A trove of kanji-learning treasure in cyberspace


Vacation is over and kanji learners at schools around the planet are once again cracking the books. Increasingly, they and their teachers — as well as self-directed English-speaking kanji learners of all ages — are supplementing paper-based publications with online learning resources. Today, Kanji Clinic invites you to join its Third Annual Cyberspace Treasure Hunt, a quest for kanji-learning gems on the Web.

Many of you who have gone hunting with us in the past may now be regular visitors to the “old favorite” sites we dug up then. Two of these help foster a passionate habit that is shared by most successful kanji learners: daily reading of their target language. At Rikai (www.rikai.com) you enter the URL for any Japanese-language Web site and zap! — the pronunciations and meanings for every kanji in the text pop up on your screen. Goo (sp.cis.iwate-u.ac.jp/sp/lesson/j/doc/furigana.html) returns your desired Japanese URL with furigana (miniature hiragana written above the kanji to indicate pronunciation). Talk about convenient. The tedious process of looking up kanji in paper dictionaries while reading is becoming a thing of the past.

Daily reading of Japanese online is an ideal way to help prepare for the upper levels of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), to be held this year on Dec. 7. (Test takers in Japan have until tomorrow, Sept. 19, to postmark their application. Deadlines for overseas locations are also fast approaching. For details see www.aiej.or.jp.

Wondering which level you should register for? Take an online placement test (levels 2-4) at KanjiStep (www.kanjistep.com/en/online/weeklytest/intro.html).

The Kanji Site (www.kanjisite.com) is a popular meeting place for JLPT test takers on levels 2-4. Sadly, for those of you preparing to sweat through the Level 1 test, the online pickings are slim. But “The Internet TESL Journal” (iteslj.org/v/j/), which has multiple-choice vocabulary games featuring advanced Japanese vocabulary, is a valuable resource. A list of the 114 nongeneral-use characters that may come flying at you during your Level 1 exam is available at www.kanjiclinic.com/extra114.htm

Slime Forest Adventure (www.lrnj.com), downloadable freeware, should appeal to anime and video game fans aiming to master kanji and kana. In this fun game, you need to learn the shapes and English keywords for 250 characters in order to successfully complete a princess-rescuing adventure. Kanji Study Guide (www.kanjistudyguide.com) provides mnemonic devices for remembering the pronunciations of the kanji studied by Japanese first- and second-graders, as well as online handwriting tests. For the tests, you get to use your cursor to write the kanji on your screen.

If it turns out your kanji penmanship is not up to par, proceed to Gahoh (www.gahoh.com). At this cyber-classroom, you can watch nearly 2,000 characters being drawn (not all at the same time, however) in correct stroke order in QuickTime movie format. Gahoh also provides a handy Romanized list of the Japanese names for the traditional 214 radicals used in kanji dictionaries.

Joining the old-timer JAVA Kanji Flashcards 500 (www.nuthatch.com) is the new KanjiLearn (www2gol.com/users/jpc/Japan/Kanji/KanjiLearn), offering what appears to be the largest stack of free online English kanji flashcards available — 2,135.

For some high-octane kanji-learning inspiration, take a peek at the online writings of an American-born naturalized Japanese citizen, Arudou Debito (aka David Aldwinckle), at www.debito.org. This man publishes in Japanese on a variety of topics and gives us a glimpse of what the payoff can be for dedicated kanji study.

In case you have never done so, now is the time to consume the 12-page introduction to James Heisig’s best seller, Remembering the Kanji I (Japan Publications Trading) at www.ic.nanzan-u.ac.jp/SHUBUNKEN/publications/miscPublications/pdf/RK4/R44-00.pdf. Whether you love Heisig’s ideas or loathe them, attempting to punch some holes in his reasoning will force you to take a hard look at the ways you are currently spending your kanji-learning time and money.