Irish company Wukomi Media has released an iPad and iPhone app that uses humourous, graphical associations to teach users the Japanese Hiragana writing system.
The inspiration for creating the Dr Moku’s Hiragana Mnemonics app came after the project developer Richard Christy met the love of his life, Amaye, on a business trip to Japan three years ago.
While he was learning the language, Amaye told him about Hiragana, part of the syllabic Japanese scripts Kana, which was much simpler than the writing system Kanji.
"Once I knew that Japanese could be broken down for children I decided that I could break it down even further for impatient thirtysomethings like me!" said Christy.
Christy developed the idea by drawing basic mnemonics in a notebook. He passed them on to professional comic artist Bob Byrne, giving them a more stylistic flair.
Dr Moku’s Hiragana Mnemonics app includes audio, two different learning modes – manual and autoplay – and three different quiz levels to help users learn this alphabet through mnemonics.
It has a quick reference mode to let users jump to the screens they wish to revise and features an introduction to learning basic and modified Hiragana.
Christy said the app allows users to learn this writing system in a small amount of time.
"Hiragana is the crucial gateway to the Japanese language and the very first thing you need to learn. Initially, we hoped for a working understanding in one day,” said Christy.
“But we were delighted to find it could be even less. One 12-year-old girl in the test group learned Hiragana in about 30 minutes".
The app is aimed at beginners as a first step in learning Japanese. Christy and Amaye, who are now married, are working on more new teaching applications in the same style.
Dr Moku’s Hiragana Mnemonics is available on the iTunes Store, as a free version and a paid version. The free version teaches a limited number of symbols.