Learning Chinese was boring. Having to write words over and over while struggling to figure out what they meant was quite a chore for me. Engagement with the language was almost non-existent and those strange looking pictorial Chinese characters were not contextual enough. Every… word… a… picture… so difficult to remember, so difficult to write. Just look at the character below. Hardest Chinese character to write, ever.
I practically lost all motivation to learn the language. Somehow, I managed to pass my tests, barely. As I grew older, I recognised that I probably was not the only one suffering. My partners in Delta Duck Studios did too. The modern day parent probably do too, recognising how hard to teach or get their child interested in learning Chinese.
When we got the chance to collaborate with Marshall Cavendish Education in Singapore, we hopped onto the opportunity train and decided to tackle problems related learning Chinese.
We started researching and knew that there were many components to learning a language, from writing to reading, listening, grammar and vocabulary. We to create a game to be interactive, engaging and application focused at the same time. We wanted to turn the most boring part of learning the language to make it much more fun. Just one area of learning was what we decided to focus on. Which area of learning Chinese to focus on then?
Digging deeper into our research, in a writing experiment conducted by the University of Hong Kong, 73% of children wrote the wrong stroke sequence for Chinese characters. In writing Chinese characters, stroke sequence is important for writing speed, accuracy and readability. More importantly, it aids learning and memorizing the words. When we reviewed how we wrote the simple words like 火, we realized we were writing the wrong stroke sequences too. Alas, a problem we could possibly tackle!
Also, learning Chinese writing was pretty mundane too. Doing 习字or what we call practise writing the same characters again and again and again, it was rote learning that felt like brain rotting boredom.
Thus, putting our idea hats on, we went on to ideate how we could make learning Chinese writing fun and also educational at the same time. What game mechanics did we come up with? How did we test? How to create fun but ensure content is relevant for learning?
Stay tuned for part 2…
- Children’s stroke sequence errors in writing Chinese characters NANCY LAW, W.W. KI, A.L.S. CHUNG, P.Y. KO & H.C. LAM Department of Curriculum Studies, University ofHong Kong, Hong Kong, PR China