Kanalab 1.0 (Tim Naughton)

System Requirements: 700 KB free RAM; 650 KB of hard disk space; color monitor optional; JLK not required
Price: $25--Available from ftp.uwtc.washington.edu
Review by Cliff Darnall, Elk Grove High School (IL)

Kanalab 1.0 is a hiragana and katakana shareware drill program offering very detailed progress reports. In a typical lesson, the computer will first show three kana for study. It shows the roomaji and the kana, and pronounces the character clearly in a native speaker's voice. Once the user clicks "OK," the program will drill the user faster than any human drillmaster could. The computer says the name of the character and shows it roomaji, and the user must then click on the corresponding kana from three shown on the screen. If the user is correct the computer repeats the kana selected and then immediately presents the next problem. If the user is mistaken, the computer still pronounces the selected kanji but does not proceed to the next problem. The computer continues the drill until each of the three characters has been correctly identified five times in a row, which is termed mastery. The computer switches the order of the kana choices on the screen almost every time. It drills the student particularly on the kana she or he is answering more slowly on and the kana where the student makes mistakes.

Once the student has successfully mastered the initial three kana, a fourth is introduced. There are now four choices for matching, and the choices are rearranged between problems. Mastery of the new kana brings in a fifth kana with five choices on the screen. Choices remain at five even after additional kana are entered. The user can choose to introduce additional kana into the mix at any time.

There are several useful features. For example, the user can adjust the various settings in the preference section. The number of kana appearing on the screen, the number of successive correct responses to show mastery, the number of new kana introduced at a time, the order or introduction, and other parameters can be controlled there. Also available at any time are detailed on-screen or printed progress reports showing the average time for each character introduced, the relative rate of identification compared to other characters studied, the success rate of the student in identifying that character, and the characters confused with the target character. Finally the current lesson can be saved so that the student can continue on where he left off.

The drilling is indeed intense. The student cannot stop the drill except to get a progress report or quit the program. Some students would object, but others might find it an efficient way to drill recognition of individual kana characters.

Most appropriate venues for use: SmGrp, CmpLb, RscRm, SlfSt