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:

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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:

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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).

Children's Books

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.

Your Vocabulary

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Improved Player

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:

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This just makes them easier to read for learners.

Mobile Support

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.

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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.

Tooltips

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.

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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.

Word Pronunciations!

When looking up a word that you don't know, it would be extremely helpful to hear just that word, isolated from the rest of the video, slowly and clearly pronounced. And we've been busy the last couple of weeks doing high-quality recordings to bring that feature to you.

We're not done yet - about half of the words in our database have a pronunciation, but that's enough to be useful, so we've turned the feature on.

Go give it a try! Want to tell us what you think? Use the chat box in the bottom left corner in the member center to send a message.

New Content Section

Hopefully, starting today, we'll be releasing new content every other day or so. To help you follow along, we've added a "Just Arrived" section below, which has to most recent additions to the library in chronological order.

And if you are really curious, follow us on Twitter. We'll post about new content additions there as well.

Speedier word lookups

I'm happy to announce the first small improvement since our beta launch: Much faster word lookups. Before, we'd query Wiktionary and Google Translate every time you would look up a word's definition, which sometimes caused a noticeable and annoying delay.

Seeing how those results are mostly static, we now have as many of them as possible in a cache.


By the way, a big thanks to all of you who over the last couple of days tested the site and submitted your feedback. I really appreciate it.

Throughout the coming weeks and month, I intend to work diligently to grow the library of content, improve the software, and make this site the best version of itself it can be.