If you didn't read our blog, here is the short version of the what to consider, if you make learning a new foreign language your New Year's resolution...:Sorry: the Watertown Patch post cannot be found any longer, but here is the original post.
If you have been wondering why you have not heard more about our mobile applications, here is the reason why: For the last few months, our CTO – who also happens to be our son – has been working on his first book, “Professional HTML5 Mobile Game Development”. Both the paperback and Kindle edition are now available on Amazon.
We are currently working with Pascal on incorporating many of the ideas and games described in his book into new games for mobile and touchscreen devices, including iPhones, Ipads, Android, and WP7.5. Players will be able to use these games independently or in connection with our currently four language courses.
Also, while we are continuing to work on a mobile application for our main courses, we will change our payment structure to a three month subscription for $10, with no automatic renewal. (There will be no change for our current customers.)
We'll keep you updated on our progress with links to our mobile games as they are being published.
The GamesforLanguage Team
Why we use "The Story"...
Nearly every day we receive google alerts about a new online game or app that promises to make language learning easier and more fun. Some recent ones were: “Blanca goes to School, Question It, San Jiten 3D Game, GoGoLingo, uSpeak.” Many of these language learning games are word games, and/or geared towards younger children with vocabulary appropriate to those age groups.
Language Learning Fun and Gamification
One of the more successful iPad apps for adults, “Mindsnacks,” teaches the words and phrases of a large number of topics - from numbers, colors, months, body parts, greetings, time/date etc. - with entertaining games and a good reward system. (While this is a “fun” program, the lack of a recording option does not let you check your pronunciation.)
A recent entry, “Duolingo,” is trying a new approach that combines traditional reading, translating, speaking, and writing exercises with well-thought-out gamification elements and the challenge “to help translate the web.”
Learning a Language with “The Story”
GamesforLanguage has chosen an approach that uses a narrative which gradually unfolds for the learner. It’s the story of a young “hero” who travels to the country where the language is spoken, meets friends and relatives there, and makes new friends. (To the right: La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spanish 1, Scene 2.4)
By reading, hearing, practicing, and recording the words, phrases, and sentences that are used in “The Story” in fast moving games, the learner immediately acquires a very diverse and useful vocabulary. In essence, the learner is challenged to discover “The Story.” And so, rather than focusing on specific “topics,” we teach typical phrases and sentences that you would hear and use every day during your travels. Based on our own experience, we believe that this approach is particularly effective for quickly acquiring the tools for communicating in a foreign language.
The GamesforLanguage Team
We've arrived in Madrid for the last week of our Spain trip. In the more than seven weeks to date, we have just seen a small part of this country, but are taking many impressions with us.
After our time in Barcelona, which we enjoyed very much (and which also gave us some insights into the Catalan language and political struggle, see our blog...) we traveled south. With visits to Granada with its marvelous Alhambra, and to Sevilla with its Giralda (left), Alkazar and Torre del Oro, we followed in the steps of our Spanish 1 “hero” David - and we learned much about the long and often violent history of Spain.
We also visited Aranjuez and the summer palace of Spanish kings so we could utter the words: “Die schönen Tage von Aranjuez sind nun zu Ende” - the first sentence of Schiller’s play “Don Carlos” (“The pleasant days of Aranjuez are now over”).
While in Madrid, we are also following in David‘s footsteps - indeed our apartment is in walking distance of all the places mentioned in Level 6 of Spanish 1: Parque del Retiro (see picture on the right with the monument of Alfonso XII), the Prado, and even the Plaza de España and the “Museo Chichote” (a bar frequented in earlier years by film stars and other famous folks). There are more museums in Madrid than we can visit in our time here, but we certainly are trying our best.
And equally important, our stay in Spain has given us ample opportunity to try out our Spanish and to collect new ideas both for our Spanish 1 as well as for our future Spanish 2 course...
The great advantage of an online language program such as GamesforLanguage.com, as compared to language textbooks or CDs, is our ability to immediately and constantly improve our program. Early users will have noticed a number of changes over the last few months:
We've moved "The Story": In the easy first Scene - where the flight attendant asks our "hero" what he would like to drink - the dialog of "The Story" appears right at the beginning. However, for some users, listening to “The Story” without knowing the vocabulary, was frustrating. It therefore now follows the vocabulary games for the next 17 Scenes. Users will have acquired a vocabulary of around 350 words by the end of Level 3 (after 18 Scenes), and will now be able to guess the meaning of the next dialog. "The Story" will therefore appear again at the beginning of each Scene with Level 4.
Verb Picks: Following the suggestion of some users, we've added a simple conjugation game.
We've expanded the Memory Game: The initial Memory game now includes all new vocabulary (not just 8 key items). We were at first reluctant to overload the learner, but as we ourselves learned Spanish (see this blog and others that follow), we felt that each and every new word should be practiced.
We've added Word Hero: This recall game practices the vocabulary of the previous Scene.
We've added Recall and Record: In this game, the user recalls the vocabulary of a Scene of one (1) Level (i.e. 6 Scenes) earlier, and practices their pronunciation again in phrases and sentences.
Changes in the works
Downloadable grammar sheets: Not all users are interested in more detailed grammar instructions relating to the phrases and sentences of "The Story." However, for those who do, we're planning to offer downloadable, targeted "grammar sheets."
Personalized vocabulary list/game: We're working on a game that will allow users to create (then add/delete) and practice a personal vocabulary list.
Story audios: We'll shortly have mp3 audios of all scenes available for download. This way users can also listen to "The Story" on the road.
We’ve changed our mind!
Although apps have been the hot item for a while now and we already had a prototype in the works, we've changed our mind. We were growing weary of the many issues with apps, including having to wait 14 days for Apple to approve any changes and needing separate applications for Apple and Android.
We are working on a “responsive” website that tailors its display for optimal viewing on your device, whether mobile or desktop. “Responsive” design is quite new, but we are fortunate enough to have a “crack” developer on our team – our son Pascal – who just implemented such a “responsive” website for another start-up, www.Fundraise.com. Look for a new design and website for gamesforlanguage.com, which will work on all devices, in the coming months!
Spanish 1 works for us
We’ve now been here in Barcelona for a couple of weeks. Our Spanish is improving by leaps and bounds, and we are having great fun exploring the city. (see Gaudi's Casa Mila on your right.) We prepared for our stay with our Spanish 1 course and are pleased at how many words, phrases, and expressions from our course we see, hear, and read every day. During our walks around town, we practice with shop keepers, waiters, and anybody else we can talk to. We read the local El Periódico every morning, and watch some Spanish television at night. Our list of new words, which we review often, keeps growing.
Research for Spanish 2
We have started to take pictures of the advertised daily lunch or evening menus, asked for them in restaurants, and are compiling a list of the most common names of Spanish foods and dishes. These terms, together with other words and phrases that we encounter, will then become part of Spanish 2. (They’ll also be available as downloads on our site for those who are interested.)
The following article appeared in the Watertown Patch on March 9, 2012 under the headline:
A Watertown couple has launched an online program to help people learn a foreign language and they want to share it with town residents.
Peter and Ulrike Rettig have desks facing each other in the second floor of their Watertown home, overlooking the Oakley Country Club. That is where they work onGamesforLanguage.com, a website where people can learn French, Spanish, German or Italian....
In January 2012 we began experimenting with a new pricing offer: We will reimburse anybody who completes one of our 36 lesson courses in 40 days his/her full purchase price, as long as they achieve a 95% score in each lesson. In fact, we will even reimburse anyone $.88 (or whatever the per lesson cost may be) for each lesson with a 95% score within the 40 days window. (As an added incentive we will also count any referrals to our site the same way.) The only obvious caveat is that the total reimbursement cannot exceed the original purchase price. The offered ended March 31st, 2012, but users who signed up before that date are still getting the benefit of the offer. We have started to reimburse all players for the scenes they completed with at least a 95% score.
Ulrike Rettig and Pascal Rettig of GamesforLanguage, LLC were recently interviewed on the MYOB Radio Show. Listen to the October 19, 2011 interview.
We have launched our full courses on GamesforLanguage.com program with four (4) initial languages: French 1, Italian 1, Spanish 1, and German 1. These courses are designed specifically for Teens and Adults. Each course has 36 lessons consisting of a conversation and games that help you learn the language of everyday life, or propel you to refresh your dormant language skills. Each language is available to play online for $29.95 per course, and you'll have full access from any computer, anywhere in the world. We are planning intermediate and advanced courses for each of the current four languages, as well as English for speakers of these languages. We have tested and improved our language games over the last eight months during our Beta phase with hundreds of players. Our program will appeal to teens and adults who want:
AN AFFORDABLE BUT EFFECTIVE PROGRAM TO LEARN LANGUAGES WITH GAMES