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A new spin on a popular word game favorite, PinYinPal for iPad seeks to revolutionize how the Chinese language is taught. And it’s free too!

PinYinPal is now available for iPad January 17, 2013, Huntington Beach, CA – Mandarin Chinese is spoken and understood by well over one billion people worldwide and is notorious for being the hardest language to learn. As business opportunities continue to arise in Asia, mastering Mandarin is becoming more and more important.

Enter PinYinPal, a new app for the iPad that makes it easy to define, read, and recognize Chinese characters. This is the first and only viable word game available in pinyin and comes in a format that many will recognize. Think of it as Words with Friends with a twist.

PinYinPal is the brainchild of Adeline Yen Mah, author of the New York Times best-seller “Falling Leaves” and founder of Chinesecharacteraday.com Foundation. She said, “I set out to create a game that makes learning Mandarin fun. I’m convinced that the future of language learning lies in playing games, consumed in bite-sized chunks on tablets or mobile phones.” Dr. Mah and her husband, Robert, first conceptualized the game in their living room, playing with pieces of cardboard and paper. Little did they know the project would blossom into something more impactful. “The first version of PinYinPal is being offered in English. However, at this very moment, our game is being translated into French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, Japanese and Korean. It is my dream that all the people of the world will unite while playing PinYinPal and learning Chinese. Regardless of one’s mother tongue, the basic programming is the same. By tapping a button, a Russian can play with an American; or a Chinese with a Japanese, without knowing one another’s language,” says Dr. Mah.

But wait, isn’t Chinese made up of characters? That’s the beauty of pinpin; it is the Mandarin vocabulary spelled out with the alphabet. PinYinPal includes a built-in Dictionary and Word Finder, which act as guides during the game. Because of this, novices who don’t know any Chinese can play competitively against native Chinese speakers from the first turn. Players are pitted against their friends on social networks or random opponents, and challenged to take turns spelling pinyin words.

Some of the other key features include:

  • The ability to chat with an opponent in both English and Chinese characters.
  • The game is completely ad-free and there are no in-app purchases required to play.
  • Word Finder will analyze the letters in your rack and teach you what pinyin words to play.
  • Dictionary and Word Finder feature include audio pronunciations for each word.
  • View the characters associated with the pinyin words played on the board at the tap of a button.
  • Earn extra points by recalling the correct character and meaning of the word you just played.
  • Brag on Facebook about your high scores and successful games.

The PinYinPal app is available for free from the App Store on the iPad. It will be available soon on iPhone and other iOS devices.

App Store Link: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id573973393
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pinyinpal
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PinYinPalApp
Video Trailer: http://youtu.be/YDm8dyxPGYw
Press Kit: http://tinyurl.com/pinyinpr

About Chinesecharacteraday.com Foundation:
Chinese Character a Day Foundation is dedicated to teaching Mandarin Chinese to anyone who wishes to learn. It was founded by Dr. Adeline Mah, a physician and writer. Born in China, Dr. Mah lives in California with her husband, Professor Robert Mah, a microbiologist. In 1997, she wrote her memoir “Falling Leaves,” which became an international best-seller.  To bridge the gap between East and West, she and Bob established their Foundation with the book proceeds. Conceived in the Mahs’ living room, PinYinPal was first played on a sheet of paper with cardboard cut-outs as letter-tiles. The Mahs are grateful for the help given to them in this endeavor by their nephew Larry Mar and Larry’s secretary, Ashley Gish.

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iphone-chinaAt 8 o’clock in the morning on October 30th, 2009 (read: 5pm tonight, Pacific Apple Time) , the doors of China Unicom’s retail stores opened to the Chinese populate and offered 5 Million new iPhones into the global marketplace. While the launch got mixed reviews, amongst concerns of the disabled Wi-Fi features, a hefty price tag and the fact that rabid iPhone fans already were probably using one of the two million gray market iPhone in the country, the fact remains – the largest wireless market in the world now has open access to the iPhone.

So what does this mean for app developers? While many developers have always traditionally focused on the US as the only major iPhone market that matters, and with that English as the only major language – a major non-English speaking country poses an entirely new set of challenges.

I’ve already seen a number of sites  pop up that would be happy to do a direct translation of your app. I’m sure many of them are quality sites with quality native translators. Make sure you do your homework however – a second rate translation can be spotted by a native speaker of any language a mile away. (Anyone else remember the English to Spanish translation of “Got Milk” that led to billboards that screamed out “Are You Lactating?”). Never try to use a free online translation program to perform your app translations. While they may work for single words, they are not designed to be able to properly navigate grammatical structure.

Translation of your app however, is only the first step. You must also translate your app description page (often providing it in two languages can be benifical) and app name. A potential client last week contacted me from Russia with a checkers based game app that use the Russian work for checkers as part of its title. I see where they are going with this – but the reality is, I would never be able to spell it if I was searching for it.

Oh yes – let us not forget search.

Search is one of the most important functions to getting your application found. Your keywords are of utmost importance to how your app fares in any of the app stores around the world. Unfortunately, doing well in search in other countries is not as easy as taking your English keywords and translating them to another language. Search is about understanding how someone in that country will think – and in understanding how they think, also understanding how they navigate to find a product. What makes a perfectly logical search string for you may not make any sense when translated, and as we know – the app store only recognizes direct keyword matches.

Every market is different, and every country has different needs. Did you know that in China there will be not one, but two app stores? Yup – the one from Apple and the one operated by China Unicom. Did you know that writing in red lettering indicates the writer will die soon? That three (and multiples of three) are considered lucky numbers, but four signifies death? (4! sorry… had to do it). Oh yeah, and white, blue, black, storks, cranes, clocks and handkerchiefs also are associated with death. (Are you dizzy yet?)

Promotion in China will be its own hurdle. PR is handled differently, as are blogs. There are new forums to reach out to as well. Are you ready?

All this to say that Appency is happy to announce we have a partnership on the ground in China and will be happy to assist in your localization into this new market with all of the above. The time is ripe – before the app store gets too crowded – to make your mark in the Far East!