With the advent of computers, e-mail, and all those other fancy things that causes our handwriting to be terrible and makes us dependent on spell check, getting opportunities to actually write kanji with our hands is becoming rarer and rarer. I know my hands hurt several seconds into writing something. I have weak hands that a grandma would scoff at (though they’re very beautiful, I’m pretty sure I could go into hand modeling if this whole blogging thing doesn’t work out).
The other day I got an e-mail from Skritter. They’re a pretty rag-tag bunch, but I like that. Skritter lets you practice writing kanji using various flash card sets (either Skritter made, community made, or you-made). Sure, you could do all this with your hands, but here’s what makes Skritter interesting.
Writing / Drawing Your Kanji Into Skritter
Let’s start with both the best and worst part about Skritter. You can draw kanji into the kanji area (it’ll ask you to write a kanji, and you write it) which is totally awesome… if you have a tablet. Now, Skritter seems to know this and they recommend some fairly affordable tablets that you can purchase to use with their service, but in my opinion you’re only getting around 25% of the potential benefit if you use your mouse to write stuff in. Take a look at how things are done below.
I was using my mouse (you can tell by how sloppy it is), though I imagine that if I pulled out my tablet It would be a much better experience. Using a mouse wasn’t bad per se, but it could have been better. Using a tablet will allow you to write faster, practice writing kanji the way you’d actually write kanji, and probably learn a lot more effectively. There’s just something weird about using a mouse, though it still works.
Practicing Stroke Order
If you watch the video above, you’ll see that I mess up the stroke order on 月 (whoops!). It took me a while to realize this, but Skritter actually keeps track of your stroke order accuracy as well. Here I thought I was pretty good at stroke order, but it turns out I’m kind of so-so, especially with more complicated kanji. Skritter’s a great tool for learning and practicing stroke order.
This is probably my favorite feature of Skritter right here – it’s something you can’t really get immediate feedback on when you’re writing with a pencil and paper.
For those of you who are beginners of kanji, you can also see the outline of the kanji as well (if you want). This is great for people just learning a kanji who need a little help, though it gives you as much (or as little) help as you need, when you need it. I’d recommend turning everything off, it’ll help you build your brain power up.
Skritter’s more about learning the vocab surrounding various kanji / words, which I think is great. That’s the more useful part, anyways, depending on what your goals are, and Skritter has a lot to learn from, including lists that come from various Japanese textbooks (Though TextFugu subscribers will have to wait – no TextFugu list yet).
On top of that, there are some user generated lists, Skritter lists, and lists you can make yourself. This isn’t a bad way to practice vocabulary at all. Where Smart.fm is great for being able to read vocab and kanji, Skritter is great for being able to write those same words. Although similar, I’d say they compliment each other very nicely.
All in all, Skritter’s a neat little tool. I’d definitely recommend you get a tablet if you’re going to use Skritter, though, otherwise you’re missing out. They have a two week free trial, though it’s going to cost you $9.95 a month after that. Not a bad price at all, if you ask me. That’s like going out to lunch, once a month, except you get to eat kanji instead. nom nom nom.
I probably wouldn’t recommend Skritter as your catch-all solution to Japanese learning, though I would recommend it to those of you who want to practice writing their kanji. It does a great job doing what it does, so if you treat it like that, you’ll have a wonderful experience.
Sign up for the trial and tell me what you think. What are your impressions of it?