I don't understand Skritter

I am learning Japanese. I’ve heard great things about Skritter. But I’m very lost. I have both the mac/web version and the ios app.

I’m planning to use the Heisig method, and have ordered the textbook. I added the course to my Skritter.

When I start studying, I see flashcard like screens that tell me to draw the character. But I don’t know what the character is.

Am I supposed to just tap the center of the screen to get the clues, and then follow along, or am I missing something basic?

I also tried the 101 course on my phone, but was similarly lost. I feel I’ve missed some basic guideline for how I’m supposed to be doing this.

Edit: Am I supposed to first double tap to see the character, draw, erase, redraw, and then move on?

And on the off chance I knew the character from elsewhere I could just draw it with no need to double tap?

Second Edit (Hiragana):

I found out maybe I should do hiragana first. So I tested adding the list. This added to my confusion:

  1. I couldn’t see any way to draw on the hiragana list, so I’m not sure how to memorize them.
  2. I’m not sure what to do with the hiragana if they’re memorized
  3. I couldn’t figure out how to remove the hiragana from my study area.

Sorry for all the questions, but I’m very lost.

Since you are studying RTK Skritter won’t give you kana since the book doesn’t use kana. Double tap in iOS to show the character. In iOS use the little arrow between the prompt and writing area to see the mnemonic. I would use the web version to make or select the mnemonics before you study a section since the web shows other users mnenonics and since it allows you to make the mnenonics before you begin studying. From the web’s home screen click on study then click the lists name it will bring you to a page with all of the chapters. Click on a chapter this should show you a list of all the characters in the chapter. Click on a character and you will get a popup window. You can edit the info by clicking on the pencils. I edit the definition to exactly match Heisig’s but don’t upload it as a correction otherwise you’re saying the other definitions are wrong and someone will have to check what you have changed. Then I click on the mnemonic pencil and make a mnemonic. If you use someone elses mnemonic it won’t work in Android right now. I can’t remember how to remove a list but you can use advanced mode in iOS to only study from the lists you want.

  1. I found out how to remove lists. Go online, go to study, and it will show a miscellaneous list that can be removed. That’s where my hanakana were.
  2. So the way I’m supposed to use a book like RTK in ios is:

i. Enter the screen on a word I don’t know
ii. Double tap to reveal the symbol
iii. Draw it, leave it marked as wrong. Check the mnemonic.
iv. Swipe up to erase. Redraw from memory for confirmation. Mark as right.
v. Do the next one
vi. When the original symbol comes up, hopefully remember it and draw it.
vii. Now I know that symbol, and can draw it when the algorithm decides to show it.

Meaning that I’m not missing anything, I’m not SUPPOSED to know these symbols, and the center click is the intended usage.

  1. I have Heisig keywords enabled, do I still need to manually edit the mnemonics?
  2. I know RTK doesn’t use the kana. But my question was should I do them first, and if so how do I use the Skritter 101 list? It wasn’t clear how to draw.

Thanks for your help!

No don’t mark as right after you swipe to erase and redraw it! That will throw off the SRS (spaced repetition system). Skritter will think you know them better than you do. On if you should learn the Kana first I would say it depends on how you intend to study. I learned the Kana before I started using Skritter so I’m not sure what the best way is to use Skritter to learn the Kana.

Learning kana is a definite must before you start using Skritter. Kana handwriting practice is currently available on the Android app, or HTML5 version at html5.skritter.com (which will be replacing the Flash version when it’s ready). We do have plans for getting this on iOS as well! In case you’re not sure, you should start with hiragana, and then katakana. Once you know hiragana, I suppose you could start learning katakana and kanji writings at the same time, though it might be best to then learn katakana before starting kanji.

Why would I need the kana first? Heisig recommends writing only, pronunciation and reading later. Learning the kana first would only be of use for pronunciation, right?

I figured out how to use Skritter, it’s going really well. I have audio off, per the above.

One more question: is there a way to drill character --> keyword

Right now I see a keyword and draw the character. It’s great! But I’d like to be able to drill the other way to make sure my recognition skills are working too. Is that possible?

I can’t say who is right since each person who learns usually believes their way is the right way. Many schools teach Japanese is in the following order.

1 Learn Kana
2 Use the kana to learn words and sentences.
3 Learn the kanji to the words you have already studied.

The Heisig method isn’t used much in schools but is very popular for people who self study. Their are various reasons related to teaching styles, learning styles, grading and school structure that cause this to happen.

Another way is
1 Learn romaji to learn words and sentences.
2 Learn Kana
3 Learn the kanji to the words you have already studied.

Another way is
1 Pure audio learning (usually for people who want to learn while driving)
2 Learning the kana (so you can read a lot of stuff quickly)
3 Learn the Kanji

Most people who start learning Japanese don’t start with RTK but rather come across it when they arrive at the brick-wall know as kanji. Kanji usually comes last because it is usually considered to be the most time consuming (and least necessary). When I first tried learning Kanji it was without mnemonics and it took me 2 months to learn just a page of Kanji. It sucked and I felt it was an impossible task for me. But after I started RTK I realized I could really learn Kanji because of how much it helped. I believe their is nothing wrong with the path of learning the characters with RTK. But please remember even after you have learned the characters you still won’t be able to read. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing because I believe the speed of learning to read will be much faster than if you tried learning to read without first going through RTK. Although that last sentence is probably only true if you feel as I did that learning Kanji without mnemonics is next to impossible.

As for going from the characters to the keywords, man I really wish you could. However Skritter isn’t even supposed to be able to test individual characters, just Kanji. It’s only due to a Hack that Nick made that makes it possible to do the RTK lists with keywords to characters. I don’t know what they have panned for the back-end update but I really hope character to definitions is part of it. I don’t want to even ask out of the fear of having my hopes squashed. Even if it’s not that, I am still thankful to all the work they put into improving Skritter and the fact they listen to their users and do their best.

Good luck in your studies.

I feel I should share my personal opinion with you on the best way to learn with Skritter. Although please remember it’s just my opinion. Start by using RTK and don’t study any other lists with Skritter. This is due to the way Skritter treats characters vs kanji. If you study a different list, Skritter will count the characters as learned faster than you really have. Fore example say you learn the word 先生 sensei (teacher). Then Skritter thinks you have learned the characters 先 (before) and 生 (life) while in reality you may just know how to use those two symbols to make the word but don’t have any idea of what the RTK meanings are.

I’m going slowly thorough RTK and am studying using other methods at the same time although that is definitely not recommended by the book. If you can, I think it’s best not to do what I did and instead focus on completing RTK with Skritter before going on.

Excellent breakdown!

However, I think we can both agree learning/using romaji is not “right”. :smile:

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Romaji is often called a crutch but actually I don’t agree. When I studied using “Japanese the Spoken Language”, I found the Romaji with the tone marks to be very helpful. Maybe you could make the argument that kana with tone marks would be even more helpful but I don’t know of a resource that does that.

The pitch accent for standard Japanese is shown on online dictionaries at goo.ne.jp and yahoo.co.jp

Though you likely agree with the opinions in this post since romaji can (and in the very beginning must) be used as a bridge to learn kana, (and it’s just an opinion), but for others interested/not sure:

I looked at http://dictionary.goo.ne.jp and http://dic.search.yahoo.co.jp but I didn’t see the tone marks when I searched 先生 on both those sites. Could you explain in more detail with screen shots of how to view the tone marks please?

I usually like Kazumoto’s posts and I like that he refers to romaji as training wheels and not a crutch in the post. If you are interested in learning to speak with an accent that is close to native then Romaji has it’s place in my opinion. Yes there are audio programs and text based courses with audio but how many of them show you the tones for Japanese. I would suggest watching https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r05ropOnt3s in it Luca Lampariello (a well known polyglot) explains how he studied English pronunciation by marking up text with accent marks to get a native like accent. He recommends “American Accent Training” (AAT) because it’s basically the only for book for students that teaches accents well. Well it seems to me that “Japanese the Spoken Language” (JSL) is the Japanese students equivalent to AAT because it’s the only one (unless I am just not looking at those online dictionaries in the right spot) I know of that gives lessons on tone.

(I go off on a small rant at this point) JSL uses an old form of Romaji (almost everyone hates it in the beginning) with outdated video and text (boring too) but it is used by some of the highest rated colleges with courses in Japanese due it’s focus on the correct use of pitch. I have seriously considered rewriting the book (with kana and accent marks) to make it easier to use but then I think it’s outdated and I don’t own the rights so it would just be a shit ton of work with no reward. I have also considered adding accent marks to more recent Japanese books (like Genki) but then I think to myself that I am not so confident I would be able to do a good job and I don’t own the rights. Then the idea came well I could make my own course but then I remember I suck at Japanese and the idea of me making a complete course is laughable. Then I think well if Skritter or some other online program let it’s users add the accent marks to an existing program then that could work. Hey I just had an idea for a feature suggestion.

Could you make it so Japanese users can add their own accent marks to words and sentences?
(I created a new thread for this question.)

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That’ll teach me to reference things without checking. It looks like they must’ve been asked by the 大辞林 to remove the pitch accent (or at least that’s what I’m guessing since it used to be available).

I’ll reply to the pitch accent suggestion in the other thread :slight_smile:

Including via Heisig? He recommended learning Kana and pronunciation after, so that’s what I’ve been doing. Just learning Kanji for now, seems to work.

I ended up doing RTK, with no pronuciation/kana first: only Kanji.

Seems to be working great. After five days I’m up to 140 and seem to be retaining them. I expect this will definitely speed up my overall reading speed compared to learning vocab first.

Character recognition practice would be great, but maybe that’ll come organically once I get past RTK and start reading.

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Oh, thanks. That’s what I’ve been doing for writing.

I’ve also been doing Pimsleur audio courses for the spoken language. I don’t think there will be any interference since it’s an entirely oral program. For my brain it feels like I’m learning two entirely separate things.