Mobile phone games could offer a way to teach Han characters to children in rural. China. Two mobile learning games, inspired by traditional, Chinese games, showed promise during preliminary tests with children in Xin'an, an underdeveloped region in Henan Province, China, said Matthew Kam, assistant professor at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute in Carnegie Mellon's School, of Computer Science.
The Chinese language might be the most widely spoken language in the world. Although it is difficult to prove that, some authorities estimate that there are more than 1 billion native speakers of the Mandarin dialect alone.
The written system of Chinese presents teaching challenges, Kara said. Unlike languages with alphabetic writing systems, the Chinese language uses Han characters, which correspond to a syllable or, sometimes, a word. Written language includes about 6,000 commonly used characters, and the shape of each character provides few clues to its pronunciation. Different dialects have different pronunciations for the same character.
At the Association for Computing Machinery's 2010 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Atlanta, researchers from Carnegie Mellon, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences reported their findings about mobile phone games that teach Chinese characters.
In one game, Multimedia Word, children are required to recognize and write a correct character based on hints provided for pronunciation, a sketch, a photo, or other clues. In a second game, Drumming Stroke, children practice writing Chinese characters; participants pass the phone one by one on the rhythm of a drum beat, with each player required to write one stroke of a given character by following the exact stroke order.
"We believe that the cooperative !.earning encouraged by the games contributed to character learning," Kam said. "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."