I wanted to build an app for learning the Japanese kana (hiragana and katakana) writing system, but targeted for adults such as myself, not children. So I wanted an app with a slick interface, and less cute. There are many writing apps for children, but not as many for adult learners.

Another problem about learning how to write the hiragana and katakana is that sometimes the example characters are hard to understand, because the font contain styles such as strokes that trail off. So I wanted to include multiple examples for each character, including plain handwritten examples, so that the learners can see which parts are necessary and which are not.

Lastly, I wanted to create an app that makes it fun and pleasant for the learners to practice the writing repeatedly, and that's where adding the WACOM WILL Library comes in. It makes the writing feels a whole lot more natural, and the stroke thickness varies depending on the writing speed, making it fun to practice writing the hiragana and katakana characters.

What it does

  • Hiragana and katakana charts

    You can view all the characters in Japanese Hiragana and Katakana charts, including variations.

  • Stroke animations and writing practice

    You can see how each of the characters is written correctly by following the animations. You can also practice on the writing pad, powered by WACOM WILL SDK.

  • Audio of native Japanese pronunciation

    You can hear how each of the characters are pronounced correctly, by our native Japanese speaker, Takako.

  • Flashcards and audio playback mode

    After learning the characters, you can review and test yourself using randomized flashcards.

  • Selection of various fonts and styles

    You can see how each characters are written, typed, and presented in a variety of situations: typed or printed, hand written, brush calligraphy, and even fun "variety" fonts such as horror movie titles.

  • Switchable app themes (Light & Dark)

    Light or Dark interface, an extra feature for fun (and practicing at night before sleep) :)

How I built it

The app was built using native Apple iOS SDK: Xcode, Interface Builder, in Objective-C, to run as universal app on iPhones and iPads (iOS 8.0 and above).

WACOM WILL SDK is later integrated for the writing functionality, for learners to practice their writing.

What's next for Mirai Kana Chart

I plan to add the following features for Mirai Kana Chart:

  • Writing Flashcards (write on one side, and flip to check your writing by comparing with animated diagram)
  • SRS (Spaced-Repetition System) for the Flashcards to enable more efficient learning
  • Additional Themes (now we only have light and dark, but I want to add 4 season themes: spring, summer, fall, winter)
  • Adding Notes functionality, so people can write example sentences and notes for each character
  • Gamification, such as winning Japanese food badges after mastering a number of characters, so as to help motivate learners to learn all the kana characters.

I would also like to add more languages such as: Korean, Chinese, Thai, Arabic, etc.

The writing systems from all the different languages in the world is a cultural treasure that we should all cherish and enjoy, and I hope to help spread the joy of learning them through my apps. :)

Thank you.

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