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App review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2017
Learn Spanish With Ruby Rei

Learn Spanish with Ruby Rei

So-so role-player features great artwork, limited language practice

Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
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Grades
6–12
Subjects & Skills
World Languages, Communication & Collaboration, Critical Thinking

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Pros: The artwork is gorgeous, and it’s super easy to toggle captions between English and Spanish.

Cons: The experience feels far more passive than active; there’s lots of tapping but not much doing.

Bottom Line: An amusing way to engage with a new language, but look elsewhere for a higher-impact learning experience.

While Ruby Rei probably won't replace your tried-and-true Spanish curriculum, it could be an appealing tool to offer your students to help them use some common beginning and intermediate Spanish skills in a new context. Encourage kids to think about why it feels different to practice Spanish in this context: Is it easier to remember Spanish words and phrases in the context of the game, or is it harder? Have students script their own adventure stories, integrating four-skills practice that truly helps them read, write, speak, and listen.

Note that there's a "teaching resources" section on the developer's website, but it's empty; it seems that teachers can create and upload their own resources to share them freely, but it's not clear who should upload teaching resources and what form those resources should take. It's not clear if the developer plans to create their own content in addition to user-generated submissions.

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Ruby Rei is a role-playing game that follows the adventures of a space explorer who's marooned on a strange planet. To play, you can tap on the screen to move through the game's 22 levels. The game's narration is in Spanish, and its captions appear in English at first; later, captions appear in Spanish, and you can tap underlined words to transform them into English. 

Between brief cut scenes that move the story forward, users guide Ruby Rei from her crashing space ship through a strange alien world on her journey back to find her robot friend Moli, the crashed ship's computer. Along the way, kids briefly practice all four language skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) through some limited challenges, such as sending a text message to Moli or making a brief voice recording.

While the visuals are gorgeous and the concept behind the app is great, this role-player misses the mark on a truly immersive experience. The app's developers claim that Ruby Rei gamifies language learning, but it's not quite there yet: Guiding Ruby across the planet mostly involves tapping and selecting multiple-choice answers, not coming up with answers on your own. When you do have a chance to type or speak, it's hard to know whether your answer was recorded properly, and it's also not especially clear how to move purposefully toward getting it right.

Also, from a gaming perspective, it doesn't feel like you accomplish much along the way: Chapters are short and end abruptly, and it's hard to know if you've done what you're supposed to do. Some clearer feedback or progress tracking -- even a progress bar on-screen or some encouraging feedback text when you've accomplished a task -- would help make it clearer that you're moving forward in the narrative and progressing through the language-based challenges. It would also be helpful if users could customize their experience, perhaps by saving words they learn to a glossary page or to a section of Ruby Rei's built-in diary. Overall, it's an interesting way to hear and practice Spanish vocabulary in a story-based context, but look elsewhere for a more active way to hone Spanish skills. 

Overall Rating

Engagement

While the artwork is beautiful throughout the app, gameplay isn't especially immersive or fun.

Pedagogy

Even though there's great vocabulary used throughout, this game feels more passive than active. Students mostly tap and rarely volunteer their own responses. 

Support

It's not especially clear how to use the in-app features to type or record audio, and they can be hard to use. It would be great if you could track or refer to the words you've learned along the way. 


Common Sense reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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