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Personas for Language Learning

We use Personas to define the scope and target audience for our applications. The following personas specifically apply to language learning applications. Since learning is a continuous process where we expect a user to become more proficient, we use the following approach

Notes about Personas in General

Personas is an established usability practice. Personas should represent the different user types. As such they are an useful tool: They help the designers to step out of their own shoes to figure out users' goals, preferences, limitations and behavior.

A Persona description should consist of behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and also a description of environment of use. A realistic description brings the persona to life and opens different views to the designer: For example two different personas might approach the same problem from a different angle and probably they would use different ways of action to achieve the same goal. So the same use cases should be possible to do in different ways, depending on the personas skills, behaviour patterns etc.

Language Learning Personas

Camille, the Student

Story: Camille is a 14 years old French pupil, living in Paris. She is currently in the 6th grade and learns English since two years now. She has to learn English at school, and parents expect that from her. Improving her language skills essentially means the benefit of getting better grades. Though besides what her teacher gives her to learn, her ambitions are limited. Besides the regular vocabulary lists to memorize and homework exercises to complete, she got a really good teacher who encourages his students to get more familiar to the language. The teacher provides vocabulary lists as printed pages, while Camille's English books also have "phase6"-format files. Camille occasionally trains her English skills by listening to English radio, reading English texts and watching English series.


  • has to fulfill demands of teachers and pass exams
  • gets homeworks form teacher
  • gets vocabulary lists as printed pages (that she inserts into her learning applications herself) and lists in proprietary formats

Tina, the Business Professional

Story: Tina is a German Business Consultant: She travels a lot (mainly in Europe) and has to use different languages at work. Recently, she was assigned to an international project in the automotive industry. In this project, two partner companies in Greece and Spain are involved. This project is important for her company. Tina is interested in languages and speaks several languages at different competence levels (English C2, French B1, Spanish B2). She just started to learn Greek two weeks ago.


  • very motivated to learn a new language (e.g. for job)
  • requires very specialized vocabulary
  • wants to maintain her already gained language proficiency
  • she mostly learns on her own, maybe complemented with an online course or a private teacher

Gan, the Hobby Learner

Story: Gan is a recently retired history teacher, living in Tulsa (Oklahoma), USA. He just figured out how much free time he has after his retirement and he plans to use much of this time to make trips to different places in the world. But he does not want to be a typical tourist, he wants to be informed about the country and even to be able to express basic wishes and questions in the country’s language (like ordering food). Yet, besides English he only knows some words of French that he learned 30 years ago at school. Currently he is planning a trip to Spain.


  • learning a new language is one among several hobbies (with average priority)
  • he enjoys to be able to communicate in a language and accepts that he has to take time for learning to reach this goal
  • he wants to be able to have simple conversations in his target languages
  • he only aims to be able to communicates in basic words when traveling

Jan, the Expat

Story: Jan is newly retired and does not have a family that ties him to his old country. He has long had a dream to move to Thailand where he spent some time during his working year as a representative for his employer, a Belgian cookie factory. He enjoyed the life in Chiang Mai enormously, made lots of friends and have now moved there as a test to see if living out his retired life works out. But he is disturbed that he only speaks Belgian and English and wants to learn Thai so that he can take greater part in the local life. His level is around A1 which means that he can understand simple sentences, he knows the numbers so he can pay for himself in the shop but he doesn't understand TV and radio which he would like to do. He does get by with English so there is no urgent need but he wants to make friends also among the Thai people who don't speak good English.


  • Jan is highly motivated but is not used to study for long periods at a time.
  • He considers to go to a private school for some lessons but wants to add vocabulary training on his own time too.
  • In addition to the language he needs to learn the script which is not the same as western alphabets.
  • Pronunciation is extra important since Thai is a tonal language where the same "word" means different things when pronounced differently.
  • He is in this for the long term.

Lise, the Language Teacher

Lise lives in Warsaw and is a German teacher in a local high school. Her mother tongue is German. She knows well the plights of her students and how many other subjects they have so she wants to help her students as much as she can within reasonable limits. Since one of her colleagues has shown of the KDE Edu package she knows about Parley and Artikulate and decides to use those in her teaching. At the beginning of the term she prepares a collection for Parley with a sublesson for every chapter in the book that contains the vocabulary for that chapter. She puts this file on the school website where the students can download it. Since Parley and Artikulate are free applications, the students install them on their home computers and can use the spaced repetition training to gain a strong and long-term knowledge of the vocabulary. In addition to the pure vocabulary she also prepares other collections with gender training and conjugations. Recently, she started in her free time, in collaboration with the KDE Edu community, to create general German courses for Parley and Artikulate.


  • Lise is preparing study material for others and needs a good editor above all.
  • She wants to make a full set of material so she needs resources to easily and efficiently get multimedia in the shape of images and sound clips.
  • She needs a way to distribute this work.
  • The students need a way to get hold of it (a normal website could be enough).

Proficiency Levels

We define a coarse set of CEFR inspired levels. A level describes what a learner is supposed to be able to do in reading, listening, speaking and writing, yet tailored to the proficiencies we are interested with regard to our educational learning applications.

0: Starter

  • Starting level without expectations.

A: Basic User

  • Can read letters and words, knows the alphabet.
  • Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions, very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type, frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance.
  • Can understand other persons talking slowly and clearly.

B: Independent User

  • Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
  • Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization.
  • Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.

C: Proficient User

  • Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning.
  • Can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.
  • Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.
  • Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

see Wikipedia for detailed CEFR levels

This page was last edited on 1 March 2014, at 21:00. Content is available under Creative Commons License SA 4.0 unless otherwise noted.