Humanoid robot teaches aboriginal language to school children

To learn an aboriginal language on top of the regular workload may be a bit much for children. Unless, of course, the activity is made fun through an adorable “friend” called Pink.

Maitland Lutheran School, which has less than two hundred and fifty students, has made learning a new language incredibly engaging by “employing” a robot called Pink.

This school in Australia has students who have roots in the Narungga community. David Field, who is the Principal of the school, wanted to help the children not to forget their language and culture. It is this wish that led him to Pink.

How did Pink help children learn the aboriginal language?

A teacher from this school says that the size and appearance of Pink helped make it very popular with the kids. The little ones found “Pink” to be very cute and rushed in to shake hands and make friends with the robot.

As their enthusiasm to be with Pink increased, they went beyond learning just the language. They started programming Pink to speak words from Narungga. When Pink was unable to pronounce certain words correctly, they iterated the spelling until Pink said it just right.

So in addition to learning an old language, they discovered a new one too – the language to program Pink!

The origin of “Pink”

Pink is the outcome of a research project by the Association of Independent Schools of South Australia (AISSA) in collaboration with Australian Universities. The project aims to discover new methods of teaching and to understand ways to encourage students to go deep into a subject.

The results thus far conclude that students think in far more sophisticated levels for problem-solving when introduced to the right environment.

It was not just the students who were influenced by the robot Pink. The teachers were also thoroughly taken in by the robot. The teachers and students from non-aboriginal backgrounds also got engaged with programming and learning with Pink.

Research shows that one of the reasons why students tend to be more comfortable around a robot is that they feel less embarrassed to make mistakes while speaking out to a robot than to a human.

This project is a big step not just for learning languages that may become extinct soon but for cultivating curiosity in students in a way that was not conventional earlier.