Influent

Learning a language these days can really boost your employability, but actually finding the time to sit down and study can be an incredibly difficult task. Fortunately, we’re living in a time where people are coming up with new and innovative ways to help you learn almost anything, languages included. There are dozens of applications available, such as Memrise, Anki and DuoLingo are all available on most smartphones and tablets and all offer different, but equally effective methods of teaching. The one issue I’ve found with these applications is that they often offer you various new words, but sometimes struggle for direction or focus. Influent addresses this brilliantly, giving you a small apartment to wander around in and helping you learn up to 420 words in sixteen different languages which will really give you a lot more confidence with your chosen subject.

Influent comes in the form of a first or third person game which sees you wander around your apartment using your invention – the SanjigenJiten – which lets you click on an item and it will teach you the translation. It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, an incredibly effective method of teaching. It does things that other games aren’t quite able to match in giving you contextual learning. I find it so much easier to remember and absorb things when I can put a word to an object in my mind. It’s a lot easier for me, and I imagine others too, to recall an object based on a memory where you searched for, say, the computer and found out what it was called, rather than to read a word on a phone app and had nothing to associate it with.

Romaji

Handily, the Japanese version offers three character sets – I’m using Romaji here!

The good stuff

In addition to the nice teaching functionality, you’re also given a brilliant environment in which to learn. It may seem small at first, being only a one bedroom apartment, but with the amount there is to do, you’ll easily spend a good amount of time trying to learn everything. There are so many items that are brilliantly drawn and easy to select, making learning so much easier and very clear. It may seem like a game where you’re only going to learn nouns, because how are you supposed to select an adjective or a verb in a game where you’re clicking on objects, but that isn’t true. With certain items, you’re able to find related words in the little revision cards you generate by looking at objects. For instance, when you look at poster, you’ll also learn the verb “to hang”. It’s a nifty idea and really helps boost your vocabulary. It also includes a couple of synonyms where possible for certain words, so just in case you go to a country and you hear people refer to a computer in two different ways, you will be able to understand them.

You can go at your own pace around the apartment too, which lets you learn at your own pace. There is a mode to help you consolidate your memories if this is too slow for you. It comes in the form of a ‘time attack’ mode which encourages you to speedily run around to double click on the object that the game is seeking. It comes with four options that let you alter how easy the time attack is, from having the text present or just having the word said in game to having a translation underneath as well. It can really give you confidence with your reading and listening abilities if you try it on the more difficult settings and you’ll soon notice the results if you continue trying to converse with a native speaker.

A small warning

The one negative I’d say, and it isn’t really a negative, more of a warning, is that I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re starting a language fresh. Influent is definitely more of a game you should go to once you’ve nailed the basics and want to expand your vocabulary, as this is what it does brilliantly. If you’re starting a language where the alphabet is completely new to you, like Japanese, Russian or Mandarin, then you definitely shouldn’t look here first. It’s good at teaching you new words, but you’ll need much more than that to become fluent in any language.

Revision card

The revision cards can really be useful for synonyms and extra words

Final Word

As a learning tool, you probably won’t find many better at expanding your vocabulary in such a fun and interactive environment. It’s definitely not for absolute beginners in a language, so you may want to hold off on buying it until you’ve done a few days with a textbook or with an app like DuoLingo or Memrise. Once you are able to fully utilise Influent though, you won’t look back. You’ll have learnt over four hundred new words in a short space of time and you’ll feel so much more confident when talking to a native speaker, it really is worth every penny.

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