Language Aquisition Research

Key Goal

It may be difficult for West Germanic language speakers to learn a tonal language and vice-versa. Tone is the use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning. We’re going to explore ways to incorporate effective learning methods to help users acquire a new language to develop into a new product.


Usability study Memrise, Interviews, Survey, Usability study read, write, and speak Thai


Project timeline: 11 weeks


Photoshop, Keynote and Mechanical Turk

Methodologies & Key Questions

Usability testing Memrise / Read Speak Write Thai



Executive Overview 

User research found that:

  1. Learning the pronunciation tool was useful but it would be better if a native speaker were to be able to review it as well. 
  2. Users wanted to be able to communicate with other users that were native in their target language. 
  3. Color coding tones may be effective.
  4. The most common techniques for language advancement were for participants to communicate with native speakers, listen to music and watch movies. 
  5. Users that were inspired by relationships were more proficient in their target language.

Future efforts should focus on:

  1. Gamifying language learning with clear instructions, live feedback, and the ability to communicate with target native language users
  2. Reinforce reading with digital media such as, music, movie clips and color coded tones
  1. Usability Study Memrise
  2. Interviews
  3. Survey
  4. Usability Study Read, Write Speak Thai

FINDINGS - Gamifying

1. Add instructions during the onboarding process by adding a info button to reduce frustration for users. 
  • Jeremy wasn’t clear what the flower symbols meant initially and wants more information at the start of the game.
  • All users were initially confused to what to do because there were no instructions.
2. Add instructions during the onboarding process by adding an info button to reduce frustration for users.
  • All 4 participants assumed the icons lead to another page

  • Victor thought the button "She Me" should be blue or green, red is more of an exit or stop color. 
“Most users would go through the icons one at a time” - Will
3. User want live feedback
  • All participants found this feature useful, and two participants suggested that they’d like this feature even more if your voice recording could be rated and reviewed by a native speaker. 
  • Afiya wanted to see a feature where you could compare your performance and get recommendations for improvement. 
“It’s useful for everyday practice ” - Jessica
  1. Usability Study Memrise
  2. Usability Study Read, Speak, Write Thai


Users that were inspired by relationships to learn a language were more proficient in their target language.

7 out of  33 participants may speak like a native 6 of the 7 native like speakers motivations were from a relationship or relationships with native speakers.

  • Motivation for opportunities in career advancement and communicating with family then friends were the top motivators to learn a target language.
Interviewee Amy
“I started making friends in the neighborhood and they all spoke English it made me want to understand and communicate with my friends. As time went by I started picking up more words and phrases.” - Amy

“Natural way I learned Thai was from the household and my family was always surrounded by friends… Later I learned English from going to school and making friends.” - Kitty

  1. Interviews
  2. Survey

Findings - Color code tones, vowels, consonant grid

Color code tones and link to more information
  1. Usability Study Read, Speak, Write Thai
FINDINGS - Relationships

The next steps will be to create a paper prototype and do a User usability test on 5 people. The goal is to see how to incorporate the tools and see if users will be engaged with the new options. The contents of the language app will be based off of the data from all of the studies taken thus far. The app will have flash cards, phrases, tonal color code, users will be able to see their ranking and get feedback on their performance with suggestions on what areas they need to be focused on.
Questions to explore
  1. Will users understand the color code for tones presented on the UI quickly?
  2. Could gamifying the concept of voice recording with native speaker review be a viable option?
  3. Would users be interested in having foreign pop music, movies and clips for learning content?
  4. Would users like the idea of incorporating pop music, film clips into the app with interactive lessons?

Further Exploration

Create a prototype of the app based on the research and do a usability testing with language learning enthusiasts and professionals.


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