Cooori's, the online language learning software, CEO Arnar Jensson was interviewed with EURObiZ Japan this July.
Here are some of the highlights from the interview:
Lorenzo Fantini spends at least an hour a day studying the Japanese language. But he doesn’t open any books or go to a school. Instead, the assistant university professor runs an app on his iPhone or iPad called Cooori, or logs on to its website on his laptop. “The thing I’ve often lacked is time,” says Fantini, who has been living in Japan for the past decade. “But I really like the [Cooori] interface and I like how it’s laid out – and it’s basically quite addictive. I’ve found myself using it on a regular basis.”
Using PCs for learning languages is nothing new. The original software products, usually running on CD-ROMs, have been popular ever since computers first became a standard piece
of home equipment from the mid-’90s. But the current
generation of tools is vastly different. Whereas many products in the past were little more than reformatted workbooks, the new platforms take full advantage of mobile technologies, including cloud services. The upshot is that learners are no longer tethered to their desks or bottled up in classrooms. Furthermore, they can study in snatches, wherever and whenever they want.
“If you are waiting three minutes for the elevator, then you can make those three minutes count,” says Arnar Jensson, Cooori’s CEO.
A large body of recent research supports that kind of learning approach. Cramming is bad, say many scientists who specialise in learning, because it bombards the brain with more information than it can handle. The result is poor retention. The most effective way of remembering material is by studying in short and frequent bursts.
Cooori is one of several learning platforms whose black box is built around the spaced repetition system (SRS). The assumption behind SRS is that learners will eventually forget items, such as vocabulary, unless they are reminded at specific intervals. The idea is to prod the student at the optimal times – just as they are on the verge of forgetting what they have recently learned.
As Jensson explains: “Say you’ve got a new word in your memory now. In three minutes or 10 minutes it’s forgotten. But if I were to ask you about it right before you were to forget, you could give the right answer. Now the word is no longer three minutes in your memory. The interval expands. Now it’s 20 minutes in your memory and we ask you in 18 minutes. The interval becomes two days, two weeks and so on.”
Reminders are electronic flashcards, but these are like flashcards on steroids. Clicking inside and around them reveals a range of information that explains or enhances the items being presented.
“Mono” (者), for instance, means a person, but is “rarely used without a qualifier”, we are told. Also, a voice repeats the material on the cards, and the cards for learning kanji show an animation of the characters being drawn, so as to teach correct stroke order when writing.
But what sets Cooori apart, says Jensson, is [among others] its vast library of [hoverable] example sentences. The idea is to put all the vocabulary and grammar that students learn into context. Jensson cites the difference in nuance between the Japanese word tomodachi (友達), which means “friend”, and yujin (友人), which has a very similar meaning. The difference in nuance is explained through example sentences [and its unique word qualifier].
Click here to read the full interview
Cooori has development plans in its pipelines well into 2014.
Currently the Cooori team is focusing on further developing it's system, as well as introducing English for Japanese speakers and Japanese for Korean speakers. Once these projects are established, the company will press on with many other language pairs.