I. Cultivate Love for Chinese Characters
First and foremost we wanted our users to cultivate a love for the beauty and awesomeness of Chinese characters along with a deep understanding of how they work. Too many foreign learners of Chinese despise learning Chinese characters because of the antiquated rote-memorization teaching approach.
Our second goal was to create a learning system that presents content in a logical way to ensure the learner first understands the smaller pieces of information that will later be combined to form more complex concepts. With a solid base understanding the learner won’t become overwhelmed later when quickly learning large amounts of information. The curriculum interface and content is designed so that users will feel successful and feel themselves growing as they move through our curriculum. We believe that sense of achievement will motivate students and make them want to study Chinese every day.
Our third guiding principal when designing the user interface was to make it as engaging for our users as possible without creating any frivolous or distracting content. We wanted to show our users that learning Chinese characters doesn’t have to be a monotonous chore. Our interface and learning activities are based on interactive game-like principles to hold the user’s attention and give immediate feedback. In addition, users earn performance-based points, can track their progress and can have friendly competition with their friends or classmates to encourage each other to earn the full amount of points for each exercise.
The fourth pillar that guided our software development was to ensure our courses could easily be integrated into a classroom setting. We did this in the several following ways:
1. Our software generates tangible student data allowing an instructor to closely monitor the progress of each student. Through the instructor interface you can see at a glance which Chinese components and characters a student has completed, how much time a student spent on each exercise, how well each exercise was completed, and how a student did on review quizzes. This data is securely stored in our cloud-based server, but can also be downloaded by an instructor.
2. Our software is adaptive for the instructor. We offer instructors a myriad of choices to align our Chinese character learning software with in-class learning activities.
We understand that there is a divergence in the written and spoken Chinese language; unlike phonetic systems, where knowing how to say a word can help you write it and seeing how to spell a word can help you say it, there is a disconnect between the written and spoken language in Chinese. For this reason there are typically 2 different approaches to teach Chinese characters in a Chinese course:
A.While the student is learning speaking and listening skills they are simultaneously learning to read and write the Chinese characters for the words they are hearing and saying.
B.Learning to read and write Chinese characters is taught separately from listening/speaking practice. With this approach, one doesn’t necessarily need to teach Chinese characters in the order that they are introduced in the conversations of a class textbook.
We allow instructors to decide which approach they prefer and seamlessly integrate that decision into your class. If you want to follow your class textbook, you can select your textbook from our content playlists so that students will be guided to learn the characters that appear in their textbook in the order that they appear. However we also offer several other content playlists that you may find to be more effective for learning large amounts of Chinese characters. We offer a variety of content playlists for instructors to choose from to ensure that they can select the best curriculum model to fit their specific needs.
In addition to the premade content playlists the ABCs of Chinese team has assembled we’ve made it easy for instructors to customize or create their own content playlists. This allows instructors to select and arrange the Chinese component/character content they want students to focus on.
3. Our content is assignable. Not every student needs to be using the same content playlist. Instructors can choose one content playlist for the entire class, or alternatively they can assign different playlists to different students depending on each individual student.
4. Instructors can control the exercise settings to decide which learning exercises within each component/character module students must complete, which exercises students can optionally skip, and they can even disable exercises. Instructors are also able to set and lock the degree of difficulty for each exercise.
5. Our software is adaptive for the student. A student can work through their assigned content playlist at their own pace. We understand that some students learn faster than others, so our software allows those students to move through the content as fast as they can. Upon completing the exercises in one component or character module they will be seamlessly directed to the next module in their playlist, and our software will ensure they are doing review quizzes frequently enough. Students can practice the exercises in each module as many times as necessary until they feel comfortable before moving to the next module, and it’s also easy for students to go back and review previous component or character modules.
6. We have hundreds of hours of instructional content. To approximate how many hours each particular content playlist will take to complete, multiply the number of modules in that playlist by 7-10 minutes (to complete all of the exercises in a component or character module typically takes 7-10 minutes). Our Chinese Component Mastery Courses make an excellent stand-alone, semester-long or year-long “Introduction to Chinese Characters” course that will take the student approximately 47-67 hours to complete. Any of the Chinese Component Mastery Courses will teach the student the 400 basic components that join together to create all Chinese characters. 400 modules multiplied by 7 minutes is 47 hours. Moving at a slower pace of 10 minutes per module will require approximately 67 hours to complete the course. If there is any remaining time in the semester but all modules have been completed, we also have several mass review options to quickly review all of the content a student has learned.
The time needed to complete our various Chinese Character Courses varies depending on the content playlist selected. Learning 200 Chinese characters (and optionally their associated components) from a class textbook playlist will be completed in a shorter amount of time than the Key Characters and Derivatives playlist which contains 4000 character modules.
7. Our web app is cloud-based so that students can log into any device in your school or at home to access their accounts. The ABCs of Chinese is optimized on all platforms and devices allowing students to work from a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. There’s nothing to install– they only need an internet connection in order to continue where they left off from on any device!
8. Teachers can quickly and painlessly create and manage new student accounts through the instructor interface. (Alternatively, students can register themselves and add themselves to a student group created by an instructor.)
9. Our content is aligned with “common core” principles. In America the education system has begun moving away from its emphasis on factual recall. Rather, there has been a push for students to go after deeper skills and apply their knowledge. This is exactly the same shift we are trying to bring about in the learning of Chinese characters. We want to move away from the painful rote-memorization practice of writing a meaningless sequence of lines, swoops and slashes over and over again. We want students to realize that a Chinese character isn’t a random assortment of lines to be memorized, but rather that a Chinese character is a combination of several simpler pictographs and ideographs that carry meaning.
10. Our software and teaching methodology is time-tested and has proven to deliver successful results. During our beta release we had over 8000 independent users and schools from around the world working through our curriculum and providing us with feedback. We diligently listened to all of their suggestions and constructive criticism and have incorporated their feedback into this latest release. The ABCs team and our users are very excited with the current iteration of the ABCs of Chinese software.
11. We have straight forward, translucent subscription fees versus negotiating with salespeople. In addition, we don’t have a minimum number of seats you have to purchase, making it easy for you to start a pilot run with only a few students. Please see the Pricing page for details.