My research topic is about how to use visual communication design to help non-native Chinese speakers to learn writing Chinese. The reason why I chose this topic is that I want to let more people get to know Chinese culture through learning Chinese characters. Undoubtedly, writing Chinese characters is probably the most difficult part for Chinese learners.
Chinese is one of the world oldest languages that are still being used. These 4000 years old language exists in almost every part of the world. Chinese develops from oracle bone inscriptions to what we see today. Every Chinese character has its own life, and every stroke of it has a story to tell. We can see people with Chinese tattoos in London, and we can eat traditional Chinese food in Los Angeles. With the development of China, more people come to China, and more Chinese go to other countries. Most of us have at least one or two Chinese friends. Therefore, Chinese character is important in the future.
The whole process is quite challenging. It has three stages: preliminary research, select survey sample, and improve ideation.
The first step is preliminary research. I got much useful information about teaching Chinese from Google at first, and started to find Chinese characters around the world. I tag Chinatown and found too many photos from instagram. People love Chinese food and Chinese culture.
The second step is selecting survey sample and conducting survey. This part is the most interesting one. I interviewed many teachers who had been teaching Chinese for years and many Chinese parents whose children were born outside of China. I received many unexpected answers from questionnaires and poking the system. Through face to face communication, I gradually understood what they really want, and had a more clear idea about which part should I focus on my app. I want to mention that my tutor inspired me by suggesting having a notebook called “My First Chinese Character.” My tutor told me that you could use this notebook to record the whole process of teaching Chinese characters. I cannot only teach people to write Chinese, but also learn some foreign language for myself. This is a very rewarding experience.
The third step is ideation. I want to use this app to help more people who have interest in learning Chinese. It’s true that there are many Chinese studying apps on the market right now, but my app will target on adults who have more practical needs. Unlike children, adults learn Chinese mainly because they need to use it in work. They want to learn some useful daily conversations and basic Chinese characters.
The name Stroke By Stroke is from my English tutor. It really describes Chinese characters accurately. I chose red as the theme color for the app. There are five levels to accomplish. Every level has a five-pointed star. The five stars represents the five stars on Chinese national flag. The app consists of six sections:
- My Course. Inspired by traditional Chinese elements, I designed many icons. It is important to know the cultural background if you want to learn its language. For example, I chose cheongsam to represent clothes. When the uses open the app, they can choose My Course and starts to learn right away. Every word has a little animation to help understand and memorize. There is also real-person pronunciation. If they click writing brush icon, they can practice writing.
- Dialogues. There are different scenarios. App users can choose it according to their needs. In every conversation, there are English subtitles, Chinese subtitles and pinyin. Also it is accompanied with standard real-person pronunciation. In the review, the screen will show one sentence, and the user needs to hold the button and respond it.
- Writing. Every character has a matt to help write correctly. The app will show the order of strokes and where to start. Users can play interesting games to review the characters they learnt. They should drag different part of a Chinese character into the matt within three chances.
- Scanning. This is a very practical tool for Chinese learners. Whenever they see a Chinese character they don’t understand, they can use the camera to scan it, and the app will automatically shows its explanation, pronunciation and illustrations. Users can choose to add the character to their notebook for later review.
- Information. Users can know the rate of their progress. It shows a comprehensive analysis of the study including correct rate and studying hours.
- Finding. Find Study Buddies. The app users can choose to be discoverable by other app users. They can find other Chinese learners in neighborhood to study together.
FMP is the last challenge I need to go through before my graduation. The one-year study comes to an end; I want to thank my teachers and classmates, who makes this place home to me. I want to thank my tutor Jackie especially. She gave me lots of help and advices. She once told me that let your research have its own life. I hope what I am doing right now is giving life to my design. Three months pass by so fast; it is a challenging but rewarding experience.