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    Learn Kanji With Your Nintendo DS

    By thomas | November 12, 2007

    Nintendo DS - 250万人の漢検 - kanji kentei gameLast Tuesday (November 6th) was my birthday. I turned 27. My lovely wife, being the sweetheart that she is, got me a Nintendo DS Lite for my birthday along with the game 250万人の漢検 (250まんにんのかんけん). This game is a Kanken test preparation game and it’s insanely addictive. It covers all 12 levels of the Kanken test, so it can take you from knowing no kanji at all to knowing more than you could possibly ever need.

    About 250万人の漢検

    Each level has thousands of questions (over 47,000 total) that it feeds you five at a time. You choose your level and question-type (writing, reading, radical recognition, etc) and it throws the questions at you. You answer as best you can and then it grades you on correctness and speed. Depending on how well you do, you get awarded one of four “orbs”: bronze, silver, gold or rainbow. Missed questions get marked and you can redrill your problem words (again, five at a time) at any time.

    Since it’s so fast to complete a 5-question rep, it’s really easy to get sucked into “just one more turn” syndrome. In the short time I’ve owned the game I’ve already answered over 3000 questions without even realizing it. I’ve seen and written the target kanji in my level so many times that I can’t imagine ever forgetting them.

    The game also:

    1. keeps stats
    2. includes two dictionaries
    3. has a story mode (more reading practice)
    4. kindly supports left-handers like yours truly

    This game has been ridiculously time-efficient for me for learning kanji. Check it out.

    Other Kanji Games for the Nintendo DS

    250万人の漢検 is only one of many kanji games for the Nintendo DS. Kanken2 is another one that is getting a lot of buzz. I haven’t played it yet, but I’m sold on the Nintendo DS as a learning tool, so I’m sure I’ll have it soon.

    If you want to know more about this game and others, I highly recommend checking out Naruhodo!, a blog dedicated to Japanese learning games for the Nintendo DS.

    Do you use a Nintendo DS to learn Japanese? Got any game recommendations? Drop me a line in the comments.

    Like this post? Give me the Thumbs Up!

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    Topics: Japanese Language | 20 Comments »Trackback

    20 Responses to “Learn Kanji With Your Nintendo DS”

    1. ジェイソン (Jason) Says:
      November 12th, 2007 at 3:17 pm

      Nice … I’m about to dig deep into Kanji and wasn’t sure if I should go with flash cards or something else. Perhaps a DS and this game is just what the doctor ordered.

      Hopefully my wife won’t have a problem with the DS purchase … :???:

    2. Mari Says:
      November 13th, 2007 at 12:37 am

      I was thinking about getting one of these Nintendo DSs. Heard it was really good. You can study anywhere, too, like on the train to work or something. I heard there were also games for the Nintendo Wii.

    3. Justin Says:
      November 13th, 2007 at 2:30 am

      I have this same wordpress theme. WEIRD.

    4. Jonneh Says:
      November 13th, 2007 at 4:39 am

      I only have one kanji/hiragana/katakana game for the DS, and it’s this one:

      Problem is, I don’t really know wtf I’m ever doing because I don’t know any kanji yet, and barely any japanese besides simple greetings and goodbyes :P
      I basically just bring that game with me and try to write the hiragana/katakana , because I’ve memorized them visually now (as in, when I see them I can *snap* name them right then and there), but I can’t write them with the correct stroke order (or even without it, sometimes).

      The game you reviewed-ish here – is it easy for people who know no Kanji as well?

    5. Kat Says:
      November 13th, 2007 at 5:16 am

      250万人の漢検 is definitely my favorite of the kanji DS games I’ve tried (though I’ve yet to try the new KanKen).

      You can give it a go as a total beginner, but the vocabulary might be a little difficult — keep in mind this is a game geared towards Japanese elementary schoolers and up, so they have extensive vocabularies and grammar fluency even if their kanji-writing skills are lacking.

      Also, something you might notice is that the order in which kanji are taught to the Japanese is different from the order it’s taught to foreigners. You’ll see a lot of “simple” words that you’d never see in class because they aren’t relevant to the lessons.

      Oh, and if you’re just starting to delve into kanji, I cannot recommend the “Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten” DS software enough. It’s actually a a great J-E dictionary that looks up kanji compounds (or words in hiragana) via stylus input. It’s a great deal — only the most expensive electronic dictionaries have stylus input and actually let you look up more than one kanji at a time.

    6. Reality bytes Says:
      November 13th, 2007 at 3:04 pm

      I have a ton of this kind of DS software. The Kanken is all you need though. 6 Kyu here I come!

    7. Ken Y-N Says:
      November 13th, 2007 at 11:39 pm

      Wifey bought me two titles, but I can’t remember what they are! The problem is that we/she only has one bright pink DS, so I’m having to wait until Xmas to get my own, the new black and dark red model.

    8. zandra Says:
      November 16th, 2007 at 2:45 pm

      Are there any kanji games for the Game Boy Advance? I don’t have a DS >sniff

    9. thomas Says:
      November 17th, 2007 at 2:08 am

      @Jason: In my experience, the Nintendo DS is much more efficient than flashcards for learning Kanji. If you can’t convince your wife to let you buy one, maybe you can have her get it for your birthday or xmas.

      @Mari: Yeah, it’s pretty convenient. When my wife drives around, I’m usually in the back with the baby poking the Nintendo DS. It is a bit hard to write good kanjis on a bumpy road though. I don’t have a Wii yet.

      @Justin: That’s really weird! I didn’t expect to run into another blog with this theme. I see that you kept the top row of pictures.

      @Jonneh: I wouldn’t recommend these games for people who don’t already have a grasp of basic Japanese. The game is targetted at Japanese people (elementary through adult) so they assume that you can read some sentences, even at the most basic level (level 10). However, I think anybody who has taken a semester or two of Japanese in High School or University could probably hang with this game if they start at level 10. If you need help with Hiragana/Katakana stroke order, try this site:

      @Kat: Good comments. I didn’t mention it in the post, but I think it is necessary to supplement this game with a dictionary so that you can look up unknown words as you come to them. You pick up little pieces of cultural trivia playing this game too. I had one sentence that talked about making dolls out of the wood that comes with a package of kamaboko (かまぼこ板). Apparently that’s part of childhood for people who grow up here: かまぼこ板の人形

      @Reality bytes: Looks like I need to grab a copy of that Kanken game. Good luck on the 6級!

      @Ken Y-N: That’s hilarious. I don’t think I’d play on a bright pink DS either. I wonder if Japanese men would. Someone ought to do a poll.

      zandra: I did a quick search for 漢字 on and the only GBA game was this one. I have no idea if it’s any good or not though. DS seems to be the way to go right now.

    10. Justin Says:
      November 18th, 2007 at 4:46 am

      Gave you a shoutout at my site! I blog about such oddities LOL :)

    11. zandra Says:
      November 19th, 2007 at 2:13 pm

      thanks, thomas.

    12. shiisa Says:
      December 5th, 2007 at 12:02 am

      Hi Thomas,

      Based largely on the strength of this review, I bought a DS Lite and this software last week. You weren’t kidding, this thing is *incredibly* addictive. (I’ve missed my stop on the train twice already because of this thing!) It’s also very effective — I’m seeing a big increase in kanji and vocab. in the short time I’ve owned it. Great recommendation!

    13. thomas Says:
      December 10th, 2007 at 11:22 am

      @shiisa: I’m glad you found the game useful! It really is hard to put down once you get some momentum going. That’s hilarious that you missed the train playing it. That hasn’t happened to me yet (I don’t ride the train often), but I have had meals get cold.

      I hope it didn’t take you too long to find the volume button on your DS Lite – the game’s music is terrible!

    14. Joseph Says:
      December 20th, 2007 at 12:57 am

      I second Kakitori-kun. The jukugo drill mode has a very nice pace for folks who aren’t very high level. Helps to have a dictionary handy while using it though.

    15. Gabriela Says:
      April 27th, 2008 at 1:05 pm

      Hi Thomas
      One of my classmates has this game and I definitely want to try. Problem is, I live in England and I don’t seem to find it anywhere. Amazon Jp does not apparently ship it outside Japan.

    16. Jeet Says:
      May 6th, 2008 at 12:58 pm

      Nice feedback about Kanji with Nintendo DS lite. Even I would like to have more information about this game. Please do update to get me going!!

    17. gambatteruzo Says:
      September 18th, 2008 at 2:24 am

      any tips on where to download the 250 Mannin no kentei game for free?

    18. November Hacks from the Past roundup | Says:
      November 19th, 2008 at 1:09 pm

      […] Learn Kanji with your Nintendo DS – Here is a review of a Kanji learning Nintendo DS game I did. It’s addictive and it’s still on the shelves. Check it out! […]

    19. Japanese words Says:
      September 22nd, 2009 at 10:35 am

      Great post. I used this when it first came out, but I think there are better programs available now for the iphone.

    20. Japanese Phrases Says:
      February 12th, 2010 at 5:20 am

      I tried this one when it came out, but would not recommend it for someone who doesn’t have a good grasp of kanji.