How multilingual utensils are helping 'Bake Off' languages students

Newcastle University is leading the way in helping people learn foreign languages as they cook with embedded smart technology

Students try out the new Lancook project
Students try out the new Lancook project

Wireless technology has been embedded into utensils to help students learn new languages as they cook.

Experts at Newcastle University have inserted pioneering digital devices into the utensils to create the project - an unique mix of cookery, technology and language teaching.

Working in pairs, people are guided step-by-step through a recipe in one of seven different European languages: English, French, Catalan, Finnish, German, Italian and Spanish. The English version has a choice of either scones or chicken curry.

Embedded wireless sensor technology - similar to a Nintendo Wii - is inserted or attached to the equipment and ingredients, allowing the kitchen to detect and evaluate progress as the students carry out their cooking tasks.

If help is needed, it can be provided through a range of audio messages, images or video.

Professor Paul Seedhouse, of Newcastle University, who is leading the project, said: “LanCook tackles a universal problem of classroom language learning and teaching – that students are rehearsing a language instead of using it.

“This really helps to bring that language to life in an engaging and memorable way and increases the learners’ proficiency skills, motivation and confidence.

“It also integrates the culture of that particular country more effectively, making it an active part of the learning process.”

Next month, researchers will celebrate the project’s achievements with a European-themed ‘bake-off’ where they will be trying to cook recipes from the partner countries in record time.

The EU Lifelong Learning Programme funded project was designed to teach languages in a ‘real-life’ environment.

Both the software and hardware which make up the digital kitchen are designed to work in a normal kitchen.

The software is housed in a small tablet PC together with a set of digital sensors, attachments and some specially adapted utensils.

In Newcastle, Dr Anne Preston, from the University’s School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, has been running workshops with teachers and students where chefs, linguists and computer scientists have been linking up to write and try out additional recipes for the kitchen, using a specially designed ‘authoring tool’ which allows anyone to create and upload new recipes.

Newcastle researchers, who developed both the English and French kitchen versions, are also currently trialling Korean recipes.

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