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Joystiq presents

Une semaine avec My French Coach: Day Four

The week rolls on here at DS Fanboy (and, uh, everywhere, really), and that means more quality time with Ubisoft's My French Coach. All week long, we're on a mission -- French language mastery! Or at least a valiant attempt to get through as many lessons as possible in seven full days. If you missed the overview on day one, you might want to back up a little. If not, then let's get moving with day four of our language training.

As promised, today I attempted -- and passed! -- three lessons instead of two, and I do not recommend it. Maybe very early in the game, when it's just vocabulary, but by the time I was getting close to finishing, everything was starting to run together, and it took me longer to get through the lessons. I also made the mistake of trying to a) watch a little television during the first lesson, as well as b) carry on a conversation. The result? Brain overload. DS Fanboy's official advice while training on a language game is to focus ... or at least do something mindless while working through your lessons.

A shot from the phrasebook in My French Coach

But somehow, I managed to make it through today's efforts, and I even took a look at the phrasebook. In fact, we'll start there, since I'm sure people are curious about this part of the title. It seems pretty interesting, though I only peeked around a little bit. There are various categories, like "dining," "entertainment," and "miscellaneous," and within one can find lists of phrases. Interestingly, my favorite part of the game -- the Compare function that allows you to record your audio and sync it with the game's -- works here, just as it does within the lessons. That is extraordinarily useful.

I poked around in the aforementioned categories and found a variety of useful phrases, as well as some very random things, like: "You're going to paint your house pink?" I'm not sure when I may need that while hanging out with French-speaking people, but hey -- anything is possible.

But let's get back to the lessons. There were a lot of interesting things today, from question words to using those question words in sentences about locations, and then in the final lesson, we talked emotion. Here, yesterday's lengthy discussion (in the comments) concerning the use of aller vs. être may come back into play, because today, we studied when to use être.

So here is the difference between something like, "Things are going well for me," and "I am happy." But, if I remember correctly -- My French Coach isn't there yet, so I'm drawing on rusty experience here -- when it comes to other, non-emotional states of being, yet another verb sometimes comes into play. When discussing age, I believe you use avoir, "to have." And people say English is complicated!

As an aside, here is one of the resources I've used in the past (thanks, UT-Austin!) for basic French, for those who want to know more about the uses of aller and/or être.

But let's not get off track. A portion of today's studies focused on places -- useful words to know if traveling in a French-speaking country. And someone certainly knows what they are about here; the very first "where is" question My French Coach presented me with, in both English and French, was, "Where are the toilets?"

As you can see, there were a lot of locations presented here. I had a great deal of trouble with bureau d'accueil, and spent a lot of time in the Compare menu, recording and re-recording pronunciations until I got it at least somewhat close to correct.

Besides the question words, the rest of the vocabulary, as mentioned, dealt with emotions and states of being.

I love the word choices here. The first screen of words included some basic things, like "happy" and "sad," and then we move right into the biggies: "drunk," "dizzy," "jealous." And, of course, the word you'll need the morning after: "sick." Someone definitely had a sense of humor when putting this together!

But despite all of the complications that came with three increasingly complicated lessons, not only did I claim victory over a great deal more vocabulary (the game says I'm getting close to 200 words mastered), but I hit a new level and unlocked a new mini-game, as well. I'm now a first-grader (seems odd to be proud of that), and I have Bridge unlocked in the games menu. Within a lesson, I was also presented with Fill in the Blank, but it's not yet in the menu. Fill in the Blank is pretty self-explanatory, but there's a twist: it's not a multiple choice deal. You must use an onscreen keyboard to type in your answer. I really like this, because so many language trainers (not just game-related but all sorts) do not focus at all on writing the language, which is important to me.

Looks easy from the shot of the top screen, but that keyboard entry just replaced Memory as the most difficult thing I've yet done this week. A nice touch, however, is that the accented letters are included, below the regular keyboard, so that one may enter the correct answer here -- êtes -- with the proper accenting. As we've discussed this week, everything isn't always correct within the game, but there are some very nice touches. It's clear the development team strove for accuracy.

And speaking of that pesky Memory game, you know what's even better than ranking up? Beating that darn game for the first time!

I was so surprised at this accomplishment that I immediately tried to repeat it -- and did it again! Even with doing three lessons tonight, things seem to be sticking. Training every day with My French Coach is very helpful.

But not all was grand today -- I also discovered the first mini-game that I absolutely do not like at all, and that's Bridge. I love the concept: you're given blocks with words, and you form them into the appropriate sentence. Sounds good, right? Except there are these random little animations that are cute the first time you see them upon completing the sentence ... and then they promptly become an annoying waste of time. I doubt I'll be playing Bridge much, unless it's used in a lesson.

That's it for day four. Even if it was harder than the others, I still can't wait to see what day five will bring!

See also: The My French Coach series in its entirety

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Reader Comments (Page 1 of 1)


11-15-2007 @ 11:33AM

Sowey said...

For the record, you'll never hear a french saying such a "bureau d'accueil" stuff, or barely, so. We usually/casually refer to " l'accueil" instead, when refering to the front desk of a building/office.


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ELIJAH the ChaosDragon2

11-15-2007 @ 11:46AM

ELIJAH the ChaosDragon said...

Your'e really adamant about your studies, and your determination is great! One question, is the training divided by the game or is this for the article?


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11-15-2007 @ 1:26PM

Dash said...

I really like the way that the game is turning out so far, and I'm believing this can really help a person learn a language(not solely of course, but paired with a course or something), but can give a real push to someone who has a genuine interest and the discipline to play frequently.

By the way, the way this article is being writen is just fantastic. The format is perfect for this kind of game, where we want to see how and if it works, whereas at another game there would be all kind of spoilers, in here we get to increase the interest in a different genre (and talk about interest, just check out the forum at day 3).

I think at the end of the last article I'll give the game a chance (well, after Contra 4 of course).


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Alisha Karabinus4

11-15-2007 @ 1:48PM

Alisha Karabinus said...

Sowey -- that's good to know... I could probably actually say that! I know a lot of French gets collapsed in speech, too. I remember reading that syllables are often left out. I guess it's the same in any language, when people speak (we get lazy), but it sure adds to the challenge.

Elijah -- the game is really split into lessons. I believe there are fifty, but I'm not sure. All I can see right now is 1-16.

Dash -- Thanks! Writing it this way is fun, too, and it helps to reinforce what I've learned. If I had no experience whatsoever with French, it might be much harder. I rather hope they extend to a language I've never studied (like, say, Italian) so I could try that out.


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11-15-2007 @ 3:05PM

geozeldadude said...

been reading the series. hope they come out w/ a german version!


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Xian B.6

11-15-2007 @ 4:04PM

Xian B. said...

I agree, you're doing a bang-up job, Alisha. This has totally stoked my interest in a game that I might otherwise have written off as pure gimmick. I also agree that this will come AFTER Contra 4.

My main concern is with the "completeness" of the product. For example, four days in and you're in Grade One... does that mean it will go up to Grade 12 and possibly even beyond? That would imply you'll learn as much from this as you would from other, larger, (vastly more expensive) language programs. It would bode extremely well for the game's longevity and value.

OR will it end at Grade Five or something and make us feel like the education was incomplete? I guess you won't know until you reach the end. Hey, let us know. And keep up the great work!


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Alisha Karabinus7

11-16-2007 @ 1:04AM

Alisha Karabinus said...

I think it will go past Grade 5, to be sure, but I'm also curious about just how far it goes. I will do my best to find out! And thanks, everyone, for all the positive comments. I could really use the support -- this is hard!


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