My fourth DS game for learning Japanese arrived in the mail yesterday. Kanken DS 2 + Joyo Kanji Jiten (漢検DS2+常用漢字辞典) is the name of it. The thing that excited me the most about this DS title was the dictionary (jiten or 辞典). After messing around with it for an hour I have to say that the thing I am most disappointed with is the dictionary. However, everything else is much better than expected. I think this may even end up being a more useful tool than my previous favorite, Nazotte Oboeru Otona no Kanji Renshuu Kanzenhan.
Let’s take a brief look at some of the features with some screenshots I took.
The above screen is a practice test at level 9. There are 10 levels in Kanken 2 corresponding to the 10 levels of the Japanese Kanji Aptitude Test (Nihon Kanji Nōryoku Kentei Shiken, 日本漢字能力検定試験). Level 10 is the easiest level and level 1 is the most difficult.
The format looks fairly similar to the quizzes in Tadashii Kanji Kakitorikun Kanken Taisaku. However, Kanken 2 is far superior in my opinion. With the above on the top screen, the user writes らいしゅう, one hiragana character at a time, on the lower screen. After touching OK the next screen appears.
Now the user writes にちようび (日曜日) and so on. The quizzes are more interesting than those found in Tadashii Kanji… or Nazotte… as the content varies and is not the same format over and over again like those games. For instance, after filling in the hiragana for several kanji marked in red a different task is required as follows.
Now the user has to write the number of the stroke highlighted in red. What happens if you make a mistake?
In this case I wrote 10 instead of the correct answer of 9. One thing I really like about Kanken 2 is that instead of just taking me to the next task I am given the option of going to the dictionary for this character. If I click on the orange box I go to the dictionary.
The dictionary is usually three pages wide. Above I am showing you photographs of two of those three pages. As you can see the dictionary doesn’t offer much more than the Nazotte… dictionary. The dictionary has stroke order, on and kun readings, number of strokes, and radicals. That’s it. Nazotte… doesn’t have radicals, but it has all of the other items.
If a Kanken 3 ever comes out I hope Rocket Company (the software publisher) adds three things to the dictionary: example jukugo, a brief definition in Japanese, and two or three meanings in English. This would be very useful for both Japanese and gaijin users of the program.
Other than the addition of radicals, there are two other things about the dictionary that make it superior to those found in Tadashii Kanji… and Nazotte… The first I mentioned above in that you can leap to the dictionary whenever you miss something. The other is that you can look kanji up by sound. For instance, you can write kei (けい) and be taken to a screen with every kanji that has a kei reading. You can also click on any of the kei kanji to be taken to the dictionary screens for that particular kanji.
In summary, (although if there is interest I’ll post more screenshots and discussion of this title on this blog in the future) the games and quizzes in Kanken 2 appear to be much more enjoyable and varied than those in previously mentioned DS games teaching kanji that I’ve experienced. The character recognition is better than My Japanese Coach but not as good as Nazotte… However, Kanken 2 doesn’t give the false positives that Nazotte… sometimes does. Another complaint of Kanken 2 is the size of the characters on the screen. Nazotte… is much easier on the eyes. Still, my prediction is that I will be using Kanken 2 much more than Nazotte… in the future simply because it is more entertaining while accomplishing the same goal of kanji mastery.