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New Browser-Based MMO Teaches Mandarin Chinese

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the don't-come-round-here-with-all-that-readin-and-stuff dept.

Education 103

Have you ever wanted to learn Mandarin Chinese? (Yeah, me neither.) However, if you suddenly feel the urge to learn how to welcome your new Chinese overlords, researchers supported by Michigan State University and the Office of the Chinese Language Council International have a game for you. "Zon" is a browser-based virtual world, currently in beta-testing, that helps users to learn the Mandarin Chinese language.

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103 comments

Yes, you want, too. (4, Interesting)

Hankapobe (1290722) | more than 5 years ago | (#23675513)

Have you ever wanted to learn Mandarin Chinese?

An acquaintance of mine went to China an she found something rather interesting. Young folks right out of college would go to China for a couple of years to teach English or whatever, the Chinese Government pays them and gives them a stipend (more $$$ if you can speak Chinese too!). They just bank their pay and when they come home, they have enough money to put a sizable down payment on a house and start their lives. And they had an adventure that they'll remember fir the rest of their life.

Considering that the US will be China's bitch in a few years, I suggest you do in fact learn Chinese!

Re:Yes, you want, too. (3, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#23675731)

Just don't let them take your passport. No matter how much they say they are required to.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#23676007)

And when traveling overseas, *always* make several color photo copies of it. Should your passport get lost, stolen, taken; you will want a secondary copy that can be obtained elsewhere.

I can only imagine how shit up a creek you would be without it.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#23676035)

I would also recommend e-mailing yourself the hi-res scanned images. That way, if all you have left is the skin on your back (sort of speak), you could re-gain access to the photos at the nearest Internet Cafe.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (0)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#23676055)

You dipshits don't actually think a copy of a passport is worth anything do you?

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#23676785)

At one of the western embassy's, yes. To a local cop, nope.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (4, Interesting)

soren100 (63191) | more than 5 years ago | (#23677557)

You dipshits don't actually think a copy of a passport is worth anything do you?

At one of the western embassy's, yes. To a local cop, nope.
That's not true.

  I had a French cop stop me on the streeet ask me for ID (there was some kind of local fraudster that was panhandling, and the cop saw that person talking to me) The French cop said he wanted to see my passport (all I had was my driver's license). When I told him I had left my passport in the hotel room, he wanted to know why I did not make a copy of it and take it with me. He said that it was important that I do this. So yes, copies of passports are important to local cops. Sure, they can be easily altered, but they provide a starting point to prove your nationality and identity.

Same in Beijing (3, Informative)

ihatewinXP (638000) | more than 5 years ago | (#23678651)


I live in Beijing and rarely carry my passport for anything aside from a trip to the bank - but ALWAYS have a copy on me.

In three years the _one time_ I was stopped by an officer and asked for ID he was fine taking the number from a photocopy and understood my (poor) Chinese explaining I just dont want to lose the damn thing.

Same thing though with your housing permits - try not having one of those when the police come by for checks. I got a knock last week at 12:30 AM from two cops making the rounds in my building checking on listed foreigners - I have heard without the right housing permit it would have been much more than a 5 minute affair and more like a 5 day mess with my possible deportation.

Protip: carry a copy, leave the real one at home. If its that big of a mess they will gladly escort you there ;)

Re:Same in Beijing (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#23679235)

I'm a permanent expat, and I go much further than that. I have several expired passports kept in separate locations just in case the original gets lost, stolen, or mutilated. When I first left government service, I even kept my official passport just in case I needed it. I'm sure that using it would have gotten my ass in trouble, but if I needed out of a country in that much of a hurry, I would have chanced the hot water I'd have been in.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#23680027)

Thanx for the tip. BTW, do photocopy the whole thing, or just the info page and the one with current stamp?

Yes, it is. (5, Informative)

The Iso (1088207) | more than 5 years ago | (#23676831)

Your passport does not confer the right travel, your nationality does. Your passport is proof of nationality, and you can still prove your nationality by other means. Having your passport's number and expiration date helps. If you have an American passport, turn to page 6. You will notice that the State Department recommends making two photocopies of your passport data page.

Re:Yes, it is. (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 5 years ago | (#23678957)

It depends on the law of the country. Some countries require foreigners to have their passport with them at all times unless they are resident aliens and have some kind of alien registration.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

readin (838620) | more than 5 years ago | (#23678333)

I carried my passport around Taiwan for a year because the instructions on it said to keep it with you all the time. When i got soaked in the rain, it got soaked in the rain. It was in such bad shape when I tried to leave that the officials at the airport almost kept me from going. It was tough. I was tearing up because I was leaving my fiance for several months and instead of being able to just jump on the plane I had to stand around and answer questions. I wonder if I had been in China if they would have let me go.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (2, Interesting)

budcub (92165) | more than 5 years ago | (#23675905)

Considering that the US will be China's bitch in a few years, I suggest you do in fact learn Chinese!

Back in the 80's they told us that the US would be Japan's bitch and we should all learn to speak Japanese. Heck, maybe we'll be Mexico's bitch and we should learn Spanish?

Re:Yes, you want, too. (4, Funny)

Eudial (590661) | more than 5 years ago | (#23676445)

Considering that the US will be China's bitch in a few years, I suggest you do in fact learn Chinese!

Back in the 80's they told us that the US would be Japan's bitch and we should all learn to speak Japanese. Heck, maybe we'll be Mexico's bitch and we should learn Spanish?
With such confusion as to who was going to be our new overlords, no wonder Esperanto was big.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

mfnickster (182520) | more than 5 years ago | (#23677279)

> With such confusion as to who was going to be our new overlords, no wonder Esperanto was big.

Ho! Konsiderante ke la Usono estos la hundinac^o de Esperantujo en la venontaj kelkaj jaroj, mi sugestas ke vi fakte lernu Esperanton!

Re:Yes, you want, too. (4, Funny)

zapakh (1256518) | more than 5 years ago | (#23678039)

Ho! Konsiderante ke la Usono estos la hundinac^o de Esperantujo en la venontaj kelkaj jaroj, mi sugestas ke vi fakte lernu Esperanton!
Mi, por unu, bonvenigus niajn Esperantistajn majstrojn!

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | more than 5 years ago | (#23679111)

...Should I be happy or upset that I actually understood both of those posts, although I've not gotten much farther in Esperanto than the basic grammar rules?

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 5 years ago | (#23680733)

for those of us who are Esperanto impaired.

http://traduku.net/ [traduku.net]

Ho! Konsiderante ke la Usono estos la hundinac^o de Esperantujo en la venontaj kelkaj jaroj, mi sugestas ke vi fakte lernu Esperanton!
Oh! While considerring that the USA will be the hundinacõ of Esperanto-container in the next a few years, I suggests that you in fact should learn Esperanto

Mi, por unu, bonvenigus niajn Esperantistajn majstrojn!
I, for one, would welcome-ize our Esperanto speaker maestroes

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

mfnickster (182520) | more than 5 years ago | (#23684291)

Interesting! I don't know how Traduku.net handles circumflexes. The "c^" is supposed to be a 'c' with a circumflex on it.

And for your amusement and bemusement, because Traduku.net doesn't understand colloquialisms...

hundo = dog
-in- suffix = female
-ac^- suffix = foul, abominable :)

Re:Yes, you want, too. (4, Insightful)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#23677983)

This is for real. China is on the rise. Japan couldn't do it because no matter how productive they were, they still had 1) limited land area/natural resources and 2) limited population, relative to ours

It is a logical fallicy to assume that because this has been predicted before, it is not real this time. The best hope we have of countering a strong Chinese influence is India. So next time you speak to your friendly Indian "code factory" worker, blow them a kiss and wish them good luck.

China has a number of things which makes me think it'll be top dog for only a few decades, but their capacity to beat us is much more potent than Japan's. Believe it.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

antic (29198) | more than 5 years ago | (#23679429)

The population of each of Mexico and Japan is around 100-130 million. The population of China is currently 1.3 billion. You'll get by without learning the language, sure, but it could open up some great opportunities if you were interested.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 5 years ago | (#23681767)

Considering how many millions of Spanish-speaking people there are in the US, and rising, you'd better learn Spanish. It may become the second official language in the future. And Spanish is cool. Adios, amigo!

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 5 years ago | (#23676043)

Yeah, there are programs like that in Japan [jetprogramme.org] and South Korea [mest.go.kr] too, and I imagine other places as well.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23676475)

If we're talking about teaching for a few years to make and then save money, Japan and S. Korea aren't the best options -- the cost of living and entertainment over there will chip away at your meager salary. In China on the other hand, you can expect to actually save up some good cash.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23679341)

And then get butchered on the exchange rate.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 5 years ago | (#23683097)

Well, if you're an American you won't as long as the yuan is artificially pegged to the dollar. Perhaps they'll artificially tie it to the euro in the future.

This is a true story from eleven months ago. (1)

Starlet Monroe (512664) | more than 5 years ago | (#23677609)

A good friend of mine and his wife went to China and they found something rather interesting. They were young folks right out of college and went to China to teach English for the Chinese government. They were taken to a military medical research facility, put in a room with black mold, given "military escorts", and followed everywhere. The first night locked in their room they could hear the screams of people being "researched" on. They got out, evaded the guards, fled the city, snuck onto a truck and then a bus and a train back to the regional airport and then bribed an airline to take them to Beijing, where they went to the American embassy to arrange medical evacuation to the US. And they had an adventure that they'll remember for the rest of their lives.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (3, Informative)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 5 years ago | (#23678629)

I have been learning Mandarin for the last three years. It's a lot of fun -- mainly because Chinese people give you these serious WTF? looks when you speak to them.

While the summary is kind of insulting, learning Chinese is actually a fairly pragmatic choice these days (as you rightly point out, China is making the US its bitch) and I actually think this idea of a language MMO is incredibly awesome. When I lived in San Diego and San Francisco I had no trouble finding community college Chinese classes -- but now that I live in Fresno, there's no options available.

ChinesePod is an... okay... web site, but their lessons are all over the place instead of organized in a systematic approach to teaching Chinese, and while its free, you have to pay huge amounts of money just to see what the characters used in the lessons are. It's very expensive for a free site.

Every Chinese software product I've tried sucks (especially Rosetta Stone -- it's terrible), though Fluenz looks pretty good... but I'm not willing to part with $300 bucks to support my hobby though.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 5 years ago | (#23678983)

Would you mind expanding on what was so bad about Rosetta Stone? I'm curious, and its expensive to check it out for yourself.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#23680483)

Would you mind expanding on what was so bad about Rosetta Stone? I'm curious, and its expensive to check it out for yourself.
Words do not correspond 1:1 in different languages. There are subtle distinctions between meanings of near-synonyms, and the boundary between meanings isn't at the same place in any two languages. Rosetta Stone doesn't explain that well enough [wikipedia.org].

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 5 years ago | (#23690003)

It's terrible. No real lessons, it just shows you four photos and a sentence next to each one. No explanation of the words, or grammar, or any of that stuff which is really, really critical for learning Mandarin.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

VeNoM0619 (1058216) | more than 5 years ago | (#23682617)

Pimsleur [pimsleurapproach.com] I recommend it to everyone. I used it myself and am VERY satisfied with what I know, I've spent maybe a total of 10 hours (because I listen to lessons twice just to be sure I've got it down, although you don't have to) learning Japanese and I can actually SPEAK the language to a point. Most people who learned via Rosetta can only tell me what an object translated is, I can form sentences. Better yet, I can meet, greet, ask for directions, say thank you, goodbye, and even have insight into how you act with their culture (your basic tourist tasks right?) opposed to saying "apple" "orange".

Whether this is factual and relevant:

Our courses took 40 years to develop and are now used by the FBI, CIA, and business professionals everywhere.
Also read how it works ("You can rapidly learn Japanese!" to the end of "Children love cookies" [pimsleurapproach.com] and you will understand how it can be effective.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

Falstius (963333) | more than 5 years ago | (#23684029)

I've been listening to the Pimsler Mandarin CD's recently, I got them from the library. They are okay. They really skim over tones though, and I'd never be able to read Pinyin (Chinese written with western characters) if I relied solely on the audio, but there isn't a companion book. They also teach the Beijing dialect and not 'standard' mandarin. Chinesepod has a strong Shanghai accent. I really liked the "Teach Yourself" book and tapes I got a few years back, but I lost the tapes.

After listening to tapes and CDs I can follow a lot of basic and some more complex conversations, I have a very hard time making myself understood just from listening and repeating. You really need to find someone very patient to practice with, and my Chinese wife is not patient. If this MMO provides an means of that, I'll be hooked! It says it has interactive conversations and I'm definitely going to try it out when I get home tonight.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (1)

VeNoM0619 (1058216) | more than 5 years ago | (#23685487)

but there isn't a companion book.
There should be, although I admit it may not be fantastic. IMO, I'd rather learn to speak the language than write it, because the symbols seem confusing enough, not to mention I don't have patience to study both at the same time.

Re:Yes, you want, too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23681349)


  I been to china there. YOU DO NOT WANT TO GO THERE I have this feeling you a troll. Feel free to do google search on how horrible conditions and treatment of those "teachers" are. What is worst, is that some people I met there, where were not white English speakers, they were treated like dirt.

  They will give you a small room, that is on top of a kitchen, or across from a bus stop, etc that is about 600 sq ft and that is if you are luck! They will send you to a village place, or other place where you have to boil your own hot water.

  Dont bilieve that "Easy money." A lot of people run away from those places, on top of that a lot of people are stuck because - YOU HAVE TO PAY YOUR OWN WAY THERE - they will only refund you when you completed the contract. They know you dropped about 1.4k just to come here, and they will treat you like shit.

  IF you are good, believe me, you would not need to come to China. You WOULDNT want to come to china. Google Dave's ESL cafe, and check out posts for China.

  Oh, and YOU DONT have any rights - really - YOU DONT have any rights. People think they come there as if it were their own country.

I think this is great (3, Interesting)

Satanboy (253169) | more than 5 years ago | (#23675535)

I welcome any free opportunity to learn a new language.

I might mess with this a bit and see if I can pick up some new phrases.
I hope there are more things like this developed in the future. Games can really bring people together, and language is a huge barrier that could be broken down if things such as this are successfull.

Re:I think this is great (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 5 years ago | (#23678895)

I like the idea, too.

It's a shame I get nothing once I get past the login screen, though. Just a colored background upon a background image. Both from Firefox and Safari.

Yah, but (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23675599)

But, half an hour later, you just want to learn another new language.

Re:Yah, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23676333)

Touché, I see what you did here...

If a tree falls in the forest, don't leg the bed bugs Checkmate you.

Mandarin font? (1)

SendBot (29932) | more than 5 years ago | (#23675601)

this is really neat, but the mandarin font shows boxes because I don't have a suitable font. Any ideas on how to fix this?

Re:Mandarin font? (1)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#23675699)

Well... if you're using windows it's pretty easy - just install the language pack. Probably equally simple on apple / linux.

Re:Mandarin font? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23676663)

In OSX asian fonts are included by default. In Linux... well, say hello to distro hell...

Re:Mandarin font? (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | more than 5 years ago | (#23679167)

Not if you're using Ubuntu. I don't remember if the fonts were included by default...but I know it was an option during part of the installation.

Re:Mandarin font? (1)

Falstius (963333) | more than 5 years ago | (#23684061)

On Ubuntu Hardy and Fedora 9 they are installed by default for Firefox. The operating system translation can be installed from the system menu.

Re:Mandarin font? (3, Informative)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 5 years ago | (#23675869)

Firefox at least:
Go to Tools, Options, then click on General on the left
click the languages... tab on the right hand side
click the down arrow where it says select a language to add
click add.
then just click the down arrow by where it says "Default character encoding" and pick the language you just installed and confirm it all with ok's.

Re:Mandarin font? (2, Informative)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 5 years ago | (#23676105)

If you're using Linux, it can be pretty easy too. Ubuntu and it's progeny have the fonts in the repositories, so you just open up your package manager and search for them. I'm sure other distros would too.

Re:Mandarin font? (1)

the_tsi (19767) | more than 5 years ago | (#23676209)

If you're running Gentoo you have to recompile your kernel with --funroll-loops and --egg-foo-yung (and of course the ever-present -O3 and -j256), but at least then the whole system will be tuned specifically for handling UTF-8 on your exact CPU.

Ahh! (2, Funny)

DJNephilim (832695) | more than 5 years ago | (#23675645)

I don't have time to play this, my hovercraft is full of eels! *pretends to strike a match*

Re:Ahh! (1)

DJNephilim (832695) | more than 5 years ago | (#23676679)

Good lord, no bites to My hovercraft is full of eels" [youtube.com]??

Re:Ahh! (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 5 years ago | (#23676763)

No I think we got it, but what exactly did you expect us to say?

If you really want us to play along, then I suppose we could have you escorted out of the thread.

Speaking chinese is good for MMOs (3, Funny)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 5 years ago | (#23675701)

Now I'll be able to understand what those chinese gold farmers are actually saying.

Links! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23675793)

What the fuck is up with using a single link in the blurp? A single fucking link, that doesn't even link to the fucking game. Why wouldn't you provide more links? I read about the game in the blurp, why should I click the link to click the link? Advertising revenue maybe? Stupid fucks...

Payback (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23675865)

this is like MMO payback for coming on our US servers with their engrish speak

can please i have gold for me i player new start give now yes.

So finally... (3, Funny)

ricebowl (999467) | more than 5 years ago | (#23675895)

...we can all watch Firefly without the subtitles! Is this just a clever preparation for the MMO?

Re:So finally... (1)

grahamd0 (1129971) | more than 5 years ago | (#23676263)

My friend's Chinese wife said that the Firefly actors' Chinese pronunciation is pretty awful, it might do you more harm than good.

Re:So finally... (3, Funny)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 5 years ago | (#23677103)

It's not awful, just a projection of the future of the language. Just as the Chinese of today isn't pronounced the same as the Chinese of five hundred years ago.

Re:So finally... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23677865)

Considering mandarin is standardized (no by the commies, but by the nationalists, no less), if it were pronounced differently, it wouldn't really be mandarin, but a different dialect altogether.

Written Chinese hasn't evolved much in the past 2000 years since it was standardized. Spoken Chinese has diversified into something like a hundred dialects/sub-dialects, largely because there hasn't been any method of standardizing speech nor any attempt at it until now.

Considering the culture, if you speak it wrong, you'll just be thought of as illiterate. Which is pretty accurate for most western learners, as for the most part, they learn only to speak and read/write the very basics, i.e. what kids learn in elementary school in China.

I think the actors just didn't have the tongue (you really have to work ridiculously hard, or be born into it), and they never bothered to acquire it. The spoken cantonese recording at the end of Serenity was definitely spoken by a native. It doesn't matter; even if they had spoken it correctly, the dialog didn't make much sense in that context anyway (you could tell it was translated literally from English and from an English context).

Re:So finally... (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#23678207)

I thought the nationalists were the communists...

Anyway,

I think it's safe to say that, should a mostly chinese and american (or maybe just like.. san fransisco or something) refugee expedition flee the solar system and establish itself in another solar system in another galaxy, with no contact with home (and indeed, the possible destruction of home), there might be some changes to the language along the way.

Re:So finally... (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 5 years ago | (#23680853)

I thought the nationalists were the communists...
No. Taiwan is nationalist, mainland China is communist. I think (but could be wrong) that the nationalist were the first to revolt against Imperial China, and later the communists revolted against them and drove them out of everything except Taiwan (which was hardly considered part of China until then).

Re:So finally... (1)

Danse (1026) | more than 5 years ago | (#23678497)

Considering mandarin is standardized (no by the commies, but by the nationalists, no less), if it were pronounced differently, it wouldn't really be mandarin, but a different dialect altogether.
I don't recall them ever claiming it was mandarin. Just some words that got incorporated into the common language. Just like we use words that come from other languages and don't pronounce them correctly. My wife is Chinese and she understood what they were saying. Caught her off guard at first, but she thought it was pretty funny. That was our favorite show back then. Still hate Fox for canceling it.

I've been trying to learn mandarin for a little while now. It's pretty damn hard. I'm gonna give this game a try.

Re:So finally... (1)

ipsi (1181557) | more than 5 years ago | (#23679565)

Mandarin's not that hard :). IMO, anyway. Just gotta work at it, and spend ages memorising stuff. But you have to focus and study consistently. I'd be surprised if you were able to learn it well if you only studied off-and-on.

Also, game is very cool, but still in Beta, and thus has, for me at least, responsiveness issues.

Re:So finally... (1)

Danse (1026) | more than 5 years ago | (#23681407)

Mandarin's not that hard :). IMO, anyway. Just gotta work at it, and spend ages memorising stuff. But you have to focus and study consistently. I'd be surprised if you were able to learn it well if you only studied off-and-on.
It has been only off-and-on. When I'm actually in China, immersed for a couple of weeks at a time, I learn things quicker. But when I'm back home, I'm busy with work and school and don't really have the spare capacity to keep learning it. I'm hoping that by messing around in a game like this I can help keep myself from backsliding too much, and maybe even retain some new things through sheer repetition.

Re:So finally... (1)

ricebowl (999467) | more than 5 years ago | (#23679617)

You know, I hadn't considered it seriously. But, now you mention it, I think I'll give it a go too.

Re:So finally... (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 5 years ago | (#23680721)

It's not awful, just a projection of the future of the language. Just as the Chinese of today isn't pronounced the same as the Chinese of five hundred years ago.
That's a nice explanation, but I doubt it works. As far as I know, some actors had more trouble pronouncing the Chinese than others. So while none of it is likely to be perfect Mandarin, some of them might be understandable by a Chinese speaker, while others speak complete gibberish.

So they're not even cursing in the same language.

Re:So finally... (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 5 years ago | (#23678675)

The pronunciation in Firefly *is* horrible. The words sound as if they hired white actors who were trying to read romanized Chinese words off a script. My Chinese sucks, but I flinch whenever they try to say anything.

Re:So finally... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23679451)

"Chinese wife", is that what they're calling it these days

Re:So finally... (1)

WaXHeLL (452463) | more than 5 years ago | (#23676815)

You still can't understand a good 1/2 of the Chinese in firefly without rewinding and replaying several times.

Someone please (2, Interesting)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 5 years ago | (#23676405)

Someone please create something similar for the DS! For a learning environments design class, my partners and I designed something along the same lines, only not an MMO, to teach Swedish (one guy happened to know Swedish) on the DS. Just the bare-bones outline of a design, no programming, but something like that would ROCK. Everyone in the class agreed we wanted one - some people would even buy a DS to get that kind of a language-learning game in preparation for a trip.

The DS is the perfect platform - multiple types of possible input, including typing, writing, and voice (which could be turned off if you're on the go), portable, affordable. Create a game where you're a tourist in some foreign city and must complete little missions like finding a hotel and eating in a restaurant, along with something more out-there for the fun factor. In addition to language, you'd be able to get some cultural info (like currency, etc) as well as a map of part of the city if that's where you'll be visiting. Sure, the stores etc won't be accurate but it could incorporate major tourist landmarks like museums and historical sites.

SOMEONE PLEASE STEAL THIS IDEA AND MAKE IT. Please. I have no idea how to go about making a video game.

Re:Someone please (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 5 years ago | (#23677423)

There are already Spanish and French language learning programs for the DS. No idea whether they're any good or not, though, or if they're even games in the traditional sense.

Re:Someone please (1)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 5 years ago | (#23678125)

Most of them, that I've seen at least, contain nothing but cutesy little games that aren't much more than dressed-up flashcards or worksheets from your Spanish I class. Nothing like a full immersive game environment. This type of a game might contain those types of things as mini-games, etc, but you can do so much more than that.

Re:Someone please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23688051)

Something like http://ds.ign.com/articles/834/834194p1.html ?

Re:Someone please (1)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 5 years ago | (#23690009)

That's basically a set of three minigames you do over and over again, not an immersive game environment where you learn the language through your interactions with people and things in the environment. It's framed by a bit of a (really lame) story, but that's it.

Project LRNJ (3, Informative)

Volanin (935080) | more than 5 years ago | (#23676459)

There is also Project LRNJ, an RPG game that teaches you JAPANESE.
It is not browser-based, but it is available for every major OS.

Get it here! [lrnj.com]

And good luck getting rid of all those slimes!

that rocks! (1)

marcushnk (90744) | more than 5 years ago | (#23677029)

What a brilliant idea.. I'm very much looking forward to using this...

Re: Zen (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 5 years ago | (#23680159)

> Zen is total bullshit. When you realize that fact, you have mastered Zen.

The Zen that cannot embrace dualism is not the true Zen.

HTH.HAND.

A bit difficult for the complete layman (1)

leoboiko (462141) | more than 5 years ago | (#23677097)

I tried it for a while, and this actually looks awesome! They even got voice acting for you to get the tones. Unfortunately it's a bit advanced for someone with no contact with the language â" the first shopkeeper I tried to interact with triggered a long conversation full of set expressions and hanzi. If you're a mandarin student, you have to play this! I think they might be onto something with the idea of multiplayer language learning game --- I wish there was a Japanese equivalent.

I hope there won't be a quiz! (2, Interesting)

Protoslo (752870) | more than 5 years ago | (#23677147)

I managed to escape the airport and get to my hotel in the game, but I wouldn't put much money on my remembering many of the specific words that I 'learned' in the airport in an hour. Without some sort of review mechanism, I don't see this being very effective. Of course, perhaps if I play this eight hours a day I would just soak it in by immersion, but I think that it is more likely that I would kill myself from the boredom first. Not that learning languages is that horrible, but this is more painful than just reading a book (well, a book and a 'set of tapes'). As it is, it seems the point of the game is to not starve to death. A noble goal, to be sure...

I think that the game would greatly benefit from a 'journal' function or something that lets me revisit past vocabulary and grammar lessons (and pinyin reference!) if I feel so inclined...then it really would be like an interactive language program, but with avatars that starve to death. I suppose that the big benefit would be getting to try out your stuff with other players...I imagine that at this point in the beta, everyone is too embarrassed by their hideous accents and word pacing to try out their Mandarin on the other players (that is my excuse).

Ah, one last observation. When you 'observe' the conversations, it seems to me that sometimes the two people involved have different accents, and pronounce certain words slightly differently. A heads-up as to what accent everyone is demonstrating would be nice, so I don't end up speaking a mixture of Beijing-accent, Shanghai-accent, and ignorant farmboy accent (for all I know).

Overall, a pretty good effort for a beta, I suppose. Actually, I used to play FFXI in the middle of the night to try out my Japanese--not a very good way to learn kanji, I'll admit, but at least there was more to do in the game than starve to death. Perhaps some sort of happy medium between these extremes is possible?

great game, but buggy (1)

PetriBORG (518266) | more than 5 years ago | (#23677377)

I tried this out and I think its a great game. After I finally got it working after upgrading flash, only to get trapped in a map screen with no apparent way out!

I hope this gets a little stronger, it would be a fun way to learn a new language.

How many browser-based MMO's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23678065)

does it take to teach a mandarin Chinese?

How about playing a real MMO ? (2, Interesting)

Saffaya (702234) | more than 5 years ago | (#23678979)

Seriously.

Having played a number of MMO betas in chinese language, due to the fact they were the only versions available on the planet besides korean, I do recommend such option for players looking forward to learn the language.
Even more helpful would be to play a chinese version of a game you already know in english version, so you have a working knowledge which would make your first steps easier.

Examples : RF Online, Granado Espada (aka sword of the new world), etc ..

A ceveat though, would be the recent and very annoying trend from companies to dictate that all other licencee companies exploiting a particular MMO restict their player's access by country IP. Even though the MMO maker itself never intended so.
This is very annoying and should not be allowed to be, it may force you to look for a proxy service in the country where the servers are located.

Re:How about playing a real MMO ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23679795)

That sounds great - any more examples of foreign language MMOs?

Japanese maybe even?

Re:How about playing a real MMO ? (1)

donatzsky (91033) | more than 5 years ago | (#23680199)

AirRivals (http://www.airrivals.net/) has Korean (Ace Online), Chinese (Ace Online) and Vietnamese (forgot the name) versions. And it's good fun too.

Re:How about playing a real MMO ? (1)

Saffaya (702234) | more than 5 years ago | (#23682713)

Unfortunately, Granado Espada Japan (aka Sword of the new world) has recently been banning foreign IP.
Same thing for Soul of Ultimate Nation (ie. SUN) japan.

Maybe Lineage 2 japan is still reachable ?

Guild Wars allows free travel to any language zone (1)

Morgaine (4316) | more than 5 years ago | (#23681053)

In Guild Wars [guildwars.com], you can choose the nationality or language of your district when in any town or outpost. This makes it a great game for practicing languages, including far eastern ones.

There are no subscription costs either, just the single fairly low purchase price [play.com], although if you became interested in the gaming you'd end up buying the two other campaigns and the expansion as well.

The downside is that games players can't spell for shit, so you'd be learning from very bad teachers. Learning languages via MMO needs some grammar and spell-checking add-ons. :-)

Re:How about playing a real MMO ? (1)

EtoilePB (1087031) | more than 5 years ago | (#23682519)

Indeed, I've often found it beneficial to play available games in other languages, as a way of enhancing my language understanding.

Back around 1994, I had a CD version of "The Secret of Monkey Island" that contained five language versions of the game. I brought it in to my high school French class and my teacher LOVED it. Thanks to that, I can still say, "How appropriate: you fight like a cow!" in French. (Didn't come in so useful at that job where we actually communicated with Francophone schools and businesses, though...)

Similarly, I've played my MMOG of choice -- EQ2 -- on the French servers from time to time. I haven't worked up to having the gall to group with anyone yet but it's still interesting to be in that kind of informal environment in my second language.

That said, even after two years of college Chinese I don't think I'd ever be bold enough to attempt to do that with Mandarin! But I like the idea of an MMO meant for learning. I'll have to give it a try.

Built to learn (1)

PottedMeat (1158195) | more than 5 years ago | (#23680885)

I used this idea some time ago and found it quite fun. I always liked playing MMOs so I went about looking for one in the language I was learning. I found one and while it was not geared for learning the language but for native speakers I still learned a bit.

Take this article as an example of the many resources the internet provides for learning a new language. Sure it's quite easy for an native English speaker to take up teaching in Asia but there are teaching websites, TV shows, movies, games, music, and thousands of people willing to language exchange with you right at your fingertips.

PM

I just want a Chinese Girlfriend! (1)

felixdzerzhinsky (809662) | more than 5 years ago | (#23681283)

Just don't tell my Khmer wife!

Re:I just want a Chinese Girlfriend! (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#23686829)

My girlfriend actually tells me I need a Chinese girlfriend! Her family is Chinese but she was born in Thailand and never learned Mandarin. We're learning it together right now, but it sure would help if one of us knew the correct pronunciations.

Something strange in the License Agreement? (1)

mknoop (1303335) | more than 5 years ago | (#23686645)

I went to the web site and started to register. As I was reading the License Agreement I ran across this paragraph -

5. Consent to Monitor. WHEN RUNNING, THE GAME MAY MONITOR YOUR COMPUTER'S RANDOM ACCESS MEMORY (RAM) FOR UNAUTHORIZED THIRD PARTY PROGRAMS RUNNING CONCURRENTLY WITH THE GAME. AN "UNAUTHORIZED THIRD PARTY PROGRAM" AS USED HEREIN SHALL BE DEFINED AS ANY THIRD PARTY SOFTWARE, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION ANY "ADDON," "MOD," "HACK," "TRAINER," OR "CHEAT," THAT IN CIMSU'S SOLE DETERMINATION: (i) ENABLES OR FACILITATES CHEATING OF ANY TYPE; (ii) ALLOWS USERS TO MODIFY OR HACK THE GAME INTERFACE, ENVIRONMENT, AND/OR EXPERIENCE IN ANY WAY NOT EXPRESSLY AUTHORIZED BY CIMSU; OR (iii) INTERCEPTS, "MINES," OR OTHERWISE COLLECTS INFORMATION FROM OR THROUGH THE GAME. IN THE EVENT THAT THE GAME DETECTS AN UNAUTHORIZED THIRD PARTY PROGRAM, THE GAME MAY (a) COMMUNICATE INFORMATION BACK TO CIMSU, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION YOUR ACCOUNT NAME, DETAILS ABOUT THE UNAUTHORIZED THIRD PARTY PROGRAM DETECTED, AND THE TIME AND DATE THE UNAUTHORIZED THIRD PARTY PROGRAM WAS DETECTED; AND/OR (b) EXERCISE ANY OR ALL OF ITS RIGHTS UNDER THIS AGREEMENT, WITH OR WITHOUT PRIOR NOTICE TO THE USER.

Firstly, I do not see how they can do that. An operating system is supposed to isolate applications from each other.

Secondly, if they can do that I certainly do not want them poking around in my RAM. There might be user ids and passwords in there. I am not going to trust them to abide by the limitations to what they say they will do.

I do not play a lot of games, so perhaps I am overreacting. Is this some kind of standard boilerplate?

Re:Something strange in the License Agreement? (1)

One Childish N00b (780549) | more than 5 years ago | (#23690443)

Lots of programs (especially games) do this, WoW for one - the homepage for Glider [mmoglider.com] (a WoW 'automation tool') says the game does this to check for tools like theirs in their FAQ [mmoglider.com], so it's not surprising that other MMOs do as well.
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