Learning Chinese on Mobile Phones


Mobile phone-based games could provide a new way to teach basic knowledge of Chinese language characters.

The games might be particularly helpful in underdeveloped rural areas of China, say researchers in Carnegie Mellon University's Mobile & Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies (MILLEE) Project.

Earlier this year, researchers reported that two mobile-learning games, inspired by traditional Chinese games, showed promise.

"We believe that the cooperative learning encouraged by the games contributed to character learning," said Professor Matthew Kam, MILLEE project director.

Preliminary tests were done with children in Xin'an, an underdeveloped region in Henan Province, China. Subsequent studies this summer at a privately run school in Beijing also showed success.

The researchers from Carnegie Mellon, the University of California, Berkeley and the Chinese Academy of Sciences reported their findings at CHI 2010, the Association for Computing Machinery's Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Atlanta.

"The results of our studies suggest that further development of these games could make inexpensive mobile phones important learning tools, particularly for children in underdeveloped rural areas," said Kam, who is assistant professor in the Carnegie Mellon Human-Computer Interaction Institute at the School of Computer Science.

The Chinese language is the most widely spoken language in the world, with more than 1 billion Mandarin Chinese speakers, but it presents unique challenges to language education.

Unlike languages with alphabetic writing systems, the Chinese language uses characters that each correspond to a syllable or sometimes a word.

About 6,000 characters are commonly used, but the shape of each character provides few clues to its pronunciation and different dialects have different pronunciations for the same character.

Related Links: Read the Press Release | MILLEE Project | HCII | School of Computer Science

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