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This article was published on December 1, 2017

AI-powered language learning promises to fast-track fluency

AI-powered language learning promises to fast-track fluency
Tristan Greene
Story by

Tristan Greene

Editor, Neural by TNW

Tristan covers human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, Spiderman, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/hi Tristan covers human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, Spiderman, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him

A linguistics company is using AI to shorten the time it takes to learn a new language. It takes about 200 hours, using traditional methods, to gain basic proficiency in a new language. This AI-powered platform claims it can teach from beginner to fluency in just a few months – through once-daily 20 minute lessons.

Learning a new language is hard. Some people seem to pick up new dialects with ease, but for the rest of us it’s a trudge through rote memorization. A never-ending stream of flashcards and nouns might not be the optimum learning experience for everyone.

Plus, it feels silly repeating animal names in a foreign language, knowing you probably won’t use them on your business trip.

How often is the word “ostrich” gonna come up at the TNW conference in Amsterdam? Will I really need to know where the “biblioteca” is in Mexico?

According to Glossika CEO Michael Campbell, there’s a better way. He says Glossika’s proprietary machine learning algorithms mean there’s “no need for language experts to figure out what to teach in what order – our AI figures out the complexity and sorting of any language automatically.”

The platform, which works in-browser on computer or mobile, features customizable lessons that take around 10 to 20 minutes. Users are advised to get a full night’s rest inbetween lessons — there’s no powering through a week’s worth of material to ‘level up’ or anything like that.

Campbell credits both the AI and a systemic approach to language learning for this success:

Fluency first, vocabulary second– fluency is the ability to manipulate all the parts of a sentence at will. You then use these sentences to add vocabulary and improve expression. You will continue to learn vocabulary for the rest of your life, but fluency can be delivered in a matter of weeks.

Campbell’s methodology is based on using machines to find patterns that create a learning experience closer to the ideal of being totally immersed in a language, he told TNW:

Glossika gets you speaking in patterns right from the beginning. When familiar with Glossika, users find that acquiring any language is so much easier and intuitive. This is just like how immigrant children show up in a classroom and end up speaking the language in a few months.

The world is becoming smaller thanks to technology at-large. And while innovative gadgets that translate for you in real time are great, there’s nothing quite like being able to carry on a conversation in a different language with confidence.

I checked out Glossika’s free trial, and I can confirm that its Dutch lessons didn’t involve me saying “ostrich” (struisvogel, if you’re curious) over and over.