According to this Reuters article, the Chinese government would like to see more students studying Chinese. Reading between the lines, it looks like the government believes if more westerners study Chinese, this will in-turn lead to a softening of perceptions towards China. Not a bad idea really as a first step to a better cultural understanding on both sides.
Understanding “Chinese thinking” is in part easier to do once you start to study the language as many phrases and metaphors are derived from history or poems – which in-tern have shaped Chinese culture.
To encourage the adoption of Chinese, Beijing has established “Confucius Institutes” globally. Putting 2 and 2 together, It seems to me that the Confucius Institute at Melbourne University is one of these language centers.
One of the reasons I setup this blog was to diarise the journey for this new business I’m starting – to create absolutely the intuitive, most effective and down right funnest language learning application ever devised – for iPhone.
After taking Chinese lessons twice per week at 2 hours per pop at RMIT University for the last 12 months, I realised a few things about how I learn:
- I only apply myself to learning the language while at class. Forget studying at home.
- I have a Chinese wife so you think I would ask her for a lot of help. I don’t. For some crazy reason, I want to learn on my own. Some people might call it stubbornness (others stupidity).
- I like using Chinese flash cards, but there are no commercially available flash card sets for the text book I’m learning from (New Practical Chinese Reader). I’m not assessed on the other superfluous characters I know – I’m tested on what is in the chapters covered in class.
- I have only once dedicated myself to creating a series of my own crappy Chinese flash cards. My learning did greatly improve. I am too lazy to do it again.
- I get frustrated trying to use crappy software.
- I get frustrated trying to use crappy software that’s trying to teach me characters not in the chapters of the book I’m studying.
This first-hand experience and my own inner turmoil between laziness and motivated learning provide the drive to get this app happening. And classes have started again and I already know I’m going to fall behind!
I know I can’t (hopefully) be the only person struggling through Chinese studies, so to help my fellow laowai/guilou brethren in our struggle to learn, I’ve started the first steps to create this remarkable software. So what have you done so far Age, I hear you ask. Well, I’ve:
- Written a functional specification in google docs outlining how I want this to work
- Hired Sam Sui, a Chinese student / gun programmer studying here in Melbourne at Swinburne university to do the development work.
- Arranged payment through barter of brand spanking new 2.4 Ghz macbook. Apple are so clever you can’t write apps for the iPhone unless you do it on a macbook. Very cunning.
I’m meeting Sam tonight to start working out time-frames, prioritising requirements and setting some goals.
The next steps are to:
- Finalise the business plan (Anyone want to help with market research ?)
- Look into state, federal and city level grants available here in Aus to fund future development work
- And I’m thinking of enrolling the RMIT Business Plan competition (again). My win last time funded a trip to China and was the catalyst for new business. Who know what this time might bring? At a minimum I’ll get some good feedback.
Now I know many of you, struggling through Chinese classes across this fine world will want to contribute. If you want to add your 2c to the requirements, feel free to contact me on www.twitter.com/adrianbole or ab[at]bole[dot]com[dot]au.