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The Solution

October 30, 2012

I’ve realized along the testing process that learning a language cannot be separated into simple components, like comprehension, production, and motivation.  The problems are all interrelated.  But it is helpful to separate language into the sub-components to help me sort out ideas.  In this post I have separated my ideas for a new language acquisition product into those three components.  I’ve already begun to test some of these ideas, but I’m sure there will be a lot more ideas to test.  Testing ideas breeds more ideas to test.

1. Comprehension

  • In order to increase the speed of thought in the foreign language to closer match the speed of thought in our native language, I plan on incrementally increasing the tempo of the sound files for the student: including the vocabulary words and, especially, phrases.
  • The increments made in increasing speed will also allow an increased amount of repetition to cement the vocabulary deeper in their memory.
  • Each repetition of the words and phrases will also be spaced out over time to test whether words and phrases have been banked into long term memory.
  • Now that so many people have cell phones, I will ask users to submit sound files of words and phrases in their native language.  This may be required of some users (free users) depending on the business model and testing.

2. Motivation

  • I have a theory that part of the reason for the drop out rate is the high cognitive load required to recall words.  When I was learning Spanish, I understood words before I could speak them, so students will have to comprehend the words before having to recall or produce the words.
  • I will use learning analytics, partly to track what works for students (including grammar lessons, etc.), but also to track and show their progress.  It is encouraging to know how far we have come and where we are at.   This could also be tied into some type of badge or certification.
  • The tool will also allow students to access a dictionary.  This will allow them to look up desired words and add them to the lists in comprehension.  Choice is always motivating.

3. Production

  • As I already mentioned, students will move from comprehension to recall.
  • Instead of just focusing on recall from text or pictures, I will have them recall from text, pictures, and from verbal files.  Recall tends to happen in all of those situations, and this will increase repetition.
  • Eventually it would be great to have voice recognition, but initially students could check their own recall abilities instead of having to type in the answer.
  • Recall can begin on an individual word basis and then be combined into phrases.

These are the current ideas for my new product.  I’ve started basic testing of my minimum viable product, and it’s looking interesting so far.  Most new ideas take us places we have never expected.

Good luck with all of your products!

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