DS

North America

My French Coach

by Jonathan Metts - January 20, 2008, 9:30 am PST
Total comments: 9

9.5

It's always good to learn something and be entertained at the same time, n'est-ce pas?

While playing Ubisoft's other recent edutainment game for Nintendo DS, My Word Coach, I found it to be an effective learning tool but too laborious to be much fun. In contrast, My French Coach is both entertaining and brisk, and as a teaching tool, it is more cohesive and manageable than the vocabulary builder.

The singular purpose of My French Coach is to teach you more about the French language, one lesson at a time. The game starts with a quick placement test, presented in multiple choice format. Based on your prior knowledge of French, if any, the game will skip forward to the most appropriate lesson. You can always go back to earlier lessons if you think the placement test overrated your skills, but it was perfectly accurate in assessing my skills, which are perhaps best described as "latent". I studied and enjoyed French in high school, nearly ten years ago, and my proficiency in it was almost completely wiped out after so many years of disuse. My French Coach dropped me into lessons full of words that I had seen once upon a time but could not remember the definition anymore.

If you don't know a lick of French when you begin, that's okay too. The game is broken into short lessons that cover ten to fifteen words each, and the progression is very much like you would get in a real French class. The first three lessons are about numbers, colors, and days of the week, which are the typical starting points for a new French student. The virtual teacher explains concepts and gives advice in English, so you'll be able to get started even without knowing a single French word. This is definitely not an intensive immersion curriculum. However, there are many dozens of lessons included, enough to last weeks of steady training, so the game has something to offer intermediate and advanced students, too.

My French Coach does a couple of things that make it really useful and very easy to play. First, the lessons are perfectly sized morsels of information. The virtual teacher is easygoing but doesn't pander to you, and you can always review the lessons for extra reinforcement. Second, the lessons take a multimedia approach to learning. You'll learn vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and pronunciation all at the same time; the latter is achieved by thousands of voice samples, so you can hear every single word spoken aloud in proper French manner. Because French spelling and pronunciation often seem incongruous to native English speakers, the ability to see and hear a word simultaneously is fantastic. You can even use the DS microphone to record your own attempts at pronunciation and immediately play the recording to compare with the built-in voice sample.

New words are always reinforced through mini-games. These activities aren't the greatest mini-games around, but they are quick to play and surprisingly effective in helping you to remember each lesson's new vocabulary. Some mini-games focus on definitions, others on spelling, and still others on audible recognition. Eventually, you'll unlock additional mini-games for building sentences and other skills. Playing the mini-games helps you to master the new words and phrases, which is required to move on to the next lesson. Fortunately, it does not take long to master a word, and you can attempt to earn mastery points faster by playing mini-games at higher difficulty levels. Unlike My Word Coach, this game's more advanced lessons don't shove greater quantities of words down your throat or make you play the same mini-game a dozen times to keep progressing. In fact, the lessons aren't even tied to the DS calendar, so you can sweep through a lot of material each day in order to prepare for an upcoming trip. No calendar hacking is required.

Not only is My French Coach a great tool for people who want to start (or resume) learning French, but it's also a very handy travel dictionary. The game's reference section gives you full access to the extensive built-in word list and phrase book, including audio samples for every single word and full conjugations for every verb. You can even bookmark your favorite phrases or search the list by typing a word in either English or French. The Nintendo DS system with the game plugged in is smaller than most travel dictionaries, and this one lets you hear every word's pronunciation. In other words, this would be a very useful product even without the structured lessons. Getting it all in one package is an absurd value.

My French Coach may not be the hottest game to ever sit in your DS, but it is an unusually polished product that achieves the edutainment holy grail – it makes learning easy and fun. Whether you've always wanted to learn French, or want to refresh all the material you had forgotten, or just need an inexpensive crash course and reference guide for the flight to Paris, this product is very highly recommended.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
6 8 9 8 10 9.5
Graphics
6

The presentation is clean but very, very simple. Even a little animation for the virtual teacher would give us something to look at.

Sound
8

Limited music is stereotypical French folk stuff. The real achievement here is the huge library of voice samples, helping you learn to pronounce every word in the game.

Control
9

The touch controls are nearly impeccable; only the Bridge Builder mini-game shows a little awkwardness, as words don't always drag around responsively.

Gameplay
8

Educational value aside, the game is fun to play, and the brisk pace helps a lot. More interesting mini-games would have been nice, but you can play each one in multiple difficulty levels, some of which are significantly different.

Lastability
10

There are more lessons than you'll likely ever reach, but if you do make it to the end, you'll be an advanced French speaker and still have the option to review earlier lessons or just play the mini-games by themselves. Spectacular reference tools push this category into the stratosphere.

Final
9.5

Edutainment simply doesn't get better than My French Coach. Anyone with the slightest interest in French should pick this up immediately. Here's hoping for Japanese, Russian, and many other versions.

Summary

Pros
  • Extensive, thoughtful reference tools
  • Lessons are short, brisk, and useful
  • Works well for any level of French student
Cons
  • Mini-games are just average
  • Unlocking new mini-games takes a long time
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

DarkheartJanuary 20, 2008

I got this game the day it came out it really is wonderful. Though I should mention I took 2 years of French in high school so my French comprehension was a tad higher than most but due to the placement testing at the beginning of the game they started me out perfectly where I left off in high school~!

They tried to teach me french in school when I was growing up in Canada. And then I took two years of French in High School when I came down to the states. None of it stuck. My French Coach is my last chance to learn to parle francais.

matt ozJanuary 20, 2008

Would this software be useful for me if I'm already proficient in speaking French? I can hold my own talking about non-complicated topics, but anything that reinforces vocabulary and pronunciation is always good, no matter the level.



Is there any word on an Italian version of these 'My _ Coach' games? I'm taking a trip to Italy next year, and I've been looking into different ways to learn the language.

DarkheartJanuary 20, 2008

Quote

Originally posted by: matt oz
Would this software be useful for me if I'm already proficient in speaking French? I can hold my own talking about non-complicated topics, but anything that reinforces vocabulary and pronunciation is always good, no matter the level.







Is there any word on an Italian version of these 'My _ Coach' games? I'm taking a trip to Italy next year, and I've been looking into different ways to learn the language.




No unfortunately not just French and Spanish. . . too bad because I am actually a citizen of Italy but cannot speak the language that would of helped me a lot when I head over there.

MorariJanuary 20, 2008

THIS POST HAS BEEN CENSORED FOR YOUR PROTECTION

--Bureau of Internet Morality

WuTangTurtleAugust 30, 2008

Hey Johnny, great review.  I didn't even know it had a dictionary like feature also.  I think I'm gonna try out the My Chinese Coach one.  I'm an American born Chinese and have never been fluent in Chinese so this may help a bit more whenever I have to talk to my parents.  Oh and maybe I'll have to pick me up that My Klingon Coach  ;D

CalibanAugust 30, 2008

Quote from: WuTangTurtle

My Klingon Coach

Are they really going to release such a game? I want it.

I hadn't even heard about a Chinese version.  I would love to get Russian to brush up my skills and also Japanese for a long-awaited intro to that language.  Sadly, I lost the French game along with my last DS and several other cherished games, or else I'd still be popping it in for an occasional refresher.

WuTangTurtleAugust 30, 2008

actually the Japanese one is coming after the Chinese one which just came out.

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My French Coach Box Art

Genre
Developer Ubisoft
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: My French Coach
Release Nov 06, 2007
PublisherUbisoft
RatingEveryone
eu: My French Coach
Release Nov 23, 2007
PublisherUbisoft
Rating3+

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