This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .
Do you really think I can learn a foreign language easily? Do you think I have the time to learn new one each time I travel abroad?
Do you really think I can learn a foreign language easily? Do you think I have the time to learn new one each time I travel abroad? Read more
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .
About this project
Do you know how many countries I visit on a single trip? Do you know that in all those countries not all people speak English? In fact, only one in about ten people in the world speaks English.
So how do I communicate with people? That's one of the reasons we travel, to communicate with different people, right? We could play pantomimes like in silent movies though.. sometimes it works as well..
Do you know how many different words we use on average in our daily communication? Is it hundreds? Thousands? Even if we could learn just those common words in say French, could we have decent conversations in Paris? I think we also need to learn pronunciation, and even grammar if we don't want it to sound like Tarzan French.
I don't know about you, but I don't have the time for this. I do want to communicate with people though.
There are books out there which claim they can teach me a language in few weeks. Well, there are similar books on how to learn programming, but let me tell you, one smart guy who directs Google research division wrote an essay about how to learn to program in 10 years. Yes, that's right, ten years. So it is not 3 weeks as some advertise, but more like 520 weeks. Being a programmer for more than a decade, I can tell you he was right -- I am still learning!
So if you are not Tim Doner, or someone with similar talent, you may be enthusiastic like myself and spend months and years learning different languages, like French, Spanish, Polish, Italian, only to forget them because I never really used them. Or you may want to use that time on something more fun, and if you are only visiting a country for a short time, try to communicate with locals with much less effort and time investment.
It's your life, your decision.. just saying.
Our analysis of hundreds of world dictionaries revealed that there are dozens of languages with many thousands of words which are common between them, and not only common in meaning, but also mutually intelligible.
Have you ever spoken with a foreigner, and with enthusiasm exchanged a few words which had very similar sound and meaning in both languages. Well, that's what I am talking about, there are thousands of words like this. But let me ask you another question, do you remember most of these words you discovered were the same in your language and another language? Exactly! For example, Polish and Serbian have more than two thousand words in common, and yet I cannot tell from the top of my head even ten common words.
It is quite hard and boring actually remembering word lists, words without contexts.
"Get to the point already!" you must be saying. O.k.
Imagine a story, not a typical one, but a story in your language. It may use some words or phrases which would not be your first choice, for example, canine instead of dog, future mother instead of pregnant woman, etc. Why these novelties? Because people of the other language will not understand you if you use the words you are most used to, but may understand you if you use these alternative words and phrases. By reading and remembering a story, you can simply use phrases and words from that story to communicate in a foreign country.
Spanish tourist in London (I bet Spanish speakers will understand English responses below):
¿Preferido restaurante local?
"Lagoon Tavern", is in vicinity, in proximity is supermarket and promontory is visible.
¿Y Recomendada especialidad nacional?
An example, common words with English:
- French 8942
- Catalan 8290
- Spanish 7256
- German 5796
- Esperanto 4829
- Italian 4706
- Portuguese 4602
- Macedonian 4315
- Dutch 4284
- Romanian 4106
- etc. ...
Lets see how it works in few languages:
Students protest against globalization.
If you change the word against with contrary to, then, suddenly, several nations may understand you!
Students protest contrary to globalization.
I studenti protestano contro la globalizazione.
Studenti protestuju za kontru globalizaciji.
Los estudiantes protestan contra la globalización.
Die Studenten protestieren kontra Globalisierung.What will be our gift to you
Our stories will give you:
- the most natural way to remember foreign words (which you didn't know you knew!)
- a joyful way to start learning a language
- a possibility to be understood by people abroad
- an improved CouchSurfing experience :)
How would you ask in English for a good place to eat in Spain? Or say that your wife is pregnant?
Risks and challenges
The main challenge represent the most frequent words in a language, which are often not common with the other language. The task of a linguist will be to create such sentences which use least of the unknown words, and which a foreigner will be able to understand from the context of a sentence. Our linguistic contributor for Spanish / English won the prestigious translators' prize for a translation of the 13th century philosophical text in which he was mixing in ancient words into modern day translation, but just as much as can be understood from the context!
Another challenge is the number of common words in a given language pair. For example, for English language ( http://www.ezglot.com/most-similar-languages.php… ) you can see that it has 7256 common words with Spanish (or 6302 if looked at from the other direction -- mutual intelligibility is asymmetric), and that is enough to create something interesting and useful. For many languages however there won't be enough common words, so such a language pair will not be considered for this project. There should be at least few thousand common words in order to start working on a book.
Finally, the most difficult challenge is to come up with sentences which are useful for real life and memorable as well. Not only that, but to combine them into a meaningful story.
As you can see, there is quite a bit of work involved and requires much creativity from the linguist. We plan to build a simple tool for online crowd sourced sentence examples to help our linguists. We will also build additional Deep Learning solution with our data sets for generating sentence candidates.
No matter the challenges, we will solve them. Our team is multinational and multi talented - from USA, Germany, Serbia, Russia. ML & NLP researchers, programmers, linguist, illustrator (https://www.facebook.com/morphoprotoriy) - we've got many talents but do require some backing as the next stage requires full time dedicated work. The more backing we get, the more talented people we'll be able to get on board, and more fun stuff give back to you!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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