So the other day I bought a smartphone. Seemed kind of necessary, seeing as I should probably know how they work and what you can do with them. Anyway, then I spent a fair bit of time combing through the Google Play Store to see what was on offer regarding learning Japanese. The results seem to be split into three camps; very very serious ‘learn everything now’ apps, learn kanji apps (mostly flashcard type things, and/or quizlike) and ‘how to speak tourist phrases’.
There was only one app I could find that was remotely gamelike, and in terms of graphic design it lacks quite severely. It is also lacking in terms of game design and rather just reads like a slightly more interesting quiz. Things get slightly more gamelike when it comes to teaching hiragana or katakana but they’re still iffy quality.
I played Kanji Senpai for a while which was helpful because it forced me to remember my hirgana and katakana skills (which are ridiculously rusty) but I found that it had no breaks – I just kept going because I was waiting for a ‘level completion’ or something and ended up ‘learning’ 30-odd kanji/words. That wasn’t too bad, because I already knew over half of them, but it is way too much for learning from scratch and you would never remember them all.
What I did notice was that in comments on these apps what people wanted was to learn all of what they needed about the kanji from a single app – which is fair enough. Off the top of my head, these are the things you could be taught in relation to kanji, thinking also about what I need to teach through my game:
– the kanji itself
– how it is pronounced (hiragana/romaji) written
– how it is pronounced – spoken
– what it means in English
– stroke order (i.e. how to write) -this I don’t think is important. Writing out kanji over and over again -is- a good way to recall it later, but learning the number of strokes and the order in which to write them seems unnecessarily difficult for a generation who is more likely to type than handwrite in their non-native language, and even more likely to read than write.
– onyomi and kunyomi (multiple pronunciations)
– common words using this kanji
I think that’s the basics. Within my game the first level – the learn level – will confront the kanji, its onyomi pronunciation (both visually and aurally) and its English translation (in the form of a symbol). I have decided that a variation of ‘the bubble game’ is best for this for various reasons, which we’ll go into later so I have a clean copy of them to refer back to.
The second level – revision of sorts – should, if possible, introduce common words and multiple pronunciations. This may have to be more serious and less gamelike, which I’m trying to avoid but considering that the audience does want to learn so long as it has some engaging features gamification is not completely off the mark.