Following last week‘s introduction to Influent, I’ll run through some of its innards in greater depth, but first a brief recap.
Influent is a game-based, language-learning tool created by Three Flip Studios, set in an immersive 3D environment (OK it’s a bedsit, but don’t let that put you off!). Its relevance here is in its use for practicing Russian (naturally), and I’m currently using it to assist that very purpose. It’s proving useful too.
It’s worth pointing out that Influent is a two (or more) part affair, consisting of the game engine and environment as the main purchase with language packs available as plugins. The purchase does come with one pack of your choice, in case you were wondering. I was fortunate to find it by pure chance, as part of an educational deal on humblebundle.com for less than £4.00, and with several other titles thrown in – remarkable! You can still find it at the Humble Store and on Steam but as a solo item for £6.99. Think: that’s roughly two pints of beer (unless you live in London).
There are ten language packs currently available (including English), and the game interface will currently function in 6. Useful then if your Russian friend is trying to learn English whilst you simultaneously learn Russian. The flexibility is quite broad.
As mentioned last week, you progress by collecting many 10-item lists, and are subsequently prompted to identify each entry by clicking on it when its name is spoken/printed in your target language during “Time Attack” mode. There are over 400 nouns, verbs and adjectives (as applicable) linked directly or indirectly to each clickable item. Selecting the bed for instance will give you its target-language name in the ‘noun’ selection, or its associated action (please; no sniggering at the back) when verbs are required. When hunting for adjectives, you are presented with a single, connected descriptor. Not every word type is available for every item.
Furthermore, a Ctrl + click will often reveal sub-items that are an inherent part of the target object. With that in mind, the bed object breaks down further into: bed frame, blanket, pillow and mattress, again with some other associated word types. So, you can see that a deceptively simple environment has in fact a multitude of associated words to discover and practice.
Around this point in my write-up you may have done some basic maths and come to the conclusion that £7 for 400-odd words isn’t very much, especially when my Lonely Planet phrasebook costs around £5 and is a veritable telephone directory by comparison. Well, you are paying for the 3D form and the crucial audio content (essential for correct pronunciation). Also, the nature of the product is inherently more engaging than the average phrasebook (studying a phrasebook can sometimes feel like reading a phone directory).
The reality – assuming that you are pretty serious – is that you’ll probably end up buying both items and a lot more besides, in order to become anything other than the most casual of casual language users. I find myself with the aforementioned phrasebook, Influent, a list of (free) podcasts and web tools, 3 audio-courses from slightly differing angles, a smattering of formal (paid) lessons and one-to-one language practice in exchange for English (via the web and in person). It just happened!
It’s important to state that Influent doesn’t replace anything, but it does make certain aspects of the process a whole lot easier, more effective and a good deal more enjoyable to boot. Critically it is not, nor claims to be, a complete language solution. For instance, there are no attempts to string sentences together that utilise the words you discover. This sidesteps the issues of cases, gender and plurals and their use within grammar. I hate to break it to you, but with Russian you are in for a shock in the grammar department. Trust me.
Influent is a vocabulary tool and nothing more. It is designed to expand your word base and it does so effectively. Yes it’s one-trick, but what a trick! Vocabulary is something you can’t skimp on if you’re trying to learn a language! With that in mind, I’ll finish up on Influent next week.
[Image by Three Flip Studios]