My Chinese Coach

Introduction

My Chinese Coach is a video game designed to teach the user how to speak, read, and write Mandarin Chinese. The game is in a series of learning tools such as My Japanese Coach, My Spanish Coach, and My French Coach.

The Game

My Chinese Coach teaches the user all about the Chinese language. The user first starts out taking a basic test; this informs the game where to start in the lessons.

After the user has taken the test, the user can start learning Chinese! The lessons section is the place to start learning. In the lessons, the "coach" informs the user a little about Chinese culture before getting into the language.

MyChineseCoach_intro.png

Cultural Background Screenshot

After the brief introduction of the Chinese Culture, the "coach" introduces new words. On this screen, there are 3 sections: Listen, Speak, and Write.

MyChineseCoach_Lesson.png

Lesson Screenshots

Listen

In this section, the words are written in English. Next to the English is the word in Chinese Character. The user can click (with the stylist) on the Chinese Character, this will switch the word to Pinyin and the "coach" will pronounce the word.

Speak

The speaking section enables the user to listen to the coach repeatedly. The user then can record their own voice and play it back. There is a button to play both the user's voice as well as the coach's voice at the same time. There is no voice analysis so the user has to use their own judgment if they are getting the word right.

Write

The write lesson is one of the most unique features in My Chinese Coach because it allows the user to actually "write" the Chinese Characters. The lesson will first draw the character (showing the user the correct stroke order). The user then can draw right on top of the character (with the stylus). The user can then compare their work. Also, the user can clear the screen and attempt to draw the character without any assistance; the user can compare their work of art by pressing the "compare" button.

Multiple Choice Game

My Chinese Coach has many different types of games. The games are the mechanic that enables the user to move forward with their studies. When a user plays a game, the user is awarded points at the end of the game per word. The user has to get 10 points per word to have "mastered the word". Once the user has mastered enough words, the user can move on to the next lesson.

The screenshot below is of the first game: Multiple Choice. In the multiple choice game, the user is given the Chinese Character. The coach also pronounces the word. The user then must select the correct English equivalent from 4 choices.

MyChineseCoach_MultipleChoice.png

Dictionary

The dictionary is a nice tool that allows the user to quickly look up words. If you know you will be conversing with Chinese and aren't quite solid in your vocabulary, then this tool is for you. I would suggest having your DS "on", My Chinese Coach loaded, and set at the dictionary section. You can close your DS (which puts it in sleep mode) and then put it in your pocket. When you are in conversation and can't think of a word, just pull out your DS and look it up (its very convenient).

MyChineseCoach_Dictionary.png

Dictionary Screenshot

Equipment

My Chinese Coach is exclusively for the Nintendo DS game system. The Nintendo DS (abbreviated as NDS) is the world's most popular portable game system developed by The Nintendo Company Ltd. There are 3 versions of the NDS: NDS (original) NDS Lite, and the newly released (as of April 2009) NDSi. If you don't have any version of the NDS, then I highly recommend the newest release: the NDSi.

The NDSi retails for $169.99 as of May 2009 while the NDS Lite dropped in price to $129.99. Even though you will save $40 with the NDS Lite, I still recommend the NDSi for the reasons listed below.

Features that are exclusive to the NDSi

  • Downloadable Content (Allows connection to the DSi Shop to download apps and games)
  • Free Internet Browser (Opera)
  • 2 Digital Cameras
  • Larger LCD Screens (3.25" instead of 3.0")
  • Free Camera Software (allows you to edit our pictures)
  • Free Sound Editing Software
  • Free Audio Player (no mp3 support though)
  • Free photo viewer application
  • Customizable Interface
  • Multi-threaded OS (In the previous versions, when you wanted to switch games, you had to power down the console all the way, now its just a soft reset)

There are many places to purchase the NDSi: most of the retail stores such as Walmart and Best Buy carry them. I prefer to order my electronics from online retailers (no tax). One of the best places to get electronics online is newegg.com. You can get it here:
Black DSi from Newegg.com

Software

Now that you have your nice flashy NDS, you need to get the game.
You can purchase the game online: My Chinese Coach from Amazon.com or Best Buy/Walmart should have it too.

NDS Game Cartridges

Portability is Key when using the Nintendo DS. Since its a game console, you can get many more games. There are hundreds of games available for the system today. Eventually you will find that you don't have enough carrying space for all of your games. The DSi Shop helps some, but so far the selection of games is very small (around 10 to 20).

You will also find that there are many "Homebrew" applications. A "Homebrew" application is a program that is made by independent groups that are not licensed by Nintendo which are completely free. More about this later in the article.

Flash Cart

The method in which you can store all of your games on a single cartridge and allows "homebrew" applications, is to purchase a Flash Cart. There are many different types of flash carts on the market; however, I recommend the Acekard 2i since it's supported on all 3 versions of the DS. The link for acekard 2i is here: Acekard web site.
You can purchase your Acekard from Deal Extreme Online Shop which is about $20 (that's less then the price of one NDS game!). There is another web site (that I think is more local to the US) that you can purchase your Acekard from and its Stuff4Play

The acekard requires a microSD card. The microSD card will contain the acekard firmware (which can be upgraded when new versions come out), any homebrew application, as well as NDS roms. A microSD card can be purchased as well from newegg, amazon, and most electronic retailers. I recommend getting a 4GB Micro SDHC (high capacity) since its about $10 from newegg 4GB Micro SD Card.

Once you get your microSD card, you need to connect it to your computer. If your computer doesn't come with a microSD card flash reader, then you will also need to get this (again, newegg carries them MicroSD USB Card Reader).

Now that you have a microSD card and a microSD USB Card Reader you need to download the acekard software. You can get it here: Acekard Download page. You can either download OsUp or Version 4.x. The OsUp is a program that enables the user to download the latest acekard firmware using the wifi connection. The Version 4.x (Version 4.16 is the current latest as of May 2009) is the complete firmware. If you choose the version method, then you will manually have to copy new firmwares when the firmware becomes available from the website.

Once you have downloaded the firmware (either version), follow the instructions below (note, this is the Acekard's instructions on how to install their firmware).

How to use ak2
Please copy akmenu4.nds and folder __ak2 to the root of your TF card. And copy the rom or homebrews to any folders of your TF card. Then insert your TF card to your ak2 and insert your ak2 to DS. Turn on your DS and enjoy!

NDS ROMS

A NDS ROM is a copy of the data that is stored on a retail NDS game. Think of an NDS ROM like an mp3 file (ie, you can buy a CD at the store, and then rip it to mp3 on your home computer). An NDS ROM file will have the file extension ".nds". For instance, NintendoGame.nds.

So you need to know that there is copy write issues if you do not actually own the game cartridge; however, its perfectly legal to own the game cartridge and to have the corresponding NDS ROM. Again, the main reason for having the NDS ROM is so that you do not need to carry all of those silly cartridges around with you.

If you want to find NDS ROMs so that you don't have to do the hard work of "ripping" the ROM from the purchased NDS cartridge, then there are many web sites that have the ROMs. A quick google search will show at least a dozen sites that contain the ROM files as shown in the link:
Google: NDS Roms search.

DSLibris

This is a highly recommended Homebrew Application because it allows the viewing of ebooks. Thats right, you can take your books with you wherever you go. This one application justifies buying the Acekart because you can have your entire book collection on your DS. This application allows you to turn your DS sideways so that your DS is like a mini book! Check out the screenshot below.

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Screenshot of an ebook with the DSLibris software.


You can download the software from here: Download DSLibris.

Here is a wiki for instructions on how to install . Note, you will need to use a DLDI patcher to get ndslibris to work on the Acekard. Each flash card has different "drivers" for using the file system on the microSD. The DLDI is a library that allows all homebrew apps to run on any flash cartridge.

If you have an Acekart, then you can download an already converted dslibris file found here: dslibris_acekard.nds.

Otherwise; if you have another flash cartridge like R4, then please use the directions below.

DLDI Patcher

All details of using DLDI patcher can be found here: DLDI Home Page.

  • Download Acekard specific DLDI patch
  • Download DLDI patcher program for your Operating SystemPatchers
  • dlditool <name_of_patch> <rom_file>

EBooks

The required ebook format for DSLibris is xhtml. There are many tools out there that convert pdfs, html, and text files to xhtml. Once your files are converted to xhtml, just copy them into the books directory on your microSD.

Instructions for converting to .XHTML for GNU/Linux

From PDF to XHTML

  • Open PDF with Acroread
  • Save as txt file
  • Run txt2tags -t html -i <name_of_file>.txt -o <name_of_file>.html
  • Run tidy -asxml <name_of_file>.html > <name_of_file>.xhtml

From HTML to XHTML

  • Run tidy -asxml <name_of_file>.html > <name_of_file>.xhtml

Instructions for converting to .XHTML for Windows

Someone that has windows can update this.

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