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美文字トレーニング & 大人の漢字練習

Let me start this post by first reminding any new readers of my Japanese language background: I have a BA in Japanese Language and I spent four months living in 千葉市, 千葉県, Japan. I have yet to take a JLPT, but if I had to guess I’d say I could probably pass 2級 without too much trouble right now, if I prepared for the test (as frequently knowing the format for such things is just as important as knowing the material). The main reason I haven’t taken one yet is mostly because I keep forgetting to register in time, and the closest test location to me is in NYC where I do not live.
However, I do plan on taking the JLPT 1級, the hardest level, in December 2009 for two reasons:

  • 1. My theory is, if I study all year, I can get up to 1級 proficiency
  • 2. Beginning in 2010, 1級 will be even harder than it is right now.

With this in mind, I’m making good use of the internet and am continually searching for resources to help me strengthen my weak spots, most notably, kanji literacy.

Today, I’d like to make a quick post about two DS software programs I’m trying out, and my impressions of them so far. The first relates to the image above – 美文字トレーニング | Bimoji Training produced by Nintendo. The purpose of this software is to teach you how to write kanji more beautifully, a side effect of which I hope to be remembering how to write various kanji. It does seem quite good so far, but it appears to fall along the same lines as Brain Age in the sense that this should be daily training – you can only try so many per day. I’d prefer an infinite training mode (and there may be one I haven’t discovered yet) although the feedback you get from writing characters is pretty thorough…. providing you can read the feedback. This is going to be something I will say again and again about using DS software to learn Japanese – most are not made for English speaking learners of Japanese. They are made for the Japanese speaking public to practice with. Beginners will not really benefit from this, and intermediates might need to pull out their dictionary for a while until they learn the general vocabulary used.

The second software has a slightly longer and less obvious name: なぞっておぼえる大人の漢字練習完全版 | Nazotte Oboeru Otona no Kanji Renshuu Kanzenhan, which, simply translated, means “Trace and remember – Adult’s Kanji Practice, Complete Version. This one is more immediately helpful for me, and for any intermediate-advanced learner who lacks kanji knowledge. The kanji are broken down into levels, and sub-levels, so you can test yourself in small chunks of either 読み方(readings) or 書き方(writing), and to graduate each level, you get tested on both, chosen randomly. Since, again, this program is not designed for non-native learners, there are no English definitions, the words and phrases used may not be immediately obvious to foreign learners, but a dictionary and some persistence will earn you both kanji proficiency and a more robust vocabulary.

I imagine the example words and phrases might be obvious and everyday to people living in Japan, but to me many are new. You may be wondering where the “trace” portion is incorporated, and in fact if you aren’t paying attention it might slip by you at first. During revision and initial learning, if you don’t already know how to write a kanji, you can choose to have it give you the answer. After you’ve done this, and before you give the now obvious answer, you can choose to have it show you how you should write the kanji, and, even beyond that, you are given the chance to write it a dozen times over. I think my favorite part of this software is that it allows you to review just the kanji you were unable to read and/or write. This way you can strengthen your weak spots without dragging through reviewing ones you already know!
I’d more highly recommend Otona no Kanji Renshuu to intermediate to advanced learners of Japanese for kanji practice, as readings are more prominent. Bimoji will become more useful after the kanji themselves have been learned.

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