Category Archives: languages

Interview with busuu Languages Education Director, Oula Akiki


I recently had an interview with a Oula Akiki, Education Director at a busuu, a company that offers an array of digital language learning curricula and applications.

busuu-logo

 

 

Here are some questions and her answers.

How did you get started in the language learning field?

I majored in modern languages, linguistics and translation at university. I’ve always been interested in languages. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t learning a second or third language. I went to the same business school as Bernhard amp; Adrian the busuu co-founders. I met them at an event and we immediately shared a common interest in languages. They were talking about their ideas for busuu, and I was immediately interested in the product. From my interest in linguistics, I wanted to move away from the traditional way of doing things and become more involved in product innovation. I joined busuu in January 2011 after graduating from business school in Madrid. I moved with the company from Madrid to London a year ago.

How did busuu start?

Bernhard Niesner and Adrian Hilti founded busuu in Madrid, where it was an official UNESCO International Year of Languages project in 2008. The company is named after the endangered Busuu language of Cameroon. According to an ethnological study from the 1980’s, Busuu is spoken by only 8 people. We went to Cameroon to track down those 8 people and made a video about our experience here!

Language learning technology is a saturated field. What makes busuu unique? How does it compare to other offerings in the market like Rosetta Stone, Livemocha, Duolingo…?

We create a good learning experience where we are trying to offer everything you need to complete your learning. We combine the content with a cross-platform solution so you can learn on mobile or on the web – the program is flexible to your needs. We complement that with our unique community -  it’s a friendly, helpful community where you can speak to native lanugage speakers. So you can learn anywhere on any device. You can practice with the commmunity who bring the conversational element that is so important when learning language. Language is about interacting with others and learning about other cultures is a part of that.  Learning the language is one thing, putting it into practice is another. We offer one solution that is practical, adaptable and fun to use. busuu has a gamified environment that makes the learning fun and engaging. It has nothing to do with your language book or your language class. The people in the community are more relevant as they live in the country whose language your learning. It’s an opportunity to learn and engage in a way you’d never learn with a book.

What’s the busuu approach?

We teach you relevant vocabulary, that you need in every day life. We break down the course content into smaller contexts that are easier to assimilate when you’re learning language. Then, put it into sentences. You’re going to find that conversation to be useful in every day life. We take useful vocabulary and useful conversation modes that are bundled into topics based on your needs and the situations when you need to use them.

Learning a language is a rewarding yet arduous process. What is your advice for those learning a language now or considering it?

It can be challenging, like anything new that you learn, but having regular conversations with people makes it more fun and less stressful. We’ve built a useful process to learn and remember language as well as to practice it. You have the cultural exchange happening as well. Even if you are in the early stages, you can still practice by talking to native speakers. People find out that they know more than they think they do, and that then inspires their confidence to continue learning. Keep practicing your language exercises. Like any exercise, a bit of training here and a bit of training there is still very helpful.

Is there anything you can reveal to us about the future of busuu?

Stay tuned, we have some exciting things coming in early 2014.

What about language learning and acquisition in general?

People are learning on different devices, and we find language learning is suited to a multi-device lifestyle.  We base our content creation on user behaviour and what we know is more important to them. People learning want stats, dashboard. It’s more personalized and need-driven. In general, it’s more intelligent and data-driven. What we learn from learning habits and how people interact wtih content, so we can refine and make it better.

Rosetta Stone, for instance, backs the Endangered Languages project, is busuu involved in any causes our readers should know about and get involved with?

Given we are named after an endangered language, we do support this issue as a company. We run an annual program called Learn2Help, to help educate children in Cameroon with the ultimate goal of building a classroom to support a local school. In December, the 35 million strong busuu community will help others to learn through its own language learning. As busuu users achieve completed lessons, the company will contribute to the Cameroon Association for the Protection and Education of the Child (CAPEC) to buy school supplies and furniture. With enough language learning activity on the website and on busuu’s mobile apps, busuu will reach our ultimate goal  of building an entire classroom for children in Cameroon.

Cite this article:
Silva E (2013-12-13 15:51:43). Interview with busuu Languages Education Director, Oula Akiki. Enzo Silva blog. Retrieved: Apr 20, 2014, from http://enzosilva.com/blog/2013/12/13/interview-with-busuu-languages-education-director-oula-akiki/

Learn2Help Program: Learn a Language and Help Build a Classroom in Cameroon!


Learn2Help

It’s always time to give back to the global  community. I love to see opportunities like this one that allow you to help others by learning something new. In this case, by learning a foreign language.

I was told about the Learn2Help program sponsored by Busuu and think you should consider helping this cause. The newsletter about the program follows below.


Help busuu Build a Classroom in Cameroon by Improving Your Own Language Skills

This December, the Learn2Help Program from Busuu Buys Educational Equipment for Underprivileged Students

London, 3 December 2013 – busuu today announces its Learn2Help initiative to help educate children in Cameroon with the ultimate goal of building a classroom to support a local school. In December, the 35 million strong busuu community will help others to learn through its own language learning. As busuu users achieve completed lessons, the company will contribute to the Cameroon Association for the Protection and Education of the Child (CAPEC) to buy school supplies and furniture. With enough language learning activity on the website and on busuu’s mobile apps, busuu will reach its highest goal of building an entire classroom for children in Cameroon.

busuu, the company that took its name from the Busuu language of Cameroon, will donate school supplies to the CAPEC  organisation which it has supported for the past few years. Through their school in central Cameroon, CAPEC helps provide an education for children who come from low-income families in the local area. Many of the parents are illiterate and these pupils are often the first generation in their families to receive an education.

It’s free to sign up and participate. The way the program works is that busuu users earn busuu-berries as they complete language lessons on the website and through busuu’s mobile apps. From the 1st through the 21st December 2013, the more busuu-berries earned by the community, the more busuu will contribute to buy school supplies including school stationary, textbooks, furniture and classrooms for the students. For example:

  • 35 million busuu-berries will help busuu provide the school with stationery like pens and books.
  • 40 million busuu-berries will provide textbooks and exercise books.
  • 45 million busuu-berries will allow busuu to donate furniture to the school.
  • 55 million busuu-berries will allow busuu to donate enough money to build a classroom for the school.

To put this into perspective, the busuu community earns around 1.8 million busuu-berries for completing language lessons every day, and every berry earned will help provide additional supplies for the school. Now is the time to get on busuu and starting learning a language. Everyone in the world deserves an education. Help busuu support CAPEC in their mission to education the children of Cameroon, and treat yourself to the gift of language this December.

 

About busuu

busuu is the largest social network for language learning, with over 35 million users worldwide. The company offers free and premium paid-for access to audio-visual courses for 12 languages: Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese and English.

Members can improve their language skills through direct interaction with native speakers within the community via an integrated video-chat application and peer-to-peer text corrections. As a result, every busuu.com user is both a ‘student’ of a foreign language and also a ‘tutor’ of their own mother tongue.

Bernhard Niesner and Adrian Hilti in Madrid founded busuu in early 2008. It was an official UNESCO International Year of Languages project in 2008. The website has received several awards including AlwaysOn Global 250 Winner 2009, Language Label 2009 from the European Commission, CeBIT Innovation Award 2010, Red Herring European Winner 2010 and ‘Best Education Start-up’ at The Europas TechCrunch Awards in 2011.

The company is named after the Busuu language of Cameroon. According to an ethnological study from the 1980’s, Busuu is spoken by only 8 people.

 

Cite this article:
Silva E (2013-12-06 13:14:35). Learn2Help Program: Learn a Language and Help Build a Classroom in Cameroon!. Enzo Silva blog. Retrieved: Apr 20, 2014, from http://enzosilva.com/blog/2013/12/06/learn2help-program-learn-a-language-and-help-build-a-classroom-in-cameroon/

The Speed Test for Languages, Which Language is Faster? #INFOGRAPHIC


Cite this article:
Silva E (2013-06-13 12:30:25). The Speed Test for Languages, Which Language is Faster? #INFOGRAPHIC. Enzo Silva blog. Retrieved: Apr 20, 2014, from http://enzosilva.com/blog/2013/06/13/the-speed-test-for-languages-which-language-is-faster-infographic/

Duolingo – Free Language Learning Curricula (Available on Web, iOS and Android)


I can’t begin to stress how learning languages opened my life to new opportunities, coming from the countryside of Brazil
There are several ways to learn a language for free online: Skype meetups, virtual worlds, video chats, chatrooms (I used to go to my sister’s house to get on ICQ chatrooms to practice English on her computer), applications, open curricula, and so forth… many of these discussed previously on this blog.

Duolingo is especially interesting because:

  • It helps translate the Web (in partnership with Google)
  • It contains gamification elements (rewards and levels are linked to how well you perform in the application)
  • The curricula are instructionally sound and well-designed
  • It is offered on the Web, for iOS, and for Android platforms
  • It is FREE for life (especially in light of major online language learning services like LiveMocha now charging for their services)

Duolingo currently (June 2013) offers courses in:

  • Spanish
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Portuguese
  • Italian

Look for Duolingo on your app store and download it for free.

Pick a language and start learning!

 

Duolingo on the go

Now on iPhone and Android.

Email a link to my device

Email a link to my device

Cite this article:
Silva E (2013-05-31 11:37:44). Duolingo - Free Language Learning Curricula (Available on Web, iOS and Android). Enzo Silva blog. Retrieved: Apr 20, 2014, from http://enzosilva.com/blog/2013/05/31/duolingo-free-language-learning-curricula-available-on-web-ios-and-android/

Duolingo – free language learning while helping translate the Web


Duolingo claims to help you learn a language for free because as you practice translating sentences you are simultaneously helping them translate the Web.

It is not clear to me whether translation is the only methodology behind their language learning approach, and it is so not clear what exactly they mean by the Web to be translated (which websites) or how it is done (where the information is stored, who uses it, how are the best translations of the same sentence selected, where the sentences come from, etc). Relying solely on translation as a method to learn a language can be tricky and ineffective. I hope Duolingo offers more than flash cards and translation questions, otherwise, the only value proposition that makes it different from a flash card software (which there are free AND open source ones out there) is the fact that the students are also doing some greater good by simultaneously translating the Web).

I still need to see the product and play with or for a full review (which I will add as an update to this post as soon as I can access it), but from the video, it does not seem to offer a variety of valid and effective activities that employ different approaches for language learning.


No Texting While Driving (or Working) – DragonDictate Speech-to-Text


In my post, I always like to talk about useful tools that I personally use. Here is a lifesaver (literally, if youre the kind who cant resist texting while driving).
If you are always on the go and of course cant or shouldnt type while driving, here is a practical solution: use DragonDictate. This handy iOS app is a speech recognition tool that turns your spoken words into text. It is quite accurate too. I have made it a point to dictate this post through DragonDictate without any manual corrections.
With a simple one button interface, DragonDictate lets you speak your next blog post, e-mail, text message, tweet, or even a novel if youre that adventurous.
It also supports other languages, by the way. Did I mention it is free to download?

5 Free Online Visual Dictionary and Thesaurus Applications


Sometimes, when I need some inspiration and ideas for words to use in a project, I take the visual route and consult a “visual thesaurus”.

These handy Web applications can help you quickly find new words for a concept you’re working with, visualize its relationship with other words, and, of course, amplify your vocabulary and aid you in avoiding repetition, replication, redundancy, and echolalia, et &…

Here are a few online visual thesaurus applications that are free to use:

SnappyWords -Soon to have its open source code available for the public, SnappyWords can came in handy when you want to share a word’s connections with others: each entry has a unique search entry URL that takes users straight to its visual “network map”. This service also provides a built-in hover-over dictionary (when you hover over each word’s node, of course).

VisuWords -Very similar to SnappyWords, this application doesn’t seem to allow direct linking to specific words. Built-in dictionary.

WordVis - This simple visual thesaurus lets you filter words by different parts of speech and categories. Once again, no direct hyperlinking to specific words is provided. Built-in dictionary.

 

GraphWords – This visual thesaurus has handy (am I using the word “handy” too often in this post?), I meant “commodious” social media sharing buttons for quickly sharing your word maps with friends on Facebook and Twitter. Unlike the previous services on this list, GraphWords has a drawback: no built-in dictionary is provided.

Merriam-Webster’s Visual Dictionary – This is a typical illustrated dictionary. Illustrations are available in different categories. The search mechanism (custom Google search) isn’t very effective, but the illustration work is quite comprehensive.

 

 

Free Language Learning Resources – KDE


For those looking for free language learning software, there’s always the online Rosetta Stone alternatives with a twist of collaborative learning such as: LiveMocha, Babbel, MangoLanguages, Bussu, and others (which I will discuss in another post).

For those who don’t care so much about the “practicing with a community’” part of it and just want to practice some vocabulary on their own, at the comfort of their desktop, you should try playing with the KDE.edu language learning tools. These tools are free to use and open source (as in freedom). They also count on a large community of users and entities (such as Vox Humanitatis) who create modules for them which are also free to download. The amount of languages covered by the materials is vast.

Parley (a vocabulary trainer) seems to be the most comprehensive of the tools on KDE.edu’s language learning page. It uses spaced repetition as it main guiding principle, a technique which is quite effective for learning concepts and storing them in the long term memory.

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Para aqueles à procura de software grátis e livre para o aprendizado de línguas, há várias alternativas para o Rosetta Stone online  com um “quê”de  aprendizado colaborativo como: LiveMocha, Babbel, MangoLanguages, Bussu, e outros (os quais discutirei em outros posts).

Para aqueles que não se importam tanto com os aspecto de “prática com a comunidade’”  e simplesmente querem praticar vocabulário sozinho, no comforto do seu PC, experimente as ferramentas de prática de vocabulário do projeto KDE.edu language. Essas ferramentas são grátis e de código aberto. Além do mais, o projeto conta com uma grande comunidade de usuários e entidades  (como a Vox Humanitatis) que criam módulos para as ferramentas (que também são grátis para se baixar). A quantidade de línguas abordadas pelos materiais é vasta.

Parley (uma ferramenta de treinamento de vocabulário) me parece ser a ferramenta mais compreensiva do KDE.edu. O Parley usa o conceito de repetição espaçada como seu princípio fundamental, uma técnica bem eficaz em aprendizado de conceitos que preza o armazenamento de informação na memória de longo.

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