Calligraphy seems to be a bit of a dying art these days. After all, when you can just type something and then select a different style of writing from a drop-down box, what is the point of actually doing it by hand?
The only real time we get to express our creativity or skill of handwriting is with our signature, which can range from the absolutely crazy to the perfectly kept.
But Japanese is a little bit of a different story. It has an entire alphabet that is basically made out of images that symbolize meanings. It is actually one of only two languages in the world that still use such a system of writing.
It almost lends itself to art. And if you get into the actual beauty of it, it can help you remember the kanji even more. But what if you can’t manage to get yourself into a Japanese calligraphy class? For example, you live out of Japan and just can’t get the exposure.
Well, there are plenty of apps made for Japanese to practice kanji, but they are filled with overly complicated menus and you end up practicing some words that might not be useful in everyday conversation or on the test. So what do you do? Maybe it is time to check out Skritter.com.
The Basics of Skritter
Skritter is a site that you can use to practice kanji, which in and of itself is nothing really new. But what’s different about Skritter is that it is a site for English speaking folks like us to practice kanji writing, which is hard to do without buying any native software to do it with.
The Skritter site allows you to practice hand-writing the kanji, which is pretty challenging and actually pretty fun. They recommend getting a writing pad to work with, but even without one it is a lot of fun to use with just a mouse.
A big plus is also the stroke by stroke feedback that guides you through writing the kanji. If you make a mistake it helps you right then and there instead of after you’ve completely written the kanji. This is something that even my trusty Tadashii Kanji Kakitori-Kun (for Nintendo DS) didn’t do.
Brand New iPhone App
They will be introducing a new iPhone app so that you can practice on the go with Skritter. I was lucky enough to get my hands on the pre-release version and I have to say they put a lot of work into making it a pretty polished app.
I especially like the guided tour that walks you through how to study. Another thing I also like is the Anki style flashcard prompts that come up when you are using the app. These are handy to not only learn how to write the kanji, but also to remember the definitions and readings.
It also comes packed with all the warm goodness of the website with over 141 textbooks full of words pre-loaded for you to study with. This handy if you are study a particular book and don’t want to go through all the drudgery of typing in your own words.
Pricing and Demos
Pricing for the web-app and iPhone app are a little high, they are $9.95/month to use them both (the same account can be used on both your iPhone and at your desktop). This might be out of the price range of the casual studier who might not be putting in too much time with kanji every month, but if you are big aficionado of kanji, this is THE app.
I highly recommend checking out there demos because they come fully featured and give you a good idea of what to expect. Also, they are running some specials when the app is released where you can sign up for the service for as low as $5/month if you sign up for 2 years. I should mention that you only need an account to add new words. If you plan on reviewing the words you already have you can do that without having to continue your subscription. This is a pretty cool feature actually because you can walk away from it if you get too busy and pick up where you left off.
If you are interested in seeing what the app looks like before it hits the app store sometime in the near future, take a look below at a short video I made of it:
What is your Take?
Have you tried Skritter? Is it worth it to practice writing the kanji? Let me know in the comments.