Saturday, May 10, 2008

Nihongo Benkyou: Kanji Invaders

Over the past few weeks I've been throwing together some JavaScript to make myself a Japanese language study-game. If you've ever played Letter Invaders-type games, you'll catch onto this one pretty fast.

It's (unimaginatively) called Kanji Invaders, and is a JavaScript application which runs on IE 6.0+, Firefox and Safari. The objective is to type the readings for randomly-selected falling Japanese words before they reach the bottom of the screen. If you can't read Kanji, all words convert themselves to Hiragana as they fall. When you successfully type a word, the definition is given down at the bottom. You can even specify which particular words you want to see; for now, the only types I have are JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) classifications.

To play, simply type the romaji for each falling word! I initially chose this method because I had problems with Firefox recognizing Japanese input methods. Since then, though, I've come to the realization that most keyboards (even in Japan) are being used Romaji style, so I've stuck with it. By supporting romaji exclusively, Kanji Invaders works on virtually all Japanese and English computers.

Current feature ideas: An online scoreboard. Better intensity rise/fall. Automagically-downloadable version without an advert (though it's already pretty easy to download). More graphical special effects. Music/SFX.

Currently known issues: sometimes typing a word that has appeared twice will cause both instances to go away. I've fixed it and will upload a new version soon.

Since Kanji Invaders' Japanese input processing is home-brewed, let me know if a particular romaji-ism that you use doesn't work on Kanji Invaders. Other bug reports/feature ideas are very welcome. The code is free for you to take and do what you like with, but I'd appreciate attribution if you simply make a Kanji Invaders fork. I'm regularly improving this app, and will keep the latest version available at for your perusal.

Have fun studying, and ganbatte!


Bennosuke said...

Just my two-cents: I love this game, and I've been hard pressed to find a teaching tool as effective in conveying the urgency of using a language like in it's natural environment quite like this game does. That element aside, I've been hard pressed to find a kanji drilling method that can yield quicker results than this.

Let's face it, Kanji Invaders is difficult, maybe even painful, to use at times, but man is it effective. My biggest criticism is that familiarity with Japanese Direct Input keyboard methods and knowledge of Hiragana are a must and therefore present a rather large initial learning curve, but I wouldn't do it any other way.

Suck it up and use this game! Actually learning a language is hard, that's never going to change. At least this way, you can have fun while doing it.

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to find another/similar version of Kanji Invader for a long time now and I am extremely happy to have come across this program. Thank you! I am not big on Mac's; if I bought one, Kanji Invader would basically be my only reason, since the program is not compatible with other systems. Again, thank you for adding a little pleasure to a relatively meaningless existence.