We've just added another 1000 studio recordings for Persian words, available both in the popups as well as on the work-in-progress Learner's Dictionary. This brings us to 65% coverage of all of our known words.
1000 new word pronunciations
New Romanization Styles
One of the unique features of farsi.school has always been our ability to not only show you a transliteration into Roman script, but to actually let you choose your desired style (and there are many, many in use). We've recently expanded our system to support the following romanization schemes: Alefba-ye2om, eFarsi, GTN/PCGN, and the Encyclopaedia Iranica.
Here is what you can now choose from:
We've added about 600 more audio pronunciations of words, including for some of the most popular words. As usual, recording in a studio at a high standard. Still not 100% coverage, but we are getting there!
iPhone & iPad App!
We've worked really hard this last month to build our mobile apps. This required a port of the whole app to a new platform, so it was no small undertaking. But now it's done! Go to the AppStore and search for farsi.school. Here is how it looks on the iPhone:
The app works on both the iPhone and iPads. An Android version is coming very soon. It is basically ready, but we'll have to iron out some kinks.
In the future, we are going to improve our mobile apps further. I have my eye on two things in particular:
- Offline-Support for videos.
- Support for touch gestures to improve usability.
By the way, you'll naturally be able to use your subscription on iOS, and if you choose to buy a subscription on the phone, you'll also have access to all videos on the web (as well as on Android in the future).
Word-Level Audio Synchronization
It's always great to be able to show off a new feature, especially one that we've been as excited about as this one: we are now able to synchronize the subtitles with the audio word by word for you. Like this:
We think this makes following along with the audio much easier for beginners. The feature is now live and enabled for all the material currently available in the Book section. This is also where it is the most useful, since paragraphs there can sometimes we a bit on the longer side. But we'll be rolling it out to the full library in the future.
New Difficulty Ratings
We want to make sure we can offer you content that are right for you, depending on your level as a learner. I think it is fair to say we did a pretty bad job at this so far.
We had a system by which we could mark videos and books with a difficulty rating, but we failed to use this system reliably. It's also really hard to do by eye, especially if you want to use more fine-grained groupings than just beginner/intermediate/advanced.
So what we switched on now is some new code which attempts to estimate the difficulty of an item based on some set rules. It's not perfect yet, but we are reasonably happy. You'll notice the little colored bar everywhere - it's a 10-scale rating.
Going forward, we are planning the following additions:
- Allow you to filter and sort by difficulty.
- Introduce a personal rating, which will be based on the words and grammar concepts we know you know, rather than a generic idea of what we would expect a learner to be familiar with at a certain level.
Keep Track Of What You Already Saw
Not having any updates to share with you over the last couple of weeks was a bit frustrating. We've been hard at work, but changes were easier too small to warrant one, or bigger long-term work that is not quite ready yet.
But one feature there just came online is that we are now telling how just how much of a video (or book) you already looked at, via the green bar you can see on top of content previews:
The goal of this, and a lot of other upcoming changes, is that we want to make the content library more accessible and discoverable, guiding you more and helping you find the right thing to watch. We intend this to include:
- More reliable and complete difficulty ratings.
- Thematic categories (which so gar we didn't provide due to the library being still smallish).
You may have noticed the new Books section on the left during the last few days. Adding those was quite a bit of work, since it's an entirely different data format under the hood, but I am finally ready to announce it officially. Expect a lot of smaller improvements to the experience though over the coming days.
We are going to start with with the Persian-language books from the amazing Global Storybooks project. As usual, we have annotated every word with grammar and meaning. There are about 30 books or so in total in the pipeline, from extremely simple to fairly intermediate.
Over the long run, I'd like to add even more books, including literature for adults - that is still a fair it off though.
You may have noticed the new link Vocabulary on the left in the navigation. You will find there a list of all words you have encountered while watching videos, and all those you looked up. It's still a bit bare-bones for now, though hopefully already useful. I am very much excited however about what we are going to build on it.
We want to help you review and commit to memory your vocabulary. We want to add the ability to export to external software such as Anki. But we also want to integrate our own spaced-repetition based review system.
We'll try to estimate your skill level and vocabulary size, which will help us suggest videos to you that are just at the right level of comprehensible input.
Finally, we are thinking about adding some tasteful gamification features. But rather than arbitrary point metrics, we'd much rather base that on useful metrics such as words or grammar concepts learned.
This new feature will serve as the basis for all of the above.
Thoughts? Let us know via the chatbox in the bottom right corner.
Over the last couple of weeks we spent a lot of time on the play screen itself, trying to make the experience more enjoyable. On the surface, it looks mostly the same (you won't have to adapt to any changes), but we improved a lot of small details.
Bigger Persian Script
We increased the font size of the Persian subtitles:
This just makes them easier to read for learners.
Making the website work better on phones and tablets is an on-going process, but we hope it should be pretty decent now. We now also support swipe gestures to jump forwards/backwards through lines.
We're also promising that an app is not too far off.
New manual mode
Turned on, playback will stop after each line. You decide if you understood it. If you did, you move on to the next line, or, you can choose to replay the line.
We find this quite useful when dealing with videos that are a little bit too advanced to follow without taking some time to think about what was just said.
We added tooltips to the controls in the player, which should help clear up any confusion, and also allows you to lookup the keyboard shortcuts available.
Small delay in repeat mode
If you lock onto a line to be repeated, we added a 2-second pause after each repetition, giving you a little space to think.
Going forward, our focus will be on improving the learning tools. We have a number of ideas on how to make the lookup popup better. We also want to give you better insight into what videos you watched, what vocabulary you encountered and which words you looked up, so you can study those words specifically.