Today’s Nintendo DS kanji learning game review is for:
200 Man nin no Kanken
Kanji Test Practice for 2,000,000 People
About the Kanken
The Kanken (漢検) is a test designed for native Japanese speakers, but every year more and more Japanese learners give the test a go. There are ten levels (1 and 2 both have a pre-level making 12 total tests) that test the student on everything kanji. Unlike the JLPT, you have to know how to write kanji as well as be able to read them. For more on the Kanken see here and here.
Out of all the DS kanji training games I’ve tried, I like this one the best. It is simply excellent for improving your writing AND reading skills. Just like the Kanken test, this software is designed for native speakers. However, upper beginners and especially intermediates will greatly enjoy it.
This software is awesome for reviewing the readings of kanji in context. It isn’t great for studying brand-new-to-you kanji, but for reviewing kanji you’ve at least seen before, it makes nailing the kanji painless (and some would say, fun). Of course you can download programs to review the readings of kanji and jukugo on your computer that do just as well, but what makes this software so great is the DS’ stylus feature. Even when studying the reading of kanji, it forces you to write in kana. And of course when studying the kanji itself, you have to write the kanji for the kana presented. Writing it out (whether kana or kanji) helps make what you are learning concrete.
See our previous post for a discussion on whether a student should concentrate on learning to write or to just stick with reading. There are already a few good comments from other students! Thanks!
When you start, you get three options:
- はじめる hajimeru Start
- かんたん漢字力チェック kantan kanjiryoku chekku Check your kanji power
- 通信 tsuushin Multiplayer (test your kanji skills against another player with another DS)
The Kanji Check tests your current abilities, but I would skip it unless you have mastered the writing of several hundred kanji. We will just look at the ‘hajimeru’ today.
Clicking on はじめる, you then create an account. This allows the software to track your progress and keep stats.
Once logged in, again you can test your current kanji skills (#1 choice) and view your data and progress (#3), but the 学習 gakushuu or learning section is the real gold and where we are headed right now.
学習 gakushuu Learning Section
Choose #2, 学習. In the not so clear picture below, you can see on the left my stats (not much there for this profile) and on the right several choices:
- 書き取り kakitori Practice writing kanji (great for learning how to write kanji)—A sentence is shown. Based on the context, you have to write the kanji represented by the red lined kana on the screen to the left.
- 即読み漢字 sokuyomi kanji Tests you on the readings of the kanji (great for learning how to read kanji)—Pretty much the opposite of the above. It gives a sentence and one kanji (usually in a 熟語 kanji pair) has a red line beside it. You have to write in kana that reading.
- 筆順 hitsujun Stroke order practice—this displays a kanji on the left screen with one stroke in red. You have to write the number for which stroke it represents.
- 画数 gasuu Stroke Number—A kanji is presented and you have to write the total number of strokes
- And several others including 送りがな okurigana (This tests you on how to write the trailing hiragana after kanji (okurigana): 等しい or 等としい (the first is correct)), 四字熟語 yojijukugo (A compound of three or four kanji is given with one kanji replaced with a katakana. You have to write the correct kanji.), etc.
When you start the training for any of the above options, you choose which level you want (10 being the easiest, 1 the hardest) and it tests you with mini-quizzes of just a handful of questions each. This makes it great for studying on the go. Even if you have only a few minutes, you can do a couple of quizzes for a level.
As you can see from what is available above, it really gives a well rounded kanji education. In addition to choosing the level, you also choose from 1) Normal Training (results recorded in your stats), 2) Practice (results not recorded and you can practice each section over and over) and 3) Weak Points (reviews missed questions)
Here is a picture showing a quiz from the 書き取り.
Again, sorry for the quality, but you can see it has a timer at the top right of the left screen. Once the timer gets to 10 seconds, it starts giving you a hint to the bottom left.
You can see the red line next to the katakana that indicates which kanji you are to write over on the right screen. When you write a kanji you are happy with you can hit にんしき which will try to recognize what you wrote and display it in the box above. Usually it does a superb job. If it is the kanji you meant it to be, click on the けってい button to choose it. Then you will either see a big circle meaning you got it, or a big X meaning too bad.
I actually bought a Japanese PS2 a few years ago in order to play a previous version of this game. It was a great way to practice reading, but since the PS2 doesn’t have a stylus, it couldn’t really help with writing. Plus it was clumsy and not easy to navigate. This software is pretty much a dream application for kanji lovers. Again, it isn’t made specifically for those learning Japanese and it doesn’t give English meanings, but it is great for learning how to write kanji, remember the readings and even for learning the meanings since a sentence is usually give for context.
Highly recommended for those who have basic kanji under their belt and are looking for something to help practice kanji.