writing hiragana, it does not erase the current character but the last hiragana that was recognized while allowing the current character to be recognized. When writing a Kanji, both the current and the last Kanji that was recognized are erased.
The evaluation system is incredibly difficult for some hiragana.
- It is sometimes difficult to understand where we made a mistake in our writing. A clear indication of the wrong strokes and the reasons could help.
- The software does not specifically display if the order of the strokes is wrong or not. The option to show the correct order is always displayed and there are some cases where a wrong stroke order will not result in 0 points. To be sure, you need to check the order by yourself which is not really convenient.
- The animation used to show the stroke order could be easier to understand if it had pauses between strokes or visual indications.
- The software is limited to the 1006 Kanji. If you are serious about learning the Kanji, you will need to know at least the set of 1945 usual Kanji.
- The motivation factor of the mini-game is probably fine for the originally intented public but will leave you indifferent. However, you probably have your own motivation to learn japanese, don’t you ?
The final word
If you keep using Tadashii Kanji kakitori-kun on a regular basis, you will definitly make a lot of progress. Tadashii Kanji Kakitorikun for Nintendo DS is mostly intented for the beginners but more advanced learners can also benefit from it as it is a great method to learn how to correctly write the japanese Kanji.
Your questions, your opinion
If you have a question feel free to write a comment. I also noticed that some of you already own the software so it might be interesting to share your own experience in the comments.
Buy Tadashii Kanji Kakitorikun
Tadashii Kanji Kakitorikun for Nintendo DS is available at beNippon, an online shop for all your japanese gear.