Saturday, 13 September 2014

Language Apps/Websites Review: Memrise

After a long, long delay, I'm finally here with the second review in this series! In this post, I'm going to be talking about Memrise, a site that uses Space Repetition System (SRS) to teach you.

What is SRS? Simply put, the site tests you on the vocab that you've learn just when you're about to forget it. In a way, it works a bit like Anki, but I find it much easier to use and more addictive to play.

Memrise has both a webpage and a free app, so here's my review of each:

Website

My profile page
You need an account to register for anything, but once you do, you can see that everything is really nicely arranged for you. The Pinned courses are the first few courses you choose (or the ones you specially select), and they're a useful shortcut if you have many many courses at one go.

While you can have friends, I haven't found a way to search by username yet (anyone know?). I've had to get the link to add people as friends ><

Courses page
You can also search for courses. That is slightly easier to navigate, although if you're searching for a course created in something other than English, remember to change the "I speak _______" section at the top left (just below courses, and above "top categories"). As a matter of rule, the more people taking the course, the more reliable it's likely to be, since there's tons of feedback. Of course, if you're taking a niche language, there may not be that many learners.

The real beauty of this website is the "Create" a course function. This makes it the perfect supplement to your Japanese language class/course. You can use it to create an effective way of revising. I can personally attest to the efficiency of that - I used this for my Bahasa Indonesia class and I got an A! It made studying a lot easier for me, because I am not the best at memorising vocab.

App
The app while loading
Memrise has a free app as well, but the iPad version seems to be a scaled-up version of the iPhone app (not sure, since I haven't tested it). It's not hard to use, but it's not optimised for the iPad.

My app homescreen
The app is useful for revision, but not for creating courses (I don't think it's possible) or for searching for a new course (possible, but very difficult). I find it easier to revise on the app than on the website, but easier to create a course on the website than the app.

There's also the ability to save courses to revise them offline (otherwise, it's no internet. no revision), but I don't like that. When I tried it, it didn't synch my results, and I ended up having to do everything again. Rather annoying, even if it is good revision.

Overall
Price: Free

Pros:

  • Very customisable
  • Effective for remembering vocab - with some ingenuity, you can use it to practice grammar as well. 
  • Convenient to use (There's an app and a website)
Cons:
  • There are bugs in the website and app
  • If you're not going to create a course, you'll be dependent on the community to create a reliable course
Bottom line: This is a great site/app to use as a supplement to your Japanese class/self-study course. There is no software to download, it's easy to create a course, and most importantly, it's effective in helping you to remember the vocab. 

If you need more detailed instructions on how to create a course or you just want to add me as a friend, leave a comment or drop me a message! 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

According to the Chinese Calendar, today is 15th day of the 8th month. So, it's Mid-Autumn festival!

We used to have a huge celebration when I was younger and the extended family was living together, but now, with most of us grown up and living in separate houses, it's a much smaller affair.

All my brother and I did today was to go to the library and buy a lantern for the night.

Children's section of the Central Library
I read about the eco-treehouse a while back, and it's so cool to finally be able to see it! It's a pretty good place to sit and read (all I wish for are some cushions, but that isn't very practical)


My brother chose a seal lantern this year^^


It's so cute!
The bro playing :D 
 From what I know, the mid-autumn festival is about Chang-e and Houyi. Houyi was a super talented archer. One day, all ten suns came out to play and scorched the earth. So Houyi shot down nine of the suns and saved the world.

From there, the legend differs. One version says that after he shot down the suns, Houyi received a pill for immortality. However, he didn't want to leave Chang-e, and so, didn't take it. However, one day, a disciple of his betrayed him and tried to grab the pill for himself. Chang-e refused to let him have it, and ended up eating it. So, she ascended to the moon, taking with her only a rabbit.

The other story has Houyi becoming a mean and vicious king. And Chang-e eats the pill of immortality before he can eat it, and ascends to the moon, taking the rabbit with her.

Personally, I prefer the first version, because when I was younger, I watched a drama of the first version starring Fann Wong and Christopher Lee. Plus, it's nice to imagine that Houyi didn't turn evil.

In both cases, Chang-e only takes the pill to save others. She basically condemns herself to a life of loneliness. The rabbit is either pounding medicine (for the pill) or making mochi, depending on which version you hear.

And of course, we also eat mooncakes:

Snowskin mooncake. There's also baked mooncakes and many others.
From what I've heard, mooncakes were the way the Han Chinese rebelled against the Mongolians a long long time ago. They would smuggle the messages in the mooncakes, then eat the mooncakse, destroying the evidence. That's why in modern day mooncakes, we have an egg yolk in them.

Hope everyone has had a great Mid-Autumn Festival, and a good start to the week!

ETA: I forgot to share! Chinatown has been decorated for the Mid-Autumn Festival! So here are some photos that I took:

Tree!


You can totally tell this picture was edited


Friday, 5 September 2014

Huis Ten Bosch Dinosaur Escape Game + Robot Ice Cream Boy

The day before I came back to Singapore, I was in Huis Ten Bosch. Yes, again. Although in my defence, it was Yiyin's first time there. So I was sort of acting like a tour guide (let's not think about the fact that I invited her to come with me).

My main reason for going there was to try out the Dinosaur Escape Game, which runs until the end of September. You can read about it here, although the link is entirely in Japanese. The game is marketed as only having a 1% success rate, so I was really really excited about it!

WARNING: Extremely picture-heavy post ahead.

Entrance
The game is located at the Adventure Park, close to the entrance. You can't miss it because it looks like it came out of a Jurassic Park movie.

Ticket - 500 yen per device
The ticketing system was... unique. 500 yen is the cost of one handheld device, so you can have a group of people going in with one device. But, only one person can advance to the second stage (there are 3 stages in total), so if everyone wants to go forward, it may be better to get one device each.
The boots were free. 
 Before you even enter the arena, you have to go through a pathway. It's not that muddy, but the first-stage arena is. So you should definitely use the free boots.

Woohoo - I was all excited.
They even had this dinosaur! I want to say "cute", but I doubt that was the effect that they were going for.


And here we are patiently waiting.


The game devices had four languages - English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. While all the explanation is in Japanese, there are translations written out (and shown on the screens during the video time). So it's pretty foreigner-friendly, in my opinion.


The situation is that the Japanese have discovered a way to revive the dinosaur using super DNA. However, terrorists have broken in, and the head scientist hid the vial of super DNA in his office. We have to go and find the super DNA before the terrorist get their hands on it.
3 of the 4 screens with different languages on them.
Stage 1 is to use a QR code reader on the device to collect parts of the dinosaur. There was 10 minutes allocated for this.

Example of a QR code
While the QR codes were hidden in plain sight, most of them are dummy codes. A few of them will even wipe out your progress. And, each different device responds to different codes, so good luck following someone around.

Can you see part of my dinosaur?
 Photos were not allowed, so that's all I have for the Dinosaur game. But basically, the first stage arena was in a "dinosaur park", with the dinosaurs in the various cages. Like I said, the QR codes are in plain sight, so it's really just climbing around, and making sure you don't fall into the mud (it rained heavily the days before).

And.... unexpectedly, Yiyin and I made it past the first stage! I got there at the ten minute mark! So close!

The second stage was inside the lab. Instead of QR codes, we have to find number codes that flesh out the dinosaur. There's a time limit of 10 minutes, but only the first person who completes the dinosaur code can go on to the 3rd stage. Sadly, I didn't even get to flesh out one part of my dinosaur. I guess I'm not a very good mad scientist.

But, there was this little kid who was forever playing his DS in the same group as us. And scarily, he's also the first person to finish both stage 1 and 2. Either he's played this before, or he's a genius at this.

The rest of our trip to Huis Ten Bosch was pretty normal (nothing that I haven't shared yet), except for my new friend - the robot ice-cream boy! I noticed his cart because he "sings". And of course, I can't help but buy some ice-cream from him!

Frantically searching for money.
I look like a mess from the game, but here's me and my new friend!

He's really cute! You can't really see it with the glare, but he's cute!
I can't remember all the flavours, but I ordered vanilla ice-cream with strawberry sauce :D
Robot-kun serving the ice-cream
 Ice-cream was pretty good too, but then again, I hardly ever dislike Japanese soft-cream.

One last shot:

I have a feeling I'll be eating from this stall each time I visit Huis Ten Bosch. It's really too cute for words!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Random Update Post is Random

Alright, let's see if I can get back to a semi-regular posting schedule after disappearing for more-or-less the whole of last week.

Excuse/Explanation:

Ever since I've come back, I've been busy with golf lessons, picking my brother up from school, and of course, checking out books from the library (about 10 at the time). And party preparations. So, I haven't been checking my phone, Google+ or my computer very much lately.

I'm really sorry if anyone comments/emails me, and I don't answer for a day or two. I'll try to get to my computer every night, but sometimes, I find myself doing other things.

And since I'm being random, I might as well share pics from my first ever Haagen Daaz Chocolate Fondue. (We were celebrating my cousin's birthday, and this was dessert :D)

Random Fact 1: In IB, I learnt that Haagen Daaz is a made-up word, for the sake of making the company sound foreign (and therefore posh?)

Random Fact 2: I played Zerg Rush while waiting for the photos to load.

Non ice-cream side

Ice-cream side


I honestly did not know that the chocolate would harden until
someone pointed it out to me. My brain is really on vacation.
I shall make a proper post tomorrow (if I have time - I'm volunteering at my old school) about the Dinosaur Escape Game at Huis Ten Bosch. It was really really fun! (And you can see photos of me and my new friend, the robot ice cream guy).