Today is European Day of Languages, and to mark this event, well-known language learning app Memrise have just finished compiling the world's largest video dictionary. Those involved have just returned from a three-month, 12,000 mile road trip around continental Europe, but how straightforward a task is it to create a video dictionary, what are its benefits, and how can learners access it? Marie Francois from team Memrise tells all ...
Could you tell us a bit more about what a video dictionary is?
We decided to record thousands of videos of native speakers saying phrases in their language, in the way that comes naturally to them. By integrating all these videos into our app, we want to create an immersive experience where you’ll constantly be translating and responding to real native speakers.
The idea is to learn how to sound like a native, as well as discovering the personality of each language; how they actually speak, their accents, their gestures, but also their clothes, their landscapes, their humour, their quirks... basically all of the stuff that makes language learning fun in the first place.
Why is it useful for learners to learn from native speakers?
In language learning the most important question is: why do we do it? What is the motivation for putting in the effort? We do it because we want to be able to communicate with the people that speak that language, make friends, debate, joke and so on.
By adding videos to our app, we want to bring that experience as close to the learner as we can, to both heighten the learner’s motivation and excitement about the language but also to expose them to the variety of dialects, voices and personalities that they will meet when they hopefully one day get to go to the country of the language they are learning to fully immerse themselves in.
What did the 12,000 mile road trip involve exactly?
In order to collect these videos, we embarked upon an epic multilingual road trip aboard a converted vintage 1970s double decker bus. Setting off in May, we travelled through 9 different European countries and filmed over 20,000 locals en route, returning to British soil a couple of weeks ago. We visited both the big capital cities and the smaller rural towns, stopping locals en route, whatever their age, appearance, accent as the goal was to capture each individual language in all its diversity.
Any mishaps or funny stories along the way?
I can think of quite a few, especially when it comes to the bus, including our crazy driver roller-skating, a panicked trip to local mechanics and fires on board…
Did you cover all European countries?
We funded the tour via Kickstarter. We started with the five most learnt languages in Europe, and then gave the opportunity to our backers to decide where we should go. That’s how we ended up in our grand fjord Scandinavian tour.
What about dialects and minority languages? Are they included?
We first focused on the diversity of one’s language (different regions, accents…) and we will move on to dialects in the future.
How can learners access the dictionary?
The videos are being integrated as we speak, but you can already access some of them (French, Portuguese, Italian, German and Spanish) by simply starting to learn the language. You just need to select the official Memrise course. If you want to enjoy these videos in a more immersive way, then ‘Meet the Natives’ mode is part of our Premium offer. We are still at an early stage and will keep experimenting around the best ways to fit videos into the app, now that we have this great content database. We are also currently filming Korean, Russian, Mandarin and Japanese, with more to come.