Today, we are launching our first mobile app that makes learning Chinese easier and more efficient. The app, available for both iOS and Android, turns Chinese characters into engaging visualizations and memorable short stories with funny heroes.
With China’s economic rise, increasingly more people are drawn to study Mandarin, despite the fact that the language is notoriously difficult. According to Hanban, the state agency for Chinese as a foreign language, the number of global Chinese language learners has reached over 100 million.
“Learning Chinese through rote memorization is extremely difficult and can be boring at times. That is why I was looking for alternative ways to make learning Chinese more efficient and fun. I discovered some books that employed mnemonic devices like stories or pictures, but they were all either too complicated or incomplete. Thus Zizzle was born,” says Lukas Lohove, CEO of Zizzle. Lohove has studied in China himself and managed to pass the highest level of the Chinese proficiency test within just one year.
Lohove created a single mnemonic short story for each of the 3000 most used Chinese characters. “The stories are based on proven memorization techniques like association, visualization and link words, and also leverage the logical structure of the Chinese language,” says neuroscientist Boris Konrad, world memory team champion and one of Zizzle’s first paying customers.
Zizzle has also been tested in K-12 schools. An independent study conducted by the University of Munich showed that Zizzle improved student’s performance in Chinese by at least 79%. “Zizzle’s visualizations engaged students who previously had difficulty learning Chinese characters. One student enthusiastically asked me, 'Can it really be this easy!?'“ reported Ms. Tanner of Lehi Junior High School.
The increased student engagement is what Lohove loves most about Zizzle. “With our focus on both educational institutions and individual learners, we can reach a large number of students. Understanding Mandarin Chinese will be one of the most important global skills in our century, and Zizzle makes learning it more accessible,” says Lohove.
As part of this vision, Zizzle has applied to be an implementation partner of the 1 Million Strong Initiative, announced jointly by president Obama and Chinese Head of State Xi in September 2015. Its goal is to increase the number of Mandarin learners in the US fivefold, from 200,000 now to 1 million by 2020, and to make the language accessible to disadvantaged groups. Zizzle has just been accepted into the final round of the implementation process.
“This launch is an important day in our overall strategy,” explains Lohove. “Mobile apps are one of the distribution channels with the biggest reach worldwide.” But Zizzle’s vision does not stop at that. “We started out with Mandarin Chinese because it’s a fast-growing language that requires a lot of memorization. But in the future, it is possible that we will expand beyond Chinese to other languages or even other subjects like history and economics.”
Kevin from Zizzle