Voice-activated second language learning
The internet abounds with language learning apps and translation technologies for improving second language skills. One no longer needs to set foot in a language classroom or a foreign country to learn a new language. Some of these apps allow users to answer written vocabulary and grammar questions but seldom give them the opportunity to converse using their language skills. However, speaking and listening skills are an essential component of second language acquisition and
long-term memory retention.
Many apps and web-based programs such as Duolingo, Google Translate and Memrise are currently available and can be used just about anywhere with internet access. With the growing ubiquity of smart home speakers such as Google Home, Amazon Echo and Apple HomePod, we are now seeing these apps shift to voice-based user interface design. Voice User Interface Design is a growing field in design and is disrupting the digital interface.
This research followed the principles of User Experience design. Literature review, user surveys, expert interviews and journey mapping were used to develop and refine the ‘Hanashi’ speaking app. ‘Hanashi’ is a tool that language learners can use on their smart home speakers and mobile devices to engage in foreign language conversation within the home. The tool was named after the Japanese word for ‘talk’ or ‘story’.
In the language of their choice, the ‘Hanashi’ voice assistant prompts users to recall vocabulary and pronounce different objects in their surrounding. The user is then asked follow-up questions to prompt further spontaneous conversation. ‘Hanashi’ is a contextual mnemonic device that aims to help users retain their language skills and supports visual and auditory learning styles in the home environment.