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NDS Review - 'My Spanish Coach'

by Anthony Chambers on Feb. 15, 2008 @ 3:33 a.m. PST

My Spanish Coach, developed under the guidance of a linguist, is a game that anyone can play to improve vocabulary and increase confidence in verbal expression. The game consists of a variety of training exercises, four "Coach" personalities and a database of more than 16,800 words to master.

Genre: Edutainment/Puzzle
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Sensory Sweep
Release Date: November 6, 2007

Learning a new language is never an easy task. It takes time and dedication, and the process is never 100 percent painless. No matter the language, the thought of learning a new one does not seem like the most fun thing to do, unless you've either concocted some type of amazing fun-filled formula guaranteed to help you learn it, or picked up one of the various language DS packs published by Ubisoft. One of these games, My Spanish Coach, crams an up-to-date Spanish-to-English dictionary into various minigames and lessons that is sure to entertain you more than the classes you remember taking in high school or college.

Going along with educational titles such as Brain Age and Left Brain Right Brain, My Spanish Coach utilizes the on-the-go quality of the DS to allow you to learn anywhere at anytime. Like these other games, My Spanish Coach primarily uses different minigames to train you. One of the better things that the title does is give you an introduction of what you'll be learning before you begin playing the games by showing you key examples, but it also allows you to record your own voice using the DS microphone and compare your pronunciation, which has an accurate modern translation and voice that you can fully understand.

Once you've been introduced to the particular lesson, you'll play one of the eight different minigames, ranging from flash cards, memory, multiple choice, word search and Hit-A-Word, which is basically a variant of Whack-A-Mole. There are also over 1,000 lessons, so you'll definitely get your fill of each one of these games. Only a few of the minigames are available at the outset, but more will be unlocked as you go along and increase your vocabulary and Spanish speaking skills, giving the game the variation that it needs to keep you somewhat entertained.

Ultimately, the minigames become a bit stale, especially because they're the only ones that you play throughout the entire game, but at the same time, repetition is the best way to learn anything, so it all works out in the end. All of the games utilize the touch-screen and the stylus in different ways and feature three difficulty settings to help increase replay value and spice up the gameplay.

As you become better with each of the minigames, you'll have to bump up the difficulty because the easy difficulty will not test your listening and comprehension skills like the others. Medium mixes it up, and Hard is completely about understanding what you hear. You'll be able to go back to previous lessons and test your skills with each difficulty as you master more words. Fortunately, My Spanish Coach also incorporates its elaborate dictionary with a feature that tracks which words you've already mastered and which ones you still need to learn.

You'll master words by scoring points in the minigames; the better you perform, the more points you obtain. Each word requires the same amount of points in order to master it, and the amount of points you receive also depends on the difficulty on which you're playing the minigame. While My Spanish Coach gives you the tools necessary to learn Spanish, it greatly depends on you to practice, as it would if you were learning Spanish in any other way. You can try to zoom through the lessons and advance as quickly as possible, or you can take your time and really take something away from it.

Aside from learning the language, you'll also learn about cultures and historical sites in Central America and Spain. You're not required to pass any of these minigames, but it never hurts to learn a few extra tidbits here or there.

My Spanish Coach is also a solid translator to use if you're considering traveling to Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Spain or other Spanish-speaking areas. The game's reference guide and dictionary can come in handy, and while it may not account for differences in regional dialects or colloquial expressions, it's much better than awkwardly leafing through a dictionary while speaking to the locals.

The reference guide breaks down into four different categories: dictionary, phrasebook, player status and sketchpad. The dictionary features over 10,000 words, and the phrasebook provides you with about 700 different phrases covering seven categories ranging from dining and traveling to shopping and emergencies. You can once again compare your pronunciation with that of the game's Spanish-speaking translator. There is also an option to make some of the phrases your favorites so that you do not have constantly search through the menus. The phrasebook is by far one of the most useful tools in the game when it comes to using your DS as a translator.

Player status obviously keeps track of your progress throughout the game. Not to be overlooked, the sketchpad is exactly what it sounds like. By using the touch-screen and the stylus, your DS becomes a notepad. If you need to write down directions or draw a picture, you'll be able to do so with your DS. The sketchpad, along with the other reference features, completes the transformation of your DS into a mobile translator.

If you see My Spanish Coach on your store shelves, don't knock it before you try it. If you're looking for a fun, easy, and inexpensive way to learn Spanish basics, or if you have a DS and need a translation tool for future travels, you should definitely look into picking up a copy.

Score: 7.5/10

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