Summary

Tonelingual is a product that uses shapes, colours and technology to teach users Chinese Mandarin in an interactive way. The idea was developer after experimenting How Design and can assist with language education.

In the UK 75% of adult doubt know q foreign language to a conversation level, which will hinder opportunities to learn about other cultures and to create business ties. Therefore, it was in my interest to find a solution to help create interest or assist people who want to learn a foreign language.

The project is still on growing and now has a strong incentive of bring mix reality to the education sector.

Details

(Personal Project)

As a passionate lover of languages I was able to experience first-hand the challenges with learning Mandarin. Characters, grammar and especially tone proved to be a challenge for beginners to grasp. By interviewing my classmates I discovered that they would like to have a method of remember tones, which will help them to remember words too.

Tools

Illustrator, Sketch, Figma, Invision, HTML, CSS and Java

Duration

2014 - current

Part 1:Ideation

1. Problem

Languages are powerful communication tool that allows people to learn about history, culture and more. However, aquiring the ability to use a second lanague can be a challege expecially if the langauge is drastically different from your own. Due to this the UK has seen a decrease in language education, which will effect the next generation's future when they need to build a career or communicath others from around the world.

2. Diverging

A wide ideation session with a group of 4 was done to explore what can be done with languages.

3. Converge

Since languages are complicated forms it was important to diverge with many ideas and to treat each one equally.

4. User Feedback

To justify my idea of focusing on Mandarin for topic I ran a survey session with 200 students from George Mitchell secondary to find out what aspect of a language they consider to be difficult and what methods they use to learn a language. The survey highlighted many interesting points that were all equally strong and need further investigation.

Since I attend Mandarin evening classes I asked my classmates what they found challenging about the language. Their feedback was very interesting as the tones where seen as more difficult than the characters. This investigation would become a strong focus point in further development stages.

Development Process


1. Idea exploration

With a main topic area to focus on I started exploring deeper how languages are formed by researching into linguistics, the science of language. Discovering how speech can relate to colours, how imagery can help with remembering vocabulary and many other interesting points.

2. Experimentation

Once I built a foundation for understanding basic linguistics, I experimented with some ideas to expand on some ideas. My aim was to blend language and design together to create an informative tool to assist students that were learning Mandarin.

The ideas explored how visualising the Mandarin character could help with remembering vocabulary, using design to inform about Chinese culture and creating a system to teach grammar. Mandarin is a tonal language that has 4 tone (high, low-rising, falling-rising and falling). When a tone for a word is changed the meaning changes too, therefore it can lead to miscommunication.

Since Mandarin is a tonal language it is important to have a good understanding of the tone to be able to communicate with others, native or non-native

Delivery Outcome: part 1

I decided to use my Mandarin language system idea as the main focus point for my design outcome. The system consisted of all the important elements that make up the language, but it has the ability to be flexible depending on the level of the learner. The main elements included in the system were the characters, tones, Pinyin and English translation.

1. Tonal Alphabet book

To showcase the core idea of focusing on tones as a main driver for being the main lavage for learning, I produced a book to introduce my method. The book is broken into 2 parts, the first part explains the basic of Mandarin and the second part uses the system that I created to demonstrate how it would assist learners.

2. User testing

It was important to test out the language system for learning Mandarin, as it would highlight the strong and weak points of the product. I carried out a a few one to one sessions with my Mandarin evening language course classmates to see what they thought of the idea. They were very positive about the system and could easily imagine it being used for early learners, but it can be useful for established learners too. The main negative feedback was that in printed form the system wasn't flexible to allow for a learner to select what elements they want to see such as, English translation, Pinyin etc.

2. Post-analysis

The journey that I took to create my assisting Mandarin language system has been very helpful for gaining a better understanding for how languages are formed, as well as getting first-hand knowledge on how people learn languages. The creation of the language system is just only the beginning and there's lots of potential for bring the idea into the digital space.

Part 2: Mixed Reality Experience

Product Creation

From the initial stages of this project I created an assisted system that built upon the foundations of tonal based language like Mandarin to provide help with remembering tones, pronunciations and more. It was important to take the idea to the next stage by applying it to other product forms that would have more effectiveness for a variety of different learners, visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. The product range were both physical and digital, but also blended the two together to form a mixed reality learning experience.


1. Physical Experience

I created a small range of physical product that focused around the tones of the language. The main physical product were the 'Tone Shapes' and the other products would work with the shapes in different ways. The other products consisted of flashcards and tone tiles.

2. Digital experience

The digital aspect came in the form of a beta application to visualise how the language system could work in the digital space. The next step for the digital experience is to dive in deeper to understand how a digital experience could help with language learn. Therefore, further research and development will continue to take place.

3. Mixed Reality

Tonelingual's aims to be a product that is about to mix the best of both physical and digital learning environments. This mixing of space will allow the user to benefit from applying the knowledge they gain into the real world. I teamed up with a developer to see how the 'Tone shape' product could be used to interact with digital content on an iPad. This form of interaction would be great for kinaesthetic. Our experiment was successful and can be applied in a full feature tablet application in the near future.

4. User testing: Evening classes

I was able to find a university student who taught Mandarin to students at a East London school who was very keen to test out Tonelingual to see how it could help students to learn the language. Over 4 week she was able to use the products with success, as she saw student engagement increase and for the students ability to remember tones and characters with the special system. There were a few good piece of feedback for the product which was to improve the form of the 'Tone Shapes' due to its heavy weight. Lastly, to create a curriculum to help educators learn the best was to use the products.

Delivery Outcome: part 2

1. Tonelingual starter kit

The starter kit expanded on the tonal alphabet book, by turning the tone based solution into an interactive learning tool make the language learning progress more tangible. Furthermore, the inclusion of the tone tile allowed the learners to move words and tones freely to enhance the grammar understanding, as well as giving opportunities to practice writing characters. The included starter book will guide a beginner language learner though the basics of Mandarin while using the included tools.

2. Digital experience: Version 1

To expand on the 'Tone Shape Start Kit' I created a working smart flashcards prototype that utilise a phone's camera or NFC to provide more details related to the word. The user is able to hear the pronunciation of a word, see an animated written character and much more through their phone. The smart flashcard helps to build upon the mixed reality education direction and provides proof of its usefulness.

Part 3: Business Establishment

Competitions

My aim is to take my products to market so that it can reach many people who are keen to learn languages like Mandarin. It is important to have support from people who have a similar vision and they will be able to add their knowledge to strengthen the product. I had the pleasure to form a team with linguistics, marketers and developers to get the product 'Tonelingual' in front of investors.


1. iDEAS Awards 2014

This competition was hosted by the Duke of York to help young enterpunures ages 16-25 to bring their ideas to life through a week long workshop. I was select out of 30 entrants to be one of the 5 teams to be able join the workshop. During the workshop my teammates and I had to further develop Tonelingual to then be pitched to a range of judges who would select two teams to go to the next stage where they could pitch their ideas to the Duke of York and win prize money to put towards the business idea.

3. SOAS University

The SOAS University competition was a joint effort with Holly Smith. We had to create a short pitch video to demonstrate the problem that we are trying to solve and how our product could be used to help solve the problem. We were able to win £300 worth of funding to put

2. Goldsmiths University

For the Goldsmiths Business competition I was able to win second place to earn £1500 to put towards the development of Tonelingual. The money helped to build the Tonelingual website, further develop and produce the Tonelingual starter kit.

4. Brighton Grand Challenge

I was selected to be part of the 10 teams from out of 70 entries to pitch my Tonelingual business idea to a group of investors. Unfortunately I didn't win the pitch, but the experienced helped me build more confidence in my idea and to refine my business plan to the next steps.

Part 4: Next steps

Digital experience Version 2

My aim is to take my products to market so that it can reach many people who are keen to learn languages like Mandarin. It is important to have support from people who have a similar vision and they will be able to add their knowledge to strengthen the product. I had the pleasure to form a team with linguistics, marketers and developers to get the product 'Tonelingual' in front of investors.


1. Application

2. Sketches

3. User Journey Flow

Part 5: Personal Refection

While working on this project I had the fantastic opportunity to learn and interact with a different culture and people. It helped me to think in a different way in how I can solve problems, by learning more about the user before creating a solution,