Facebook PixelPassive language learning app that shows pop-up translations of your words as you type them
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Passive language learning app that shows pop-up translations of your words as you type them

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Contrived _voice
Contrived _voice Jan 05, 2022
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A phone/computer app that shows pop-up translations of frequently used words as you type them.
I got the idea from a French show I watched as a kid, It used french words instead of English ones for words kids my age would most likely use most often. Years later in high school, we had to learn french and I was surprised to discover I could still remember those words. Learning words I used often first made it easier to shift to a new language.
Why?
Language learning apps are not that intuitive. In late November I joined Duolingo and Pimsleur to learn Japanese to supplement classes I was taking. I hoped I could maximize the rate at which I was learning. I had only used the app for 32 days when the annual recap came out and I was above the 4th percentile of learners which led me to conclude that other people too were struggling to consistently learn languages actively.
How it works
An Integrated software you can download to your phone and laptop that shows pop-up translations to the words you use the most In a language of your choice turning learning into a passive activity. As the number of learned words grows the software adds more and more words from your fields of conversation.
Thought process
Learning the words you use most frequently first creates a sense of accomplishment driving you to learn even more. Learning apps and classes teach general vocabulary that you may not use and thus easily forgettable.
Since it's a passive task it doesn't feel like that much of an obstacle to accomplish and feels more manageable
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Danny Weir
Danny Weir Jan 20, 2022
As a Mandarin Chinese learner and an English tutor myself, a great passive learning app/add-on is music to my ears. I realise that active learning is extremely difficult for those with busy lives and often the best we can hope for from our language students is that they listened to a random song on Spotify while they were washing the dishes.
I have a few questions that weren't clear to me from your intial post though, I hope you won't mind clearing them up for me.
  • Do the suggested vocabulary pop up when you are typing using any format? For example, if I am writing a message on WhatsApp will the vocab pop up there? Or is it only in specific apps? Would I be able to select which apps the feature works with and switch others off?
  • Languages such as Japanese, Chinese, Arabic etc. obviously don't use the English alphabet in their commonly written form. Now of course there are anglicised versions to help us, but would the pop-up appear as a Kanji character or as the anglicised version? This obviously isn't a problem for European langauges, but could prove a problem for languages with their own writing system.
  • Do you think the pop-up could also work in audio format? I, for one, am more of an audio as opposed to a visual learner. If I were typing and certain vocabulary words were said as I was typing them I believe I would learn it more effectively.
  • I'm not sure about you, but part of my learning process is actually practicing messaging in Chinese. Because of this I am constantly switching between language keyboards on my phone and laptop. The add-on would somehow have to distinguish between this so that it doesn't translate itself into itself. Would it possibly get confused? Sounds like a job for a software engineer and definitely not me!
Absolutely love the idea, the more passive learning techniques us language learners can incorporate into our lives the better. Vocabulary is definitely the easiest thing to focus on and should be the easiest to program.
謝謝!
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Contrived _voice
Contrived _voice7 days ago
I see, I was working with Japanese, but it has a romaji or hiragana system you can write Kanji in.
now to answer your questions
  1. You know how autocorrect works? I noticed something. I type in 3 languages, Swahili English and Japanese. Depending on who I'm talking to I'll sometimes mix 2 languages in one sentence. My phone autocorrect settings are in Japanese though since you can't type kanji, so the only words that get autocorrected are Japanese words. I figured that the app could use a similar selection style. If it recognizes an English word it suggests just that one while ignoring everything else.
  2. For languages with a different style of writing it could display the way it's officially written but provide a phonetic guide on how it is pronounced.
  3. I actually thought of an interesting tangent on this one. The sound store. So , when a word arouses your interest and you click to hear how it's pronounced, the app creates a grouping of other similar words to that one. Take for example you wrote "right" and learned its pronunciation. It would be really helpful if it could suggest a sister word in this case "left" for reference.
  4. This is a problem I can relate to. I used to do that too a while back and found a trick to it. Some keyboards allow you to add vocabulary to your own language library, Using such a keyboard you pick the language you have the least experience in as your main language and import vocabulary from the other languages you are more familiar with. This gives you one keyboard that is constantly getting more familiar with the words you use including slang, without having to change your keyboard every time.
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Danny Weir
Danny Weir6 days ago
Contrived _voice Nice! It sounds like you've thought this through pretty thoroughly! I especially love the idea of word suggestions and a vocabulary bank within the app. The stored words could be automatically made into flashcard packs for the learner to review in a more active fashion too!
Have you given much thought to the logistics of building this app/system? I'm not much of a tech guy, so I have absolutely no idea how difficult or easy this might be to set up. It sounds fairly simple, but the language databases would have to be large and I'm not sure if it would be possible to piggy-back on the language packs that are already stored on mobile devices and tablets.
You would then have to factor in the marketing costs and actually getting people to use the app. Do you envisage it being a paid-for app? I'm thinking about whether it might be a good idea to even approach existing apps such as DuoLingo to see if you could potentially sell the idea to them.
Either way, I think it's an excellent idea and I would absolutely be interested in trying it out and incorporating it into my language learning!
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Contrived _voice
Contrived _voice5 days ago
Danny Weir the idea is pretty doable. The swiftkey language packs are really intuitive even when you don't know the exact word you're looking for. Get a pack like that , make code to pick words based on frequency then let the picked words get translated, like toucan does.
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General comments

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Dragan Otasevic
Dragan Otasevic23 days ago
If I understand correctly, the addon/app would just show popups of the words as you type them in whatever app you are using? Probably somewhere in a corner where it doesn't bother/distract the user.
I'm guessing the words would remain visible for a few seconds then disappear?
Do only the most frequently used words appear translated, or all words?
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Contrived _voice
Contrived _voice23 days ago
Dragan Otasevic Yeah ..you got it...it starts with the most frequently used then builds on those to translate more words reaffirming the structure of how words are arranged in the new language. English has a Subject-verb-object structure, so if you were learning English it would translate the most used words and show their arrangement about other words you also use often. This would effectively teach you how to create meaningful sentences correctly in your preferred language.
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JN
J. Nikola18 days ago
Contrived _voice Since I spent quarantine to find creative ways of learning languages, I can maybe help. I agree this method would be very successful, especially for the ones who write a lot. At that time, I didn't think of such a cool idea like yours that would tackle the writing, but I ran into a Chrome extension that does pretty much the same for the text you read. It's called Toucan and it randomly chooses words on the site and changes them to the language of your choice. That way, by reading an article, you bump into tons of foreign words.
I think it would work better with writing since the thought process and the word choice are more personalized.
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Contrived _voice
Contrived _voice18 days ago
J. Nikola Thanks, I tried the add-on and you're right. That was the general idea. Runs into the same problem as the apps though, translating words I don't use in normal conversations. Some more personalization and It'd be perfect for reading.
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JN
J. Nikola18 days ago
Contrived _voice yes, I agree with you. I learned many irrelevant words while the app never mentioned some which would be really convenient to know.
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