Proper communication fosters understanding and brings cultures closer together. Miscommunication, well........
It happened a few of years ago when I was at my corporate day job working extremely hard on a break, trying to pass level 10 of Snake via my Nokia 3210. (Yes I know, a Nokia). When a simple idea entered my head. What if learning Chinese was as easy as spending fifteen mindless minutes a day controlling a digital snake to eat a square pixelated dot for nine points? Or even better, what if learning Chinese could be as entertaining as a round of paintball, an archery lesson, a water gun fight or a target shooting video game?
It is from these humble beginnings that the idea for Mandarin Shooter Quest, a fun 2D shooting game which allows players to quickly build their Mandarin vocabulary, began, and with your help, we can turn this idea into an exciting, educative experience to help even the most language challenged individuals (myself included).
Unlike the English language, Chinese is based on a pictographic writing system where each word carries a different symbol to represent its meaning. Simplified Chinese has around 6,500 individual characters (or “pictures”) and a mixture of those symbols provides over 80,000 possible words. Luckily however, the 1,000 most popular individual characters cover 90% of today’s common language interactions so there is hope...
I’ve tried it all: Classrooms, reading textbooks, buying phrase books, Jacky Chan movies (in hindsight he's Cantonese...), rote learning passages, language CDs, private tutors and even spending 3 months in a small Chinese village where the English language does not exist... (click article) Then one day, it struck me. Like a fly kick to the face. An idea that might challenge these traditional learning methods.
The typical approach to an “interactive” learning tool for languages is either situation-based, stilted conversations where you follow two people musing on rigid topics which rarely play out in the real world, or some flashcard type offering which has a low excitement or engagement piece. However, if you reference recent brain science for most effective recall methods, we can leverage a few key facts to enhance our learning effectiveness.
Today's language learning market feels devoid of methods based on contemporary brain science and well-known natural principles.
Pareto’s Principle: The 80-20 Rule
The Italian Economist Vilfredo Pareto while at the University of Lausanne in 1896, published his first paper 'Cours d'economie politique' which highlighted the principle that "for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes". Applying this to language, if we focus only the most commonly found words and characters initially, we should have an outsized return on overall comprehension of the language.
For example, in many languages, “the most commonly used 100 words represent 50% of the total volume of all written and spoken content used by native speakers”
Memory Retention Through Repetition
Repeating core vocabulary words means that the learner is able to acquire and retain words which are most useful for speaking and reading Chinese.
Efficient Grouping of Word Sets to Maximise Retention
Based on scientific studies and logic, arranging content in an optimal structure improves an individuals' ability to learn and remember. Studies have demonstrated grouping similar words together (e.g. car, truck, bike, bus) for learning can confuse and has a negative effect on accurate memory recall. Thematic groups (e.g. China, red, big, people, to work) provides the best structure for remembering a given word and the game will leverage this fact.
Increasing Repetition Engagement Through Entertaining Content
When you increase repetition in a system or process, often engagement decreases and the risk of boredom increases. Unless the content is enjoyable and delivered in a unique and varied way...
By using an interactive, mobile, shooting format with varied levels, weapons, characters, targets and rewards and punishments, the repetitive nature of the activity will be much more tolerable / fun awesome use of time.
Deliver a fun and engaging game which significantly increases the player's ability to recall Chinese words.
The game aims to incorporate principles of repetition (which enhances memory) and the 3 parts to a Chinese word - the character, the pinyin and the English translation. This will be delivered through a fun, addictive game - Mandarin Shooter Quest! which rewards stellar performance and punishes poor performance!
Online Demo Version
Kids Having a Blast with the Demo Game
3 demo levels have been build with very basic functionality to test the idea with positive results.
The player is presented a word (e.g. in English - "I"), and must shoot the target representing the correct Chinese character. To learn Chinese properly, you must remember the symbol/character, its meaning (English word) and how to say it (pinyin). Therefore there are six possible combinations in which words can be shown and displayed. (See Game Dynamics Above)
After you correctly match the first 10 words (English to pinyin) the same words will then be presented but in a different way (e.g. pinyin to Chinese characters). Once the player has completed the six possible combinations, a summary box appears to show their score. Highest possible score is 60 x 10pts = 600pts if no mistakes are made.
Instead of three gold stars, the player gets rated either 1,2 or 3 golden Chinese lucky cats based on performance. The more cats collected throughout the game, the better. (And clearly the more random luck you will encounter throughout life**)
Fun, fast repetition, a ticking clock and an array of rewards, means users are encouraged to make the right connections and constantly test their memory while advancing through the game. With your help, I’m hoping to change the way we learn Mandarin and provide a super fun tool so everyone from young children, university students, business executives and tourists to spies, pirates and imaginary friends can engage with the language.
CONCLUSIONMastering the most common 1,000 words in a language would mean you could confidently converse with locals, read general text, gain an overall understanding of newspaper articles and just generally rock in "Putonghua".
This may take hours, weeks, or months of game play, but what better outcome, than after conquering all levels, you can now better relate to an additional 1.4 billion of the world’s citizens. A game thats time well spent, not time wasted. Not to mention if we achieve all our stretch funding goals, we can provide the learning system in another super useful language!
Imagine filling spare pockets of time with purposeful entertainment! If say, after 200 hours of playing "MSQ", you found yourself reading a Chinese menu and successfully avoiding the rubber-band like tendons of the chickens feet special. Or switching off the subtitles and still fully understanding who Jet Li is going to demolish.
I would really appreciate if you could help me bring Mandarin Shooter Quest to the masses! We will work night and day and use the funds raised here on Kickstarter to build and provide a unique approach to learning Chinese!
So for the cost of one Chinese lesson, a textbook, an unused set of Rosetta Stone CDs, please pledge generously to help provide the necessary resources to make this learning game a reality. 谢谢你！
$10 - Your very own cool CHINESE NAME!
We all need a name which resonates with 1.4 billion of the worlds inhabitants and says "I'm a winner".
Reward #7 onwards - Includes T-shirt and Hat Combo
A cool printed T and trucker cap with one of his philosophical quotes or equally wise Chinese idiom to bring it home
Risks and challenges
As with all creative ventures, there are challenges associated with taking an idea and turning it into an application. To this end, I will personally oversee the project and dedicate the time and resources needed to ensure we create an awesome game that you will love to play!
We hope to get this project fully funded! The only challenge may be unforeseen delays in testing or pivoting the direction of the game to ensure the best outcome; We want to make sure we have the smoothest interface, most intuitive navigation and aesthetically pleasing designs!
Most importantly, if we do come across any unexpected challenges, we will be sure to openly communicate them with you and enact a plan to move the project forward so we can all learn Mandarin as soon as possible!
**Disclaimer: We can't prove using Lucky Golden Chinese Cats instead of the traditional Golden Stars will in fact make you more attractive to the opposite sex, acquire more wealth or ensure your sports team never loses. But hey its worth a shot...Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (35 days)