Xavier Barrade, creative lead at Google's Creative Lab in London, was raised in France. He spent a lot of time working on improving his English. Since he grew up to be a Googler, he thought there must be a way to harness technology to help people learn English words and improve their spelling skills. The Spell Up Google Chrome Experiment is the result.
Spell Up is a game where you get points and move through levels by correctly spelling words by speaking the letters into your computer microphone. Those words stack up at the bottom of your screen. You're constantly trying to build a higher stack, a little bit like Tetris with letters.
The game isn't just for ESL students. It can be entertaining for kids learning how to spell, spelling-bee participants looking to practice, and adults who enjoy a good word game.
As the game goes along, the difficulty level ramps up. The words are more complex and the format shuffles so sometimes you have to fill in missing letters, unscramble a word, or pronounce a word after spelling it. This definitely keeps the monotony at bay.
The experimental nature of the game is evident. Sometimes Spell Up misheard my p's and t's. It also seems to have some difficulty with the letter o. Sometimes you have to say a letter a few times over to get it to recognize you. I also managed to break the game in the middle of one of the expert levels. The letters in my stack got all jumbled together and it just gave up. Reloading the site fixed the problem.
Despite the occasional technical hiccup, I still had fun. It's like being in a spelling bee without all the pressure of classmates, parents, and teachers looking on. It's just you and Chrome, and nobody is judging you if you accidentally screw up "pseudonym."