Review by Caryn Lix, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2015

Influent

Entertaining language vocab builder needs more work to really shine

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • World Languages
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
4-12
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Pros: Listening and memorization become enjoyable through immersive gameplay.

Cons: The interface can be finicky, and there's not much guidance provided.

Bottom Line: A great approach for developing vocabulary in another language, but the experience doesn't quite deliver on its promise.

Teachers will find Influent most helpful if they use it to supplement traditional instruction. It's a fantastic way for students who excel in a language to build vocabulary and get extra practice independently, and it could make a fun introduction to a language, providing students with some advanced context and vocabulary before more formal instruction. 

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Influent is an interesting concept: Students play as a character who has developed a device that instantly translates words to other languages. Depending on which of the 13 (with more on the way) language packages you download, students can learn anything from Russian to Japanese to Spanish. You navigate your apartment, clicking on items to hear and see their names in the language you're learning. Hitting the space bar adds the words to your vocabulary list. Once you have 10 words, you can play a game where you run around the apartment clicking on objects to match the vocabulary words.

Later, you get a spaceship game that does much the same thing, but it's difficult to control and not much fun to play; most students will try it a few times and go back to the timed apartment activity. The timed activity is much easier to master, but it can be difficult to click on small objects when time is a factor.

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Influent is a great alternative to traditional vocabulary practice. Like more traditional methods of language learning, it relies heavily on repetition and memorization, but it nicely allows students to select words at their own pace (you can have 10 vocabulary words at a time, or 50). The pronunciation is clear and offers a good chance for students to hear a native language speaker. The game starts out teaching nouns, but you can advance to adjectives and verbs.

Unfortunately, there's not much context here. Students will not speak or write the language, and they won't learn any grammar or sentence structure. So while Influent is an excellent way to practice basic vocabulary, it's not a self-contained way to learn a language.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Simple but surprisingly addictive content draws kids in. Students will get a sense of accomplishment from enjoyable gameplay.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Students develop vocabulary at their own pace through repetition, but there's no opportunity to speak or write the language you're learning, and kids may forget vocabulary out of context.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Gameplay is relatively simple but not always intuitive. Younger children may find the experience frustrating. 


Common Sense Reviewer
Caryn Lix Classroom teacher

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