Antura and the Letters is a free game that teaches kids how to read Arabic through an adventure with Antura, a fun-loving dog. By catching Arabic letters hidden around the world, you solve puzzles and earn gifts for Antura. The educational game won the EduApp4Syria competition, an international initiative to spread literacy among migrants displaced by conflict, and is intended to improve Arabic literacy while providing psychosocial support, particularly for refugee children.
A good animal friend should never be underestimated when it comes to motivating learning, and Antura, the star and namesake of this game, becomes the player’s companion, one to be dressed up and cared for. Even after completing an exercise, I was often tempted to repeat it, so that I could earn enough points to add a new feature to Antura’s home. This is a clever trick to get users to engage in further language practice, and encourages caring behavior.
I loved that there were so many different skill games despite the fact that the same letters were taught for many lessons. Repetition is necessary when learning something completely new, and since I knew zero Arabic before using this app, I needed many opportunities to practice. Having the chance to try over and over again to connect letter to sound in a variety of settings helped cement this knowledge while keeping me from getting bored.
Even though the game’s website and promotional materials are available in English, and the app store labels its language as English, Antura and the Letters is narrated only in Arabic. Though I am not the target demographic, a note clarifying this point would have been helpful, and further English instructions would be nice for any aid workers or other English-speaking facilitators who might be introducing this app to children and families. Clearly, my review is only partial because I could not understand the medium of instruction, but the fact that I was still able to learn to read Arabic from the app strengthens my opinion of it, and points to a potential expansion of audience.
Generally, I found the letter-tracing activities frustrating and counterproductive. The letter blocks are animated, so every time you stray outside of the line, the letters jiggle and laugh like they’re being tickled. This is cute at first, but becomes annoying if you’re actually trying to trace the letter. Secondly, this activity identifies a correct answer as one where all space in the traceable letter is filled in; however, you could scribble across the entire page and you would be marked correct as long as that space is filled in. Therefore, the activity doesn’t accurately test letter-writing ability.
Despite the fact that I didn’t know a word of Arabic before using this app, I still came away with the beginnings of Arabic literacy, and I had a great time with Antura. It was fun and effective, perhaps not only for refugee children, but for others too.Image: via Antura and the Letters