KanjiBox 5.1α

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. KanjiBox - General
    1. What is KanjiBox?
    2. How to use KanjiBox?
    3. Can I use KanjiBox on my iPhone/smartphone?
    4. How does it work?
    5. Licenses and acknowledgements
    6. What's up with the bugs?
    7. Feature requests.
    8. Where can I report Japanese mistakes?
    9. Non-English versions of KanjiBox
    10. KanjiBox HTML Badges
  2. Upgrading - Donating
    1. What is the 'Elite' status?
    2. Other ways to join the 'Elite'...
    3. Contributing...
    4. Roadmap and future updates...
    5. Donations...
  3. Specific Issues
    1. Difference between Quiz and Drill modes...
    2. Why so few options with kana?
    3. Out-of-level questions...
    4. Meaning of stats...
    5. How does scoring work?
    6. Answer display time...
    7. List export features?
    8. What happened to grade 7?
    9. Confusing choices with identical readings...
    10. Keyboard Shortcut keys...
  4. Dave
    1. Who are you?
    2. Why KanjiBox?
    3. Can I add you as a friend in Facebook?
    4. How's your Japanese?
  5. Non-KB related requests
    1. Can you help me move to Japan?
    2. Japanese tattoos...
  6. Etc.

  1. KanjiBox
    • What is KanjiBox?

      KanjiBox helps you study and learn kanji and Japanese vocabulary, for fun or test preparation (JLPT, school exams, Ninja Academy etc) and includes many nifty features, such as adaptative drilling, learning statistics, quiz and score comparisons with your friends.

      For more info, recent updates and miscellaneous inconsequential banter, KanjiBox's page on Twitter is generally the place to go.

    • I don't understand anything!?! Please help!

      Most stuff in KB should be rather self-explanatory. However, you might be confused by certain advanced features or wondering about the meaning of some options/stats. If what you are looking for is not in this FAQ, you can also contact me through Twitter or Facebook but please: RTFM and do a quick search before you post any request.

    • How does KanjiBox work?

      In addition to its visible features, there are a couple things worth knowing about the way KanjiBox works, behind the scene:

      1. Choices for each question are offered in pairs of closely (and often confusingly) similar answers. Where 'similar' holds a different definition for each type of quiz. For example, in kanji mode: '気' might be offered alongside '氣', while, in vocab mode, a word will be proposed along other words of similar grammatical function (verbs with verbs etc.). This is all on purpose: making the quiz harder is in your best interest.
      2. KanjiBox remembers your answers (the ones you get right, the ones you get wrong) and uses this knowledge to quiz you more or less often on a given entry according to a very specific 'adaptive' algorithm. This means that, in drill mode, a kanji/word/etc. you consistently answer wrong will start coming more and more often until you start getting it right. This is also on purpose (obviously).
      3. An exception to 2. above is Quiz mode, where questions are completely random (only function of the level you are training for). Because Quiz scores are shared across all users, they need to reflect an unbiased set of questions. However, your answers are still stored by KanjiBox and used to control drill mode (and statistics), meaning it's usually a good idea to alternate between drill mode (better to learn and fix your weaknesses) and quiz mode (more fun to use).
      4. Furthermore, in Quiz mode, questions are offered in a progression going from below your level, all the way up to slightly above it. This is a way to make the quiz more engaging and help better differentiate players in the final scores. If you only want level-specific questions, stick to Drill mode.

    • iPhone/iTouch/iPad version

      Theoretically, there is no limitation on which type of device you can use to play KanjiBox (as long as they support standard webpage formats). However, due to requirements linked to Facebook Connect and other practical consideration (screen size...), it may not always be possible to use KanjiBox on your smartphone.

      There is, however, a dedicated offline version for iPhone which will allow you to play KanjiBox on any iPhone or iPod Touch (without need for internet connection).

    • Licenses and acknowledgements

      This application uses the EDICT and KANJIDIC dictionary files. These files are the property of the Electronic Dictionary Research and Development Group, and are used in conformance with the Group's licence.

      It also uses data from the HispaDic project, in conformance with its CC license.

    • Damn this thing is buggy...

      It is very likely that, if you use using KanjiBox long enough, you will eventually run into bugs. Even though I spent a lot of time debugging it, KB certainly still has a few bugs in it. Generally speaking, I welcome all bug reports. For issues linked to specific questions (such as confusing choices or mismatched levels...), use the small button located in the lower-right corner of the playing screen. For anything else, please post in the forums or contact me directly.

      There are however two categories of bugs you should not bother reporting:

      1. Anything that has to do with japanese characters not displaying properly on your computer. Unless you are positive that they show up fine in all other applications running on your computer and only fail with KanjiBox (doubtful). Basically, this sort of problem has nothing to do with KanjiBox and is a matter between you, your Operating System and Google. You can always try asking for help in the forums, but I doubt you'll get much response from other users (understandably) and you won't get any from me (other than maybe advising you to purchase an OS that comes standard with a beautiful set of Japanese fonts, next time), sorry.
      2. Anything having to do with waves loading slowly or other general page-loading time issues. These are usually due to server slowness anywhere between Facebook's own servers and mine (oftentimes a combination of both). Unfortunately, the only fix for those would be for FB to get a decent infrastructure that can accomodate its recent growth and/or for me to invest in a dedicated server with better performance, neither of which is likely to happen too soon.
    • I would really love if there was an option to do [xxx] in KanjiBox!

      And I would really like a pony.

      Tell you what: help me get my pony and chances are, I will be much more receptive to your Kanji needs.

      When making donations, feel free to indicate a new feature in KanjiBox that you would like to be given top priority (there's a special field in the form to this effect): Click Here to donate!

      Please note that short of donations reaching a dozen million yens a year, I am unlikely to quit my day job and therefore unable to commit to any hard schedule for honouring your feature-request (especially if they are along the line of "Here is $5, now make it teach me Japanese during my sleep"). I recommend you contact me before donating if you have any doubt or question.

    • I found some kanji/vocabulary mistake in your quiz, where can I report it?

      Any quibble having to do with definition/translation/pronunciation errors should  first be checked with Jim Breen's original dictionaries (whence KB draws its datasets). If WWWJDIC shows the same "mistake", then Jim Breen is the man you want to be contacting directly (contact me afterward, if Jim confirms that there is, indeed a need for correction). If the mistake does not appear in WWWJDIC, it might be a bug, please contact me directly then.

      If you ran into any misclassification problem (such as ambiguous choices, levels mismatch etc.), please use the in-application report button (small grey '?' icon in the bottom right-hand corner) and it will be fixed when I go about reviewing reports (it can take a while, so if you feel there is an emergency, send me a message too).

    • Est-ce que KanjiBox parle Français? Spricht es Deutsch? y español? Русские?

      да! si! ja! oui!

      There is limited support for non-English languages. At the moment, consequent content exists for the following languages (percentages indicate how much of the database has been translated): German (93%), French (62%), Spanish (47%), Russian (21%) and a few more languages with very limited content. Lower-levels (N5 etc.) are more complete than higher or non-JLPT content.

      To use Vocab or Kanji mode in your language, simply change the Language option in the frontpage settings.

      You can help! When there is no version in your language for a word, you will be presented with the English version and a small flag beside it: clicking on the flag will bring up an in-game translation form, that lets you submit a translation. The form will not stop the drill or make you lose your session: once submitted you can resume playing normally. When a correction is displayed, you have another chance to add/edit a translation, by clicking on the '✍' button beside it. If you notice some glaring inaccuracies or typos in an existing translation, you can always edit it using the '✍' button.

      If you are in a translating mood, you can turn on Translator Mode in the settings, and you will only receive entries that need translation.

      Note: Before you start translating, it is very important you take a minute to read these few guidelines. Translations that do not follow the guidelines will have to be discarded.

      Note 2: if your language is not in there and you feel up for the challenge of translating at least part of it, contact me directly and we can probably add it in there!

    • I can haz KanjiBox badges?

      Yes you can!

  2. Account upgrade, donations...
    • What is this 'Elite' status business? I thought we were an autonomous collective living as an anarcho-syndicalist commune!

      Although KanjiBox has always been entirely free to use (yet far from cheap to keep running) and will remain so, for any foreseeable future, I felt something should be done to reward generous souls who donated, even a few bucks, of their own vollition.

      Simultaneously, I have been looking for a way to make available all sorts of extra features or superfluous niceties which, while fun and enjoyable, would put too much of a strain on the server if used by everybody (such as KanjiBox's latest addition: Text Drill/Quiz, a really cool mode that is unfortunately too CPU-heavy to be opened to all).

      Thus was born a class system of sorts.

      Like any class system worth its salt, this one is completely unfair and based on monetary worth: generous donators (past and future) receive 'Elite' member status (indicated by a small 'エリート' mark, next to the header), while stingyregular users should see no difference.

      In addition to the smug satisfaction of knowing that they belong to a race of superior beings whose delicious fragrance and intellect shall be praised all the way to the pubs of northern Demachiyanagi, Elite users have access to a special page (by clicking on aforementioned mark) with a couple tiny extra features (more will be added over time). Note that none of these features will ever be of a nature to affect scores and ranking in any of KanjiBox's quizzes and therefore fairness will always reign, regardless of donation status (we might be heading the way of a corrupt oligarchy, but not quite that far yet).

      Click Here to donate!

      Note 1: If you are a user of KanjiBox for iPhone/iPad, you are entitled to a free upgrade to Elite status. Simply follow the instructions over there or sync once with your online account from your device.

      Note 2: There is no set donation minimum: you should donate however much you feel KanjiBox is worth to you while making sure you can safely afford it. Stopping and taking the time to show your appreciation, is at least as important as the actual amount. If even a couple bucks would put a strain on your budget, there are still ways you can obtain an account upgrade by helping on miscellaneous KB-related projects (usually, dataset cleanup and editing) which benefit the entire community.

      Note 3: if you ever made a donation and do not see the Mark of the Blessed on your KanjiBox page, please contact me with your full name and email: status updates are manual and I do my best, but I can sometimes make mistakes. If you just made a donation, give me a few days to make the update before panicking.

    • I can't afford a donation for a status upgrade. Any interest in a camel and a few goats? My young nubile sister? My first-born?

      Unfortunately, current international regulation on human trafficking and health inspection at Japanese customs make it difficult to accept such gifts in nature (but feel free to send me chocolate or samples of your local alcohol). However, if you have more spare time than money (or if you simply prefer to contribute in this way), you are more than welcome to donate some of your time and contribute.

      Although there is no formal mechanism to reward contributions with status upgrade, I do my best to collect the names of people who put in a reasonable effort and switch them to 'Elite' status manually (if you ever feel you have contributed and do not see an upgrade after a while, you should not hesitate to contact me: it is sometimes difficult tracking contributions efficiently).

    • Contributing...

      I regularly call on to the KanjiBox community for help with miscellaneous tasks geared at improving KanjiBox, such as cleaning datasets (fixing entries incorrectly assigned to a given JLPT level, definition errors etc.), gathering data from paper sources (e.g. new JLPT exam specifications) etc. etc.

      In the spirit of Jim Breen's invaluable EDICT dataset, all such work is done under Creative Commons licensing schemes, so that it can benefit any future Japanese-related project.

      Most projects are very straightforward and can be tackled in small bouts, without advanced software or Japanese skills. It is, however, essential that you read whatever instructions are provided: there is nothing more frustrating than good-willed contributors whose work has to be discarded, generally due to failure to follow the most basic instructions.

      The best way to be informed of such projects is to subscribe to KanjiBox's fan page on Facebook: in addition to occasional update notices and misc. discussions, this is where calls for help on KB-related projects usually pop up. You should of course also have a look at past news on that page, to see if any project might still be underway. If you don't see anything (or if you have any suggestions on other ways in which you can make yourself useful): don't hesitate to contact me.

      Three areas are in perpetual need of improvements:

      1. JLPT Kanji/Vocab levels/correct reading: miscategorisation (or use of the wrong reading for a compound) is a common problem, particularly at higher levels (N3 and up). Use the feedback icon (lower-right) to send corrections directly (but please double-check them beforehand).
      2. Translations of kanji and vocab in a few other languages (Spanish, French, German, Russian...) is underway. Many entries still lack a translation, or need correction. If you pick a non-English language in your settings, you will be given the opportunity to add/correct translated entries (click on the edit icon next to the question text). By default, your corrections will be held for review (and won't appear immediately): please contact me if you would like to be vetted as an "editor" (and be able to directly edit content).
      3. For Elite users: Text drill/quiz relies on example sentences from the Tanaka corpus: the Japanese is generally accurate, but English translations are often lacking. A new edit button next to the feedback button (available in Drill mode only, since it spoils the answer) lets you directly suggest corrections. There too: your edits are held for review but you can contact me directly to become an official "editor".

    • What's in store for the future?

      I am still actively developing KanjiBox, fixing stuff and adding features. All subject to heavy schedule constraints and occasional need to go drink myself silly at the nearest bar instead of writing PHP code. In practice, every once in a while, I will go on week-long KB development benders, hoping my PhD advisor doesn't notice the sharp decrease in work productivity at the lab, only to be cut short in my momentum by more urgent life-or-death matters (advisor progress meetings, paper submission deadlines, conference trips, girlfriend's attempts to deep-fry my laptop etc).

      All in all, keep in mind that KB is a pet project and far from the centre of attention in my life, so development can go on hiatus at any moment and development schedule is very tentative. Needless to say, donations, contributions and supportive message go a long way to motivate the very venal person that I am.

      Here is a tentative roadmap for the months/years to come. Feel free to contact me with your own suggestions (but have a look at the forums and App page first to see if it's not already covered):

      • Sync learning data with iPhone application. (Done as of KB for iPhone 2.0)
      • Multilingual KB: support for French, German and Russian in Vocab/Reading mode, Spanish and French in Kanji mode (Implemented. Translation effort ongoing).
      • Facebook-free login: possibility to create accounts and log in directly without going through Facebook.
      • Grammar quiz: extending current Text mode to cover grammar points in each JLPT levels.
      • Customisable UI: page width, font size etc.
      • ...

      You can become a "Fan" on KanjiBox's Facebook page, if you want to receive occasional notifications through Facebook when I release a major KanjiBox upgrade.

      If there is a feature you feel you cannot live without, check the entry pertaining to feature requests.

    • Donations... ($¥€ → \o/)

      ... are encouraged and gladly accepted: Click Here to donate!

  3. Specific Issues
    • It would be cool if Quiz mode had feature [xxx], just like Drill mode...

      There is a very specific reason why Quiz mode does not offer as many options as Drill mode (specific level training, adaptive drilling, show/hide English, pronunciations etc.): while drill is entirely personal, quiz answers put you in direct competition with other users. For this reason, KanjiBox needs to ensure that quiz mode is absolutely uniform, within a given level, across all players. Generally speaking, if an option you are looking for is not in Quiz mode, just use Drill mode (or request it for drill mode if it doesn't exist at all): the only notable difference is that it won't log your scores (but it wouldn't make much sense anyway to compare those)...

    • Why isn't there a quiz mode or revision export for Kana?

      As for most other "why isn't there an option to do [xxx]?", the short answer is that I haven't got around to implement it yet and that, maybe one day, when I have time.

      The longer and slightly more realistic answer is that, given the amount of free time I have (precious little) and the amount of potential features that outrank kana options (heaps and heaps), you are unlikely to see much new kana features until a very hypothetical KanjiBox Inc. IPO on the NASDAQ allows me to quit my dayjob. Kana are only a secondary feature of KanjiBox, as they are [comparatively] rather easy to learn and shouldn't take a devoted student more than a couple weeks (whereas you can easily spend years on the kanji/vocab/reading parts: trust me on this).

      Of course, if you beg to differ with these priorities, and so does your wallet, please by all mean make me an offer I can't refuse.

    • I seem to be getting out-of-level questions in Quiz mode. Is this a bug?

      Probably not.

      Quiz is meant to give you waves of questions in progression "around" your level. This means some of the first waves will be below your level, while the last few are likely to be slightly above it. If you want to only be asked questions at your chosen level, use Drill mode.

    • What do these colors and numbers mean on the stats page?

      In a nutshell, each bar represents your mastery of a given level. The greener, the better.

      For each entry (kanji, vocab, reading, kana...) in each level, KanjiBox associates a color, going from red (failed many times) to bright green (consistently answered right), with all sorts of nuances in the middle. White indicates entries that you haven't been presented with yet.

      When you start with KanjiBox, your stats will be entirely white, progressively filling up and constantly evolving, as your answers get better or worse.

    • How does scoring work in Quiz mode?

      Scoring uses a dark and secret algorithm that takes in account your level, the current wave you are answering and how fast you answered (and whether you answered correctly, obviously). The higher the level and the wave, the higher the amount of points up for grab. I then apply a ridiculously complex (non-linear) function of time to decide how much effective points you get. That is: from that base amount, you will receive all or a share of the points depending on the amount of time you had left when you clicked. You still get the maximum amount after a couple seconds and you do get a few points, even when the counter has reached zero.

      "Passing" a wave has nothing to do with scores and is only calculated on the percentage of correct answers per wave. Each wave has anywhere between 5 and 20 kanjis, you must obtain a 50-70% success rate (depending on the level you are training at) on each of these, in order to reach the next one.

      As of version 2, a 'skip' button (appearing as a question mark: '?') lets you skip a question without providing any answer. In drill mode, this helps KB assess your level more efficiently. In quiz mode, this is also the only way to not risk losing any points on a question (a wrong answer will remove points from your score).

    • Answers to the previous questions appear and fade away way too fast!

      Note: behaviour for this option was changed from the old Facebook-hosted version! Please read below.

      Simply click on the correction box (its background color should change slightly) and it will stay on-screen until the end of the wave (or until you click again).

      Alternatively, you can also change the corresponding option in the settings, but be warned that this will increase the waiting time between waves (new waves can only be loaded when all previous answers have vanished).

    • Is there a way to export a list of words or kanji for offline studying?

      Yes there is. On the main tab (Home), just click on Export Printouts, select your options and click on 'Generate List': you should have a nice printable list of words or kanjis. If nothing happens when you click on Export Printouts, this might be due to a browser compatibility problem: try again using any non-Microsoft-made browser and let me know if the problem persists.

    • Oh my God! What happened to all the kids in 7th grade??? Were they sent to a remote island as part of a shady government program?

      Thanks to some awesome user contributions, grade 7 kanji should now be properly labeled in the datasets. Feel free to contact me if you notice some errors.

    • Some Kanji questions offer choices with identical readings: it is impossible to know which one is the correct answer...

      Some Kanji questions offer choices with identical english definitions: it is impossible to know which one is the correct answer...

      Generally, KanjiBox will avoid presenting you with kanji that are too confusingly close (e.g. simplified and traditional version of the same kanji). However, you may sometimes get kanji that share the same readings or similar English definitions: in that case, use the '>>' button to display both English and Readings (this should generally be enough to tell the right kanji). If two truly identical definitions and readings show up together, please use the Feedback button.

    • Is there a way to use keyboard hotkeys instead of clicking on answers?

      Yes. Simply make sure that the 'Enable Hotkeys' option is checked in your settings. Once enabled, just use keys '1' through '5' to answer a question in Drill or Quiz mode (pressing '5' is the same as clicking on the '?' button).

      Note 1: At present, this feature is only available to Elite users.
      Note 2: This is an experimental feature: there is a chance this might not work on every browser/platform. If you notice any issue, please contact me with details and I will do my best to fix it.

  4. Dave
    • The man behind the machine...

      Hello my name is David, but friends call me Dave.

      When not busy throwing my life away debugging Japanese-learning applications at 4am on a random weekday, I also enjoy unicorns, rainbows, humorous postcards featuring kittens doing wacky anthropomorphic activities, binge drinking and hardcore pornography. Just kidding: I'm not all that much into rainbows.

      After a decade between San Francisco, London, Paris and Tokyo, I recently spent a few years getting my PhD in the beautiful but incredibly boringquiet suburbs of Kyoto; I now live and work in Tokyo, trying to make up for years of monastic life sacrificed at the altar of medical research by drinking myself blind on a regular basis in the back alleys of Shinjuku.

      I like to believe I possess a certain worldly character and wry sense of humour. Most people just seem to think I am an annoying prick. Japanese people tend to stare blankly. a lot.

      Although writing another twenty paragraphs of that self-gazing drivel would come fairly natural to me, I will suggest that anyone bored enough to want to know more, check my blog instead.

    • I love you! Can I have your kids?! Do you want to join my very exclusive list of 3642 Facebook friends?

      Quite a few people over the years have been spontaneously sending me Facebook friend requests without so much as an explanation. I am very touched by this attention. Heartbreaking as it may be though, I usually decline them, as I try to keep my FB account somewhat limited to actual friends, or at least people I have some connection with. This doesn't mean I am closed to the idea of meeting new people on the interwebs, far from it: I'd just rather we make acquaintance first before we exchange the privilege to inundate each other's newsfeed with boring updates and mundane details of our respective lives.

      If you feel we have much to bond over, do not hesitate to contact me via FB message. If you are just curious to know every detailed minutiae of my life, then head over to my blog (it's the same, only with more pictures), but please do not send me FB friend requests awkwardly devoid of any explanation: they make me feel like a complete asshole declining them.

      Conversely, if you happen by the greater Tokyo area and feel like taking me out for a beer, don't hesitate to get in touch.

    • Why, oh why?

      While actively looking for ways to occupy those two extra hours of free time I had recently gained from eliminating sleep altogether from my weekly schedule, I once realised that absolutely none of the existing study-assisting software for kanji worked the way I'd like. This realisation came about 1 month before 2008's JLPT and coincided with the realisation that I was hopelessly behind in my 2-kyuu revisions.

      It certainly wasn't enough for me to catch up on my revisions, but apparently helped a few, so it wasn't all in vain after all.

    • By the way, what's your Japanese level yourself?

      Poor, very poor. It might get better one day, if I stop wasting my time building Japanese-learning software and actually start using it.

  5. Non-KB related requests
    • KONNECHEVA!!!!~~~~LOLZ~^^~ I really like Japanese anime ^^ Can you help me move there!?!

      Every so often, I seem to get contacted by Japanese immigration hopefuls who, after watching twenty episodes of Naruto in a row, have come away convinced that Japan is the country they were meant to be born into.

      So far, so good. More power to them, really.

      But some of these people apparently work under the delusion that I, of all people, can, or would care to, help them achieve this goal.

      Allow me therefore to use this occasion to set the record straight on a couple of the million things wrong with this picture:

      1. Contrary to what you may have heard, the Japanese entertainment industry is not in such a hiring boom that they desperately seek foreign 16 year-old anime fans with dubious language skills (as exhibited by their native language spelling skills) to join their ranks.
      2. As it turns out (and you would find out eventually), Japan is not that different from the rest of the world. In that compulsively watching and obsessing over animated cartoons while eating junk food 24/7 (instead of, you know, bathing on a daily basis, reading books with words or meeting people) will also put you in the "socially inept" category, just like anywhere else. The fact Japanese have a word for it, doesn't make it any less of a social shortcoming. So you might as well save yourself the hardship and stay in your mum's basement.
      3. I have absolutely no personal incentive to encourage your misguided attempt at eloping to that fantasy eldorado of yours. At best, you'll only end up one of those semi-adapted douchebags whose complete lack of social skills is misinterpreted as cultural difference by the locals (thus furthering well-ingrained notions among Japanese that all foreigners must be "weird" and adverse to personal hygiene). At worst, you will curl up in a ball near Harajuku bridge, waiting to be evacuated by your embassy and becoming a tripping hazard on my morning commute in the meantime.

      All that being said: if your interest in Japan covers more than Dragon Ball Z and 12 year-old schoolgirl outfits, and you think I might be of assistance with some Japan-related inquiry, feel free to contact me and ask. I am not that mean in real.

    • I want to get a Japanese tattoo. Can you translate "Super Princess Warrior" into Japanese for me?

      In a way that won't make people laugh when you go for a swim in Japantown? probably not. Feel free to ask in the forums, but if I may say: you probably should stay away from permanent body modifications in a language you do not even remotely understand.

  6. Etc.
  7. Work in progress... More to come...

[sign out]

[Dave on Twitter]