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Catherine Ryu, GenCen Core Faculty, receives Koo Endowment from Asian Studies Center

Published: Tuesday, 27 Jun 2017
Author: Galena Marie Rhew Ostipow
Department: Center for Gender in Global Context

Per Asian Studies Center's press release:

The Asian Studies Center is entrusted with the management of the Dr. Delia Koo Endowment. Center-affiliated faculty are eligible to submit funding proposal applications for teaching, research, or outreach. Applications are accepted on a quarterly basis.

Catherine Ryu, an associate professor of Japanese Studies in the MSU College of Arts & Letters, is a three-time awardee of the Delia Koo Endowment. With her first award in 2014, Dr. Ryu was able to test the effectiveness of her U.S. patented language game platform, Cube2Cube (C2C).

Initially, Dr. Ryu developed the idea for C2C at MSU to help students learn classical Japanese. Instead of simply memorizing conjugation tables and charts, she wanted her students to sharpen their ability to recognize grammatical patterns by playing an engaging game. Since classical Japanese grammar is too complex to gamify, she first turned to the four major tones of Mandarin Chinese to implement C2C as an app game. She color-coded the four tones to help novice learners "see" the tones in addition to hearing them. 

Since Dr. Ryu's specialization is Japanese classical literature, creating a Mandarin Chinese tone training app game was something entirely new without any track record to support her project. She credits the Delia Koo Endowment award for helping her experiments get started and creating more opportunities for her to apply for other grants.

In 2014, she also received the Targeted Support Grant for Technology Development (TSGTD) that helped with her patent application and demonstration videos. The first award enabled her to start the larger experiment, named TOPES or the Tone and Perception Efficacy Study. With TOPES, her project team tested over 350 people for a 3-week training period and finished with a 90-95% completion rate. The outcomes of this study served as an empirical basis for developing the app game known as "Picky Birds 1.0." Ryu created this game in hopes of ultimately creating a gaming system that teaches Mandarin Chinese. Picky Birds 1.0, unlike digitized index cards, provides the students with feedback and challenges them by having higher, timed levels.

With her second Delia Koo Endowment award, Ryu expanded the scope of her experiment to include tone perception and production. Her team developed Picky Birds 1.5 and used it as an experiment instrument for the perception portion of the experiment. 

Next Ryu received a HARP grant from MSU to record more Mandarin speakers with higher audio quality. With the outcomes of this audio production project, her team developed the third iteration, Picky Birds 2.0, featuring three female and three male Mandarin speakers and over 9,800 audio files.

Now with her third Delia Koo Endowment award, Dr. Ryu is currently working on her Japanese poetry project to continue developing language app games that help students internalize both linguistic and cultural grammar patterns. 

Additionally, Dr. Ryu has been collaborating with a team of MSU Digital Humanities librarians to develop an interactive multimodal Mandarin audio database. She plans to launch this database in the fall of 2017 for other researchers, schools, and students. Once launched, she hopes that researchers will be able to use this database not only to standardize audio files embedded in experiments, but also to replicate the experiments. 

An article on her first tone and color perception project is scheduled to appear in December 2017 in Language Learning.

Dr. Ryu credits her interdisciplinary team for their contributions to her ongoing projects. The team consists of undergraduate and graduate students, and specialists in linguistics, game development, audio recording and graphic design.

We congratulate Dr. Ryu on her contributions to the study of Asian languages.

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