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AuthorI'm Gabriel Wyner, author of Fluent Forever. I'm also running a Kickstarter for a language learning tool that's become the most funded app of all time. AMA!

Oct 3rd 2017 by gwyner • 39 Questions • 106 Points

Hi Reddit!

My name is Gabriel Wyner. I'm a former opera singer with a mechanical engineering background, and in 2014, I wrote the book Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language and Never Forget It, where I look into the science of memory to find ways to reach fluency in foreign languages faster.

2 weeks ago, I launched a Kickstarter for a language learning tool that's become the most funded app of all time.

AMA about languages, memory, opera singing, living in Europe, dog training, treadmill desks, whatever. I'll answer juuust about anything.

Edit: This was awesome! Thanks so much everyone! If you have more questions, keep dropping them here and I'll answer stuff as it comes in.

Proof Pic: https://i.imgur.com/S8I0FWB.jpg

Doggo Pic: https://i.imgur.com/k0r23kJ.jpg

Q:

seeing your rewards, how do you justify $200,000 to build a desktop app of a flash card program?

A:

Excellent question!

So when I started this project, I had around 70 development houses I was looking through, which I weeded down to a 5-company short list. We had a bunch of talks and collected a bunch of estimates. Those estimates blew me away. They ranged from $175k-600k. I ultimately hired two of them for Proof of Concept work, just to see what the experience was going to be like working with them. The best of the companies was REALLY good, and they were, unfortunately, REALLY expensive.

Just to add a native iPad/Android tablet app (which I'd imagined would be not PARTICULARLY hard) was an additional $100-150k.

I guesstimated my stretch goals, but I think in light of the iPad port estimates, I don't think $200k is unreasonable at all.

That said, there's a whole different discussion as to whether I should be hiring such an expensive company in the first place, when I can get it done much cheaper through hiring my own programming team or just hiring a cheaper dev house. In my opinion, this whole app hinges upon quality execution. There are other flashcard apps that already exist. My primary goal is to make this thing phenomenally good. So I'm going to do whatever is needed to hire that company. They really were that good. :P


Q:

If you don't hit your max stretch goals would you consider using a cheaper developer to add more features? Just curious, not saying that is a better way to go.

A:

I might pursue VC to make up the difference. I'm not sure. Also there's the post-Kickstarter rush, where a bunch of people join late and add funding. So a lot of possibilities there, and I'm not sure which I'll choose.


Q:

Hi Gabe! So excited about the release if your app. I really want to learn French (studied some in school years ago and begrudge myself for not continuing). However, I also want to learn Spanish - AND it will be far more useful for my job. I have a little French as a base so I’m tempted to start there (because I presume the ease/excitement of remembering will hold my interest better). What are your thoughts? If I work through French, will it be easier to pick up Spanish when I start? Or should I just start the one that’s far more practical for me to learn (Spanish)?

A:

Learn French. Always* go for the language that drives you the most. This is a long term project and a lifelong companion you're building in your head. So if you have one language that you love, go with that one first.

(And yes, Spanish will be easier, mostly, after of your French learning experience)

*Naturally there will be cases when practical is going to overrule your desires, but if it isn't life threatening to start with French, then do that.


Q:

Hi Gabe,

Thank you for doing this AMA. Hugs to Norbert.

You already gave some in depth explanations on the app a few days back.

To me the database really seems to be the heart of the project. As far as I understood you are planning to include the initial top 625 word list with 3 example sentences each, including professional audio recordings.

  1. Where does it go from there? For me it starts getting interesting as soon as the DB will be a little bigger. How long will it take to fill the DB with 10k+ words in each language?

  2. Will your team continue to create content after the initial 625 list or will they be busy with the reviewing of the contributions by the volunteers?

  3. Have you guys already thought about the possible license for the DB? I think it would be only fair to give people who work on that db the possibility to access and work with it outside of the FF app. But on the other hand you are doing all the reviewing and probably many audio recordings, too. Also you need to take care of possible clones. So I really don't know what's the best solution here.

One more thing: I had an idea recently. One could enter coherent texts/dialogs into the DB. Review them sentence by sentence, or listen to them in one piece.

Greeting, Troy

A:
  1. No way to know how long it'll take for that DB to fill up. It's one of the reasons I'm pushing so hard to reach the $850k stretch goal - that tutoring app is a really essential ingredient towards growing that database with high quality material.

  2. We're definitely considering new content packs, but I suspect the first 1-2 years will be spent managing what's getting contributed.

  3. No, we haven't. That's a few more steps out than we are right now (honestly, right now I can barely look past the next day of media contacts I need to write/phone). I don't know what the best solution is here, either, and I don't think I have the business expertise to make it.

Super idea. I'm already looking into ways of bringing in large bodies of text in a user friendly, useful way.


Q:

Hi Gabe. Using pictures alone, how to you learn ideas or nuances that have no specific physical existence? For example, “ones-self” instead of “him” or “her”?

A:

It's not just pictures alone; it's pictures in the context of sentences, which is how we learn words like ones-self in our native languages, too.

For instance: I gave him a pat on the back.

He gave himself a pat on the back.

Those are two stories that LOOK different. You'd choose different pictures for them, and when you're playing with that sentence and deciding which words to learn, you'd make different choices. (i.e., you'd probably skip the word 'him' in the first sentence, since you'd probably have seen and learned that word earlier in your studies).

It's one of the reasons why pre-packaged flashcards will flounder with abstract ideas like "himself" - how on earth would you know that "himself" is the proper word for "He gave __ a pat on the back" unless you had the experience of specifically choosing that sentence to learn the word "himself", and specifically chose a picture of some self-congratulatory guy for that sentence?


Q:

I wouldn't go for dubbed films since it's made for French speakers to understand a foreign film. It would reuse a maximum of foreign words and names and no French culture. As a French, I like to use subtitles when watching a foreign films, whatever language it is, no dubs. So other way round.

A:

(And Arabic is just hard; I don't think it's all that different from most other languages, except that the dialect issues and the challenging grammatical system make it the hardest of the Semitic languages)


Q:

what do you think of learning a language without bothering with the writing at all (especially with Chinese in mind)? Do you think one could just stick with IPA and effectively learn to speak/hear Chinese?

A:

I think you can learn Chinese using only Pinyin and that's totally valid. It's just hard to find content for that. We may include that as one of our options for Mandarin and Japanese, and it may show up as one of our unsupported language options for things like Cantonese and Wu


Q:

What's the plan if you just miss a stretch goal but are very close to it? So I'm hoping you meet all of them but if you were just short by a couple thousand, what will happen to the excess?

A:

I mean, if we're short by just a couple thousand, then I'll probably just sneak it in. :)

If we're really short, then we'll plan to release without that feature, and then once we make enough $$ to keep the company solvent and also develop that feature, we'll add it.


Q:

And that's why I'm excited for Korean support...learned just about nothing for an entire year...

A:

ha!


Q:

I spent a bunch of time learning Latin only to subsequently forget it. I know the emphasis for the app is on spoken languages for conversation purposes, but I'd be really curious to use it for Latin. My thought is grammar. I know that the app will be built out for unsupported languages at the 800k stretch goal but I'm curious how to do the unusual grammar (cases and declensions) associated with Latin. Any insights? Learning more about that wouldn't be a deal breaker, but it would massively increase my excitement level. Thank you!

A:

I don't see a conceptual problem with using the app to learn Latin, with the possible exception of getting recorded sentences.

But there's a LARGE body of written Latin, and that means a large body of sentences that could be brought into the app, and cut apart into flashcards that would teach declension information just like you'd do it in another inflected language like Russian or French


Q:

How is French any more inflected than English?

A:

I don’t consider English all that inflected...it only has around 5 verb forms, 1 adjective form. But maybe I’m not thinking of something or your sense of ‘inflection’ is broader than mine. What’s your sense of it?


Q:

In the sense being used above, I understood "inflected" to be referring to the developed case systems in Russian and Latin, as I understood it. French hardly has any more of a case system than English does and it is restricted solely to pronouns, lacking even the genitive of English.

A:

Gotcha. Makes sense. I tend to look at languages more on the basis of what percentage of the grammar is stored in altering the form of a root word, so for me, French has a fair bit of inflection to deal with in its verbs, and you handle learning that stuff in the same way as you’d handle Latin’s noun inflections (just you’d do it more often in Latin)


Q:

What lead to Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Korean to be the first languages you're supporting?

(I backed mostly because of French and Korean...just curious how you got to these languages)

A:

Cost + Interest.

Hebrew + Arabic require additional development of the UI to handle right-to-left stuff, so they needed to be in their own stretch goal. Dutch and Portuguese weren't very popular amongst the pronunciation trainers. So I lumped those into the same stretch goal.

Mandarin and Japanese are their own special dev/design nightmare, and definitely needed their own stretch goal to accomplish.

So the remaining languages we already had trainers for were Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Korean


Q:

Hey, poor medical student here. This is probably a dumb question that could easily be answered if I made a Kickstarter pledge right now. However, I'll have to wait a bit on supporting when I have more spending money available. My question is: On Kickstarter, if we make a pledge that includes the pronunciation trainer and sentence list, do we get access to those immediately or do we have to wait until the app beta is available to use them? I would like to get a head start on Spanish pronunciation during some down time in the coming months.

A:

Email us in November. We can't give you an early sentence list (they don't exist yet!), but if you've pledged and the money came out of your credit card and everything, I don't see any problem with giving out early trainers so you can start early.


Q:

Anki gives users a lot of control over the spaced repetition algorithm. It is also transparent about it: you know when you'll next see each card. Will your app function similarly?

A:

We might A/B test interface options with users and see what seems the most satisfying. Sometimes Anki's transparency confuses people - I know I've taught it to folks and they see all these numbers and they just wish the choices were simpler - "Do I know this? Or not?"

Other folks have specifically requested having all 4 buttons of Anki.

I probably won't include a lot of control over the actual algorithm; I think Anki's defaults are optimized for test taking, rather than long term retention, so I prefer longer intervals and I think that's a good place to start. I also think that adding a ton of power-user tools and customization options can bog down an interface and make the app harder to use, which is the exact problem I'm aiming to solve with this app.


Q:
  1. Treadmill desks: yea or nay?
  2. Is this your main job or do you have something else you do?
  3. What is the hardest language you've learned/tried to learn?
  4. Do you have a goal for number of languages you'd like to be reasonably fluent in?
  5. Why did you stop singing/do you miss it?
A:
  1. Yea! For sure
  2. This is my main job
  3. Japanese, 100%.
  4. No, not really. I want to keep trying language TYPES - so many of the Native American languages are polysynthetic, which is a super cool sort of grammar, so that's appealing. The semitic languages are also pretty unique, so I'd want one of those.
  5. Two reasons. The main thing I enjoyed about singing was the creative experience. And so I do miss that. But I don't miss performing; it's always been kind of scary for me.

Q:

While there are many word frequency lists, I have difficulty finding "pareto word/phrase lists" for languages (e.g. which tiny fractions of a language allow you to express the majority of passable communication) -- can you point to such resources (I'm beginning to suspect that given how poor most language teaching approaches are, they don't exist)?

A:

I've never heard of such a resource existing. All I can really recommend are sentence lists. At the moment, all that I'm aware of are: Tatoeba, Glossika (paid but good), Linguee (searchable and kind of dense)


Q:

Hi, Gabe! I'm one of your Hyperglot backers, and I'm looking forward to chatting with you! I'm also a (former) singer, and I think that's like 30% of why i decided to back you :P

Do you have any advice for people who are probably great at languages, but can't retain vocabulary? I can break down the conjugation tables of French and German right now, but I can barely ask my Oma about her day. I feel like I could get further if I could just retain more words.

A:

Great username:)

I think these might help:https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/7417zw/im_gabriel_wyner_author_of_fluent_forever_im_also/dnuqdu0/

But overall, I think to the extent that you focus your studies on learning words in the context of actual stories, those words will stick better.


Q:

Are you thinking of supporting Arabic dialects? And if so how? And if not, why not? Many people communicate using dialects more than MSA and use Franco-Arabic script to text (i.e. using Latin script and numbers to write, such as a7lan or 9wiy) than use Arabic script. Thanks!

A:

I'm thinking of incorporating them into the Unsupported Language category, where folks can pick a dialect and learn it with Franco-Arabic script, have tutors record sentences in correct dialect, etc.

Detangling Arabic's dialect issues for the pronunciation trainers was EXCEPTIONALLY challenging, and it will continue to be a challenge with this new app. I think it's doable in the way I described but I imagine there will be hiccups along the way that we'll need to fix.


Q:

Would gif support allow sign languages to be "unsupported languages"?

A:

The problem with sign languages is the lack of a written language. This thing lives on written stuff. I feel like a sign language trainer requires some real re-thinking of this whole thing.


Q:

Hey Gabe,

I've been using your methodology for ASL. ASL has a transcription system called 'Gloss'. It is analogous to how Chinese can be written in Roman characters with numbers to indicate tone. Since Anki can support videos you can roughly make the FF method work as is. Granted, a lot of quality of life could be added.

PM me if you would like to talk about it more once you wrap up the AMA!

A:

Can you poke me about this in 6 months?


Q:

First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to do the AMA! I pledged 75 pounds to be fluent in German!

I am absolutely thrilled that you're making this app. I've been a fan of yours from the beginning, I loved every second reading your book and I've been rejoicing about it to everyone who is interested in learning languages! Here are my questions:

  1. You mention in your book that you advise getting a good text book to use for all of the main ingredients for picking up the language. Will I still need a textbook in order to use the app or can I use the app exclusively to learn the language? (in my case German)

  2. Following my first question, if I am just using the app, is there a sequencial method in going about learning every aspect of the language? Such as the start of grammar, or does it go straight from the 625 words and we go from there?

So far I have learned the 625 words but I have always struggled progressing from there to make my own German sentences. I bought "everything German" text book but I can't find sentences I can put into my anki deck since I don't know where to begin.

Thank you so much, Gabe. As a fellow opera singer from England you're my inspiration.

A:
  1. I've been learning Hungarian, Spanish and Japanese without a textbook (though occasionally I'll go look up an article to figure out how the grammar is working in some construct), and it's been going quite well. I think if we add in grammatical explanations into the comment threads on each sentence, you'll be pretty well covered and can skip the textbook unless you PREFER learning about grammar in that sort of systematic way.

  2. The app just goes through the 625, and you pick up pieces of grammar as they float through your chosen example sentences. That's been my approach for my last 3 languages and I kind of like the feel for it. That said, some folks will prefer a more systematic approach and should use a text to aid them. We have ideas about how to approach folks who prefer that later in the app development process, but that'll be for after the Kickstarter


Q:

Any advice on deep French immersion in terms of resources? Finding it hard to get access to things in America.

A:

Middlebury! http://www.middlebury.edu/ls/french Apply early, get financial aid grants!


Q:

Loved your method for becoming fluent in French, it's the real deal!!! planning on using the smartphone app for learning spanish. What date should I be telling my friends for the beta release for French/Spanish?

A:

I'm aiming for a February release of the beta for Spanish. Potentially a March release for French.


Q:

Hi Gabe! So excited! Just started Spanish on Anki to get a jump on things, even prior to the Beta, as you already recommended in the threads over on Kickstarter.
Question: I don't recall your book or blogs addressing a different approach for adding the alternative language (Spanish vs Latin American Spanish; French vs Canadian French, etc.). It seems you suggested just to learn the different words. How would we work this in the new app? I think a new trainer and 625 word list wouldn't be targeted to the differences and would be overkill on a language you just learned. Could you consider building trainers just for the differences? Thanks for all your great work!

A:

Basically, I'd suggest you learn standardized French using the supported tools, and then add a dialect afterwards using the unsupported language feature. That'll let you get high level input for, say, Canadian French, and it'll be pretty easy to learn (and pretty easy to hear the differences once you start)


Q:

Hey Gabe - I'm a mechanical engineering student (haven't switched to opera yet) and I'm currently trying to learn french, whilst studying in France for a few months. I've read your book, and I've made flashcards for all the words on the 625 frequency list. What is the best way for me to proceed from here to improve my French quickly? Start working through a grammar book, or go for a more immersion heavy approach? Thanks

A:

If you're in France, take advantage of France. Go to museums, take tours in French. Go to restaurants, bars, etc. Get as much immersion as you can.

When you're tired, then go home and use your grammar book. Study everyday and then go back out to practice.


Q:

Some say that to learn a language to fluency requires knowledge of around 10,000 words. Why did you pick 625, and is this really enough words to be called fluent?

A:

625 words is definitely NOT enough words to be called fluent.

That said, if you know the top 2000 words in a language, and you really know how to use them, then you're going to be able to understand around 85-90% of the spoken language you encounter. So that level of fluency is around B2 in the CEFR

When you are learning the 625 in the context of sentences, though, you're learning WAY more than those 625. You're picking up all of the high frequency functional words, huge chunks of grammar, and additional vocab. So when you finish that list, you already have around 2000 extremely high frequency words in your head. You should be around B1/B2 by the end of those, and then if you want to go further, then you can start browsing through the community database and/or adding your own sentences.


Q:

in the breakdown of the rewards you write things like "enough app usage for fluency in a level 1,2 or 3 level language. How are you defining fluency? that's the ability to order a pizza/ taxi or actually sit down and be able to speak for hours with people on a broad range of topics? also you write that based on your experiences 30 - 45 mins learning a day can take you to fluency in a level 1 language, for example, in 6 months; was that time spent purely reviewing cards or that included the creation of cards? if the latter then presumably, given the often tedious amount of work involved in creating cards - which hopefully this app is going to completely remove, that time would be much lower - like 15 - 30 mins a day? i presume that one is going to be able to copy in text and have translations and pics supplied through the various resources the app is going to be drawing on? that it's not just going to be available for the vocab lists provided? it's most probable that stretch goals like the addition of monolingual dictionaries aren't going to be reached (though we live in hope). In this event how likely is it that you're going to be able to get these missed stretch goals in asap? (are they really going to cost that much more for each addition? that's crazy). also how data hungry is this likely to be? ie if i'm not connected to wifi but rather on mobile data is it going to use up loads of data with all the searches and downloading content like pictures? how is the offline mode going to work? firstly is that included as part of the main product and not a stretch goal? secondly, how much is it going to cache? would i, for example, be able to cache enough material for a 45 min train journey with no internet? is there going to be a function whereby i can just copy in lots of text (like with supermemo's incremental reading) which i can then come back to later (would this also have translations, pics etc cached for offline mode?)? is going to be possible to have these blocks of text separate onto different cards automatically - ie if i copy in a block of text that is 10 sentences long then can it automatically create 10 separate sentences that will be sitting in a queue waiting for me to get to them? i think that's about everything for now :-) Thanks for this! big fan of fluent forever. it has been a massive help and i can't wait to see the process become exceptionally streamlined and portable. i've donated and spread the word. lets hope it picks up massively!! :-D

A:

You're asking a bunch so let me know what I miss:

How am I defining Fluency: - I'm aiming for around B2 or C1. If you're doing that lower end of 30 min/day, then more like B2.

What's that time spent on? - Both card creation and review. And I'd stick to that 30-45 min amount. Worst case, you get too good at your language. :)

Missed stretch goals: - We'll add them as soon as we can (so I guess that's "ASAP"), but I'm not sure when ASAP actually will be. I certainly want them in pretty rapidly for my own studies, so I'll be pushing for going fast.

How data hungry? - Not sure! I don't see why we need to be downloading super high res images, and mp3s aren't HUGE, so...medium data hungry? We won't really know until we get in there and do it.

Offline mode - Aiming to precache searches for the sentences that a user is expecting to play with. We might be able to predict how rapidly you eat up sentences and recommend a quantity for you, based upon your trip length.

Large texts - Yeah, we want to have a way to bring in a bunch of text, break it up into sentences, and have them in a queue.

OK I think that's it! Let me know if I missed anything!


Q:

Gabe, it is Vincent. I am having problems finding material at my language level and often leads to long breaks in the studying process. What ideas or resources do you have that can help a language learner find reading material/audio etc that are at the correct level?

A:

Too high level or too low?


Q:

The stuff I find is too high.

A:

I really like using iTalki tutors for content generation, because it's exactly at the level you need it to be, and it's also personal. So that's my favorite source.

Other than that, there are generally graded readers that can be used. Audio is harder; I'm not sure what to offer there other than the tutor thing.


Q:

Why is Chinese and Japanese your last stretch goals? Will you be adding Chinese characters to the Korean program? Those three languages share a lot of common words from Chinese. Is there a way to relate those three languages to make them easier to learn together?

A:

It's all about the Chinese characters - they require a lot of new design to really handle well - and no, Korean will be using Hangul. From my discussions with folks when creating the Korean trainer, fewer and fewer Koreans nowadays know Chinese characters. We may incorporate some rudimentary support for recognizing them in Korean, but the focus will be on Hangul.

I discourage learning languages together, in order to reduce interference between them. So no, I don't foresee creating ways of bridging between one or the other within the app. It'd more be a matter of learning Chinese, and then learning Japanese, and realizing that your Japanese progress is going faster than it otherwise would.


Q:

My wife and I loved your book. (other apps/software haven't taught us correct pronunciation, and we still "translate" instead of just thinking in the new language.) The issue we have had is finding the time (and completely understanding the process) of creating the flash cards. I think it will just take us sitting down for a weekend and plugging away at it. As I understand it, the app will make this whole process easier -- making our "memorable" cards in a step-by-step process.

Do you have any tips for getting us started and break through that feeling of "I don't have time to figure this out today"?

My second question is about picking a language to learn. My wife loves everything French, so her choice is easy! We are starting a travel/tourism business and I want to help our guests, but also be polite and converse in the language of whatever country we are in. So, my initial plan was to learn something different than French, so together we can handle more of Europe. However, we are in France right now and there are times that she compains about her not understanding someone, or that her pronunciation is terrible... I'm feeling that it may be beneficial for me to learn French as well, so that my wife and I can practice together - maybe have some "only French" days where we force ourselves to speak and understand. Since I don't have anything pulling me to one specific language, does this seem like a smart choice?

Thanks, Gabriel!

A:

Tips for getting started: Make a goal of creating 3 flashcards for simple picture cards in Anki.

Then make a goal of putting one sentence into Anki, a few days later when you have the bandwidth for it. Do small, bite-sized chunks, and yeah, sit down for an afternoon and hammer them out.

Yeah, learn French in that context. It's way more fun to do that together than separately, and it's super fun to have a secret, couple's language.


Q:

My wife and I loved your book. (other apps/software haven't taught us correct pronunciation, and we still "translate" instead of just thinking in the new language.) The issue we have had is finding the time (and completely understanding the process) of creating the flash cards. I think it will just take us sitting down for a weekend and plugging away at it. As I understand it, the app will make this whole process easier -- making our "memorable" cards in a step-by-step process.

Do you have any tips for getting us started and break through that feeling of "I don't have time to figure this out today"?

My second question is about picking a language to learn. My wife loves everything French, so her choice is easy! We are starting a travel/tourism business and I want to help our guests, but also be polite and converse in the language of whatever country we are in. So, my initial plan was to learn something different than French, so together we can handle more of Europe. However, we are in France right now and there are times that she compains about her not understanding someone, or that her pronunciation is terrible... I'm feeling that it may be beneficial for me to learn French as well, so that my wife and I can practice together - maybe have some "only French" days where we force ourselves to speak and understand. Since I don't have anything pulling me to one specific language, does this seem like a smart choice?

Thanks, Gabriel!

A:

Actually, if you'd like to chat, head over to the Kickstarter live feed: https://live.kickstarter.com/broadcast/20088?state=broadcast


Q:

Do you think people would grasp the idea of thinking in a new language better if you added something about "no more translating" to your catchphrase? Have you considered that? Like, "Fluent Forever: Say goodbye to translating! Learn to think in any language." I find people get the concept better when I emphasize that they'll learn faster when they don't try to find an English equivalent for everything. (I explain minimal pairs and the importance of hearing/pronouncing accurately from the start, and what anki is and why SRS works, but people really seem to get it when I add that they won't need to translate. I think people just assume they'll always need to translate when learning a new language, and if they've tried learning one before, they're probably thinking, "I'm bad at translating" or "that method hasn't worked for me.") ~Catherine Murphy P.S. Looking forward to your Tribune article.

A:

That’s an excellent idea. Let me play around with it and yeah, maybe I can switch out the Kickstarter tagline


Q:

Hi Gabe ... long-time fan; I've been following/reading your stuff since the TowerOfBabelfish days.

I don't know how tightly integrated your app will be with Google ... but as one of the few who still stubbornly refuses to use the Google Play service to get apps (mainly, I use F-Droid, direct downloads, and occasionally compile my own from github source)

... any chance you could do an alternative (non-Google) distribution for Android? Otherwise, I'm stuck hoping for your $1.3M stretch goal.

A:

Erm...I have no idea! I don't know how the app store world works, yet, so I'll have to get back to you on that. Can you ping us in a couple of months so we can get a real answer to your question?


Q:

Hi Gabe,

First of all, thanks for putting so much effort into making all our lives easier!

For the app, will you recycle the audio files you created for the 625 word lists or will you re-record them? I am currently using the Korean one and realised there are a few files that are cut off or where the speaker sounds somewhat unnatural compared to sound bites on Forvo (this one might just be my untrained ear though).

Also, will it be possible to choose between different sound files - same as is your plan for images - and will I be able to add my own?

A:

I'm not yet entirely sure how much we're going to re-use single word recordings, rather than simply having full sentence recordings for everything.

We may well reuse the 625 recordings, so if there's stuff that's meh, email us so we can flag that stuff for re-recording.


Q:
  • How many languages can you speak?
  • How is your method better than Pimsleurs?
A:

I speak 8: Italian, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Hungarian, Japanese, English

Pimsleur uses spaced repetition but without user input about whether the user knows the material or not, and it relies upon translations. My stuff avoids translations in order to teach more readily memorable associations in your target language, and focuses heavily on imagery and users having the ability to customize their learning materials.


Q:

Hey Gabe. Glad to have found a fellow Japanese/Russian speaking brother, it's a rare combo. I wanted to a run an idea past you that I'm planning to employ in the future.

How well do you think two 30 minute italki tutor sessions (ex. one on monday other thursday) per week would do for retaining a language? Do you think an hour a week is enough not only to prevent forgetting a language but also to improve it's level? (Let's say if you did an hour a week for a few years).

A:

I think an hour every 2 weeks or 30 minutes a week is a good way to roughly maintain a language. I don't think it's enough to improve your level, and I'm not all that convinced that doubling that will improve your level all that much, either. I've been trying to maintain my Japanese using an hour a week and I don't feel like I'm getting better without my flashcards.


Q:

I see, thanks for the answer! I read a bit more about you. I'm interested if you think your musicality has helped you with languages in any way shape / form?

A:

Definitely. I think a music background gives people a natural focus on sound that's super important to language learning.