I’ve been working on Newby Chinese since 2016 together with Richard McCurry (who is a linguist as well as a great communicator and teacher) and with several part-time artists. The goal of Newby Chinese is to take Mandarin Chinese — widely regarded as being almost impossible to learn as a second language — and make the learning experience more well structured and above all fun.
Our approach really took shape in 2018 when we started developing multiplayer minigames – whereby the teacher projects their screen at the front of a classroom, and the students — perhaps 30 of them or more! — log in using browsers on their smartphones/tablets in order to learn, compete and have fun. Each student’s device takes on a variety of input roles as appropriate — at times joystick, at times freehand drawing pad, at times a private device displaying information to that student alone as part of a wider multiplayer game.
Richard has delivered the Newby Chinese system in Irish secondary schools (typically as a Transition Year experience) since 2018, with around 100% growth year on year. We are reaching the stage where the platform is ready to be used by other Chinese teachers – either representing Newby Chinese, or within a school hiring our platform for their own direct use.
Richard’s work has involved development of a unique pedagogical approach which breaks down the components which make up the thousands of arcane-looking pictograms in the language. Together we have built a range of multiplayer games and interactive media within the platform to help students collaboratively learn reading, writing, and speaking the language.
We have published several academic papers on Newby Chinese since 2018 and won the ‘best overall presentation’ award at the Irish Game Based Learning Conference 2019. There’s a lot more detail on Newby Chinese in a book chapter which we have recently published in Handbook of Research on Promoting Economic and Social Development Through Serious Games (2022). You can read the full chapter here if you’d like to learn more.
Here’s a bunch of 15 year old boys jumping around excitedly, shouting and hugging each other – that’s right, hugging each other! – while learning new Chinese words in our Pacman/musical-chairs mashup game Maze Hunters.