I’m happy to report a new innovative item that has more recently come into this world. The great Koichi-san has hence given birth to TextFugu. For a follower of his zany (wonky was it?) cultural Japanese blog, Tofugu, this seemed like something I should check out. I decided to give the site a bit of time to come out of its introductory phase for a few reasons before reviewing. The first was to see if it launched well, and the second was to see how often the site was upgraded.
I’m happy to report that it launched (which is why I’m writing this ) as well as I’ve seen significant updates made to the site since it was launched. Because sometimes websites describe their products best I’ll let Koichi tell it like it is.
TextFugu was carefully designed with the self-teacher in mind, which means you can learn Japanese on your own more quickly and effectively than ever imagined.
It also comes with the following points of excitement:
A Learning Style That Works: Textbooks are usually boring. TextFugu is the online Japanese textbook that teaches you Japanese in a way that’s fun, integrates your own interests, and doesn’t waste your time. 52% of TextFugu members think this is our #1 feature!
Revolutionary Way To Study Kanji, Simplicity As A Feature
Integration With The Best: By integrating with the absolute hands-down best Japanese learning applications and websites, you’ll learn Japanese that much faster.
Regular Content Updates, Save Time, Don’t Waste It, Inspiration In Your Inbox,
I would like to talk about two more features separately, as I believe their quite awesome. The first is called the Bounties. This is a feature that basically allows you to earn money while helping the product become better. Simply put:
“people can submit suggestions, feedback, etc., and if I take action on the feedback, the person can either receive the bounty themselves (usually between $.50 – $1.00 each) or send it off to a charity. So far, 80% of people donate the bounties to charity, which makes me happy. The other 20% are slowly getting paid back the cost of TextFugu, which is also pretty nice.” (Koichi)
The Bounties system is great for a number of reasons (like getting paid to pay attention to detail). The best reason is simply that it improves the Textfugu, and I’m always about improvement. Payments are out on the first half of the month, and generally you’ll receive an email response to your claim. There is more information on Textfugu under “Rewards”.
The other feature is probably my favorite, as it is the only time I’ve ever seen it. 110% money back guarantee. Now if that doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside about trying something out, I don’t know what will! To some, you might cringe at the criteria to get that extra 10% back, but to me, getting paid for negative feedback is awesome anyways. Basically during your first week if you feel Textfugu sucks monkey, you can ask for your 100% money back, and receive it within a few weeks. If you wanna go that extra 10% to get that 10% simply email them a 100-200 worded letter explaining why it sucks! This helps Textfugu improve even more. Koichi was also happy to report that no one has currently asked for money back, because apparently they’ll all very happy with their purchase.
Now there is a lot about this site that I saw as obvious, hey help improve my product, but there was a sneaker one I didn’t learn about until I emailed Koichi himself. Now, though he was unaware, I was testing his email response time (and if he would really read a more lengthy post) to a few questions that I had myself about his website. One of those questions happened to be about questions themselves. So far I had only found the ability to email questions. There are no forums, no numbers, no instant talk to someone to get help kind of things in Textfugu at the moment, and I was a little worried that having a question would lead to not getting answers in a timely manner (i mean, we don’t got all year do we? ). I received an email response (lengthy and well written to boot) concerning my inquiry within 7 hours. I thought that was exceedingly fast considering how busy Koichi must be as the only writer of Textfugu at the moment who also has a life!
It may seem like a bit of length to you, but to me it was fast. I didn’t even receive this fast an email to online courses from my community college who gets paid to answer my emails! Koichi did an awesome job of addressing all my concerns as well as throwing in a bit more information that I’ll report here in a bit. Needless to say his answer to my questions concerning “why just email” was this straight from the lion’s mouth:
Right now you can e-mail in specific questions, and they go directly to me. At the moment, I like it this way, because I can get an idea of where people are stumbling / having trouble. This is instant feedback on the product, and I’ve made 100′s of small changes based on feedback people send in. I love it, it’s a great way to know what’s working and what needs to be fixed, so I can keep chipping things away to make a simpler, better product. Nobody’s perfect, but I’m hoping that over time I can get darn close. Crowdsourcing is usually pretty accurate
I just love it!
As for the community of TextFugu, Koichi wouldn’t divulge how many subscribers to TextFugu there were except to say that they keep him super busy all day long. That said I’ve already found several mentions of TextFugu in forums and on sites like AJATT, so if it isn’t that large, I can definitely see it growing. Regardless however many there are Koichi is determined to make a perfect online textbook, so fret not, as this does not affect updates.
TextFugu is broken down into different Seasons (each should take on average a month to complete). Each season covers a variety of information broken into lessons that ends with a review. There is also a section for kanji and cheat sheets. (Koichi likes making these things, so new ones are made often). When finished it should take roughly 6-12 months to get through the entire program. As for the moment, there is only seasons for beginners.
There are currently 3-4 updates a week, which includes 2-3 new lessons, as well as content added to existing lessons. Koichi wouldn’t divulge anymore information on updates, but promises they’ll be yummy .
Now I know you’re probably thinking by now, okay okay, what’s the price! Well I saved that for last of course, since like minded, I hate to pay for things! There are three different payment methods available right now. Monthly($20), 3 month($50), and Forever($120)! Basically with the first two, as long as you keep paying, you’ll be able to view the content for members, and forever of course being a one time payment that will make you a member forever. Though I know the forever may seem like a lot, if you’re a bit slower to learn its the best deal, and you don’t have to worry about paying out more. Where as maybe you’re not really sure and you don’t want to invest more than the cost to eat at Hardee’s. (remember the 110% money back guarantee)
By the way, there are some discounts available, but check that out on your own, mostly applied to educational institutions or teachers I think. You can always email Koichi for specifics if the FAQ isn’t good enough for ya.
So now that I’ve gone on an on about this or that, let me get down to the gritty in convenient, easy to read bulletins. Textfugu has:
*lots of free articles for us to enjoy
*110% money back!
*multiple ways to pay
*will go from beginner to advanced
*addresses Kanji in a fun way
*fun to follow/read, accurate, easy layout
*earn money for ideas/suggestions/corrections
*does not address speaking often
*no community type features yet
*must wait for additions to come out if you’re beyond beginner
All in all, there is no way to report how people are learning through the whole program since it has yet to be fully released. Of those in the beginner stage however there is nothing but good reviews so far. There have been no reports of scamming involved, nor any disgruntled purchases.
I myself plan to purchase a one month subscription just to see more once more intermediate Seasons are released and I’ll post more information at that time. Happy hunting and if you yourself are apart of the TextFugu community, please don’t hesitate to add your Cents in the comments below!
TextFugu and Tofugu are both on Twitter, Koichi is on edufire, smart.fm, lang8, with rss feeds available.