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February 14th

Just… one… more… lesson.

I wasted quite a bit of time in traditional foreign language education. French, Mandarin, Japanese are all languages I’ve “learned” but cannot even be fluent. For the most part, to me the traditional way of learning a language has clearly failed and lot of time spent went down the toilet. Blame me, but I could do it the old way.

But I am determined in my working years to make up for it.

iKnow uses a new way of learning languages online packaged in one snazzy web application. I’m going to use Mandarin as an example. I am currently learning (actually, relearning) all the basic characters (you know, the first 2500 words). One of my problems with learning language is that I have no idea how to study. iKnow takes that process and does it for me.

In each lesson I learn ten words. They could be all new or words from past lessons. The goal here is to be able to know what the words looks like, how its pronounced, and what is its meaning. The app tests my proficiency by asking a series of quickfire questions that covers all three aspects. If I get them right, I move on. If I get them wrong, the app automatically allows me to review the word again and then ask me later. There is a proficiency meter for each word which tracks my mastery of that particular word. The goal is to hit 100%.

As a result, this turns learning Chinese into a game of Civilization. I found myself doing just… one… more… lesson so I can progress. And because its a web app, it cuts down on the study time, because I no longer stare blankly at a book wondering what to do next. When was the last time you asked “where did the time go?” while studying Japanese? And just like Civilization, learning a language is not easy, plus its in marathon mode.

There’s also a dictation app to practice listening and a “brainspeed” app to help speed up word recognition.

Of course, fluency in a language requires interaction with others in that language. iKnow covers that too. Not only is it a snazzy web app, it is also a mash up. You can create and share your own lessons with other users.

There could be improvement though. It could use a grammar app, especially since this is primarily a Japanese and English site. It would be awesome if they made a mobile version of their applications. Since they claim the site is in beta I can let it slide.

So here is a web app that is addictive and free (iKnow recommends 3 lesson per day. I just finished #20). So go already.

Update: There is a mobile version, not for non-Japanese phones though. They’re one iPhone/Android/WinMo/Symbian app(s) away from greatness.

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