November 24, 2008 |
iKnow! is a social language learning platform that is intended to make web-based learning of foreign languages an easy and enjoyable process that will actually help users learn and remember languages. iKnow! is developed by a Japanese company Cerego and initially started as an English learning site for Japanese people – and eventually reached the status of the largest site in this category in Japan. After that it further developed into a platform for people speaking just about any language to learn and collaborate with other language learners in the process.
iKnow! platform is already very popular with its 340 thousand of registered users. These users are rather active on the platform as well: for example, last month they spent over 16 million minutes (or 270 thousand hours) learning on iKnow! and mastered over 20 million language learning items.
Today the social learning platform is significantly enhanced with the functionality for content creation across all the 188 supported languages. This means that while until now users were only supposed to use what iKnow and its platforms had to offer them for learning (they could only choose the available courses), they can now contribute to content on the site for others to use in the learning process. The social nature of the platform will prevent incorrect language units from appearing on the site as other users will be able to correct or flag them as inappropriate.
Using the newly-launched social tools, the community at iKnow! will be able to create various language units (in any combinations based on the 188 languages supported) – sample sentences, translations, as well as record audio and upload images for such sentences. For some languages audio for the added items will be generated automatically using the text to speech technology from Acapela Group. But the number of these languages is limited so users will often have to rely on people pronouncing and recording the phrases instead of hoping the technology to produce the voice for the text. Besides, I also think that if a native language speaker records an audio file for a unit the quality will be better as it will be a true human speech.
When a user creates a language item he or she wants to learn and remember, iKnow! will offer possible matches from its own data base as translations for these items. If iKnow fails to find a match in the existing data base, it will try to retrieve a meaning to suggest to the user from the Google’s Language API.
Of course right now the main deficiency of the site is that it still looks like very much focused on English – Japanese language pair – the one it initially started working with. But I do hope that now that the community is open to everyone and the content creation aspect is available, there will be language professionals and enthusiasts embracing the site and adding learning courses for numerous language combinations – after that I can see the social learning iKnow platform as having pretty good chances of becoming a global community for people to learn foreign languages. And as someone who spent a significant part of my life learning languages I can say that we definitely need innovative tools to make the process easier and more efficient.