Chinese is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn because unlike French, Spanish, and German, it's not easy to correctly guess the meaning of a few words. ChineseCUBES is a new Chinese (Mandarin) language-learning system that uses Augmented Reality to create a multi-sensory learning experience.
The ChineseCUBES Learning Blocks Starter Kit comes with 40 character cubes, five tutor cubes, a webcam, Mac- and PC-compatible software, a learning pad, and a writing pad with erasable pen. Students place the cubes on the felt learning pad, and the webcam captures the QR codes on the cubes, offering audio and video feedback on the computer. There are two ways to use the starter kit: freestyle mode and learning.
In freestyle mode, you can get creative and discover Chinese by combining the different cubes however you want to learn words and phrases.
There are four learning themes in learning mode that correspond to the four collections of 10 color-coded cubes. You start with the words on the red cubes, and then move on to the blue, green, and yellow cubes. Each learning theme has several different lessons to introduce you to the word, how to say it, and how to write it. Memory Match games break up the lessons. Once you complete all the lessons, you play an activity that reinforces everything you've learned in that theme.
Eight 20-cube booster packs are available separately to introduce you to more Chinese words and phrases in categories such as numbers, dining, time and weather, family life, learning, location, transportation, and leisure.
This language-learning system is designed to give learners a basic understanding of the Chinese language. The interaction between the physical cubes and the computer content is pretty neat and definitely unique when it comes to similar language-learning systems. We think this will help this system appeal to kids. However, there were a few drawbacks to ChineseCUBES.
First, the writing portion is kind of difficult. You have to draw the Chinese symbol on the writing pad while watching an animation of the symbol being written over and over. We wish there was a more guided step-by-step writing section.
We also didn't think the Memory Match games were the best activities for reinforcing what we just learned, especially when learning how to create phrases. We ended up randomly clicking on things until we got a match. The activity at the end of each theme was decent, but it's another version of a matching game where you have to click on the match as it appears in a rotating bank of choices. It can sometimes take forever for the right choice to appear, and if it takes you too long to click on the right answer, then you have to wait for it to come around again in the rotation.
Aside from the reinforcement activities, there is nothing in this software that monitors your progress and adjusts the material based on how well you're doing. It's up to the user to decide whether or not he or she is ready to move on to the next lesson, and, especially in the case of children, some users might move on too quickly.
The ChineseCUBES Learning Blocks Starter Kit is for ages 6 and up.
Depending on your internet connection, it can take about 20 minutes to install the software and get your ChineseCUBES account set up.
We recommend grabbing a piece of paper and using it to practice the writing so that you have more space to write each symbol over and over again without having to erase each time.
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