The Fluent Forever App

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The Fluent Forever App

Postby Xenops » Sun Oct 29, 2017 10:47 pm

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-fluent-forever-app-think-in-any-language-smartphone--2#/

As much as I like Wyner's method...I don't see the point in this app.

Thoughts?
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Re: The Fluent Forever App

Postby Atinkoriko » Mon Oct 30, 2017 1:05 am

I suppose I’ll have to be the party pooper and come out firmly opposed to it, from what I’ve read at least.
It appears to be a generic, more SRS focused version of Duolingo, or so it seems. Definitely not worth a subscription.



Edit: His actual method is rather effective, the Anki based one he outlines on his website and in his book. I tried it out for a while but I found it rather tedious, which of course is a reflection of my personal feelings towards the repetitive nature of Anki not its usefulness. The small problem with this app is that it will be Wyner’s attempt to fit his entire method - which was not confined to a single app or just Anki but also included a few other popular language learning courses as well as extra reading/ listening etc- into a single app.

I also see him stating that the elimination of the ‘busy work’ surrounding his method is a good thing- ‘busy work’ in this case apparently refers to the selection and loading of your own sentences into Anki, the search for an appropriate image to utilise, deciding which format of cards you’d like to use ie cloze, Basic, Basic reversed etc, and a host of other small activities.

However I disagree with this assertion, if I’m not wrong quite a few of the heavy Anki users here would agree that the busy work rather helps with actually retaining the information stored on your card. Streamlining it for the sake of this app may reduce the effectiveness of the method, in my opinion.

Lastly I’m more than a little bothered by the assertion that the app represents a complete journey from clueless to fluent- All you need in one app. Sounds suspiciously like LingQ’s mantra of ‘Just read and listen to stuff on LingQ and everything will fall into place, sans grammar practice’, something I once criticised on my previous log.

In summary, experienced polyglot, good personal method, not sure about the app. ‘Issa’ no from me
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Re: The Fluent Forever App

Postby Andy E » Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:24 am

Atinkoriko wrote:I also see him stating that the elimination of the ‘busy work’ surrounding his method is a good thing- ‘busy work’ in this case apparently refers to the selection and loading of your own sentences into Anki, the search for an appropriate image to utilise, deciding which format of cards you’d like to use ie cloze, Basic, Basic reversed etc, and a host of other small activities.

However I disagree with this assertion, if I’m not wrong quite a few of the heavy Anki users here would agree that the busy work rather helps with actually retaining the information stored on your card. Streamlining it for the sake of this app may reduce the effectiveness of the method, in my opinion.


I'm also pretty certain *he* has clearly stated in the past that the "busy work" in creating your own Anki decks is extremely important. I got plagued with Kickstarter funding requests for this but declined to participate.
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Re: The Fluent Forever App

Postby ASEAN » Mon Oct 30, 2017 9:15 pm

Gabriel Wyner is going after market share. Most people want phone apps so they can "play" at learning a language. They are very honest that they don't want to put any actual time or effort into learning. The comment in the link is what I see everyday on reddit's language learning subforum. https://www.reddit.com/r/languagelearni ... _duolingo/
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Re: The Fluent Forever App

Postby Atinkoriko » Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:48 am

At this point I’m convinced that virtually all language learning software (including the admittedly excellent Anki) can be jettisoned from a language learning routine, with nary a side effect, in favour of good ol Luddite pen and paper methods- a good beginner course with accompanying audio, then a virtual torrent of native material once one is sufficiently advanced enough to understand a good percentage of it. As I was sat today hunched over my copy of the 1950’s Assimil Spanish without Toil, I was struck by the sheer age of the course. The 1950’s! People probably listened to the accompanying audio on gramophones and still managed to successfully learn the language. 67 years later and in the hands of a kid in a generation far removed from the one in which it was created. I’m also sure that, barring radical changes to the language which renders a significant part of the course material outdated, this course will likely be useful to yet another 20 year old another 2 generations from now (especially so seeing the apparent deterioration in the quality of language courses with every new generation ie looking at you also Linguaphone, Teach Yourself etc)

When I first started language learning, like any young person, I naturally assumed the superiority of the new to the old- progress as a linear process, as a straight line, apps superior to pen and paper, ‘language hacking’ superior to old fashioned elbow grease etc

Learn a language for an hour or two a day stretched out over a few years? Nonsense, who has the time for that? After all the twins on Babbel’s YouTube adverts have assured me that they both learnt Polish in 7 days and that I could too, if only I purchased a subscription to the app! So I took the advice when I was 15 and failed miserably at learning Italian, so badly that I was almost put off language learning forever, so badly that I almost accepted the self defeating myths that
1. You can only learn a language if you were moved to that country if you were a kid and
2. That only linguistic geniuses could ever hope to even dream of learning a language without setting foot in the target country

I’m glad I decided to try again and I can only wonder how many people were in the same situation as me but ultimately decided to give up. After all, learning a foreign language often appears on a great number of New Year’s Resolutions and we all know how successful we are at keeping these resolutions. In my honest opinion, these apps hurt far more than they help. The real opportunity cost is unseen- the amount of people who bought into the dream of ‘fluency for nothing more than a subscription’ and emerged disillusioned, possibly quitting language learning forever.


In summary to this rather long winded post, I’ll just like to present an example.
I have an old straight razor my grandad used to have. Of course it requires a little sharpening and I have no idea how to use it without slitting my throat but that is hardly the fault of the razor. It was made well and has lasted decades. It will continue to last a few more. Meanwhile, I have a few broken disposable razors right now in my bathroom’s trashcan, ostensibly the best and most newfangled offerings that Gillette has. Over the course of my shaving life, I’m sure that Gillette will continue to ‘innovate’ more razors into my trashcan but my grandad’s razor will still do its job in the hands of someone experienced enough to use it properly.

Just my two cents.
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Re: The Fluent Forever App

Postby lavengro » Tue Oct 31, 2017 6:33 am

As someone has already explicitly claimed the role of "party-pooper", perhaps I may take the role of "polite contrarian" with respect to some of the opinions expressed. I am supportive of new initiatives like this, particularly one which seems both ambitious and now reasonably well-funded. I would consider giving it a go once it is up and running, though not at this time on the basis of a sponsor in advance. Either it is ultimately an improvement over existing systems and hence a success, or it falls short and will be of no interest, but with respect it seems perhaps a little premature to give it a negative review before even beta versions are available.

In response to the valid issue of whether the proposed system factors out the benefit that might arise from populating one's own Anki deck, etc, I had the sense from watching the promotional video that customization is projected to be factored in - sort of like how Memrise previously was easier to use in making your own mems before they made that process more difficult, but it seems even more customizable. I am a fan of Duolingo and Memrise but both could be improved and if someone were to come up with a system that were sufficient improved, I would consider subscribing.

I don't, again with respect, share the view that language learning apps are more harmful than helpful; I wonder if the concern is not with apps themselves but with unrealistic advertising. Apps like Duolingo, Memrise and ANKI do not AFAIK make wild unsupportable promises.

I understand the comments made about the lack of necessity of new-fangled learning programs and approaches when solid, well-produced older materials (like a vintage copy of Assimil from the 1950s) are still available, and the analogy with a straight-edge razor compared to the newly-fangled razors. But quite honestly, surely the issue is what system is best, not what system will eventually get you there, potentially with more effort.

Using the analogy provided, if a shaggy hippy (I live in Kitsilano, we still have hippies) or a bearded urban hipster (I work downtown, where there are huge armies of hipsters) approached 1000 men to say that they have decided to start shaving and were looking for advice as to how to go about that, I can pretty much guarantee that less than 1 of those men would recommend that he ignore the advances made over the last half century and instead get a strop, cream, bristle and straight-edge and soldier through the learning process of achieving the safe and perfect shaving angle with that potentially lethal weapon, with the blood loss that inevitably results during the learning process.

In other words, yes, a straight-edge still works (and from a retro perspective, a super cool thing), but surely for a beginner it is a needlessly challenging way to go about it. Similarly, there is considerable merit in the older, carefully-developed language programs (and collector interest in seeing those materials) but to ignore more modern approaches (such as those based on SRS) seems unwarranted, especially when many of the top ones are free.
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Re: The Fluent Forever App

Postby Adrianslont » Tue Oct 31, 2017 9:39 am

Rather than comment too much on an app/course that hasn’t even been made yet I will just make some comments about Gabe Wyner’s existing products and more generally on new tech versus old ways in language learning.

Yes, Mr Wyner contradicts himself when touting so loudly the advantages of making your own decks and then selling ready made products such as his vocabulary decks and pronunciation trainer decks. I see that as being inconsistent rather than evil as has he has basically been described recently over at reddit. I’ve been using a Wyner pronunciation trainer for seven months now - the cards are nice and mature - and there is definite improvement in my pronunciation and listening thanks to it. I have some caveats but they are pretty minor, really. I was able to carry it in my pocket and use it anywhere and anytime - I wasn’t tied to a desk and didn’t need an MP3 player/cassette deck/gramophone coupled with a book to use it. There are more comprehensive old school courses such as FSI but Wyner’s product is certainly more useable and portable and personally I found it more appealing in its simplicity.

Looking at technology and language learning in general, I’m old enough to be able to compare the seventies with now. There seems to be two strands to the benefits that new technologies bring.

Firstly, there is the access to native content that the internet provides - books and newspapers don’t need to be shipped overseas (or if you want to that’s now easier with Amazon, FNAC and other online sellers), radio and tv/video are now accessible and so on. This is a boon for major languages and a total game changer for less commonly studied ones with less literature.

Secondly, are the many ways that technology can be used to work with the language. Personally I use the almost ubiquitous MP3 on my phone in my pocket and it’s seamless integration with my car stereo via Bluetooth to have foreign languages on the go pretty much anywhere. I use anki because my 10000 flashcards would be pretty bulky if they were cardboard and they wouldn’t have sound and pictures or cloze exercises or be lines from movies and cartoons. I use an app called Speater like others use Audacity to loop small segments of audio easily for listening and pronunciation work. I have recently started using Readlang and love it. I’m sorry i didn’t start earlier - it allows me to successfully and much less painfully read books, stories and webpages. I know many users of LWT and Lingq and kindle with lookup feel the same. Again, anywhere, anytime and with contemporary subject matter eg. today’s news if I so wish - not last months newspaper or a single textbook. I quite like Assimil but it’s great to move beyond it and have lots of choice for content and how you work with language.

I don’t use Quizlet, duolingo or Memrise but I know successful language learners on this forum and in my life who swear by them.

After using all these technologies, I may have made only average progress with my languages - but I’m pretty confident I would have given up without them. Certainly, I gave up back in the seventies and eighties.

It seems Wyner is being very ambitious with his new product - he seems to be working in combining his methodologies with curriculum to make a more comprehensive product. He seems to be shooting for the “killer app”. Maybe it doesn’t exist but I suspect it does. You will still have to do the work of course, just like with MS word, excel or photoshop or Protools or other apps that have changed their fields and made work easier, more enjoyable, more creative and more efficient.

If Wyner doesn’t succeed, I think someone will else will. Or maybe not. Whatever, I’ll still make use of the benefits that new techs bring. Anyone who wishes may, of course, stick to course books and older media or personal interactions - there have been plenty success stories there.
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Re: The Fluent Forever App

Postby Seneca » Thu Nov 02, 2017 6:30 pm

lavengro wrote:As someone has already explicitly claimed the role of "party-pooper", perhaps I may take the role of "polite contrarian" with respect to some of the opinions expressed. I am supportive of new initiatives like this, particularly one which seems both ambitious and now reasonably well-funded. I would consider giving it a go once it is up and running, though not at this time on the basis of a sponsor in advance. Either it is ultimately an improvement over existing systems and hence a success, or it falls short and will be of no interest, but with respect it seems perhaps a little premature to give it a negative review before even beta versions are available.

In response to the valid issue of whether the proposed system factors out the benefit that might arise from populating one's own Anki deck, etc, I had the sense from watching the promotional video that customization is projected to be factored in - sort of like how Memrise previously was easier to use in making your own mems before they made that process more difficult, but it seems even more customizable. I am a fan of Duolingo and Memrise but both could be improved and if someone were to come up with a system that were sufficient improved, I would consider subscribing.

I don't, again with respect, share the view that language learning apps are more harmful than helpful; I wonder if the concern is not with apps themselves but with unrealistic advertising. Apps like Duolingo, Memrise and ANKI do not AFAIK make wild unsupportable promises.

I understand the comments made about the lack of necessity of new-fangled learning programs and approaches when solid, well-produced older materials (like a vintage copy of Assimil from the 1950s) are still available, and the analogy with a straight-edge razor compared to the newly-fangled razors. But quite honestly, surely the issue is what system is best, not what system will eventually get you there, potentially with more effort.

Using the analogy provided, if a shaggy hippy (I live in Kitsilano, we still have hippies) or a bearded urban hipster (I work downtown, where there are huge armies of hipsters) approached 1000 men to say that they have decided to start shaving and were looking for advice as to how to go about that, I can pretty much guarantee that less than 1 of those men would recommend that he ignore the advances made over the last half century and instead get a strop, cream, bristle and straight-edge and soldier through the learning process of achieving the safe and perfect shaving angle with that potentially lethal weapon, with the blood loss that inevitably results during the learning process.

In other words, yes, a straight-edge still works (and from a retro perspective, a super cool thing), but surely for a beginner it is a needlessly challenging way to go about it.
Similarly, there is considerable merit in the older, carefully-developed language programs (and collector interest in seeing those materials) but to ignore more modern approaches (such as those based on SRS) seems unwarranted, especially when many of the top ones are free.

I actually shave with a straight-edge and have for years. Closer, smoother shave that is better for the environment (you can recycle blades and avoid the mass produced plastic disposable razors) and cheaper. To me it is like explaining why I might suggest French Without Toil (old, steeper learning curve, better outcomes like a straight-edge) over Rosetta Stone (ultimately garbage and over-priced for value like a Mach27 or whatever it is now.)

I don't mean to take away from your post since I think there is some value in your view. I just got a chuckle because on the shaving front, I'd disagree 100% :lol:
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Re: The Fluent Forever App

Postby lavengro » Thu Nov 02, 2017 8:54 pm

Seneca wrote: I actually shave with a straight-edge and have for years. Closer, smoother shave that is better for the environment (you can recycle blades and avoid the mass produced plastic disposable razors) and cheaper. To me it is like explaining why I might suggest French Without Toil (old, steeper learning curve, better outcomes like a straight-edge) over Rosetta Stone (ultimately garbage and over-priced for value like a Mach27 or whatever it is now.)

I don't mean to take away from your post since I think there is some value in your view. I just got a chuckle because on the shaving front, I'd disagree 100% :lol:


Fair enough! And I have to admit that when at my favourite barber's at the end of a haircut they shave the back of your neck with warm lather and a straight edge, there is honestly nothing more luxurious.
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Re: The Fluent Forever App

Postby Cainntear » Sat Nov 04, 2017 8:50 pm

It sounds like he's talked himself into a technological dead-end, and I don't think he's being dishonest with his customers as much as he's being dishonest with himself.

It's a pretty common scenario.
You start with a principle that seems valid, you see it's true, so you implement it. But as soon as you start trying it in the real world it doesn't really work, and you adjust it, failing to notice that you're losing sight of the original principle.

For example, an early idea for computers in teaching was the "question bank".

The original principle was sound: every year, teachers have to write new tests, quizzes and exams. This is because if they reuse the questions year after year, the students might catch on and pass on question/answer sheets to students in future intake. The original question bank was a simple database that a teacher would use to store their own questions for future reuse, and after 5 or so years, the teacher could in theory have enough questions in the bank that they could effectively make a new exam in one click by pulling out a random selection of questions. Students might at random see one or two questions by borrowing an older friend's notes, but there wouldn't be any real scope for memorising answers for exam day, so it wouldn't be a problem.

However, the real world didn't like question banks: if you're not going to see any benefit for five years, are you really going to put the work in now? The industry's solution was to sell teachers pre-populated question banks, but they didn't work either. If you're working with someone else's questions, you find yourself searching through them, then you have to stop and think about what it's trying to test; eventually it just seems quicker and less frustrating to just write your own questions.

So question banks never really took off in schools and universities*, although they started getting big in corporate training and professional certifications, where they availability of a large bank of questions allowed randomised computer-based exams to be sat whenever customers wanted, rather than tying people to the rigid schedule paper-based exams had.
(* The only major exception I'm aware of is the WebCAPE test created in the 1990s to do advance placement testing of language students in some US universities, which has expanded and is still in use today.)


I think question banking provides a good parallel to SRS, because the basic idea is sound, but in practical terms, you don't see the payoff quick enough for most people to put the initial work in. That has led people to turn to deck-sharing in Anki (and Anki even help you do this), as well as things like Memrise and many SRS-based mobile phone apps that are designed to work from pre-written decks. Along the way, that central principle of "user's own material" has been lost, just as with question banking.

Wyner is trying to bring back some user control, but again, the real world stymies it. Choosing the next word for yourself seems to put the learner back in the driving seat, but picking can be tricky if you don't know what there is to choose from... so the software recommends words to you, and most users are probably going to stick with the recommendations...
...and we're back to memorising arbitrary stuff.

...which leads to another point. Wyner says it's not about memorising sentences, but aside from the pronunciation trainer at the beginning, the app is primarily a memorisation algorithm. Again, I don't think he's being dishonest with customers, but rather with himself.
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