Japanese Keywords

It is already possible to use Japanese prompts with the KSP Android app. Currently, swiping the English keyword changes the default prompt language for that kanji to Japanese, with the kanji of interest masked. The prompt must be chosen from one of four dictionary entries, which have been farmed automatically from a publicly available dictionary of common Japanese words. The options are not always quite what you might choose if you were constructing a list of Japanese keywords. The biggest problem is the large number of homonyms in Japanese: some kanji appear in words that sound the same as other kanji, so the prompt you choose from the dictionary may not be unique. (Although the kanji itself disambiguates the definition, it is masked – a classic Catch 22.)

The final version of the app will make it possible to have one dedicated Japanese keyword for each kanji, which will appear as a kana pronunciation (as well as a kanji compound with the kanji of interest masked). This will be similar to the process described by wrightak, here:


… but with some kanji, KSP will choose Japanese keywords along the lines of the list offered here:


Both of these lists have their own issues, and no solution will please everyone, but one priority in making the KSP list will be to avoid duplicates, something not quite achieved with wrightak’s list. Matching the Japanese keyword to the English keyword will not be a priority, but KSP will note where the meanings diverge.

KSP will still be recommending that beginners start with English keywords, so that the task of assigning meaning to the visual representation of the kanji is as easy as possible, but the Android app will offer the option of switching to a Japanese prompt when the kanji is known at a specific, user-chosen level. For instance, kanji known at level 5 or higher could automatically switch to a Japanese prompt. The first time the kanji is shown after the switch, the English keyword will also be offered, but subsequently the English keyword will be suppressed. (Tapping the Japanese prompt will display a translation as well as the English keyword.)

From Heisig to Vocab – A Test of Keywords

I have just added a vocab list consisting of 669 entries, which has been recommended for the introductory level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be scoring each of the entries according to how well the English keyword associated with each kanji would prepare a beginner for the meaning of the actual Japanese word using that kanji. Scores will range from 0/5 (the keyword is no help at all) to 5/5 (a student armed with nothing but the keyword would guess the correct meaning). An example of a 5/5 entry is ‘‘, meaning ‘blue’, which is exactly what the keyword would lead us to expect. An example of a 4/5 entry is ‘‘, meaning ‘afterwards’, which is related to the keyword ‘behind’ but not quite the same.

I’ll publish the results here, for people who are wondering how well a Heisig-style approach will prepare them for learning real vocabulary.

Share your Kanji Milestones

MilestonesLinkA new feature is being added to the KSP app, which will let the android device post a very short message to this website when the kanji-learner reaches a target of 50, 100, 200, 500, 1500 or 2000 kanji, or when they complete the joyo kanji. The message will not contain any private information except username and kanji count, and it will be optional.

Your achievement will appear on the app screen, as shown above (but no, you won’t be praised for learning 2 kanji – that’s just a demo). It will also appear on the Milestones page. The web page will be able to show a lot more detail than the excerpt on the app screen.

To access this function, users will need to have a login name at this website and they will need to enter the same name as their user name within the app. Unmatched names will be reported to the server but will not be processed.

Why bother entering a name? Partly, because you deserve recognition if you learn 1000 kanji. Partly, because your progress may motivate others. By looking at the list of other people’s milestones, and by paying attention to who is at the same part of their kanji journey as you, it may be possible to identify potential study partners.


Spam Registrations

The last version of this site drowned in spam registrations and comments… I have installed an antispam monitor but I note that several new registrations have come already through today, between de-activiating the initial captcha plugin and the new antispam plugin.

It may seem harsh, but I will delete any account where a user signs up and makes no contribution to the discussion. The grace period will be one day.