The latest and greatest in our apps

WordSwing Chinese app screen shots

We've just released new versions of our iOS and Android apps, bringing them up to par with our web app.

I'll briefly go through some additions you might like to check out.

1. Quiz Tournaments

Our quiz tournaments feature general knowledge reading comprehension questions in a friendly competition format. You play against other WordSwing students. Each tournament is a succession of back-and-forth rounds of answering a few questions. When your opponent completes a round, you are notified by email that the next round is available.

Participating in quiz tournaments gives you the little prod you may need to dip back into Chinese practice on a regular basis. And although not new, Quiz Tournaments are now available on iOS and Android for the first time.

2. Habit tracking

Building daily practice into your routine is an important part of making progress in a language. On WordSwing, you can track your study habits both as they relate to WordSwing and your Chinese learning more generally.

Habit tracking is presented a bit like a game. You have health points and knowledge points. When you complete a habit you get knowledge points, and if you fail to complete it before it expires, you loose health points. When you reach the full knowledge points for that level, you advance to the next level. Keeping ahead of your goals and striving to get to each successive level can be quite addicting!

Habits can be recurring or one-time. They can track particular WordSwing activities (e.g., Written Word SRS for 10 minutes), or declared by you to be anything you like (e.g., Listen to a Podcast, or Read the news).

You can also opt-in to a daily email digest letting you know how many habits you have expiring soon and how many you've completed recently. And if you need a break from regular study, you can pause habit tracking, and resume whenever you're ready.

3. Girl Saves Universe

Our latest text adventure game, Girl Saves Universe is now available on iOS and Android.

In this game, your fate becomes linked to your mysterious uncle's cat, enabling you to travel to a distant place in the universe, where you must attempt to restore the connections that bind the universe together. This story is a continuation of Wandering Cat, but you needn't play that game first to enjoy this one.

4. Pleco Integration

On iOS you can now directly open a word in Pleco (assuming you have it installed). Just look for the Pleco icon at the right end of the definition in WordSwing.

5. Word Lists and SRS integration

Screenshot of configuring a custom Written Word SRS session

Our two spaced-repetition flash card gadgets: Pronunciation Recall and Written Word now feature better integration with your word lists. When making a custom review session you can select which word lists you'd like to include.

A new setting, "Limit reviews to the selected list(s)" allows you to only review words from the selected lists, in addition to only introducing new words from these lists. Alternatively, if you select "Include all the words that have been introduced" then new words will be limited to the selected lists, but all words in your review queue will still be available to review.

These seemingly minor updates give you substantial control of what you review.

And much more

In addition to the above enhancements, our latest apps also support Universal Links (iOS) and App Links (Android) so now when you click on a link to WordSwing, say, from your email, it will open directly in the app.

And there are many other small fixes and improvements. So make sure you update to the latest version on your respective platform.

Girl Saves Universe, a text adventure game

Girl Saves Universe, is our seventh interactive graded-reader-style text adventure game for practicing Mandarin Chinese. The Chinese title is 小女孩连结世界记 (xiǎo nǚhái liánjié shìjiè jì), which roughly translates as "Diary of girl who links the world".

Here's a short blurb introducing the game:

Your fate becomes linked to your mysterious uncle's cat, enabling you travel to a distant place in the universe, where you must attempt to restore the connections that bind the universe together. This story is a continuation of Wandering Cat, but you needn't play that game first to enjoy this one.

Our Text Adventure Games work like an interactive graded reader, targeted at intermediate students of Mandarin Chinese. As you work you way through the story, you make choices that affect what the protagonist does and how the story progresses. We've carefully written the game to include hints that reward you for careful reading.

Go play

We've also limited the number of distinct Chinese characters that appear in this game (599 in Simplified and 602 in Traditional). There is hours of game play available and you'll encounter the vocabulary many times throughout the game, which combined will help quickly propel your Chinese.

For now, the game is only available on the website, and without audio, but we'll soon have our iOS and Android apps updated and the audio recorded.

As always, we love to hear from you. In particular, if you encounter any problems or have questions, please shoot us an email at support@wordswing.com.

Enjoy the adventure.

Refreshing WordSwing's web app

We've finally switched out our old web app for our new one, which is based on the same interface as our iOS and Android apps. Like the apps, our new website supports studying either Simplified or Traditional characters.

We have also started porting a bunch of activities and other features from our old website (still available here) including:

1. Asking Directions

Practice comprehending and interpreting directions while navigating a city. This is one of our older activities, but still very popular, so we wanted to bring it over. The vocabulary domain is rather constrained, enabling you to master it.

2. Quiz Tournaments

These reading comprehension trivia competitions with your fellow students offer bit-sized, asynchronous fun.

3. Word Lists

Word lists allow you to collect and organize lists of words you'd like to practice in our two spaced repetition activities: Pronunciation Recall SRS and Written Word SRS.

4. Your old saved games

For those of you who played our text adventure games on our old website, you may have noticed you weren't able to continue from where you left off when using the new website or our mobile apps. We've now gone back and made all of your old saved games available from the past two years, assuming you made at least 11 choices in the game. We didn't bother making very short saved games available because we thought it would clutter your "Recent Practice" area, where these games are displayed.

More yet to come

There are still some activities and features that are only available on our old website, but are working hard to get the most important of these ported to the new app. We'll keep the old site up for a while, until we can migrate some of the remaining features, but we're planning to continue updating the old website. In addition to wanting the improved interface, another major motivation for updating our web app to work like the mobile apps is so we can make faster progress in development, which has been a challenge maintaining two very different apps.

Also, we'll be updating our iOS and Android apps soon to bring them up to parity with the web app.

We also have a new Text Adventure Game out, Girl Saves Universe (audio recordings coming soon).

Thanks for your patience and support!

The pedagogical value of mapping your adventure

Our text adventure games often involve walking around and exploring the world described for you by the Chinese text. Remembering where you've been and how to get around can get tricky, particularly given we don't provide a map.

But not providing a map is by design. Olle and I discussed this at length and reached the conclusion that not providing a map has sufficient pedagogical value to offset the added challenge. But there's nothing to stop you from drawing your own. And indeed we highly recommend this!

A number of students have written to us to share the maps they have drawn. Here we'd like to share some of these with you, with the hope that if you haven't tried drawing your own maps, taking notes on the story, or even illustrating it, you be inspired to give it a try.

This map, shared by Shannon, illustrates the sewer portion of our game, Into the Haze:

Drawing of sewer in Into the Haze

If you've played this game, take a moment to see if you can recognize aspects of the game in this map. In addition to mapping the connectivity of the scenes, which will help you remember how to get around, this map also includes important information about where to get resources and where dangers lie, as well as elements from the scene description.

The above map is annotated in Chinese, though if that's an obstacle, you could annotate it with pictures, like Andrei has done in his illustrations for The Magistrate's Gallery:

Drawing of scenes in The Magistrate's Gallery

This map above describes the scene inside the painting of a garden.

In addition to drawing geographic maps, you might also find it valuable to take notes on the story. And if you like drawing, it might even help to try illustrating parts you remember, like in this set of drawings:

Drawing of scenes in The Magistrate's Gallery

And don't worry, these drawings are for your own benefit, so you don't need to be a great artist. Though I must say Andrei has done a very nice job rendering aspects of this story.

Pedagogical value?

There are a broad range of pedagogical benefits to drawing maps and illustrating parts of the story.

  1. Turning a potentially vague understanding of the scene into something concrete, like a drawing, helps you identify what you really understand and encourages you to look again when you realize you are unsure of some detail. This process can greatly enrich your how much Chinese you learn and retain, much like teaching something can greatly solidify the concepts in your mind.
  2. Having a map of the game makes for more efficient gameplay, allowing you to spend less time heading down wrong paths or making the same mistakes again. More efficient gameplay enables you to spend more time exploring parts of the game you haven't seen before and results in more varied language practice.
  3. Language learning can be frustrating enough as it is. Add to that a complicated game where what is possible often depends on choices you made earlier in the game, and it might be tempting to throw up your hands and give up. But armed with a map and the confidence that building it yourself can nurture, you will probably be much less frustrated, and the quality of your practice that much greater.

Here are some more of Andrei's illustrations for The Magistrate's Gallery:

Drawing of scenes in The Magistrate's Gallery
Drawing of scenes in The Magistrate's Gallery
Drawing of scenes in The Magistrate's Gallery

Can you recognize these scenes from the game?

Finally I'd like to thank Shannon and Andrei for sharing their maps and allowing us to feature them in a blog post. If you have your own maps to share, we'd love to see them!

If you haven't tried mapping or illustrating your adventure, we encourage you to give it a go.

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