Japanese and Chinese Learning Ap Skritter Review
Although it seems like it was primarily built for people learning Chinese characters, Skritter is an app for iPhone and Android that is very useful for learning kanji, which comprise the bulk of Japanese writing. With hiragana and katakana, a symbol stands for a spoken syllable. With kanji, the symbol (based on Chinese characters, although sometimes with slightly different meanings in Japanese) stands for a concept. So the kanji for "flower" will be used together with other kanji to make "flower pot", "flower bed", and so on.
A kanji can be read multiple ways, and many kanji can refer to different concepts but represent the same sounds. They also have to just be memorized, like Chinese characters, and there are a lot of them. So, kanji is often the most difficult part of learning Japanese. While I like the Japanese sentence structure and think the grammar is relatively simple, kanji are difficult for any foreigner learning the language (if they aren't already familiar with Chinese characters).
Therefore, to find the best app for learning Japanese online, you need one that can help you with the specifics of Japanese. Multi-linguistic programs tend to focus on Western European languages. Almost all of these languages, if you notice, will use the Roman alphabet. If you want to understand a language that uses a writing system other than that, you need a program specific to that writing system. While many apps, websites, and software programs are focused on the spoken word, hearing and repeating what is heard, I chose Skritter because my goal is to improve my ability to read kanji specifically. (I already have heard more spoken Japanese sentences than I know what to do with, as an anime reviewer!)
Skritter has some nice features. First of all, if you've taken a Japanese class, your textbook will probably be available, allowing you to practice from a textbook you already own or are already familiar with. (I used Yokooso! from my Japanese class.) I've tried other kanji apps that focus on stroke order and memorization, but this app seems focused on vocabulary building.
When I first started the app, it told me I would be practicing by drawing the characters with my fingers, and it had me do that. But probably because I was in Yokooso!, they had me simply memorizing vocabulary from the book instead of practicing drawing the characters. I find it a little hard to switch between textbooks, and hard to tell the app exactly what you want (I want more kanji drawing practice, but am not sure how to get it). With the vocab, it doesn't really quiz you. You just touch the right side of the touch screen to say "got it" and it moves on. I would prefer something that had a game that would test my knowledge, because without that, it's hard for me to really know if I know the words I'm studying or if I'm just hitting "right" a bunch of times.
So basically, I'm impressed by their extensive library of Japanese language learning books, but a little disappointed with the app in general. I honestly don't think I will pay for it when my free trial is up. It seems like they want a lot (15 bucks a month?) for an app that isn't fun, is kind of confusing, and doesn't offer true assessment, which is a core component of any good learning process. It also just isn't giving me what I wanted, which is kanji practice. I've had to click right past a ton of katakana words in my textbook. It's kind of boring. I would like a kanji app that makes kanji fun, more like a video game. Alas, that app isn't Skritter, which quickly begins to feel dull and repetitive.