Mandarin Chinese is spoken and understood by well over one billion people worldwide and is notorious for being the hardest language to learn. As business opportunities continue to arise in Asia, mastering Mandarin is becoming more and more important. Enter PinYinPal, a new app for the iPad that makes it easy to define, read, and recognize Chinese characters. This is the first and only viable word game available in pinyin and comes in a format that many will recognize. Think of it as Words with Friends with a twist.
PinYinPal is the brainchild of Adeline Yen Mah, author of the New York Times best-seller “Falling Leaves” and founder of Chinesecharacteraday.com Foundation. She said, “I set out to create a game that makes learning Mandarin fun. I’m convinced that the future of language learning lies in playing games, consumed in bite-sized chunks on tablets or mobile phones.” Dr. Mah and her husband, Robert, first conceptualized the game in their living room, playing with pieces of cardboard and paper. Little did they know the project would blossom into something more impactful. “The first version of PinYinPal is being offered in English. However, at this very moment, our game is being translated into French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, Japanese and Korean. It is my dream that all the people of the world will unite while playing PinYinPal and learning Chinese. Regardless of one’s mother tongue, the basic programming is the same. By tapping a button, a Russian can play with an American; or a Chinese with a Japanese, without knowing one another’s language,” says Dr. Mah.
But wait, isn’t Chinese made up of characters? That’s the beauty of pinyin; it is the Mandarin vocabulary spelled out with the alphabet. PinYinPal includes a built-in Dictionary and Word Finder, which act as guides during the game. Because of this, novices who don’t know any Chinese can play competitively against native Chinese speakers from the first turn. Players are pitted against their friends on social networks or random opponents, and challenged to take turns spelling pinyin words.
Some of the other key features include:
The PinYinPal app is available for free from the App Store on the iPad. It will be available soon on iPhone and other iOS devices.
Samantha Kotey is the editor for AvatarGeneration and has a background in educational technology and virtual worlds. A mom of two, she is passionate about all things related to toys and technology.