What is Pinying?

In 2016, Dr. Jonathan Stalling, Professor of English and Curator of the Chinese Literature Translation Archive at the University of Oklahoma, invented Pinying, a new app that enables Chinese speakers to learn English in an entirely new way. Stalling’s creation was added to the Apple App Store, patented by the University of Oklahoma, and awarded a “Best Inventor” award by the Ronnie K. Irani Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth (I-CCEW) at OU. This is the story of that invention from its ideation to its fabrication to its commercialization through the University of Oklahoma innovation ecosystem. 

在2016年,英语文学教授、华语文学译文馆馆长乔纳森·史道林博士, 发明了一款应用——“拼英”,这是一套以全新的方法来帮助汉语母语者学习英语的软件。

他的的发明被加入了苹果应用商店、取得了俄克拉荷马大学专利,而他本人也被俄克拉荷马大学Ronnie K. Irani 财富创新中心授予了“最佳发明家”这一荣誉。这里讲述的就是一项发明是如何在俄克拉荷马大学创新生态系统中从构想到产品最终发展至产业化的全过程。

当英语母语者学习汉语时,他们可以借助与英文相关的书写系统即罗马字母来标注汉语发音,然而汉语母语者在学习英语时却无法用汉字准确无误地拼出英语词的发音。史道林教授利用算法和数字技术将英语的音素映射到42个汉字的普通话读音上从而解决了这项难题,使得这项已有千年历史的汉语语言学概念再放异彩。通过两种语言在语音基因层面上的融合, “拼英” 为中国的英语学习者提供了学习英语发音更为简便而快捷的方法。

When English speakers learn Chinese, they can apply the writing system associated with English (alphabetic Romanized letters) to spell out the sounds of Chinese words. However, Chinese speakers learning English cannot use Chinese characters to spell out English sounds without introducing numerous errors. Professor Stalling solved this problem by updating a 1,000-year-old Chinese linguistic concept with algorithmic and digital technologies to re-sequence the English genome into 42 Chinese characters with common Mandarin pronunciations. By fusing the two languages at the level of their phonetic DNA, Pinying is making English pronunciation easier and faster to learn for China’s English learners. 

Professor Stalling calls this work a “non-dual technology.” This means new solutions often emerge in the space between unlike things. “Dual” implies that one must always choose between one thing or another, as if all fields of knowledge are mutually exclusive. By purposely merging art and technology, poetics and engineering, English and Chinese, and the ancient and modern, Professor Stalling’s work asserts that a “poetics of invention” is at its best when it engages in comparative and intercultural thinking. 


Dr. Jonathan Stalling, Professor of English, Curator of the Chinese Literature Translation Archive

Dr. Jonathan Stalling, Professor of English, Curator of the Chinese Literature Translation Archive, introducing his invention, Pinying, in Taiwan, fall 2016.