Back in November, an Australian start-up called Native Tongue came to Beijing to promote their to be released app, Mandarin Madness at TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing. Now, the app has officially been launched on both the iOS and Android platform and sell for 0.99 cents.

Mandarin Madness claims to make learning Chinese Mandarin language “Fun, fast and effective” by adding gaming features to it.

I know when I first tried to learn Chinese when I was a kid, I found it so boring to the point where I didn’t want to learn. They used old books, crappy cassette tapes and repetitive exercises. I quickly lost motivation.

I tested out the Mandarin Madness app out to see if it actually made learning fun, engaging and effective.

When you open the app, there are four topics to learn about. Obviously aimed at beginners, you can learn about animals, numbers, clothes and vegetables and claims to teach you 230 words. The purpose is not to teach grammar, but rather vocabulary, listening and character recognition.

The game starts out at level 1, where you first watch characters float down from the top of the screen, then you need to match it with the corresponding picture. For example, the characters for ‘dog’ are matched to a picture of a dog. Initially the game seems way too easy because all you need to do is click all the pictures. But as you level up, the game becomes more difficult by having to choose between multiple pictures, the characters fall faster and bounce around or there is no spoken prompt to help you. After completing each level, you can unlock the next level which increases in difficulty and speed.

Overall, I did like the game. It’s intuitive to play and the gaming element motivates me to keep aiming higher, so learning is fun. The only criticism I have, is that at the higher levels the characters fall or twirl around so fast that it is hard to recognize them at all.

I think it’s a nice little app to teach you the basics and obviously has a lot of potential to expand to more language learning abilities such as speaking, reading, writing etc and across different languages.

For their first app, I have to commend Native Tongue on a great job!

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

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  1. Thanks for the review Jason. We believe that the game elements make learning Chinese more engaging and fun. We are constantly reviewing the game play so we welcome that feedback about the speed and twirling characters. We will have more languages available very soon – we’re currently working on English, Spanish and Japanese.

    Matthew Ho
    Native Tongue

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