As a full-time expatriate in China, I’m always on the lookout for ways to make learning Chinese easier. There is no shortage of options when it comes to Mandarin learning; whether it be in books, at university, with a tutor, or–my personal favourite–online.
I’ve sampled many of the online options for Chinese learning–from once free podcasts, to still free forums–and they all have their benefits. However, I’ve been playing with a relatively new service for learning Chinese characters, and it’s done well to impress me.Skritter is a Web app that uses some fancy Flash-based handwriting recognition technology that allows you to comfortably use your mouse to write good-looking and accurate Chinese characters. Coupling this with a spaced-repetition learning system (SRS), the site has the potential to boost any student’s Chinese character reading and writing ability quickly and efficiently.
From the site:
Skritter is fast. Take away the time spent picking new characters and words to learn, making flashcards or otherwise adding them to your learning system, and checking yourself after writing each character. Now add that time to what’s left: See a prompt, write the character, and receive immediate feedback. Just writing and learning. Skritter figures out when you need to trace a character for the first time, or see it and then write it, or actively recall it to start cementing it into long-term memory. Skritter knows which characters and words are important for you to learn next, and automatically introduces them when appropriate.
Of course, Skritter alone isn’t going to make you fluent in Chinese. In fact, other than pre-recorded voicings of the individual characters, it won’t help your spoken or listening at all, and does little in the way of teaching grammar. But what it does, reading/writing/remembering, it does well, and is a great tool for any Chinese learner to have in their toolbox.
Currently, the site is in “beta” and free to all, but after the site’s (yet undisclosed) official rollout it will be switching to a monthly subscription-based service.Of note is the fact that the site seems to be blocked in China. China-based users are suggested to use skrit.appspot.com instead, though I had trouble getting on that link as well without my VPN connected.