This interview features Nikolay Shindarov, the CEO WitNut, whose language-learning video game Space Polyglot has just launched a fund-raising campaign on Kickstarter.
It was a pleasure meeting you at the Polyglot Berlin Gathering 2016. You introduced Space Polyglot during the startup lightning talks to an audience of about 50 polyglots. The demo looked fun, a word or phrase appears at the top of the screen and a space ship steers toward translations of the word or phrase and avoids contact with whatever words do not match the target.
Thank you, Dimitris, it was a pleasure to meet you too. We are happy that we are creating a very interactive language learning game, something really new. One of the concepts behind that was that under strong emotion the memorizing abilities can boost up to 5 times, as per some psychological tests. On the other side we wanted to engage the user in an environment where he or she has not at all the feeling of learning something, but rather playing and relaxing.
What is the rate of new vocabulary that a player of Space Polyglot can learn?
Our texts are written in a manner to include the 900 to 1000 most frequent words. These words should present around 60% of the most frequent words in every average language, which means, that after completing all levels in our game one should be able to read and understand the basics of any average non-adapted text in their target language.
Tell us about the process of testing the effectiveness of the learning.
We are not engaged personally in the team of Georgi Lozanov, who created Suggestopedia, but we decided to include in our game the basics of his amazing method. Suggestopedia became famous in Bulgaria with a documented experiment around 50 years ago, when 15 people tried to learn 1000 French words in few hours. The next day they performed a test to check the results and the worst one was above 900 successfully memorized words. We don’t know if we can achieve the same results in our game, but we have made small tests with people around us. Our research suggests that the average result would be a learned word per minute of playing. The best part of it is that these 60 learned words per hour can be learned without any intentional effort and that they go directly into the subconscious memory, which is much stronger and more long-lasting. As opposed to that, when learning languages in the traditional way, we first put them in our conscious memory, which is actually out short-term memory. Then we need a lot of repetition to put them into the long-term, subconscious memory. All that stuff, related to Suggestopedia is quite interesting and your readers can find more info about it and even an explanation video on our Space Polyglot Kickstarter campaign page.
Can players program their own vocabulary goals into the game?
This is something we are considering as a future add-on. We need to accomplish first completely what we have started and after that we will definitely start working on that.
Tell us about the startup team.
Our small, but dedicated team is consisted permanently by me and Alex Novakov, who specialises in product design. We are working on our own IT projects for few years so far, but in Space Polyglot, a lot of other people were engaged – IT and graphic design freelancers, as well as around 100 volunteers from Italki.com, Interpals.net and other similar sites, who were very nice to help us with the texts translations and edits. Here is the moment to say a big “thank you” to all of them, as well as all relatives, friends and other people who have helped us in one or another way.
You mentioned in Berlin that the first version would be available in four languages: Russian, Turkish, Spanish and Bulgarian. How will you decide the roll-out of other languages?
Since Berlin we changed the text structure, based on user feedback and achieved even greater memorizing rate. The modified demo version, which teaches 50 words is already uploaded on Google Play and the App Store and can be downloaded for free from spacepolyglot.com. In it people can study through 16 native languages six target: Bulgarian, English, French, German, Russian and Spanish. And in few days we will add Esperanto to it. The final version of the game will teach 1,000 words and will be built after our Kickstarter campaign. In it we will include Bulgarian, English, Esperanto and more languages, which will be elected by our backers. So if your readers want to be part of our project and determine which languages to be included in the game – let’s back us on Kickstarter and give their vote!
Tell us the timeline of Space Polyglot from how the idea started to what you envision over the next five years.
It was a tough year. We got the idea in August 2015 and now by October 2016 we finally got the final demo version ready and we are running our campaign in order to raise funds and finish its development. In the next year we want to completely finish Space Polyglot and add some more features to it, after that we plan to start working on new games. WITNUT, our startup company has the motto “We will gamify your studies!”. Words are just part of all aspects of the language learning, we want to cover grammar, speaking, and even more. We have some very interesting ideas about those, but we prefer to keep silent about them now and before anything else to concentrate on finishing our pilot project.
Anything else you wish to share?
To all of your readers: try the game, you will not regret it! Visit spacepolyglot.com and get the free demo. We need your help to get this project finished, so please back us, or just share our campain page – as your friends may be keen on it! Thank you so much!
And thanks to you, Dimitris – I’m happy we knew each other and I hope to meet you soon again on the next Polyglot Gathering in Berlin.
Hi, it’s Dimitris, the founder of Yozzi.com. Thanks for reading this interview. Just after Nikolay’s presentation at the Polyglot Berlin Gathering, I introduced Yozzi.com. This is a site where we can practice our upper intermediate and advanced writing skills in our target language. Please feel free to participate in a guest post or guest interview in your target language. Yozzi.com features an editing function which allows logged-in users to comment on your writing skills so you can improve in your target language.