Ninchanese: an interview with Sarah Aberman

Have you heard about Ninchanese?

Well, if you haven’t and you’re trying to learn Chinese, it’s high time you did!

Today I’m feeling particularly happy, because we have Sarah Aberman gracing the pages of this blog. I’ve been keeping an eye on her co-creation, “Ninchanese”, from waaaay before starting my Mandarin Chinese mission, and I’m very proud of the fact that soon I may be able to brag about having been a beta tester.

Thank you for allowing me to interview you, Sarah!

Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and your relationship with the Chinese language?

Hi, I’m Sarah. I’m a French-American 29 year old and the co-founder of Ninchanese.

Growing up in a bilingual family, I’ve always loved being in an international, multicultural setting and learning new languages. In middle school, in addition to Spanish and German, I was lucky enough to join a Chinese learning club. Since then, Chinese has become a constant in my life! I love the Chinese language and loved loved loved living in China.

How and why did the idea for Ninchanese come about?

Ninchanese Team

Ninchanese stems from my partner’s and my frustration as Chinese learners — we looked and tried a number of solutions to learn Chinese, but couldn’t find something that kept us motivated enough so we kept progressing in Chinese and spoke Chinese.

We’re geeks with a penchant for games – I grew up with educational games; Jean-Rémi is more a “regular” gamer. We loved how video games can keep you playing for hours and explored whether mixing game mechanics and learning Chinese could have the same motivating effect. Having found that the use of gamification was definitely conducive to increased engagement and learning, we started working on Ninchanese, a gamified learning application, specially designed to learn Mandarin Chinese. We want Ninchanese to be both effective and enjoyable so everyone can reach their goal of speaking Chinese.

Were there any hitches or issues during development?

Hahaha, good question! Ninchanese is a first for us – Jean-Rémi had previous experience developing apps, but this is “our” first -. Thankfully, we didn’t hit any hitches; we did however learn a lot during the development phase, especially. that everything takes longer than you think 🙂 At first, Ninchanese started out as much smaller than it was, and as we delved deeper in the linguistics of Chinese, it grew quite a lot! Development certainly is a long process, and there’s still quite a lot to do, which in part why we’re running a crowdfunding campaign.

Nincha and his buddies are so cute it should be illegal, and the player’s interaction with them is quite humorous. Who do we have to thank for Ninchanese’s beautiful design and script?

Thanks! Glad you like Ninchanese’s characters. Jean-Rémi is the one to thank for these cute designs! As for the script, both Jean-Rémi and I work on it; deciding what each character’s personality will be, building the storyline, writing out the dialogues, mixing in a little humour and elements of Chinese culture…It’s a lot of fun!

How did you and your team discover how you wanted to “teach” Chinese, for lack of a better word?

No one can really teach you Chinese, but we can definitely provide you with a great tool that helps you learn it better.

Ninchanese at first started out as something we’d built for ourselves. Being both Chinese learners, we’d suffered through a number of teaching methods that left us bored to tears and decided we wanted something different, something more engaging, more motivating and more effective.

Talking with other Chinese learners, we were struck by the number of learners who’d quit their learning without having reached a usable level of Chinese; or who’d be studying Chinese on and off, and were struggling with the motivation to continue. This spurred us to decide we wanted to really change that with Ninchanese and give learners a chance to enjoy learning Chinese.

You’re currently holding a crowdfunding campaign to keep developing Ninchanese. What are your plans for it from now on?

Ninchanese on Kickstarter

If the crowdfunding campaign is successful (fingers crossed!), this’ll give us time to keep growing Ninchanese and stay in beta a little while longer.

The plan after the campaign is to progressively open Ninchanese, both in terms of content so learners at all stages of their learning can come have fun learning Chinese on Ninchanese, and in terms of access. Then we’ll be ready to launch Ninchanese!


I’m sure some of my readers are thinking of learning Mandarin Chinese, but understandably the idea seems intimidating to anyone who doesn’t know much about this language. What should they know before taking their first steps?

Chinese may seem daunting, but it’s really not that scary! The hardest part might be jumping in at first but once you do, you’ll discover Mandarin Chinese is a beautiful language to learn. I find it absolutely fascinating, and love how its culture and history have shaped the way the Chinese speak and the way the Chinese language works.

Any last thoughts?

We want as many people as possible to have a great time learning Chinese so they get to discover the wonderful Chinese culture. We’re happy to invite your readers to the beta: they can sign up at http://ninchanese.com or send us a message to get their invite.

The Kickstarter campaign is also entering its last week, we’re getting very close to being funded! To check it out: http://ninchanese.com/kickstarter

 

Well, that was a great way to start the week! If you’re interested in checking Ninchanese out, you can visit their website or give them a shoutout through Ninchanese’s Facebook page! They’ll also be very happy to hear your comments and suggestions if you decide to participate in the beta phase.