Learn Japanese in an interactive way with Lexikeet / by Alexander Neri

Learning a new language is a very hard thing to do, especially when you're past your 20's (I know, 'cause I tried!). To be really good at it you will be needing either a class to work with OR a really good friend who can speak with you in glorious Nipponese. No, seriously, it's THAT hard. Not only that, you'll be requiring the help of various services and apps that can and will help you build your vocabulary or speed up writing and character recognition.

Enter Lexikeet. It's a new subscription service where you can move forward with your lessons and practice with the system. Yep, it's an interactive platform where you can practice your reading, writing, and listening (and even speaking) with just your browser. It has handwriting recognition (for which you'll be needing a Wacom tablet or be using an iPad), grammar quizzes and a staggered learning curve that checks on your current knowledge of the language via a short quiz and will make a lesson recommendation just for you. Personally I find this pretest a nifty feature, since people who tries to search the net to begin learning the language tend to suffer from an information overload. Getting a recommendation like this is like having a friend who can tell you where you can start with.

The speaking module allows you to try and speak the words through your microphone which the site will process; though there's a problem where there was no waveform guide on how to speak them properly. Maybe it will be fixed in a future version, I don't know. We'll see.

For the writing module, you can have two options: either enter the correct answer via the keyboard (using the Japanese IME input) OR via handwriting. It's a wonderful feature added to the service, and the handwriting recognition feature is a great help if you are serious in using this to help pass your JLPT. As I've said earlier, you might need a tablet or an iPad to work with this, since using your mouse will definitely be messy.

The Listening module lets you hear a passage or a phrase or a word, and then shows you a multiple selection of answers to choose from. You can listen to the recording as many times as you want to, so you won't need to hurry.

Reading takes it on a level just like how SRA does this with Reading and Comprehension: You get a passage followed by 5 to 10 questions about the passage. It's a pretty straightforward approach, and effective, since books like Minna no Nihongo (the textbook that I used when I was still studying at Nihongo Center Foundation) use the same format in their reading comprehension modules.

And finally, the Games & Tutorials module. This is one of the most interactive features of the platform. Using the knowledge gleaned from the previous exercises, you can take and complete the challenges presented to you. The tutorials also give valuable insight on grammar rules and more, so you can better understand and appreciate the nuances of the language (after all, Japanese IS a very contextual language).

All in all, it's a really interesting and a very unique platform: to gives language learning a different approach with tools that emphasizes autonomy and total user control on their learning pace; which gives it drawbacks, such as the inability for the system to have the user interact with fellow learners. There are some things that you can only get in a classroom; but this platform definitely strives to achieve the same thing, if not, add-on to the learning experience.

Check out the website and features at http://www.lexikeet.com/japanese/