Practice English! For Everyday English - Review

Who I am
Aina Martin
@ainamartin
Author and references

Repetita iuvant

Practice English is an original exercise method that takes advantage of the possibilities of writing and voice interaction offered by the Nintendo DS thanks to its stylus and built-in microphone. The intent of the game is to offer "interactive practice" in real-life language situations and to improve the player's language comprehension and communication skills. Practice English thus proposes a whole series of dictation, comprehension, pronunciation and vocabulary exercises, articulated not only for increasing difficulty but also according to a calendar. Here the progress in the tests that the player will have wanted to take periodically will be recorded, and which can be consulted in the form of graphs. A concept of “daily progress” that Practice English, continuing in the wake of the previous English Training, clearly borrows from Brain Training, precursor of the Nintendian nouvelle vague of "intellectual non-game", which has now become a real series. The focus of the game, the “meat and potatoes”, is represented by the dictations. After having listened to texts or dialogues illustrated on the upper screen, the player must reproduce them faithfully by writing on the lower touch screen, having previously chosen, from the options page, whether or not to immediately enjoy a translation of the sentence in his own language, whether to have an array of empty boxes to guess the quantity of letters that make up the sentences, and so on. Other times the player will be asked to guess the meaning of the dialogues, and to correctly answer some questions concerning the subject of the discussions. Each time a dictation is overcome, with an evaluation that varies according to the speed, the hesitation in writing and any required cues, the same dialogue will be available for review in the section of the Exercises. From here it will be possible to listen and review everything, access the lexicon and transcribe it, evaluate the pronunciation by reciting the parts of the dialogues in turn and listening to one's own voice in comparison with the original ones. A further section is that of mini-games and pastimes, all of which can be unlocked by progressing through the main sections. The latter include simple language themed games, songs, tongue twisters, and offer a welcome breath of variety, capable of breaking the continuous cycle of exercises.





Practice English is a valid and fun tool for practicing the English language, as long as you are already able to deal with elementary dialogues. The material involved is a lot and well thought out, but the great potential is partly thwarted by a still not excellent handwriting recognition routine and by a decidedly insufficient voice recognition. All this leads to recognizing the “technological” courage of games of this genre and the difficulties to be faced in the mined territory of speech recognition and writing, but also a little to reconsider the general scope of such operations. Practice English exercises are useful and refresh the pronunciation by embellishing the vocabulary and providing opportunities to refine the ear (apart from stammering that reach excellent marks), but everything should be considered as a nice training to support a very different type of dive in the language. Playing with it you have fun and learn, but you also soon realize something obvious that needs to be emphasized: language is a phenomenon that must be entrusted to real practice and human interaction, and which cannot be reduced to recognition routines for what purposes or to the irremediably deterministic brain of a program.

For

  • A valuable extra tool for vocabulary, comprehension and pronunciation
  • An avalanche of examples spoken in English
  • Exercises, progress calendar, mini-games, tongue twister, songs ...

Cons
  • Not to be considered without having a smattering of English
  • Handwriting recognition can be nervous
  • Speech recognition is very inadequate

...romans going home?

To the advantage of beginners will undoubtedly go above all the deepening of the vocabulary and listening comprehension activities, while even the most experienced speakers could find bread for their teeth in being able to transcribe faithfully and on the fly, without errors and without suggestions, the dialogues. at the most challenging levels. Not to mention some nice mini-games that offer local and particularistic variations of English which, in the game, is foreign to the demanding American chants and stands on a reassuring Anglo-Saxon imprint, with occasional turns in quasi-Cockney speech. Not all donuts come with a hole though. The technology behind speech recognition and writing, so crucial to the success of the interaction and the much sought after combination of fun and learning, still has a long way to go. Unrecognized handwriting, despite the possibility of customizing it, is a continuous reason for slowing down the fun, and risks transforming the experience from Practice English to “Practice writing”. Voice recognition, a great idea full of applications, is then practically useless, because the recognition routines are completely insufficient to distinguish, and even less to judge a complex phonological and timbral phenomenon such as the spoken language. The program seems to condemn or get excited about the player's pronunciation of sentences in a predictably gratuitous and unjustified manner. And not only that: it is possible and even "easier" to recite random phrases or stammer nonsense verses to receive excellent pronunciation scores. The player, then, absolutely cannot trust the judgment of the game to improve speech, and is obviously forced by common sense to trust his ear and the comparison between examples and his recorded voice (which is still very useful).



Edutainment Nation o Touch! Generation?

Halfway between the game and the utility for learning languages, Practice English then belongs to a way of understanding electronic entertainment that only a console like Nintendo DS has so far managed to successfully impose on the market: the videogame as a medium. to learn while having fun. A concept capable of making every player shudder rightly, evoking images of aesthetically sweetening video games, batteries of electronic trial and error "formative", sugary and Flandersian pedagogues discovered apologists for the controller for the purposes of education and the common good. Fortunately for him (and ours), however, Practice English does not belong to this cloying vein. Even the latest incarnation of the Touch! Generation is quite fun and well thought out. Provided you know English at least a little, Practice English is definitely able to improve the player's language skills without breaking too much, and the same can always come in handy in life, for more challenging deathmatches with voice chat or even , who knows, to better appreciate an industry and a videogame culture that has always been and above all English-speaking.



Practice English! For everyday English it is available for Nintendo DS.

Learning English with just the use of an electronic program is not yet possible (fortunately), but all those who already have a smattering of the language will find in Practice English a valid tool to practice and improve. With a rich set of dictation, listening, pronunciation and vocabulary exercises, Practice English for Nintendo DS is a valuable extra tool to keep next to the lampshade, take along on the train or use to train your ear to the English language. in the dead times of the day.

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