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Friday, Sept. 28, 2001


Eureka! Panning for kanji gold in cyberspace

Six months ago, as I mulled creating a Web site for "Kanji Clinic" columns, I wondered what was already available on the Internet for kanji learners.

I discovered that Yahoo! lists some 131,000 Web pages containing the word "kanji." Yikes! Can't visit all those. When I searched "kanji learning," the number dropped to 12,700.

Mouse firmly in hand, I went on a mining expedition, panning for kanji gold in cyberspace. Here are some of the nuggets I discovered.

First things first: The person with the foresight to register the domain name www. kanji.com was one Jon Babcock, way back in 1995. To my surprise, he is not selling anything: He would like to tell you about his pet project involving kanji and computers.

He has also found himself answering some of the requests from Web surfers who are determined, perhaps inspired by the current kanji-tattoo fad, to find out how to write their names in kanji. (For those willing to pay $10.00, the Kanji Style Site at www.kanemeets.com also performs this service).

Not surprisingly, however, e-merchants marketing kanji-learning products are numerous on the Net. You can shop for software with names like KanjiCan, Kantaro, Kanji King and Kanji-Ya Flashcards.

The economically minded might want to take advantage of free kanji instruction tools that are out there on the Net as well. While some sites limit themselves to traditional kanji lessons, transferred from a textbook to computer format, others are more innovative.

The Kanji SITE (Self-Indulgent Tripe Extravaganza) at www.kanjisite.com is designed specifically to help test-takers conquer the kanji they will need to pass Levels 2, 3 or 4 of the Japanese Proficiency Exam offered every December. "Tripe," incidentally, gets my vote for Best Named Kanji-Related Web Site.

Kanji Gold at web.uvic.ca/kanji-gold offers free downloadable software for making customized kanji flashcards. You will find Java Kanji Flashcards 500, also for free, at www.nuthatch.com

Anyone for interactive kanji games? Check out Kanji Game at www.msu.edu/~lakejess/kanjigame.html and Kanji Challenge at webjapanese.com/wj/kanji-c The latter mercilessly gives you a mere 30 seconds each to answer an endless string of kanji questions, set to a wide range of levels from the low ("Kanji Nerd") to the very high ("Kanji Otaku"). Miss just one question, though, and a merciless "Game Over!" screen flashes up.

"A Door to the World of Kanji" at www.neverland.to/kanji/ is a highly practical site. It provides photos of kanji on Japanese electrical appliances, traffic signs and train- station notices, with an English meaning and explanation for each character. (So far, those ever-challenging Japanese computer manuals are not tackled. One lives in hope.)

Those seeking to perfect their composition of kanji should check out The Japanese Writing Tutor at members.aol.com/writejapan/ to watch an animated brush deftly drawing 45 different characters in correct stroke order.

Jim Breen's site at www.cs.monash.edu.au/~jwb/japanese.html offers semianimated stroke-order diagrams for all the 1,000 kanji that primary school students here are required to memorize. Breen's must-visit Web site includes his renowned online kanji-English dictionary (KANJIDIC) and a Japanese-English dictionary (EDICT).

This site is the granddaddy of free cyberspace kanji-learning. Also presented are field-specific dictionaries (covering, for example, terms used in the life sciences, law, etc.) and a nifty translation function: Specify a URL, and the server will fetch that page and translate the Japanese words in it!

Many kanji learners have personal Web pages on which they share their kanji-learning experiences. Two favorites are Tom Roby's site (seki.mcs.csuhayward.edu/~troby/learningjapanese.html) where you can read reviews of electronic kanji dictionaries, and Sean's Spot (www.seanspot.com) which introduces places where kanji can be seen in Sean's hometown of Vancouver.

Another winner is The Kanji Names Project (www2.gol.com/users/billp/students/kanjiname) where Japanese university students explain the English meanings and significance of the kanji used in their names.

Today's final kanji gold nugget is . . . the newly opened www.kanjiclinic.com. A visit there will provide you with all previous "Kanji Clinic" columns, as well as in-depth reviews of kanji-learning materials. The "links" section is an excellent starting point for a "kanji-learning" search.

Most importantly, "Reader Response" offers an intelligent, thought-provoking forum where adult kanji learners from around the world can communicate. Watch for the online publication of comments that you send to kanjiclinic@petmail.net

The door to kanji literacy is always open at www.kanjiclinic.com Come on in!

Mary Sisk Noguchi is an associate professor at Meijo University. Her passion for creating the Kanji Clinic Web site has prevented her from talking to her plants, sleeping -- or studying kanji -- for the past month.

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