Wordplay: Around The World Learning

Children on the other side of the world are being educated from a small office in the centre of Sunderland.

Thanks to the support of Sunderland City Council, WordPlay Media has developed and provides a highly-engaging e-learning experience that is teaching the English language to Chinese youngsters.

“When children are interested, learning happens,” is the ethos inspiring the work of WordPlay, an innovative e-learning technology company, based in Sunderland Software Centre.

Jonathan Karlsen, chief executive officer of WordPlay, said: “We wanted to create a fun way for children to learn. Learning a language doesn’t have to be a chore, so we moved away from the textbooks and towards WordPlay.

“WordPlay runs on three main platforms: stories, games and chatbot technology. Our stories are based on the curriculum, but they make learning both enjoyable and engaging. In one of our animated stories, we have a young Chinese boy and English girl learning their respective languages with the help of a bilingual bunny – what more could a child ask for?”

Language in the stories is appropriated to the English curriculum, with words mirrored by the animation.

Alongside careful curation of witty stories, the team of four is also hard at work designing and creating fun games, crucial to the learning experience provided by WordPlay.

Ying Bradwell, chief operating officer of WordPlay, said: “Games enable the children to work on pronunciation, spelling, and so much more. We offer many different types: the action games target keywords and sentences of the English curriculum, word games record mistaken words and improve a child’s vocabulary, and syntax games use English recordings to foster understanding of the language.

“They choose the areas they enjoy, or those they need to improve on, and go from there. We’re in the process of making the games more ‘fun’ – making it less like learning and more enjoyable.”

The third dimension of WordPlay is chatbot, which adopts voice recognition and natural language progression to enable learners to carry out live conversation practice.

“The great thing about chatbot software is that children can enjoy fantastic stories and learn to speak fluent English at the same time,” said Ying. “Through storytelling and question answering, it engages both listening and speaking skills, as well as improving general vocabulary”

Sunderland City Council Support has been vital to the success of WordPlay – not just in terms of investment, but also in its provision of an international network.

Ying said: “One of the reasons we chose Sunderland was the help offered by the Council.

“The city is partnered with Harbin, China, and this has been essential to the work that we do. In January, we went out to meet the schools we would be working with, and in May we carried out a pre-test of the animation.

“The Council connected us with five schools, where we worked with students aged 6-8, to see what they thought of the animations and the ideas. It has provided us with essential feedback, feedback which we are using to improve our product.”

Jonathan added: “Our ultimate goal is to make learning English easy, efficient and effective. The achievement of our goals would not be possible without the support from the Council.”

Councillor Trueman of Sunderland City Council, said: “WordPlay Media has created a fantastic business from a brilliant idea. It’s potential is incredible.

“Sunderland is home to a vibrant tech and digital sector. With the state-of-the-art environment we have created at Sunderland Software Centre, it’s no surprise businesses is booming for WordPlay.

“We look forward to continuing to support WordPlay as they develop their technology and enjoy further international growth.”

To find out more about WordPlay visit http://wordplay.media/en/.

For more on Sunderland’s burgeoning software sector, visit www.makeitsunderland.com or call 0191 561 1194 or follow @MakeItSund. Or visit www.sunderlandsoftwarecity.com or call 0845 872 8575.

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