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SmartKanji: Your shortcut to kanji mastery?

smartkanji

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SmartKanji is softlaunching! We've analyzed millions of documents across genres, and now we're ready to let you learn kanji the smart way. Our results show that by learning just 500 kanji (+compounds) in the right order, you can read around 70% of most Japanese content. Hop on over to SmartKanji to check it out. Visually, we're in the way early stages (work-in-progress), so just focus on maximizing your learning. Right now, please access from your PC/tablet. Let us know what you think!
 
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Mike Cash

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The UI doesn't work and some of the text doesn't display correctly when accessed from my iPad.
 

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thomas

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Please do not advertise your app on the forum! Instead add a review to our review section and we'll take a look at it.

Reviews | Japan Forum
 

smartkanji

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The UI doesn't work and some of the text doesn't display correctly when accessed from my iPad.
Thank you for giving us that feedback, Mike. Yeah, we still need to do some styling and mobile optimization, in particular. Anyway, it seems that I should post this in a different thread. Sorry about that!
 

smartkanji

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Please do not advertise your app on the forum! Instead add a review to our review section and we'll take a look at it.

Reviews | Japan Forum
Sorry about that, Thomas. I was not aware of the house rules. My bad. Do you want me to delete this post and repost in the review section?
 

lanthas

 
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The name isn't exactly ideal... Searching Google for "SmartKanji" turns up smartkanji.net as the first result, a website which is clearly unrelated to yours.

Either way. Looking around the site, my first impressions weren't very good to say the least.
  • The introductory text is written in all caps (= yelling) and disappeared by itself before I finished reading it.
  • The site offers 9 levels with 9 kanji each, meaning 81 kanji total, not 500 as claimed. Apart from 一, not even the number kanji are included in this.
  • This vanishingly small amount of kanji actually reduces learning efficiency. 思 is easier to remember if you already know 田 and 心, but 田 is not included. 心 is, but only comes much later.
  • There's no search function, either for kanji ("what were the readings of 前 again?") or for sample words ("how do you pronounce 一般 again?").
  • There are no hints for remembering kanji. No component breakdown, no mnemonics, nothing.
  • Going from one kanji to the next is highly cumbersome. You need to click the "Back to circle" button (as using the browser's Back button gives a form resubmission error), hover over the Learn button to reveal the kanji (why aren't they visible from the start?), and click the next one. It gets worse when you reach the end of a level. Simple "Next" and "Previous" links at the kanji level would be much more user friendly.
  • The language dropdown contains three-letter language codes instead of names, doesn't contain "English", lists the currently selected language twice, and also lists languages for which a translation of the current kanji is not actually available. The first time I changed the language I also got a PHP error (though I can't seem to reproduce that one anymore).
  • There's no way to go back to the top page from a "Play" page. Manually removing everything after the domain name in the URL results in a redirect to the SmartKanji blog, which has no link back to the learning page.
  • Each example word is accompanied by two sets of "Buy now" buttons (which are in Danish regardless of the selected language). Are you telling me you expect money for the translation of these sample words (something any online dictionary will do for free) and bookmarking them (a builtin browser function)? Really?
There's a lot of work to be done before this site will become useful. Right now, it's sadly the worst kanji learning resource I have ever seen. Even if you struggle through the UI and its 486 sets of payment buttons, in the end you get less out of it than the first book of the "Genki - an introduction to elementary Japanese" series; that is, nowhere near enough to "read 70% of most Japanese content." Sorry to be this blunt, but that's how it is.
 
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smartkanji

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The name isn't exactly ideal... Searching Google for "SmartKanji" turns up smartkanji.net as the first result, a website which is clearly unrelated to yours.

Either way. Looking around the site, my first impressions weren't very good to say the least.
  • The introductory text is written in all caps (= yelling) and disappeared by itself before I finished reading it.
  • The site offers 9 levels with 9 kanji each, meaning 81 kanji total, not 500 as claimed. Apart from 一, not even the number kanji are included in this.
  • This vanishingly small amount of kanji actually reduces learning efficiency. 思 is easier to remember if you already know 田 and 心, but 田 is not included. 心 is, but only comes much later.
  • There's no search function, either for kanji ("what were the readings of 前 again?") or for sample words ("how do you pronounce 一般 again?").
  • There are no hints for remembering kanji. No component breakdown, no mnemonics, nothing.
  • Going from one kanji to the next is highly cumbersome. You need to click the "Back to circle" button (as using the browser's Back button gives a form resubmission error), hover over the Learn button to reveal the kanji (why aren't they visible from the start?), and click the next one. It gets worse when you reach the end of a level. Simple "Next" and "Previous" links at the kanji level would be much more user friendly.
  • The language dropdown contains three-letter language codes instead of names, doesn't contain "English", lists the currently selected language twice, and also lists languages for which a translation of the current kanji is not actually available. The first time I changed the language I also got a PHP error (though I can't seem to reproduce that one anymore).
  • There's no way to go back to the top page from a "Play" page. Manually removing everything after the domain name in the URL results in a redirect to the SmartKanji blog, which has no link back to the learning page.
  • Each example word is accompanied by two sets of "Buy now" buttons (which are in Danish regardless of the selected language). Are you telling me you expect money for the translation of these sample words (something any online dictionary will do for free) and bookmarking them (a builtin browser function)? Really?
There's a lot of work to be done before this site will become useful. Right now, it's sadly the worst kanji learning resource I have ever seen. Even if you struggle through the UI and its 486 sets of payment buttons, in the end you get less out of it than the first book of the "Genki - an introduction to elementary Japanese" series; that is, nowhere near enough to "read 70% of most Japanese content." Sorry to be this blunt, but that's how it is.
Dear Lanthas,
Thank you so much for your comprehensive feedback! This is highly valuable to us :emoji_grinning:
You are absolutely right on most of your points for improvement. However, regarding the number kanji, logging in (absolutely free, of course) will give you access to 1,500+ kanji - of course in order of statistic relevance.
The platform is work-in-progress, so we have focused on the content at this stage. The key novelty being that all kanji (singles as well as top 3 compounds for each single) are statistically ranked and validated on a big corpus we have ourselves compiled. This is a feature I have personally been missing (I have a PhD in computational linguistics, so I am a bit of a word frequency geek, haha). The "Buy now" buttons should read "Login", sorry about that. That you cannot get out of Play mode before you complete the level is not an accident, but you are probably right that there should be a "Quit game" option. Thanks, again! We plan to do SEO etc. once the UI/UX is finished. Anyway, I should not be posting in this thread, I was told. So again, please accept my apologies for intruding. Have a nice day!
 

Mike Cash

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It is so incomplete that it isn't ready to be submitted to the review section yet. I think it's probably alright to have a thread for feedback on it while it is in development. I think it might be better located in some other section than the Learning Japanese section, though.
 

thomas

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We can convert this thread to a review item at a later stage. Please continue any discussion in this thread.
 

lanthas

 
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regarding the number kanji, logging in (absolutely free, of course) will give you access to 1,500+ kanji
I see, that's good to know. The site doesn't mention this though; it only says that you can "save your achievements and much more" if you log in, not that it's required for getting more than a sample.

The key novelty being that all kanji (singles as well as top 3 compounds for each single) are statistically ranked and validated on a big corpus we have ourselves compiled.
Ordering by usage frequency is good for people who want to start trying to read stuff straight away, but it also has some important disadvantages:
  • Compound characters will tend to get placed before their components. For example, the common 待, 持 and 時 all contain the less common 寺. 門 is a prerequisite for 間 and 問. 刃 for 認; 舌 for 話; 吉 for 結; and so on and so forth. It's much more efficient for learning to show compound characters after their components.
  • Similar characters will not be grouped together. 土 is way more common than 士, but it still makes a lot of sense to show them right next to each other.
Of course, with there being so many kanji learning resources floating around, this "order by visual composition" approach has already been done. See KanjiDamage for example.

The "Buy now" buttons should read "Login", sorry about that.
I see you've already changed it. That's better 🙂:
 

smartkanji

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Really great feedback, Lanthas. Thanks again! I tried to fix some of the issues you listed (those which were easiest to fix quickly).
There is a lot of mnemonics we would like to add asap. Among them, grouping kanji by radicals, a search feature, and a listening test (AWS has a nice TTS service called Polly which produces high quality and natural Japanese audio).
Also, we have a feature I think you guys will find pretty cool. We call it text2list, and it is for advanced users/learners, but it allows access to our engine and produces content/circles tailored to the text content you upload. In other words, if you are in to fishing terminology in Japanese, and you have a few texts about the subject, you can switch from the default ranking to your domain-specific ranking. Thus you only study the kanji singles and compounds that are characteristic of the texts you want to read.
Anyway, we are mainly in this because we have a passion for kanji, so I promise not to post any commercial stuff. Really grateful, Thomas, for you allowing this thread in your forum :emoji_grinning: Perhaps, down the road, some of you might like to try out features like text2list...
 

mdchachi

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It's smartkanji.eu by the way. If we are allowed to discuss it, probably we should be allowed to know where it is.

I only looked briefly at it. Main thing I would say is to show the readings in hiragana or katakana if possible.

Certainly the idea has some promise. I like the idea of being able to upload emails/documents in my field and quizzing on the frequent kanji/words that appear there.
 
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smartkanji

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Thank you for that feedback, Mdchachi🙂:
  1. Since we are still working on the UI/UX (as you can see!), we are keeping the landing page a bit under Google's radar. Sorry for the inconvenience.
  2. Readings in かな is a good idea. We don't want to keep learners at the rōmaji level.
  3. Text2list: anybody who is interested, please register on the site (and let me know). I will then modify your account to give you access to this service. We are hosting the site on a micro linux instance in the AWS cloud, so that is why we don't have this feature available to the world.
  4. Search feature etc.: As Lanthas kindly pointed out, we still need to implement a lot of run-of-the-mill features users expect. We will be adding these asap.
 
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