As is probably now well known, I love language learning tools that are anything but a textbook. I often spend out on, or sign up to things that will give me an edge on my language studying hobbies.
A few months ago I read a great review on International House of Geek about the app MindSnacks. So, I decided to give it a go.
The app is free to download, but for the full version I think I paid about 3 Euros (tried to find the price on their website and on iTunes but found no info).
It’s pretty good for basic vocabulary. They build your knowledge with a series of games – the above one is Fish Tank, which is infuriatingly difficult. Even when I was practising only months, which are the same in Chinese as they are in Japanese, I was getting so much game rage that I kept messing up. You have to click on the answer that corresponds to the prompt before the water runs away and the fish dies.
ShutterBug is a game you can play after paying for the full version. It’s another of the better ones, as you are given an audio prompt as well, which helps me remember the new vocabulary.
Mystery Crate could be such a good and useful game with some tweaking. The aim is to press the incorrect crates and get rid of them before they reach the ground. Crates with correct words on them, that arrive safely to the ground will let the rhinos go free nicely. Ones that are incorrect that arrive to the ground blow up. Where this app goes wrong is that you are looking up at the top to spot incorrect words, when you see an explosion at the ground but don’t remember the word let alone have the chance to review what was wrong about it. Especially with Chinese, where an incorrect word could mean only one stroke going array, a review session after the game has finished is vital.
After being not 100% impressed with the Chinese version, I decided not to buy the German one, but to stick with the free games. One of those is this great spelling game called Word Birds. You click on the letters to spell out the word written above. If you click on the wrong letter, the birds are electrocuted. This is a really ace game and definitely one of their stronger ones.
Overall, although the games are fun and teach me new words, I’m not entirely sure I’m actually learning anything new from these apps. There is a nice tone game in the Chinese one, but again, me getting the answers correct seems to have little correlation to whether I am able to speak using the correct tones. I have just gone to a new level and have been bombarded with a load of new profession words, but since there is no review period it’s kind of hard to remember the words before I go into the games. I’d prefer to learn more verbs and things I’ll actually use before learning these kinds of words anyway.
Overall I’d say they are worth the initial download (they ask your level at the start so it’s not just for beginners). They seem to be aiming to improve the games a lot so it’s worth keeping an eye on the apps to see if they get better, which I’m sure they will. I really hope they do well though, because the designs are great and the idea to build these games is fantastic. They just aren’t for me right now.