Back in my highschool days, our French teacher gave us all a prompt – go home, and label things in our house with their French words. Later, she had us turn this into a project, building miniature houses and labeling everything inside accordingly.
Playing Three Flip Studios’ Influent is a bit like stepping inside that project. Trapped inside a small apartment, the player can interact with everything around them to learn what it’s called in their target language. As you poke around rooms and even dig through drawers and cabinets, the game will define, pronounce, and even transliterate words if necessary. You can add words to your dictionary, and then ask the game to test you on them, hopefully picking up some vocabulary along the way.
Honestly, that’s about all there is to Influent – it’s a virtual dictionary moreso than a language lesson, but its “explore and check out items” approach is a fun one that helps learners visualize as they study. It can be buggy at times, and it was a little confusing how to play at first, so I do think that with some more polish it will be a more enjoyable experience. Overall, however, I did like the game and I’m hoping in the future we might see some more locations to look around.
Picking up vocabulary is one of the hardest parts of studying another language – you don’t need perfect grammar to be understood, but have you ever blanked on a word and panicked with how to explain to your conversation partner what you were thinking of without knowing what it was actually called?
With roughly a few hundred words in each lesson, Influent can help quite a bit with picking up a beginner vocabulary. Will it get you through a conversation all on its own? No, but it could be a fun learning tool in conjunction with other apps or books. Afterall, extra tools help a lot when studying!
One thing I really did appreciate was the transliteration. One of the big issues I’ve run across in various language learning resources is material that romanizes languages too much, without trying to build a connection to how the material is actually written. I only tested the Japanese portion as far as languages with different writing systems, but Influent does a good job of breaking a word down into pronunciation, how you could write it in English letters, and how it’s actually written (even including kanji and katakana!).
If you like the idea of exploring in your target language and picking up some new words, Influent isn’t a bad way to do so. If you’re an intermediate learner, it might not have as much to offer for you, but the app does offer three free languages (Korean, French, and Italian), so you can get a little trial if you’re interested but not quite sold yet.
At the end of the day, Influent is an uncommon approach to language learning games, and with several languages to choose from, it will be useful to plenty of beginners.