Two months ago, while I was researching Anki, I re-tried Skritter and Chinese Writer for the writing characters part. Unfortunately Skritter required a subscription. So I dropped it till this week, when I subscribed through a group order (so much cheaper!)
My first impression of Skritter, 2 months ago, was that it was very powerful, and that it was more suited for Thumper (8) than Astroboy (5). Playing with it again today, my second impression is that the more English you know, the better suited it is for you. It also doesn’t have zhuyin support on iOS, which is our primary OS at home.
However, since it’s so powerful, I changed some of my settings to suit our more Chinese-Chinese learning environment. Unfortunately, you cannot change the interface to be all Chinese. That is one thing I liked about Anki.
All my notes are specific to the iOS version.
A super short description of what Skritter does. It is also a spaced learning software with 4 modes:
For writing practice, here’s the Settings I used:
- Hide Reading (off)
- Stroke Order (on)
- Raw Squigs (off in the beginning)
- Auto Pronounce (on)
- Style (Traditional)
- Writing (on)
- Reading (off)
- Tones (off)
- Definitions (off)
There is no reason for us to use the reading or the definition because it’s a flashcard system and uses English. The tone one may be helpful for Astroboy, after I teach him the pinyin method for tones, which is different from zhuyin. (Darn the iOS!)
How We’re Using Skritter
It seems like Skritter has two broad studying method. One is Study, which keeps adding words from all your vocabulary lists. For Astroboy, first I added Set 1, Book 1 to the list by using the Lists->Custom setting. As I played with it, it started adding characters from other books in Set 1. For Thumper, I may just let it run as it and have it all all 500 characters slowly as it sees fit.
If you’re lazy, you can use the Advanced Mode, where you can quickly just specify a list, and a mode, to study. Good if the kids are struggling with certain sets. You can also star certain characters you’re having problems with.
I took 15 minutes to test drive the app. The one reason Skritter is for second language learners is that you have to read the definition if you want to know which character you’re supposed to be writing. This is a bit different from Chinese Writer where they show you the character you’re supposed to write first. It’s really a flashcard system.
For characters I wasn’t sure about, I hit the Info button to see which character. The nice thing is that it shows you the components, plus pronunciation of components to help you remember how to write them. Today, I learned to write 指. It kept asking me to rewrite 個 for some reason. Maybe because when I first used it I didn’t realize I need to go slow, or else it sometimes can’t detect my strokes and thinks I’ve got the stroke order wrong.