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Jill and Steve discuss the new LingQ system.
Steve: Hi, Jill.
Jill: Hi, Steve.
Steve: You know, I thought we would try an experiment today. We’re going to speak for about ten minutes. We are going to talk about something of interest.
We can talk about the LingQ and the things that we are going through now and we’ll speak at normal speed just as if, you know, we’re talking.
We’re not making any special allowances for the fact that some of the people listening are not native speakers.
When we finish this we are going to have another discussion where we are going to make a special effort to speak very, very slowly and we’re going to try to talk about the same subjects.
This is an experiment. It may not work. If it doesn’t work the second discussion will never show up anywhere. Are you agreed?
Steve: Alright. So, let’s talk a little bit about LingQ. Now, I am by nature very impatient. Are you a patient person?
Jill: Well, it depends. It depends on the circumstances. Certain things I’m patient for and other things not.
Steve: Alright. I am, of course, impatient by nature and it’s taking forever to get LingQ up and running but we are close. There are a number of issues. The whole project is so complex.
First of all, we have the complexity of the structure of the system and the software and what’s difficult is to try and make complexity simple because if this complexity in our system becomes complexity that our learners have to deal with we’re just going to discourage them.
We have to make it simple and easy and fun so that’s the first challenge.
I think the general reaction we get is that LingQ is simpler, more pleasant than The Linguist and I think you’ve been using it as well.
Jill: Yeah and I agree.
I think that the people who are Linguist members seem to have more problems with LingQ because they are used to how everything was on The Linguist and some of them seem to be having a hard time figuring out how to use LingQ but the people who were never Linguist members I find don’t really have any problems using LingQ.
So, I think Linguist members just sort of need to put it out of their head how things worked on The Linguist.
Steve: You know, that almost reminds me of The Linguist manifesto where we tell our learners to forget everything they learned in school, forget all the rules, the tests or the times they made mistakes and approach the language with a new attitude.
And it is true, people get used to things, any routine. You know what it’s like.
If you use a certain software program and I come along and say here Jill, this is better. Why don’t you use this? What’s your reaction going to be?
Jill: Usually, well, why? Why? Why do I need to? Why do I have to change? I don’t want to change.
Steve: Right. But I still think even amongst The Linguist members the majority have said they prefer the increased functionality and the greater simplicity of LingQ.
So, one element of complexity is the system itself and getting all of our functions.
Even now the functions that we have up represent maybe 60 percent of what we want to put up there and yet we don’t want to increase the complexity we just want to make it better.
So, there’s a lot of work for our programmer and there’s just so much stuff for him to do so that’s one level of complexity.
The second level is that a big part of what Mark has designed in the system is to increase the opportunity for interaction between people in order to take advantage of the Internet.
So, this is where we don’t have our Forum up so people can’t talk to each other.
Learners can’t talk to learners, can’t talk to teachers, they can’t ask questions, they can’t ask people for, you know…we can’t have a discussion on what would you like to see in LingQ and so forth so the Forum not being up is a problem.
You go to the old Linguist Forum or you used to go there quite often, right?
What kinds of questions did people normally ask?
Were they language related or system related?
Jill: Most often they were language related.
They were related to content items; words and phrases they didn’t understand.
Some people would go…we had an area I think for content, sharing content because members couldn’t upload their own…well, they could.
They could import content into their own account.
They couldn’t share it with other people in The Linguist so there were a few people that would go in and copy and paste whole articles into our Forum so if other people were interested they could go and copy and paste and import it into their account.
And then there were some system questions, you know, questions about The Linguist but the majority were actually about words and phrases.
Steve: So, I think you’ve touched on one thing there.
The fact that it is now A: easier to import and two: that you have an ability to share anything that you import and I think three: the fact that we will now have people in different languages so therefore it’s easier for people to share stuff from their own native language with other people so that’s going to be exciting.
The other thing that Mark has built in now is that we have thelinguist.com website which is going to be this ever-growing repository of content with audio files and text so anyone learning Spanish, Chinese, French, English, you name it, can go there and find an increasing supply of good content with audio and text and that is difficult to find today on the Internet.
You can find audio and you can find blogs or, you know, newspaper sites or whatever but to go to one place where you can find an increasing number of languages, content that has both audio and text, I think is going to be very useful and it’s going to be free for everybody.
Steve: But that site isn’t working properly yet so there’s another level of complexity.
It will be interesting to see, you know, with the Forum what we want to do is if you identify a blog in Spanish let’s say, say a podcast that you are listening to and you say gee, I really like this, could someone please transcribe it for me?
Because you understand maybe 30-40 percent of it if someone would transcribe it for you then you are going to be able to learn from it.
So then someone may volunteer to transcribe it which they can charge for so they can earn points for doing that and you won’t be the only person downloading it so there will be a whole interactive thing there that happens.
In your discussion with our learners because you talk to them everyday, what is their level of understanding or awareness of this whole thing that we’re trying to create?
Jill: What do you mean exactly?
Steve: Do they understand that we’re going to have this opportunity to share content? That one person can say I found a blog, would someone record it in German please? I found a podcast, can someone transcribe it please?
Does anyone out there have easy content in French on cooking?
— That there’ll be this whole level of interaction?
Jill: Yeah, I don’t think that most people know that’s happening. We don’t really talk about it anywhere on the site so I have not had anybody specifically ask me about that.
I’ve mentioned things to certain people who have maybe written saying you know, I found this site, there is only text, can you please record the audio?
I write back and say well, we’re not going to record it but in the future, hopefully in your future, people will be able to record it for you and maybe some people will do it for nothing and probably most people will want to earn points for doing it.
Transcribing and recording could take a while, especially transcribing, so most people will probably want to earn points for it.
So, there are a few people who know because I’ve told them but I don’t think most people know.
Steve: And, you know, we may have some people who are not at all language learners but they’re typists.
I mean they are stenographers and so here’s an opportunity that if there’s an item, let’s say a very popular podcast, and they can come and pick and choose and they say this looks like a really popular podcast — one of the leading say French or Japanese podcasts — I’m a stenographer if I transcribe it and put it up there every time someone downloads that I’m going to make whatever it is – 50 cents.
So, if that is downloaded 100 times all of a sudden it’s worthwhile transcribing that content so that’s going to be interesting to see how all of that functions.
Another thing that I think will be interesting is, you know, like I’ve been listening to The Linguist manifesto in Russian; a male voice, a female voice; one fast, one slow.
I think it will be interesting for people to come along and say look, I’m listening to this, it’s a male voice, I’d like to hear it in a female voice or I’d like to hear it slow and so we could have some of the same content read by different people and they can put it up and as long as people want to download it then…or they may say, you know, I live in Australia.
This is all in a North American accent.
I want to hear it in an Australian accent or I want it in a Quebecois accent or I want it in an Osaka accent and so I think this is all going to be fun as we go forward and that’s where the impatience comes in because we have so many things that we think are going to be fun and it just seems to take forever to get it up there.
That’s kind of where we are suffering.
We are hoping that early in September we will be in a position to, you know, have our payment system…which raises another question.
We put up on the LingQ Central blog a description of our new payment system, what kinds of questions have you been getting about it?
Jill: A lot of people still seem to be confused, again, I think former Linguist members who were used to paying a certain amount per month and then they were given X number of discussions, speaking events and words of writing.
So, a lot of people don’t seem to understand that’s not how it is going to work.
I’ve had emails from some people more than one time even after I’ve explained to them that no, you’re not given a certain number anymore you are given points so whatever you pay is equivalent to a certain amount of points, number of points and speaking events are 500 points and words of writing is 3.33 points per word.
That’s just how it worked out.
And so you have a certain amount of points and you use them however you like and once they are gone you either can purchase more or once your month, your new period starts and you are charged again, you are given those number of points again, that number of points again.
So, it’s a little bit difficult I think for people who were used to the old way to get used to it.
But other than that I think some people have wondered what happens if they have a whole bunch of points in their account and they don’t have time to use them or they haven’t used them and they continue to accumulate.
Basically, I mean you have your points for as long as you want so if you don’t want to use them all, if you have to go away for three months or you are tired of learning English or whatever language, you can come back into your account — it is not going to be closed — and use those points.
If you don’t want to continue accumulating points then you just need to downgrade yourself to the free membership level or the $10.00 membership level where you’re not accumulating points anymore.
Steve: Right. The thing too is it’s a new concept.
I mean we are dealing with – call it a virtual school whereas normally if you signed up for a class if you don’t show up it’s gone.
Jill: That’s right.
Steve: So, you can’t carry that hour. You know, you signed up to be there Tuesday at 11 o’clock and you decided for whatever reason that you’re going to go away for two weeks, all those classes you’ve signed up for they’re gone.
Whereas in our system you can actually carry that class forward or you can…this month you’re going to spend more time in writing class, the next month you are going to spend more time in speaking and you can also go from Spanish to French to Chinese to English so there’s a lot of flexibility and I think people once they get used to it they will see that there is more flexibility.
It’s possible that someone in the old system who every single month absolutely used all of their speaking and writing that that person may feel, especially if they are at that $39.00 level, that they were better off in the old system.
However, when you consider that they can look at different languages, that they can carry it forward if they go off for one month even, they can save their points.
If they have accumulated too many points they can drop down.
I mean there’s just so much flexibility that I really think that it’s just a matter of understanding it and getting used to it.
And what you mentioned initially and that is that people don’t like to change.
Steve: So, yeah.
Jill: And I think too once…next week, hopefully, when the payment system and the membership levels are all in place…I think once people can actually see it it will be more real to them; they’ll understand it.
It’s still sort of hypothetical for them right now.
We are just explaining it in an email; English isn’t their first language.
Although, we did translate one of the emails but I think people often need to see something before they can truly understand it.
Steve: Yeah and I think people try to imagine cases that in fact may not materialize and a lot of people don’t realize that a majority of our learners, the vast majority of our learners, in the old system did not maximize month after month so they would, in fact, go a month without using it or if they didn’t write or they didn’t read then…it just wasn’t a fair system.
But, I mean, yeah, the main thing is we want to get up, get started and the main thing too is that we want to have fun.
We think the new system can be more fun because of all the interaction between people, different languages and so forth, which gets me back to my first point about my great impatience and I think maybe you’re equally impatient here.
So, hopefully, the next time we have this discussion things will already be up there and people will be using it.
But I think one of the really gratifying things is that we are starting to get more and more people to give us content.
We heard from Brazil.
We hadn’t had many learners from Brazil.
We got some Portuguese from people in Brazil which is excellent.
We got some things in Spanish and some French, Japanese and so forth, so.
I think even with the limited amount that we’ve actually — because we really haven’t been promoting the site – we’ve had some pretty positive response.
Okay, thank you very much Jill.
Jill: Thank you.