Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Progress Report

Hi everyone,

There has not been a new release in a little while but that merely reflects the fact that I'm currently going through the Henshall list of 1,945 kanji, making sure that the kanji are in the correct sequence and checking the definitions for duplicates. This work should be finished in a couple of days.

Meanwhile, I have kanji lists for 'Reviewing the Kanji' (RTK) and also the KanjiDamage website, which will be made available for people studying from those sources.

A new feature of the upcoming version is that the RTK keyword will be displayed alongside the current Henshall-supplied or user-supplied definitions, to help disambiguating duplicates. Another new feature is a duplicate-cleanup tool that will flag (and remove if necessary) duplicated kanji and allow modification of duplicate keywords. This is very helpful for cases where the original Henshall definitions have more than one kanji for, say, 'child' or 'village'. One great advantage of learning the RTK keywords is that they are guaranteed to be unique, with exactly one kanji per keyword and vice versa.

Finally, I have added another new feature that makes life a bit easier when you are attempting complex kanji. If you get five strokes in a row correct, then you get an error credit, which shows up as a blue square below the drawing page. Your first error cancels out one credit, and so on. This means you won't be penalised if, in a 19-stroke kanji, your hand slips and you draw one line too short. It does mean that an occasional kanji is marked as known where you didn't quite know all the strokes, but you do still have to redraw wrong strokes so your knowledge will move forward. Your time is better spent learning new kanji than getting every stroke 100% perfect.

I found this last feature very useful when I was trying to catch up from a position that was 80+ kanji behind my target of 50 kanji per week. I'm now at 350+ kanji, ten ahead of target, despite taking a couple of weeks of to program.

There are also some improvements to the beginner-friendly IME, which will be the subject of another post.

Please continue to report any bugs, preferably here but by private email if you prefer.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kanji Vectors That Need Fixing

The following kanji have issues with unwanted or awkward intersections:

聞 : hear
原 : plain ; field ; origin
弟 : younger brother

They can still be drawn but the second stroke of the 'ear' radical and the second stroke of 'field' have to be started right on the line before; you'll almost certainly pick up an error dot or two. The last stroke of younger brother starts on the line.

These will be fixed in the next version.

Please report any other oddities in the vector data.

PS.原 : plain ; field ; origin  and 弟 : younger brother are actually okay - they were affected by a rounding error, rather than a faulty vector set. The problem with 聞 is that the second last stroke must cross the vertical, not just start near it. This will be fixed in the new vector data set.

Bug Reports 2.6x

Please add a comment here if you find a bug.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Text Editor

The Kanji Sketch Pad now has a built in Text Editor and although it still needs a couple of refinements it is a handy way to write kanji before you know how they are pronounced.

Version 2.62 allows you to specify the font for kanji, kana and English - this is accessible through the Usage Preferences, because it primarily affects the appearance of the Usage pop-ups. The same fonts are used in the Text Editor. The kanji are coloured to make them easier to find when scanning though a long list.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gotta agree with this

Stumbled across this page, and agree with the sentiment. You should own Japanese books before you can read them. Even though the Sketch Pad is built around memorising kanji in isolation, it should be followed up as soon as possible with actual attempts to decode Japanese text.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Version 2.6 ready

Beta version 2.6 is ready for testing. It works well on my system but it has not been extensively tested so I am not releasing it for general use just yet. Please contact me if you are prepared to put it through its paces looking for problems.

A sneak preview of new features:

  • Comes with a built in text editor for writing your own lists or writing a short note in Japanese using Cerebware's beginner-friendly input method. Type [water] for 水, for instance, as explained here.
  • Allows you to add mnemonic pictures for any kanji, not just when preparing the initial list but at any later time.
  • New start-up screen with the ability to modify your target, resort your vocabulary, or import a number of differently arranged kanji lists.

Note that it is recommended that you make a backup copy of your vocab file (KanjiPad.voc) and put it in a safe place prior to testing any new release.

P.S. After some useful feedback, a few changes have been made. They are incorporated into Version beta 2.61.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Changes to the Joyo Kanji

Many kanji lists in cyberspace still only show the 1,945 kanji that were on the official list for many years. Recently, several new kanji were added and 5 kanji were removed.

The new kanji are listed here. (

 They will be offered as a separate importable list for those who already have their preferred list of the original 1945 and just want to make it complete.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Obento Sequence

A popular Japanese textbook series in Australia is the Obento series. A kanji list can be found in Part D of the following Word Document (Obento Course Summary ) and is reproduced below:

One virtue of this sequence is that it offers a graded increase in number of strokes, and hence difficulty. Version 2.6 will offer this list as a start-up option but if anyone wants this list now, please let me know.

1    一
2    七
3    九
4    二
5    人
6    入
7    八
8    十
9    万
10    三
11    上
12    下
13    千
14    口
15    土
16    夕
17    大
18    女
19    子
20    小
21    山
22    川
23    才
24    々
25    中
26    五
27    今
28    元
29    公
30    六
31    内
32    円
33    分
34    化
35    区
36    午
37    友
38    天
39    少
40    心
41    手
42    文
43    方
44    日
45    月
46    木
47    止
48    水
49    火
50    父
51    牛
52    犬
53    仕
54    兄
55    冬
56    出
57    北
58    半
59    去
60    古
61    右
62    四
63    外
64    左
65    市
66    広
67    本
68    正
69    母
70    生
71    田
72    白
73    目
74    立
75    休
76    会
77    先
78    全
79    同
80    名
81    地
82    多
83    好
84    字
85    安
86    寺
87    州
88    年
89    早
90    有
91    次
92    毎
93    気
94    百
95    耳
96    肉
97    自
98    色
99    行
100    西
101    近
102    住
103    体
104    何
105    作
106    売
107    弟
108    来
109    男
110    町
111    社
112    私
113    花
114    見
115    言
116    赤
117    足
118    車
119    近
120    事
121    京
122    使
123    和
124    国
125    夜
126    妹
127    姉
128    始
129    学
130    店
131    所
132    明
133    東
134    林
135    歩
136    泊
137    物
138    知
139    空
140    英
141    金
142    長
143    雨
144    青
145    乗
146    前
147    南
148    室
149    屋
150    待
151    後
152    思
153    急
154    持
155    春
156    昼
157    洋
158    洗
159    活
160    海
161    発
162    県
163    神
164    秋
165    科
166    茶
167    通
168    食
169    勉
170    員
171    夏
172    家
173    島
174    帰
175    旅
176    時
177    書
178    校
179    病
180    紙
181    通
182    週
183    都
184    院
185    馬
186    高
187    動
188    強
189    教
190    族
191    理
192    終
193    週
194    道
195    達
196    都
197    雪
198    魚
199    黒
200    場
201    晩
202    朝
203    森
204    番
205    着
206    買
207    道
208    達
209    間
210    飯
211    飲
212    働
213    園
214    新
215    楽
216    漢
217    話
218    電
219    様
220    聞
221    語
222    読
223    銀
224    駅
225    曜

Usage Examples

When you first try the Sketch Pad, you may be disappointed not to see usage examples with each kanji. Don't worry, they'll appear at an appropriate time. Users of the full version can see the usage when the kanji first appears by pressing the speech bubble.

There is a reason this information does not pop-up automatically when you first meet the kanji, and that is that the program is waiting for you to become familiar with this kanji before overloading you with extra information. Associating unfamiliar syllables of Japanese with unfamiliar stroke combinations is famously difficult and prone to causing cognitive overload.

As you get to know the kanji better, usage examples will pop-up for you to inspect and, if you want, import to your vocab list. You can also configure the program to show you more usage information earlier. You can even specify whether you want to see compounds of 2, 3 or more kanji, and whether you want to be exposed to compounds that feature unknown kanji, or just ones you already know. This is all covered in more detail in Part 7 of the tutorial.

Version 2.6 will have a nicer welcome screen that lets you specifiy your usage preferences before you even start drawing.

Missing Fonts

Some computers are missing Japanese Fonts, and in that case the Kanji Sketch Pad will be unable to display kanji characters (though it will still be possible to draw them). The result will look somehting like this:

Here is a help file that was originally written for the Cerebware Vocab Trainer, but applies equally well to the Sketch Pad. Please let me know if it works on your system, and whether you know of a better way to install fonts:


If the characters below look like normal Japanese, then you probably already have the right fonts installed in your system, and you can skip down to the input methods. You might need to make the text larger, however, to see the detail of the Kanji (Under Text, choose ''Larger'', or select a font size from the drop-down list in the menu bar).
Kanji - 漢字
Hiragana - ひらがな
Katakana - カタカナ

If the characters appear as rectangles, or as other non-Japanese symbols, it means your operating system is missing the necessary font files. (You might have some Japanese fonts, used in your web browser or word processor, but they are not the modern True-Type fonts required by Java). If you have a copy of Microsoft Office, or many other Windows products, just install Japanese as a new Language under the Windows Control Panel, and the fonts will be made available. Usually the operating system will ask you for the Microsoft Office installation disc.

If you do not have access to Japanese fonts as part of your operating system, you can use the Japanese font file provided with Cerebware. Follow these steps:

Step 1:
Find the file, CODE2000.TTF (look in the JapaneseGrammar folder if you have the Vocab Trainer, or visit the Cerebware website if you have the Sketch Pad).

Step 2:
Open My Computer, or Windows Explorer. Go to: C:\Program Files\Java\

In there, you should see some folders beginning 'jre.' They should all end with an underscore, then a number. Example: jre1.6.0_07 Go into the one that ends with the largest number - this is the most recent copy of Java.

Step 3:
Find the folder named 'lib', enter it and go into the folder named 'fonts'.

Step 4:
Create a folder named 'fallback'. Go into it.

Step 5:
Copy CODE2000.TTF into here. Restart Cerebware or the Sketch Pad to test that the font has been loaded. (For the Sketch Pad, you will need to sut it down completely by right-clicking the Sytem Tray icon, then clicking 'Exit')

Another option is to obtain one of the freeware Japanese input methods, which usually come with their own fonts. For example, google for NJStar.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Henshall Mnemonics

The default sequence for the Kanji Joyo Grade One Kanji in the Sketch Pad is currently equivalent to those in Henshall's book, "A Guide To Remembering Japanese Characters" (Tuttle, 1995). For the Grade One Kanji, some characters carry a tag in the List View that refers to their Henshall number (e.g. 学 [✍8 ❉1 10] : study ; learning ) - note that the tag uses a character that fails to appear in some encodings, so I'll have to change it.  Ultimately this information will be added for all characters.

The Henshall sequence can be found here, along with the mnemonics Henshall recommends. You might find these useful when writing your own mnemonics, though they sometimes rely on the more detailed explanation that is found in the book.

I still like this book, and was initially very pleased to have bought it, though I am now more aware of its limitations. On the upside, it has interesting background on the history of each kanji character, a couple of examples of usage and readings for each character, and it uses an engaging painted version of each main character. It also uses mnemonics, which I think are essental for the quick acquisition of kanji. (Although ultimately the mnemoncs have to be ditched in favour of a true linguistic understanding of the characters, I think they are a very useful bridge).

On the downside, the readings and usage examples use romaji, which I think is an impediment to the comfortable use of kana. Someone whose knowledge of kana is so poor they need readings in romaji should probably spend time learning the hiragana and katakana, rather than tackling the 1945 joyo kanji in Henshall's book. I find it hard to imagine the setting in which there was a valid reason to learn kanji before kana, so I think Henshall should have used kana for readings, although the romaji does probably add to the book's immediate appeal when a beginner is browsing in a bookshop. It certainly seems less intimidating at first.

Another flaw in this book is the sequence of characters, though it shares this flaw with most official lists of kanji. There seems to be no real attempt to present the characters in a logical order. For instance, the kanji for study or learn, 学, comes in before the kanji for child,  子, even though the child radical needs to be understood for efficient learning of the study kanji. Effectively, when using a tool like the Sketch Pad, anyone learning the study kanji has to learn the chld kanji at the same time, so that when the child kanji finally comes up, it can simply be claimed as prior knowledge. Why not put the child kanji first, especially when they are both Grade One Kanji?

Because of these flaws, the final version of the Sketch Pad will offer kanji in other sequences, as well as a tool for resorting the joyo kanji into any preferred sequence. Many people prefer the approach taken in RTK (Reviewing the Kanji), and I was also impressed with the Kanji Damage website (Language Warning!), which shows a good awareness of the importance of the kanji sequence.

If you have a specific sequence you would prefer, please let me know. All I need to create a sorted version of the list is any text document in which the kanji appear in the correct sequence. Non-kanji characters will be ignored by the sorting algorithm.

Friday, April 1, 2011

"Could not load virtual machine"

Thanks to the user who reported a problem with the most recent upload. Attempts to load the program failed after appearance of the Splash screen. The problem was with the final packaging of the program, where I had been overly greedy in asking for memory resources.

I have repackaged it and the new package (Version 2.50  - link -   with a trailing zero) will be available soon is available. It should load satisfactorily in most systems. Please report any problems so that I can fix them as soon as possible.