The major focus of my sabbatical work was to explore the idea of using singing as a way to learn a foreign language. My colleague Ye Wang pitched this idea to me at a conference a few years ago. It immediately resonated with me since my kids were learning to speak Chinese and love singing Chinese nursery rhythms. While the singing seemed to help with her vocabulary and pronunciation, the biggest benefit was that it made learning a new language fun and engaging.
When I arrived in Singapore for my sabbatical, Ye and I started on an app called SLIONS Karaoke (Singing and Listening to Improve Our Natural Speaking.) We create an initial mockup with the help of some of his graduate students. One student, Dania Murad, picked the project up and started pushing the design and development along. We recruited two amazingly talented undergraduate students, Riwu Wang and Jovin Liew. Riwu came with a lot of experience building React Naive mobile applications and Jovin had professional-grade UI/UX skills.
With the team in place, the app development moved along nicely. We conducted a pilot user study which produced positive results both in terms of positive user experiences and well as the potential for solid language learning outcomes. We wrote a paper about SLIONS and the outcomes from our user study for the 2018 ACM Multimedia Conference. The paper was recently accepted for publication (as an Oral presentation!) and will be presented in Seoul, South Korea in October.
Riwu and Jovin also entered SLIONS Karaoke in two undergraduate app competitions at the National University of Singapore. The first was the Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) Practicum for $10,000 SGD and the second was the School of Computing Innovation Prize worth $2,000. And believe or not, SLIONS Karaoke won both awards!
I never cease to be amazing at what talented students can do with they are motivated to conquer an interesting project. The publications and awards are nice, but the project was already a success because I was able to help hard-working and talented students to build something useful.
(Update: Feb 2019) – Here is a nice write up of SLIONS from the National University of Singapore.