Updated Feature – Vocabulary Deck Management
We have updated the management of vocabulary decks and flashcards on both our Android and iOS mobile apps, as well as on the website. The highlights of these changes include: easier deck management, full-screen flashcards, easier vocabulary card management and a new SRS mode.
After you tap ‘Vocabulary’ you will be re-directed to a newly designed Vocabulary section. We have simplified and ‘flattened’ the design to draw more attention to what is important – the vocabulary decks (or ‘stacks’ of vocabulary flashcards). Each deck box displays the deck name and the number of target terms. Options for this view allow you to create a new deck or change the target language that you are studying. If you ‘long-press’ on a deck box, options to rename the deck will appear. If you ‘pull’ the page down, the decks will sync with your cloud account.
After you tap a deck box, you will be immediately be taken to the flashcards. The first thing previous students will notice is that the cards are now much bigger. Tapping the icon in the the top-left will even make them full screen!
You can navigate the cards by swiping left and right to switch between the cards, or tapping to flip the cards. You can choose what to display on the ‘front’ side of the cards in Settings with the source language translation available by default, but also the option to display the target term, the term phonetics and the term audio. On the back side of the card, you will see all the information related to the target term in addition to a green ‘View Sample Sentences’ button that will direct you to the Glossary so that you can browse sample sentences for how the term is actually used in context.
Vocabulary Card Management
In addition to Settings, in the Options section you can Manage the entire deck, Shuffle the cards, Autoplay the cards, Move the active term to another deck, Copy the active term to another deck or Delete the active term from the deck.
By default the flashcard section is set to Normal Mode. For those students who want to take advantage of spaced-repetition software (SRS) technology, you now have the option to switch to SRS Mode in the Options section.
In SRS Mode, you cannot freely switch between different cards, but instead need to indicate how well you remembered the term, by selecting between Again, Hard, Good or Easy, before proceeding to the next card. This feedback is used by the SRS SM-2 algorithm to ‘smartly’ present this term to you in the future. In layman’s terms, the goal is to use technology to help more these new foreign-language terms from your short, to you medium, to your long-term memory.
Please let us know you questions or ideas below in the comments.
A big challenge when learning a new language is knowing whether or not what you are saying could actually be understood by a native speaker.
If you attend a language class, your teacher can quickly give you feedback, but you might have to fight with other students for their time and perhaps you might be a little shy or afraid to make mistakes. If you are studying on your own, then you are likely in a worse situation being not able to even get this minimal feedback.
At OpenLanguage we take pride in our engaging lessons, which provide lesson input, and our software tools, that help provide review opportunities, but we also realize facilitating practice opportunities and providing corrective feedback is critical for developing your new language skills.
To help with this, today we are adding a new ‘Accuracy’ feature to the Sentence and Word Review tools available in our iOS and Android mobile apps.
To take advantage of this feature, simply tap the Accuracy button to get started. To hear a native speaker read the term or sentence press the play button. Then it is your turn to try. Press record and read the term yourself. The app will analyze your recording and give you an Accuracy score.
Now, this feature utilizes speech-recognition technology which is notoriously not 100% perfect. You should approach your score, not as an absolute measure of your performance, but more as an indicator of how likely you would be understood by a native speaker. The higher your score, the more likely you will be able to engage in a conversation with that native speaker.
This feature is simply designed to be a low-risk way for you to get feedback on how well you are pronouncing those foreign-language terms.
FOR THE GEEKS
From a technical perspective, the app converts the spoken audio to a text string (with Android using the Android SDK and with iOS using Nuance) and then compares the resultant text string with the original for the native speaker. The app then uses a string comparison algorithm (Levenshtein distance) to determine an approximate accuracy score.
If you have any suggestions please let us know in the comments.
Today we focus on language learning for the little ones. Children have an amazing ability to learn new languages. As parents, how do we inspire and help them acquire new languages? Listen in as OpenLanguage co-founder Jenny Zhu talks to Franck Koestel from earlylanguages.com, one of the most popular blogs on the topic about inspiring children to learn languages through daily activities and create rewarding family bonding experiences. Both Jenny and Franck have a professional as well as deeply personal interest in the area and they share their own trials and triumphs in raising multilingual children. Whether you are in similar situations as them or simply would like to ignite your children’s interest in languages, we hope today’s conversation will help you along the way.
At OpenLanguage we are committed to facilitating language learning in every form it might take. While many of our students pursue learning a language in their free time, we have teachers and students using OpenLanguage in both tradition schools and home-schooling environments. With the popularity of home-schooling growing, especially in the United States in recent years, we at OpenLanguage see this as a particularly important moment to provide innovative resources for teachers and parents to use with their young-ones .
So, in order to help facilitate home-schoolers we’d like to introduce our ‘Friends and Family’ subscription plan, and extend our academic rates to all parents using the service for home-schooling their children—just $50 per student per month!
Using our Friends and Family plan, as well as the Open Academy, parents and teachers will be able to join students in their language study process as well monitor their children’s progress. This is a decided advantage over the traditional classroom where the teacher spends a majority of the time inputting the information and trying to discover individual difficulties. This is what we term the ‘Flipped Classroom’ model. In the Flipped Classroom model, all the ‘inputting’ is done before the class and teachers can use their time most effectively to help students through their difficulties as well as practice newly learned concepts. By embracing this new model of learning and teaching we believe OpenLanguage can greatly improve the pace of language learning, whether you’re a casual learner, in a traditional school, or home-schooling.
The Flipped Classroom focuses on giving students the tools they need to expose themselves to language lessons before they make it to the classroom, thus giving the teacher the ability to help students practice the newly learned information and provide corrective feedback, instead of wasting valuable time talking at students! With our OpenLanguage lessons, not only do they receive the lesson audio, guided by two of our bilingual hosts, but they also have the opportunity to use our review tools to solidify their grasp of the vocabulary and grammar, in addition to expansion sentences building on the lesson dialogue.
Finally, before ever making it to the class the students will then complete exercises designed to gauge their comprehension of the lesson. The teacher or parent can review this prior to class, giving them a powerful understanding of each student’s strengths and weaknesses. With this new approach OpenLanguage believes students and teachers will be more likely to see rapid improvement in language acquisition by facilitating the input portion of the learning process thereby increasing the value of class-time.
Today OpenLanguage Co-Founder Jenny interviews Holly Longstroth, an internationally experienced ESL teacher. In this interview they discuss the challenges to teaching ESL to busy professional adults from all over the world, and how technology can improve people’s access to a language teacher.
I was recently reading a blog post by my friend and fellow OpenLanguage content contributor Kirsten Winkler. Grimly titled ‘The Grim Future of Language Learning’, Kirsten presents reasons why language learning as an industry has a rather pessimistic outlook. One statement particularly struck me ‘Let’s face it, language learning is not a desirable pastime for the masses. Most people learn a language because they need to, not because they want to.’ Kirsten sums up the attitude towards language learning as ‘general averseness’. Being a language learner, teacher and an entrepreneur, the article does echo some of my own experience. But I have a rather positive take on the language learning scene, from both a business and personal point of view.
A Niche Pastime
As uncommon as it is, I’ve seen many adults who choose to pick up language learning as a hobby. This couldn’t be more vividly demonstrated by my experience at ChinesePod. Launched in 2005, it originally primarily targeted expats living in China, i.e. those who needed to speak some Chinese to get through daily life in China. But we soon realized that the majority of our customers actually lived outside China. Many of them had not even been to China. They were learning Chinese primarily for personal growth and fulfillment. This always comes as a big surprise to people who found out who our customers were. Over the years, I’ve met both virtually and in person countless learners who came from diverse walks of life: bankers, teachers, lawyers, engineers, doctors, suburban moms, retirees, etc. They have very different personal reasons as to why they are learning Chinese. But none is doing it because they have to. The common thread is always personal interest and fulfillment. Many of them stick with it for years and become lifelong learners. In turn, the solutions they seek tend to be quite varied, more inspirational and ‘human interest’ than enrolling in a semester of Chinese studies or buying a few books. They use services such as ChinesePod where there’s fresh content, human connections and community support to keep them motivated and engaged. Learning isn’t a means to an end for them. It’s both. That’s one of the reasons that helped ChinesePod become a successful subscription business.
Celebrating Language Nerds
We’ve affectionately nicknamed this group of learners ‘language nerds‘. They derive a deep sense of pleasure from language learning and are often interested in learning more than 1 language. In my current startup OpenLanguage, we even designed a product for language nerds that gives them unlimited access to 7 different languages including English, Spanish, Russian and even Arabic. As niche as the market is, I deeply believe that there is a group of passionate people seeking to learn more languages to understand more about the world and enrich their own. Language is as much a practical tool as it is about social interaction and enriched experiences. That’s why concepts such as ‘edutainment’ and parasocial relationships are extremely important for language businesses that are trying to capture this market segment. Many language tech companies are using tech innovation to create shortcuts in learning. While I’m all for making the process more efficient and effective, the human aspect of learning and delivering pleasure and fulfillment in the process should not be overshadowed.
Language learning and language learners should all be celebrated.
Today OpenLanguage co-founder Jenny interviews Orlando Kelm, Associate Professor of Hispanic Linguistics at University of Texas, Austin.
Though his profession is teaching Hispanic languages, Orlando also found he was passionate about learning Asian languages such as Japanese and Chinese. Jenny talks to Orlando about whether he is one of those blessed with a language brain or is there anything else at work to produce a successful language learner? They delve into the learning methodology for different languages, how to stay motivated when motivation is running low and whether ‘polyglots’ should be role models for language learners. They also explore whether a few key learning trends such as mobile learning and Flipped Classroom are a fad or the future of learning.