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Leveling a language

February 18, 2013 1 comment

This weekend I started leveling in a new game – German. It is through the service DuoLingo, which is a free online language teaching service, combined with a crowdsourced translation of text.

It was created by Luis von Ahn, creator of reCAPTCHA, and a couple of other people. While one important part of the service is translation of text, I find it also interesting because they have gamified the learning process.

Each lesson gives you points after completion, similar to gaining XP. After you have received a certain amount of points you gain a level. As you level, more skill/learning options open up for you. After receiving a certain proficiency in an area, one can continue to move on to other areas, or continue with mastering that area. In is in the latter option that the crowdsourced translation seems to be taking place.

Each lesson also give each student/player 4 lives (hearts) – if an answer is wrong, you lose one heart. If you lose all hearts, you fail the lesson and have to redo it to progress. The more hearts you have after a lesson, the more “xp” you get.

Each lesson is fairly short and the time can be counted in minutes. I found it quite fun and enjoyable to play/learn through DuoLingo. To try it out I started with German, a language I studied for only 3-4 weeks long ago in my youth in high school before switching to French and Russian.

So far I have reached level 4 and judging from the skill tree, there is a lot of ground to cover.

The site offers language training in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and English – the latter for speakers of some of the Latin languages, the others for those who speak English.

So what will your proficiency in a language be after completing the DuoLingo training? There is a Reddit discussion on this topic, which relates what is learned to CEFR level definitions. In some areas abilities/skills may be at B1 level, other areas DuoLingo is weaker. Considering the number of hours CEFR estimates for reaching certain proficiency levels compared to the number of hours people seem to need in general to complete a DuoLingo training, it seems DuoLingo is fairly efficient.

I do recommend reading the comments that are attached to each exercise, in particular if you do not quite understand the correct answer – DuoLingo does not go out of its way to explain the grammar. There are grammar descriptions, but not everything is explained in detail. Here comments from native/knowledgable people can be quite helpful.

Try it out – it is F2P and there is no item shop, lockboxes or pay-to-win features….

Categories: Online games, Other

No grammar star

June 26, 2011 3 comments

Recently there has been an ad on a number of web pages which has kind of irritated me. It is an ad for a browser game called Soccer Star. Presumably they check where you are browsing from, since they show a cartoon girl dressed in a Swedish flag in the ad. What annoys me is the text though, which says “det roliga fotbollsmatch”. This is quite terrible Swedish, what they probably wanted to write was “det roliga fotbollsspelet”, i.e. “the fun football game” – with game as in computer game (game = spel). What they instead refer to is the type of game where people run around kicking a ball – different word in Swedish (game = match) with incorrect grammar – “den roliga fotbollsmatchen” would be more correct.

Testing the translation from English to Swedish in Google Translate provides the incorrect form that they use in the ad. So they probably never spent any effort in trying to make proper translations, just used Google’s services and hoped for the best.

Categories: Online games

The Dream Machine

February 9, 2011 Comments off

In my line of work I tend to travel a fair amount during long periods – 4 to 5 days per week I am out of the country in some other part of Europe. This means staying at hotels without a lot of things one may take for granted at home.

It is in such environment I get to appreciate online features that does not really require me to have anything but a browser available for various things and that can work with a crappy hotel internet connection.

One such thing that I discovered recently is the adventure game The Dream Machine. It is a nice little point&click graphical adventure game with a unique style, since the graphics are actually made by clay and cardboard. It runs in Flash and saves your progress online after you have created an account. So you can log in and play it anywhere, as long as you have a browser that has Flash 8+ support.

The adventure consists of 5 chapters, of which 2 have been released so far. The first chapter is free, while the later chapters will cost a few euros each. So far I have played through the first chapter and liked it enough so that will get other chapters as well.

The developers (2 of them) write on their blog a bit why they choose this distribution model, which is quite ok with me. Interesting to see also is that they collect statistics about how people try to solve puzzles and how many solve different puzzles in the and thus adjust the game accordingly – provide better responses and options, changing difficulty of puzzles etc.

Not sure how much re-playability the game will have, but I was a fan of adventure games for a long time, before MMOs grabbed my attention. It is nice to get back into those games for a bit.