Designing an educational toy for Japanese language learning

Exploring multidisciplinary and cross-cultural research in design and linguistics

Carlos Alberto Montana-Hoyos, Yuko Kinoshita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article presents a multidisciplinary and cross-cultural project, merging design research and linguistics research to develop an educational toy for learning Japanese language targeted to Australian school learners. We explain in detail the linguistic content, the rationales and design process; and report on initial findings from user testing. In summary: the final outcome of the research project, a toy to teach Japanese, focuses on verbal conjugations. We designed and produced a set of Lego-like assembly blocks, with which learners play to assemble and dismantle meaningful linguistic structures: verbal phrases. The main premise is that physical assembly of building blocks can encourage an understanding of grammatical structures, while providing sensory stimulation. Being a toy, users' enjoyment was a significant design goal. A gender-neutral and friendly appearance was sought. To enhance Japanese cultural learning, the overall design of the toy (including parts and graphics) aimed to incorporate Japanese cultural elements and aesthetics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-33
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Design in Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


Cite this