• Bennett Morris

Why We Created Confucius

Updated: Nov 12

"Necessity is the mother of invention." Plato's age-old adage reads remarkably well when faced with the current landscape of Chinese learning in the digital era; the complexities and nuances of Chinese and other logographic languages require complex and nuanced solutions that the binary structure of flashcards have not provided.

Chinese is a logographic language. Meaning, it is made up of drawings, known as "characters," that represent words. In the 1950s, Zhou Youguang was tasked with the responsibility to romanize these characters so non-Chinese speakers would know how to pronounce the characters. This transliteration is called "pinyin." Thus, to properly study Chinese, students are required to memorize (1) a character, (2) its pinyin, and (3) its English meaning (see left). As you may imagine, two-sided flashcards are not accommodating of this ternary composition.

This was the initial impetus for the creation of Confucius; when using Quizlet, or physical flashcards, students studying Chinese are limited to its two sides—we either learn English on the same side as the pinyin, pinyin on the same side as the Chinese, etc. Our "three-sided" flashcard model allows students to study these components separately and/or customize the flashcard composition within seconds.

Second to this model, and inspired by the limitations of COVID lockdowns, travel bans, and switch to e-learning, Confucius' handwriting and speech inputs enables students to quiz their character memorization, stroke order, and tones, in a more accurate and comprehensive manner.

Although this is just the beginning, Jocey and I, with our combined 15 years of Chinese learning experience, are confident this is a product Chinese learning students, tutors, and teachers will benefit from. As the world becomes more interconnected and digital, it is only appropriate for Chinese learning to follow suit.

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