Posted on by Peter Rettig

The K.I.S.S. Principle and Game Playing

KISS Acronym As we started out to develop our foreign language games and the related website, we knew we wanted to attract a wide range of learners:
- those for whom traditional language instructions did not work;
- those who were currently using other self-teaching foreign language programs;
- those for whom such courses were either too expensive or time consuming or boring;
- those who were attracted by the “game playing” proposition - to just name a few.

We were further guided by the Eisenberg's/Quato-vonTivadar's book Always Be Testing, which identifies four personality types of web users that can serve as archetypes: 1. Competitive/Assertive 2. Spontaneous/Amiable 3. Humanistic/Expressive 4. Methodical/Analytical

Without going into the authors' description of these types, we designed our site with these four types in mind. We also felt that our proposition has the potential to appeal to all four:
- the competitive/assertive user will welcome the points and the scoring with the increasing difficulty inherent in any language course;
- the spontaneous/amiable player will be looking for the “play” button and skip much else;
- the humanistic/expressive learner may be interested in linking the foreign language learning to a story;
- the methodical/analytical user will want to understand the logic of the approach, and get grammar and pronunciation explanations.

The K.I.S.S Principle

In the spirit of K.I.S.S., we decided to keep the playing screen as simple and uncluttered as possible. However, surveys on the site and feedback from friends made it clear that there is a difference between younger and older players. While the young players would start playing by clicking on the first playing screen, the older players were a little confused about how to start.

Arrows and a “Continue” label had to be added. Clearly, the K.I.S.S. admonishment to ourselves needs to take older players into account too. These players may indeed fall into the four user types quoted above. But, they also may need more instructions “how to play” than generations X Y Z, et al.

We are still evaluating what instructions are really needed. And, we are deliberating on how we should best communicate them. Via buttons on the start up screens? On the game screens? On the home or menu icons?

Voice Recognition?

Listening to native speakers and then emulating their pronunciation is one of the key challenges for any student of a foreign language. While some self-teaching language programs are experimenting with voice recognition programs, we decided against using this technology. Rather than being helpful, it can cause the learner to become frustrated with the program.

Instead, encourage players at to always repeat what they hear, and when they can, to "shadow" what the native speaker says (speak along with the speaker). By using this technique often, a learner's pronunciation can improve noticeably.

We started out with a few basic ideas: Rather than overwhelm the “learner” with explanations and instructions, we let the “player” immediately play through the various screens and games.

Keeping the playing and learning intuitive with games for listening, word identification, translation, and writing, the player will begin to memorize words and sentences and recognize grammatical structures. Indeed, we are very conscious of applying the K.I.S.S. principle to any grammar explanations as well. But that's for another blog post.