Streamlining the process of understanding foreign-language songs, allowing for a smoother language learning experience.
This project received the RGD 2020 Student Award: National Award of Excellence for UX Design.
Research, Ideation, Visual Design, Brand Identity, Prototyping
Sketch, Origami Studio, Framer
Content in mockups from kimonobeat, Onboard Audio
As a language learner, listening to foreign-language songs often sparks curiosity about what the lyrics mean. Music has always been a valuable tool in expanding my vocabulary outside the classroom.
My process, however, is not without friction. While more and more foreign-language songs are being translated to English (thank you Internet!), I regularly find myself juggling multiple tabs/windows while searching for alternate translations or single-word dictionary entries. It's often cumbersome to pause, play and rewind as I try to find or return to a specific line.
I decided to design a tool that could address some of these problems that I identified in my own everyday experience.
The initial concept and problem were motivated by my own inconvenience, but through research, I uncovered a more pressing matter—demotivation among language learners.
Put simply, Lrrrics is an app that connects language learners to translated lyrics to songs in their existing music libraries. Users can view these translations during playback, transforming the passive listening into active engagement. Lrrrics offers a unique answer to the following problems in language acquisition literature:
The problem of demotivation
Regarding demotivation in the classroom setting, students cited the following factors:
- ↳ Lrrrics leverages a user's personal interest in music.
Lack of vocabulary compared to other students.
- ↳ Supplementary learning during leisure time can improve vocabulary.
Phrases in textbooks felt impractical or too formal.
- ↳ Song lyrics tend to use colloquial language, familiarizing the user with more common terms.
Authentic content and learning
As mentioned, content—especially from textbooks—can be a major demotivating factor for language learners. However, the solution is not as simple as replacing textbooks with authentic (created for a purpose other than language learning) materials.
In a study comparing student attitudes towards artificial (created for language learning) and authentic learning materials, researchers found no significant difference in how interesting the students found the materials. In some cases, authentic materials were perceived as boring and meaningless, especially when students could not relate to the content. Instead, the researchers conclude that it is important for teachers to select authentic material mindfully, based on what they believe their students are interested in.
Of course, this selection process presents a tricky problem for teachers to consider. But with Lrrrics, users can supplement their language learning using content from their favourite songs—content they already find interesting.
Integration into daily life
In a study examining Korean university students majoring in English, researchers investigated how students use their smartphones as tools to passively or actively seek out learning opportunities. Referencing a framework of 'Seamless Language Learning', they found that the most successful students actively 'designed' highly personalized language-learning environments—by incorporating English into daily tasks.
For language learners with an interest in foreign-language music, studying lyrics offers a unique opportunity to engage in behaviours that support learning, including but not limited to:
- Interweaving learning, application, and reflection process—in a non-linear and recursive manner
- Interweaving language input and output
- Simultaneously drawing learner’s attention to form and meaning, or focus on meaning prior to focusing on form and meaning
- Co-construction of linguistic knowledge
- Engaging in activities requiring multiple language skills
View a full demo of Lrrrics' playback controls
Lrrrics is best when used in tandem with existing music streaming services. First time users are presented with options to connect their favourite services to the app.
Never skip a beat
Curious about a song you're currently listening to? Open Lrrrics and quickly find what you’re looking for. Lrrrics uses linked APIs when available to detect what you’ve been listening to.
A fully customizable experience
The playback screen is where users will spend the most time in the app. To accommodate for different viewing and learning styles—as well as different needs—there are customization options during playback.
In this case, a user studying Japanese can appreciate that there are different ways to view each line. For example, removing romanization (romaji) may help a user who is working on getting familiar with reading Japanese script.
Likewise, a user with an interest in a song's meaning—but not learning the language—may opt to remove Japanese script altogether, showing only the translations.
View and compare alternate translations
In this example, the selected song has multiple human translations available, as well as the baseline machine translation from Google Translate.
Users are able to switch between these translations when they first open a song. They can also quickly view the alternates from the details panel, allowing for quick comparisons when dealing with difficult—or more nuanced—translations.
More than a tool—building an ecosystem
Lrrrics offers a unique opportunity for language learners to engage with each other, while also showing translators and language enthusiasts a new perspective to approach their craft.
Translators can create a translator profile on Lrrrics and submit translations to any songs available on connected streaming services. Uploading a new song translation not only reaches a translator's existing followers, but also any users that follow the artist, have the song in their playlists, or come across the song in recommendations. In effect, Lrrrics creates more avenues to connect users, translators and content.
Translators can customize their profile to best suit their needs, including but not limited to custom external links, playlists consisting of their translations, and highlighting specific translations or artists.
In the above example, kimonobeat's profile includes a link to Ko-Fi, their external platform of choice for accepting song translation commissions. Their profile is also customized to highlight the standard fee they charge for requests.
Supplement your workflow
Saved vocabulary can be exported from Lrrrics to support individual learning habits. This may include preferred reading platforms, or other apps like spaced repetition software for memory.
Lrrrics began as a project in late 2018—as the last assignment for an interactive design course—when I worked on it for about a month. At the time, I knew it was a project I would continue working on as a passion project.
The hardest part of working on Lrrrics has been learning to be assertive with design decisions while working alone. Being a project I care so much about, I often found myself tunnelling in on smaller details, instead of taking a step back and evaluating the experience as a whole.
Lrrrics has been with me since before Apple introduced time-synced lyrics in iOS 13 (I didn't rip them off, I swear), since before I started learning Japanese, and in a time when I was much better at French. All the while, I have grown as a designer and prototyper—most recently playing around with Framer Web.
At the time of writing, Lrrrics is ready for usability testing with a fully-functional Origami prototype. However, current events have put a pause on that process, but I am looking forward to improving the design in the near future.