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"This is a great tool, thanks." Nell, EU.
"its a great idea!!!! its perfect for me because of english - tagalog - one of the very rare sources!" Dirk, Germany.
"I am enjoying your site very much - keep up the good work!" Elen, USA.
"tankyo" (sic) Faras, Saudi.
"cool.it is cool. love your stuff, feel like i’m doing something useful at work now your site’s on my desktop!" Rob, Amsterdam.
"I am American from the US and speak Chinese, Spanish, Italian, and can read Hebrew. Your program is the greatest idea since Rosetta Stone! I am interested in learning other languages…Your site and the idea of 10 words a day is brilliant!" Jay, USA
"This is a GREAT idea! Love it… Keep up the good work!" Rob, USA
"excellent idea, fun, practical and very effective" Rob, UK
"I need this" Claudio, Brazil.

The Blog

Have you looked at the new widget?

March 23rd, 2009

We have made many changes to our project since we started out with our prototype -LearnItLists - twelve months ago.  Many of the developments have been based on the ideas and feedback from our members.

If you have a spare minute, you might like to explore Learn10 on your iPhone,  on Facebook or by visiting us at Learn10.com. To see what features are available, click on the main menu button at the bottom of the word list, or click on the L10 logo in the top left corner of the widget.

Each feature  in the list under the main menu has a little picture by the side of it. These are the same pictures we use for the symbols on the short-cut buttons, so that you can navigate quickly around the widget. To close any page and return to the word list, click the X in the top right hand corner below the date.

If you have any questions you can contact us on GetSatisfaction.

Available languages

March 21st, 2009

Apart from Spanish, what other languages can you study with Learn10?

We now have: Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish & Welsh.

If you would like to change your language settings, visit the Learn10 widget (either on our site, Facebook, your igoogle homepage or elsewhere). Once you are signed in on the widget, there is a link called ‘profile’ on the top line. Click on this and you should see ‘language settings’ half way down the page. Select a different language under ‘I am learning’.

In recent weeks we  have added Welsh and Hindi. If you are a fluent Welsh or  Hindi speaker we would be delighted if you could make some recordings for other members to learn from.

We are also experimenting with Afrikaans, Esperant0, Latin & Tagalog and hope to be able to add these languages soon.

It is possible to add any language combination if you are willing to pre-pay for a two year subscription to Learn10 for $200 US. We will then provide a qualified, human powered translation to be added to Learn10, with transliteration where necessary (western style spelling). The list of available languages can be found here.

What do you think? Join the debate on the blog.

Google auto translate - is it worth the pain?

March 20th, 2009

We have had some great feedback about the auto translated email text. And by great, I mean entertaining or informative, rather than positive.

Our problem is that we do not have a budget for translating the emails and website text until we have enough premium subscribers or an investor. We decided that for most people, understanding something is better than nothing. Unfortunately, as some members have pointed out, Google Translate is better at some languages than other. For example Turkish and Serbian Cyrillic are particularly poor:

“Google Translate is not mature enough for Turkish at this level.”

“I am from Serbia, and when I opened learn10.com I saw it “translated” into Serbian Cyrillic. I actually had a good laugh, because 95% of the translations are very wrong and very funny :) Serbian is a complicated language with sometimes very unusual word order and a complex grammar, and these kinds of literal translations only sound funny :) Better remove Serbian, or find a man to translate your website properly.”

“Your Spanish Google-translated emails are nice and funny!”

Our temporary solution is to now send the email in English with an approximate translation (powered by Google Translate) beneath each paragraph.  This should mean that members can ‘get the gist’ of the message, even if the translation is not perfect.

What do you think about the machine translated email text? Should we remove some languages completely?

10 ways to learn a new language for free

March 16th, 2009

10 ways to learn a new language for free

Nicola Robinsonova is a business English coach who, when not teaching English (or learning Czech), spends her time researching and developing tools for language learners (such as learn10). She says:

‘It’s hard to comprehend how delightful it is to be able to speak a second language. I went to a typical comprehensive school in the UK and was completely turned off languages - so much so that I cheated on my option sheet to avoid taking any language qualification. The Internet and technology labelled ‘web 2.0′ have transformed language learning opportunities so that it can be a pleasure even for people who never thrived with classroom learning. ‘

Here is Nicola’s guide to studying a foreign language for free:

  1. Take the path of least resistance. Though there is no way round the fact that learning a language takes time, that doesn’t mean it should be difficult. If you find a way of learning which is fun, you’re far more likely to put in the time. Luckily there are loads of great, free resources now available on the Internet. So experiment with some of the different sites available and see what you enjoy most.

  2. Explore. There are many different types of sites for language learners because web 2.0 technology is so perfectly suited to helping you learn a new language. I have organised a tour of some of them here, and I’ve put together a directory of sites that might be useful on learn10.

  3. Label things. Post-it notes are your friends - use them wantonly. Use them to label things (nouns) around you. Our brains are pre-wired to learn languages. As babies we learn the words for the things around us first, then actions (verbs), and after this start putting words together to form sentences. Natural language acquisition just happens without us studying grammar.

  4. Remember the 80:20 rule. To be time effective, you need to be a pragmatic learner. You will learn more in the end by concentrating on the easy 80% of content rather than spending 80% of your time on the things you find difficult. Those who speak English as a second language have to dedicate years of hard work to attain the high level of grammar which is natural to native English speakers, and even these ‘experts’ make mistakes.

  5. Listen without worrying. I advise all my English students to listen to BBC Radio 4 whenever they can. Right now I’m listening to Cesky Rozhlas 2 - the talk radio channel in the Czech Republic. I don’t understand every word, but it’s helping me develop a sense of the rhythm and sound of the language. In time I’m comprehending more and more and recognising which words occur frequently. I met a student who hadn’t studied English for years apart from listening to the BBC every day, she had perfect pronunciation and a great vocabulary.

  6. Learn what’s important - common phrases and the 1000 most frequently used words. Once you’ve got the first 1000 words and a few phrases you’ll be able to make yourself understood - even though you might not understand everything that’s said to you. If you learn 10 words a day, you’ll get to this stage in about 3 months.

  7. Talk, talk, talk. Once you know a few words and phrases you can use sites like italki.com to meet native speakers of the language you are learning in order to do a language swap. However, if you can’t meet in person, you can use video phone systems such as Skype or a Multi User Virtual Environments - such as Second Life - my current favourite place to hang out and speak Czech.

  8. Remember how to remember. In order to retain new words you will need to review them. Our brains classify information by how important it appears to be. If we remembered everything we would not be able to function! The ideal time to review material is after 2,10,30 and 60 days - so that new learning goes from the ‘temporary recall’ draw in our brains to the ‘permanent’ section.

  9. Make learning a habit. It takes less than a month to create a habit if you do something every day. I dedicate time to learning Czech when I first wake up in the morning (as this is my best learning time). I use learn10 on my iPhone to learn, test and revise a list of 10 words for the day. I then see the same vocabulary on my computer’s screensaver. The daily email and Twitter posts helped me create the habit without having to really think about it.

  10. Immerse yourself! The very best way to learn a language is to live in a country where that language is spoken and spend all of your time with it. This is not a realistic option for most people - however if you use the tools we’ve talked about above, you can immerse yourself in a new language no matter where you are in the world.

Good luck, and more importantly, enjoy!

ENDS

Do you speak Globish? Please don’t!

January 26th, 2009

Globish is the word used by Jean-Paul Nerriere to describe the English language as spoken by the majority of speakers. Across the globe, native speakers of English are now the minority. I wonder if he understands the connotations ‘Globish’ will suggest to native  speakers?

Globish. Glob.  Collocates with spit. Gibberish, gobblish, rubbish, something spat out. It is not a pretty word.

Jean-Paul Nerriere concentrates attention on the down side of the English linguistic empire. The way English is being used is evolving. This is nothing new. Look back to Shakespeare to see how language changes over time, look across the pond to see how two nations can be ’separated by a common language’ (Shaw).

According to a bbc report ‘Globish has only 1,500 words and users must avoid humour, metaphor, abbreviation and anything else that can cause cross-cultural confusion’.  Dull, dull, dull.

Yes, learn the most important 1,500 words first (exactly what we include in Learn10), but these are merely the means for you to investigate the world of a new language, not the ends in themselves.  If you think 1,500 words are enough, you might be interested to read this article by Tim Ferris. (At least he has improved on his previous 1 hour estimate of the time necessary to learn a new language). It sounds like globish to me.

Second Life - Second Language - contact Learn10 for a tour

January 15th, 2009

We’ve been experimenting with the use of Second Life to practice speaking a second language. Please contact us if you would like a free tour to see this for yourself.

Second Life is a popular online game where you speak to real people in a virtual world & have a personalised 3d character to explore in. There are many different cities and landscapes in Second Life. You can visit Paris, or London, or a tropical island, or take a trip into space. Luckily, if you are learning a second language, then this rather addictive game transforms into a fantastic learning opportunity. Believe me, it’s a blast!

Nicola also uses Second Life as a Business English coach - so send her a message if you know anyone who would be interested in studying English using this entertaining method.

To start using the Second Life computer program - made by Linden Labs, you need to visit this website to find out more before installing a plugin onto your computer. If you are interested in more structured learning opportunities, schools such as LanguageLab have their own specially build islands in SL.

Enjoy!

The amazing things that happened to Learn10 in 2008

December 27th, 2008

Between Christmas and New Year is a great time to contemplate; to review what happened during the previous 12 months, and reassess aims & objectives, as well as personal goals for 2009.

Looking back, it’s been an exciting year. We’ve worked hard, but  have learnt a huge amount about the web 2.0 world we inhabit.

  • 14th February 2008 - the site was launched with a working demo within days of us formulating the idea.
  • We became an official project of  UNESCO 2008 International Year of Languages
  • We met Vaclav Havel - the first president of the Czech Republic.
  • We were voted one of the top 10 European startups and presented at Startup2.eu in Barcelona in May.
  • At the fabulous web 2.0 expo in Berlin, Nic sat with Tim O’Reilly in the pitchstop car & got a positive reaction to Learn10.
  • Learn10 was featured on Danish television.
  • We contributed a case study about Web 2.0 marketing to the 5th edition of Marketing Communications by Chris Fill.
  • A radio programme was made about our story for Czech radio Český Rozhlas 2 (the nearest Czech equivalent to BBC Radio 4), which will be broadcast on New Year’s Day.
  • We funded an important acquisition - an iPhone!
  • We got on TechCrunch in all the wrong ways
  • and some of the right ways. (Nic’s guest article about web 2.0 language learning.)
  • We gained nearly 25,000 members and have honed the learn10 widget based on the ongoing interactions with these members.

We are incredibly grateful for all the interaction we’ve had with the  members of Learn10. Your feedback has meant that we can continually improve our work. I can’t wait to share our (much improved) new release with you & hope that it contributes to your journey to acquire a second language.

Wishing you all happy travels in 2009!

Language learning for mental agility

December 2nd, 2008

The Conversation Prism by Brian Solis is a diagram which describes the current web 2.0 landscape:

The Conversation Prism - brian solis

As a language teacher, these are exciting times. There are clear and obvious ways that 80% of the tools on this diagram can be utilised to learn a second language (SLA).

An interesting article yesterday reported  the current interest in Transhumanism in Silicon Valley. The idea that we can use technology to transcend or physical limitations. I am hearing educational gurus talk more and more frequently  about the way our personal intelligence is merging with the combined intellect of knowledge via the Internet… the way learning is changing, as well as our role as teachers.

Some types of knowledge need to make their way from the screen to our brains. Yes, we can use an on-line auto translator to communicate with people who speak different languages… however it’s a lot more time efficient and satisfying to have that information available automatically. You’re not going to have an intelligent conversation via an auto translate function, though it will help you while you’re learning. We’re having big problems with people using their iPhones alongside more traditional methods of artificial recall in exams in the Czech Republic. But nobody is ever going to be able to learn a language for you.

The idea that we can work to maintain our mental fitness is particularly important to me personally because of  the experience seeing Altzeimers at first hand.  After seeing the path travelled by Dave Edmonds and his wife Dawn. Dave is the father of  a friend I’ve know for 20 years, and was always quirky, insightful and vastly entertaining - when he said that he’d forgotten how to swim when we met them in Thailand in 2000 we had no idea that this was the beginning of his journey away from us.

To some extent, this leaves me with a feeling that it is my personal responsibility to look after my brain as well as I can. If we have the gift of intelligence we must put it to use, not just keep it distracted, with a vague feeling of unease that we are not reaching, or even reaching for, our full potential.

The Learn10 Gaming Challenge - games are good for you.

November 18th, 2008

So… you like playing flash games… but what are they good for? periods of incarceration, public transport, idle afternoons in the office?

Learn10 is about to banish any vague feeling of unease you may experience after a lunchtime gaming session. We have a cunning plan to make online gaming a little more wholesome.

Learn10 is looking for flash game developers to sweeten the medicine of vocabulary learning. Developers can reach into our API to pick out pieces of a puzzle for individual gamers. Mostly these are going to be 10 daily word pairs in a language being studied, but it could be just about any call and response combination the Learnit member has input into our system.

We’re talking with Geewa.com and are awaiting a response from the Kongregate.com team (hello jim!). I’m also now going to speak to The Casual Collective and the Pirate guy.

The Learn10 API has so far been used to develop a screensaver and simple test functions, but we reckon that the creative might of game developers out there will come up with some fantastic results. Some possible examples:

  • A Tetris (falling words) style game where the learner must input the correct answer
  • A Space Invaders style game where the longer the word, the more points accessed.
  • A memory style game.
  • Integration into existing multi-player online games in the form of clues or articles for collection.
  • Integration of a speech recognition API - input via correct pronunciation.

All games created using the Learn10 API will be listed in a Learn10 games resource directory - with a rating system (of course) and affiliate opportunities for participating hosts.

So the medicine will be integrated, and the reward: gaming time is good for you.

We have ways of making you talk

November 6th, 2008

press release

Background: German firm Babbel.com has just bought out British FriendsAbroad.com - but Brit owned Learn10.com is there to make you learn using the methods of the Advertising  industry.

English speakers don’t exactly have the best reputation for speaking a second language. Those that do are the exception, rather than the rule. But, now is the time to try, because learning a new language just got a lot more convenient. The learn10 widget is a new service which helps you pick up 10 new words every day. It uses the thinking of the advertising industry, and you can find it on all over the Internet.

The old fashioned, Brits Abroad way of communicating with “Johnny Foreigner” was to talk loudly, and, if that didn’t work, shout. With 750 million people around the world learning English, it’s easy to see why native speakers can get away without learning the local lingo, so why try?

Nicola Robinsonova, from learn10.com says that the number one reason given by learn10cusers, is, because it’s fun! Brain fitness and career opportunities are also important, but pleasure was the number 1 motivator for language learners. Learning a language for love was also important, with many learners saying that they were inspired to learn because of their partner, or family.


Why now? We are seeing rapid technological development. There are a host of new products being created for the growing market of online language learners. Many of these are currently free, or available for a small charge. And though 80% of the Internet is in English, there are lots of materials in other languages, such as tv and radio stations and local newspapers. These days you can be immersed without leaving your computer. You can swap languages with native speakers on several language sites such as German based Babbel.com.

One tool,  the Learn10 widget, began with its founders, Mike and Nic, moved to a small village in South Bohemia.

“We’d been learning Czech for 18 months before we moved. Our classes were great - but, lacking time, we skipped class & didn’t do our homework. As Czech isn’t a common language, there weren’t so many resources available for it online. We created Learn10 out of our own need, so that learning a language is part of our day, not something that takes extra time. We now offer 22 languages (the long tail), so not just the most popular ones like French, German & Spanish.

“I get to see 10 daily words in lots of different places: my email & twitter accounts, blogs and language sites. They’re on Facebook, my desktop and we have a screensaver as well. You can even subscribe to an SMS service to get the words sent to your mobile phone every day.”

The inspiration for Learn10 came out of Nicola’s experience as a researcher for the advertising industry. “We are using the techniques of the advertising industry to help people learn what they want to.” says Nicola.

The learn10 widget spins out user generated lists around the Internet through an affiliate scheme - this means that any publisher can put an ‘advert’ on their site which holds the content selected by members of Learn10.com. Sponsored slots are also available to spread the content even further.

The English language is the lingua franca around the world, arguably the UK’s most successful export. If you want to get on in business or a career you need to be able to speak English. In many countries, such as the Czech Republic, you need to be fluent to get a place at a good university.

Nicola says that this affords great opportunities to native English speakers: “if you have an education, and a willingness to travel, you’re pretty much guaranteed work in any country. Native English speakers are like gold dust.”

“With the beginnings of a new language under your belt, you can make changes to your life… blog from Seville, for example, or create a web 2.0 startup from South Bohemia!”

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