McGaijin Software interview – Learn Hiragana Now!

McGaijin Software have just released their first iOS app “Learn Hiragana Now!” to help you learn the Japanese hiragana alphabet. Here is my interview with them.

1. Tell us about your new iOS app.

‘Learn Hiragana Now!’ is my little app to help people to read and write hiragana (one of the Japanese syllabaries) in as fast a time as possible.

learn hiragana now

2. How did you get the idea for Learn Hiragana Now?

My husband and I love Japan, and while we both spoke enough Japanese to get around, on our first trip we soon realised that being able to read would be a massive benefit. When we got back home we made an effort to learn hiragana, but if you don’t use what you learn regularly it quickly disappears from your memory. We made up some mnemonics (memory aids) to assist learning, and found that the learning became more permanent. When we both bought iPod Touches we got the idea for the app. It is the perfect platform – it’s portable so you can learn anywhere, and the touch interface makes it very easy to use.

3. What challenges did you face with creating it?

Everything! I bought a second-hand Mac laptop to develop it on, and I’d never used a Mac before so it was a steep learning curve. I’d also never done any programming!

4. What tools did you use?

  • PhoneGap to compile the application (a package to allow you to use HTML & JavaScript within iPhone apps).
  • PaintShop Pro for the images.
  • CoffeeCup HTML editor to create the bones of the app.

5. What testing did you do for the app?

Everything was tested by hand. As the app was mainly HTML it was easy to test in a normal web browser. Once it was compiled on an actual iPod Touch I just made sure that every link went to the correct place – it was more time consuming than I thought, so hopefully there are no bugs!

6. How did you become interested in programming?

Creating this app was my first programming experience.

7. Will you be porting this app to other platforms?

PhoneGap allows compilation to Android, and Blackberry if I remember correctly. I’ve got an Android phone but to be honest I’ve not had chance to sit down and look at this properly – real life tends to get in the way of things!

8. What would you like to see changed or added to the iPhone SDK?

As a complete beginner when it comes to programming (and Macs!) I would love to see a beyond-simple set of video tutorials that you can use to get up and running, and teach programming basics.

9. What next for McGaijin Software?

I’m working on ‘Learn Katakana Now!’ – a similar app with a new set of mnemonics to learn katakana. Again, this is taking longer than I originally thought, but it will get there eventually.

10. Are there any other iOS apps you’d recommend for learning Japanese?

Kana LS – it’s a perfect companion for Learn Hiragana Now. It allows you to practise actually writing the kana on the screen with your finger, great for revision!
Human Japanese – a great introduction to the Japanese language, filled with tons of interesting facts.

Learn Hiragana Now! is available on the App Store now.


You can get the latest information about them McGaijin Software on the McGaijin Software website.

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