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KanjiLearn, the portable and easy-to-use kanji flashcard program

Click here to start the KanjiLearn program

What is KanjiLearn?

It is often thought or said that kanji (also called Chinese Characters) are one of the most difficult part of learning Japanese. The Japanese themselves sometimes find kanji boring to learn, too easy to forget and the 10 years that it takes to assimilate the necessary 2000 kanji is sometimes seen as a waste of time. Well, like everything else, it is only a question of how it is taught and learned. With the proper tools, it is not difficult to learn and keep remembering these characters, it is a lot of fun, it widens one's perspective to the language and it is an important factor to understanding the culture and mind set of the Japanese (and to some extent, the Asian region).

And THE proper tool to learn kanji is a good set of flashcards!

KanjiLearn is an electronic set of 2135 two-sided flashcards, which is as easy to use as paper flashcards. It is Web-based (nothing to download, install, or configure), all you need is Microsoft Internet Explorer version 4.0 (IE4) or later, with the Microsoft IE4 Japanese Language Pack installed. See the KanjiLearn Requirements chapter for details.

Each KanjiLearn flashcard contains similar information as a paper-flashcard (kanji number, grade, readings, meanings, stroke count, radical, sample words...) and a lot more, such as frequency of use for each character, same reading characters, same radical characters, same meaning characters. KanjiLearn also includes search capabilities, by number, frequency, etc...

The navigation between flashcards is also much more flexible than paper-flashcards. Using just 3 buttons (Back, Flip, Next), you can navigate randomly among the 2135 cards (or among subset of these, such as "All Grade 4 Cards", or "All Japanese Proficiency Test Level 2 Cards"), linearly to the next card by number, to the next card by frequency... At any time, you can go back to the last card, or any other card before that. And of course you can flip the card back and forth. You can click on anything you see and a context sensitive popup menu will appear, whether showing characters with similar characteristics (for example if you click on the radical of a kanji, the popup menu will show all characters that have this radical).

For details on KanjiLearn usage, click on the item you want to checkout on the big bitmap on top of this page.

If you have comments, ideas on how to improve this program, or just want to drop me a few lines, do not hesitate to e-mail me.


The History of KanjiLearn

When I started learning kanji, as part of my 2 years Japanese course in Tokyo, I wanted to learn efficiently, have fun and make sure that I would not forget them. I was easily convinced that flashcards are THE only way to efficiently learn kanji (the Japanese have 10 years to learn them, we gaijin don't). I looked at all flashcard sets commercially available at that time and only one seemed really appropriate, Alexander Kask's Kanji Cards, which includes the first 440 kanji. I bought these and found them so good that I recommended it to my school and now many people I know are using them. Note that a second set was released later, Kanji Cards II, which is almost as good as the first one and includes the next 566 kanji (both sets all together, containing the Grade 1 to 6 kanji).

But after a while, I realized that I needed more than that. I needed to know all kanji that are similar in shape, pronunciation, or meaning to a new kanji I was learning. I needed to quickly checkout a kanji I learned a year ago that I felt I was forgetting. I needed to review from time to time, the hundreds kanji I had learned before, especially the important ones, not the useless ones. Paper flashcards didn't provide all these, my Sharp Zaurus either and only an electronic flashcard program could do it.

So I went shopping for software flashcard program. I guess this is a small market because there aren't many. There are the commercial ones, with cool animated stroke orders, buttons everywhere, 3D pictures of characters, advanced tests generators and all. I found them really too complicated to use. Then there are the shareware or freeware ones, which are as complicated as the commercial ones, and often limited to a small number of kanji. Not to mention that many flashcard software are based too much on the KANJIDIC kanji dictionary, which often contains quite many useless information.

So, I decided to write my own, which I named KanjiLearn (a pretty boring name, I must agree) in Visual C++. It was simple, but fast and very helpful for my own studies. I showed it once to a friend of mine whose Japanese was a lot better than mine and his comment was that it was not portable (it could only run on Japanese Windows 95, nothing else). What was actually needed was the same functionality running on several platforms, including PDAs (reviewing kanji while stuck in a crowded train in Tokyo for an hour is a cool way to kill time). When Microsoft came up with Internet Explorer 4.0, with DHTML and Japanese Language support for non-Japanese OSes, I decided to rewrite KanjiLearn entirely in JavaScript, and at the same time, make it as easy to use as a paper flashcard.

I now use KanjiLearn almost everyday, to review old kanjis, prepare exams and learn new ones.

Soon, I will be moving all Kanji related pages (including KanjiLearn) to my own Web server at http://www.kanjilearn.com. Stay tuned...


KanjiLearn Requirements

Software Requirements.

Microsoft Windows (95/98/NT), any language.
Microsoft Explorer 4.0 (IE4) or later, any language.
Microsoft Explorer Japanese Language Pack (that you can find here), if not Japanese Windows.

KanjiLearn doesn't work on IE4 Mac/UNIX and non-Microsoft browsers because these do not support the Microsoft Tabular Control, which is used by KanjiLearn.

Hardware Requirements.

Any Pentium class machine should be fine, with at least 16Mb of RAM and a screen resolution of 800x600 minimum. As for the modem speed, a plain 28.8kpbs will do fine, although the first time you access the KanjiLearn program, you will have to wait for a few minutes for Explorer to cache the data files (~400kb).


KanjiLearn FAQ

What is Kanji?
Kanji refers to the characters used in Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean writing systems. For more, please check out my kanji pages.

What is KanjiLearn?
KanjiLearn is a set of 2135 electronic Web-based Japanese kanji flashcards, as easy to use as paper flashcards and providing powerful search and matching capabilities. All you need is your browser to run this program; nothing to download, nothing to install, no learning curve. For more, please check out the KanjiLearn intro.

Is KanjiLearn free of charge?
Yes, but it is copyrighted. You can use it, copy it, modify it... with no restriction as long as it is not for commercial use. For more, please check out the KanjiLearn Copyright page.

When I go to KanjiLearn page, it takes one or two minutes before displaying the first card. Why?
Because the browser has to automatically download the data file (containing all the info about the 2135 kanji), which is about 400k. This may take a few minutes. After it is downloaded (and therefore in the browser cache), all runs fast.

Using KanjiLearn, I sometimes get a JavaScript error dialog. What should I do?
If you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer version 4.0 or later, just click Yes on the dialog reporting the dialog. If more errors come after that, close your browser, restart it and try again. If these errors still happen, please e-mail me.

I am using a Netscape browser and KanjiLearn doesn't seem work with Netscape.
KanjiLearn is unfortunately not compatible with Netscape browser. The problem with Netscape is that they do not provide any easy-to-use data binding solution with their browsers and Web designers are left with (relatively) complicated CGI scripting (which is not allowed on my ISP anyway). Microsoft is the only one providing a cool data binding solution packaged in an ActiveX control, which I use. This control is not understood by Netscape browsers.

I found a card in KanjiLearn that contains a erroneous information. What should I do?
Please e-mail me.

Can I use KanjiLearn offline?
Yes, just download this entire directory.

Why is KanjiLearn limited to the first 2135 kanji only?
Because when you know these 2135, you are theoritically all set for reading Japanese. However, for the Kanji Proficiency Test for example, you need a lot more (level 1 needs 6000 kanji). Kanji after 2135 are not in KanjiLearn only because of data size. If many people are interested, I could add them.

Is there a KanjiLearn for Chinese kanji?

Is KanjiLearn updated from time to time?
Yes, I update it often, because I use it a lot for my own studies. I often modify the data file, and fix bugs as they come along.

I don't like the kanji font you are using. Can I change it?
Theoritically yes, practically no. KanjiLearn uses whatever default kanji font is installed on your system (i.e. whatever IE4 decides is best suited for a shift-jis encoded Web page). It is possible to change that default IE4 setting under Japanese Windows 95/98/NT only.

I am going to take the Japanese Proficiency Test Level 3, and I want to review only the kanji required for that test. How do I do that?
Start KanjiLearn, click on the Grade field of the flashcard, a popup menu appears. Select "Use Japanese Proficiency Test Level 3". From now on, everytime you press the KanjiLearn next button, only kanji for the Japanese Proficiency Test level 3 will be used.

Do you monitor who accesses your KanjiLearn program?
I monitor the domain name of every hit to each and everyone of my pages, which I use as a hit counter and a statistic tool. When someone goes on any on my pages, I record the fact that somebody came, the domain name (gol.com for instance) and the country of origin. I cannot know the email address, IP address, name... of people looking at my pages.

What do you recommend to efficiently learn and remember kanji?


KanjiLearn Copyrights

The KanjiLearn program, including HTML, DHTML, JavaScript and VBScript source code, but excluding its data, is copyrighted by Jean-Pascal Chauvet with the following terms: you can use it, look at its source code, copy it, enhance it for free, as long as it is not for commercial usage. For commercial use (I can't imaging any but we never know), please e-mail me.

The KanjiLearn data, which come from different sources, are copyrighted. Please check the KanjiLearn Copyright page for details.


Click here to start the KanjiLearn program

This page was last updated by JP on 06/20/99.