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Notes on Playing Chinese Bingo (中文 Bingo)

21 Sep

Posted this on Banane.com, but it’s mostly relevant here ;)


I’ve been thinking of making this app ever since we started the Bingo franchise. This is perhaps the hardest language I’ve learned next to Russian, and was super excited to have a simple little game I can play casually.

The other day I looked over my sister’s shoulder as she played with almost every Chinese app I had downloaded on my iPad- and I have a lot of them. I was working with a client on curriculum pieces for his Chinese-English school. While most of them are quite good, and use the iPad’s gesture recognition to improve muscle memory for writing, none of them are quite what the doctor ordered. The problem with flashcards is that they aren’t random enough, and the “honor system” is how they check against your knowledge- not ideal. I should probably write an app review on Language Requirement.

Talking to a Chinese-American coworker the other day, she kept arguing with me that she didn’t know Chinese well enough to play. After going back and forth, she admitted she was “advanced intro,” which of course, is ideal for this game.

The thing that’s tough in marketing this game is that it’s for adults, and it’s not for beginners. It’s not impossible for beginners- I created a Pinyin version if you can’t read the characters- it’s just oriented for those with already an A,B,C, 1,2,3 working knowledge of Chinese.

I took Chinese a few years ago, advancing up to intermediate, but currently am quite rusty. I noticed, during the progress of this app an almost incredible leap in ability. At a meeting maybe a month ago, I wrote down all the characters I’d memorized. I could write 1, and vaguely remembered 5. This is from knowing 500 in my final year of school. After working on the game and playing it a few times a day, I now know 75 and can probably write by hand 50 from memory.

The real trippity trip is to download all the games and switch between them rapidly. I’ve had to do that to test some functionality, and it makes me boggle at the mind’s language capabilities. That might be an interesting game- cross-language.

El Bingo- Spanish Bingo- In the Store!

10 Sep

We launched the Spanish Bingo – El Bingo – and it’s currently in the store, for $0.99. Our native speaker, Celeste Lindo, has a gorgeous accent. Be sure to write us a note, too, at bingueau-at-gmail.com if you do download!

Check it out- and of course we’d love to know what you think.

Here are some screenshots to wet your appetite:

Words around the house- El Bingo

Notes on Swedish Bingo

16 Nov

Download!

Now that we’re on our 3rd app (wow!) we have some traditions! One of them – and one of my favorites- is to talk about how we selected the words for each board. From language to language, we select different words, based on the same theme. We take into account cultural aspects. We’re not telling you, for instance, how to translate your current American apartment into Swedish, but how a Swedish person would describe their apartment, in Sweden. Mary and I discussed this at a party recently (where some of our very important Bingueau discussions occur). Most travel apps and language guides help you discuss your Western life in foreign language. What it leaves out, or what it leaves the student to learn later, is how the culture describes itself.

Me, coffee, wifi in Gamla Stan, Stockholm

For example, in Sweden, coffee is very important. Documented various places, but mostly I’m reminded of this on my Facebook feed, when around 10PM Pacific Time, my Swedish friends start bragging about their lovely steaming cups of kaffe. So in the “in the kitchen” list, I made sure coffee maker, coffee pot, coffee, etc. were all there. I also think that in learning a foreign language, seeing the root, endings, and compound words with a common root help learn a grammar lesson almost imperceptively. Kaffekanna, tekanna, and kaffebryggare, teaches you through practice and repetition the endings for adding “pot”, “machine,” the differences between tea and coffee, and other suffixes, includign identifying the root. And, in later lists, this is apparent with clothing, clothes washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, etc.

As I also did for Russian Bingo, for climates that have serious winters, I made sure to include a set of winter clothes- heavy coat, light coat, etc. Tights, vs. nylons.  This is a classic example of why we include words that are important to Swedes vs. describing our life in Swedish. I live in San Francisco, I never have to wear a serious winter coat, nor tights, hats, unless it’s a fashion choice. The reality of living through a Swedish winter without good boots, or a Ukraine winter, would be ridiculous. Being able to describe that is key to knowing the language.

To be honest, adding the audio was an afterthought, but now it’s my favorite feature of the game. At one of our favorite SF cafes, Chameleon, Mary suggested recording sounds for our budding iPhone game. She recorded and added the sounds to our code repository, I integrated them with the touch events, and the next time we met, I was eager to show her the resulting app. I felt it had improved the whole experience almost twofold. With Swedish, this is even more apparent. Because it is so similar to English, we can lull ourselves into thinking we know it. more than any other language I’ve shown my friends- Spanish, Russian, and Chinese (all in development)- Swedish is the one they are the most confident about, without any schooling. It’s the audio that tells them they don’t know it, ha. Of course they initially point to “kök,” “what does that mean?” thinking it’s…. that c-word. Our native speaker Håkan says, “shoohk” and they are chastened.

Viking building in Denmark

Viking house in Denmark, shaped like a ship

I had quite a back and forth with Håkan about “tak.” Some of my sources said “roof” with a second definition as “ceiling,” and “innertak” being a primary meaning for ceiling. He had told me “tak” was OK for ceiling, and in further discussion, he added that there is a technical word that building contractors use to define ceiling, “innertak” but in the vernacular most people say “tak.” I’m wondering if it’s because historically roofs were alpine design, with no lower internal roof because that would prevent heat from descending. Note this Danish Viking building, shows the lack of ceiling and only a roof, for heat purposes. Having toured Russian rural houses, they also didn’t have ceilings, only roofs, and were similarly within a larger barn building, to manage the heat. Of course there are debates on how much history has an effect on modern word usage.

New iPhone App in Store: Swedish Bingo

14 Nov

Download!

The developers of Le Bingueau, the French learning iPhone app, have created a new language tool- Swedish Bingo. Three boards cover vocabulary that would be useful around the house, in the kitchen and getting dressed or shopping for clothes. The app sets it apart from other iPhone apps by being only 99¢ – download now and give it a whirl! We’d love to know what you think.

If you’ve used our other apps, you might appreciate some new upgrades and features we’ve added to Swedish Bingo:

  • Rounded web2.0 wet-looking buttons
  • In-app links to other Bingueau iPhone apps
  • The winning words stay on your screen, and all other words fall away.
  • Informational bit on the architectural element we chose to highlight in the icons. For Swedish, it’s Katerina Kyrka, an important church in southern Stockholm.
  • When you switch from Swedish-to-English and English-to-Swedish, you remain with the same selected tiles, so you don’t have to start over.

To learn more about our other iPhone apps- visit the pages linked above, French’s Le Bingueau, and Russian Bingo. If you’d like to follow our news and events, checkout our Twitterstream: @bingueau. We’ll always post new developments on Swedish Bingo’s own page, linked above, and here.

Here is a sample of the response we’ve gotten so far- and it’s so great that the app is helping folks learn Swedish!

I have been trying to learn Swedish for several years now and having language learning turned into a game like this makes the learning process really fun and effective. A great vocabulary builder.

New levels for Le Bingueau?

21 Oct

We here at the awfully plush Le Bingueau HQ are hard at work on new levels for Le Bingueau. But before we force feed our idea of WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW down your lovely language-learning gullets, we thought we should at least go through the motions of asking what kind of themes you’d like to see in the next levels.

Heck, if any of you come up with a really creative theme, we might just have to publicly congratulate you and ditch our own brilliant level ideas! (Unheard of!)

Go to it, my pretties! Vote and comment away!

Notes on Creating Russian Bingo – бинго

15 Oct

The Russian Bingo game is complete, and we’re waiting for Apple’s App Store to review and publish. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of the cultural aspects that make this different than the French version.

- The “living room” in American usage, is different for Russians. Coming from a severe housing shortage- mass influx into urban areas, and pervasive crowdedness, folks on average had 5 square meters per family (source) with an upper limit of 9 square meters. Thus I used “bolshaya komnata” болшая комната, which literally means large room, or “great” room, frequently a combined living room and bedroom.

- The “dacha” in Cyrillic: дача,  to Americans the idea of a summer house is the lap of luxury, but for many Russians, and Scandinavians, this is a common to have an escape shack out in the woods, to lose one’s apartment mates that you suffered with all winter.

- Caviar and Champagne? Really? Yes, really. When I was there I was surprised at how frequently available these were, for the middle class tourist. The order of expensiveness in alcohol from precious to cheap: Really good vodka, wine, moderate vodka, champagne, bad vodka. I didn’t try beer, oddly enough. Caviar, in its varous levels of expensive to cheap, was on top of almost all first courses- the cold fish salad course. And almost all restaurants had 3 courses.

- So many soups. Yes, the proliferation of soup is pretty intense- and in a good way. So enjoy the different types of soups. The difference, by the way, between cabbage soup (щи) and borscht (борщ)  can sometimes be a hair’s breadth of too much beets vs. too little.

More reading:

“Where Daddy Used to Live” Anthropology professor returning to his childhood apartment with his kids (education virtual tour project)

Which Phone Do You Use to Learn Languages?

14 Oct

Recently, I wanted to give some of my twitter followers free Le Bingueau codes, so they could test and review. I sadly realized that a lot of them don’t have iPhones (our current device platform for Le Bingueau). Hence, this poll!

Oh dear readers, ever in the quest of serving your needs, I’d like to know what phone you have- so we can better direct our development efforts.

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