Monday, November 22, 2010

Chinese character exercise for N900

Summary: This post introduces Bezca, a CALL software prototype for training Chinese characters. It showcases that (1) the technology in Finnish Annotator can be modified to many different purposes, (2) having a day job does not prevent me from writing CALL software with realistic goals, and (3) context is fairly easy to integrate to any CALL software, as long as you take an uncompromising attitude towards the need for context.

In Bezca, you train Chinese characters by drawing the strokes with a stylus, finger of plectrum. Correctly drawn strokes appear to the screen as you draw them:

If you don't remember the character, you can look at the hint which also tells the next stroke:

Clicking "Show Examples" displays dictionary words and examples sentences which use the character in question.

In the example browser, if you don't know some word in an example sentence, you can just click on it and enjoy further examples about that word. This way, you can browse examples in an endless chain, Wikipedia style.

Bezca also contains a spaced repetition system. Pressing "This was easy" shows the exercise again in a week. Pressing "This was hard" shows it again in a day. After that, it uses exponential time gaps to decrease or increase the period based on user responses.

In the beginning, the program calibrates difficulty to suit the student's skill level. It shows some characters and asks the user to say if they are suitably difficult or too easy. This way, students can go directly to material which is new for them.

This is a prototype and not yet mature enough to be distributed. It contains only 180 characters. Installing requires a memory card. I don't currently have any plans to take it further, because demand is likely to be small, the use of CEDICT would make it a copyright violation to ask for a price, and it would take a lot of effort to input 1000 characters. However, I'm happy to demonstrate it face-to-face to anyone, especially CALL researhcers.

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