Why learn to translate, when you can learn to think in a new language?
The Fluent Forever App is a mobile app designed to take you from nothing all the way to fluency in your language of choice.
Language learning is a memory game. Fluent Forever is the cheat code.
A Note About Languages on our Last Day:
My top priority right now is covering all of your languages. I'm not sure how far we're going to get by Oct 19th, and so I'm going to be launching an Indiegogo In-Demand campaign (with higher prices), in order to keep fundraising going over the next few months. I've done a lot of podcasts that will come out after October 19th, and we'll probably continue to get some media hits afterwards, so the Indiegogo campaign will absorb folks who hear about us through those routes, and folks who find out about it through our website over the next few months.
If that doesn't end up being enough to cover all languages (our $850k stretch goal), then I'll get investors involved so that we hit that goal anyways. It seems silly to create an awesome app and not let all of you use it. If that means giving up some equity, so be it.
Does it work?
Why, yes! It does. The folks in this video and the animated gif that follow (along with the 700+ commenters on this Facebook post) have been using the older, harder-to-use version (using my book, my pronunciation trainers and a third party flashcard app):
Articles about Fluent Forever have also shown up in some places you might recognize:
Haven't I tried something like this before?
Probably not, no. Fluent Forever's approach is different from typical language learning approaches. It changes what you're learning every day, and how you're learning it.
What you learn:
In Fluent Forever, you start by learning pronunciation, because when words don’t sound foreign anymore, they stick. This takes a couple of weeks.
You learn the rest of your language without memorizing translations. If you’re learning Spanish, then everything you look at on a daily basis is a combination of Spanish and pictures. No English.
Explained with the help of my dog, here:
How you learn
You'll use a powerful tool known as a Spaced Repetition System. They're basically flashcards on steroids; they figure out when you're going to forget a word, and then test you right beforehand. They're one of the most efficient ways to push information into your long term memory.
Flashcard systems only work well when they're customized to you. So here, you learn vocabulary and grammar in the process of creating your own learning tools.
The app will walk you through a series of choices: which words do you want to learn? Which sentences do you want to learn them in? What pictures do you want for each word? While you're making those choices, you're learning your target language. In the background, the app automatically prepares customized, fully immersive flashcards for future review.
How does the app work, and what does it look like?
Learning a language with the Fluent Forever app is a matter of learning pronunciation, then adding new flashcards ("Learn New Stuff"), and reviewing them when the app tells you to ("Study Old Stuff"):
Features that are neat-o:
Our word lists are arranged in an order that makes them easier to remember:
Every word comes with three example sentences to choose from (simple/medium/advanced), complete with recordings.
We've come up with an awesome image search engine: for every word, you can use the default suggestions from Google Images, grab a photo from your cellphone, or use our handy-dandy image search engine fo sentences. Basically, you can tap on any word or word combination in your example sentence and immediately see image search results:
Once you pick your images, you'll pick the sorts of flashcards you'd like to create:
Depending upon your choices, you'll add flashcards that teach you your target word, the word order in the sentence, or, with conjugated verbs and declined nouns/adjectives, you'll also have options for learning those conjugations.
The sentences we provide will be enough to help you reach a high intermediate level in your target language, and if you wish to keep progressing, you can add your own sentences (from tutors, classes, grammar books, literature, etc) on a web app we're creating, or directly into your phone:
Or you can browse through a curated, proofread list of sentences that other users have submitted, either in our web app or directly on your phone:
All sentences in the app will have comment threads, where you can ask questions about grammar, and we'll have native speakers on staff who can answer them.
That's the base functionality of the app. We're aiming to add a lot of additional features in our stretch goals, like versions for Desktop computers, native Tablet support, additional types of flashcards, audio-only flashcards for handsfree use, and all sorts of stuff. So check those out, after you check out our sweet pledge options:
What do I get if I pledge?
Glad you asked! At the $40 pledge level and above, you're getting:
- Exclusive early access to the Fluent Forever App beta test
- A subscription to the final version of the app (Different pledge levels offer different subscription lengths, including lifetime subscriptions)
- A pronunciation trainer in one (or more) language(s) of your choice, designed to train your ears in your target language in a couple of weeks
- A sentence list in one (or more) language(s) of your choice, with three example sentences for every word in our 625 word list.
- A lifetime subscription discount of 33%
Are there add-ons?
Yup. All Kickstarter backers at the $40 pledge level and above have access to the following add-ons:
- Pronunciation Trainer: +$8 for an additional language (your pledge includes at least one already)
- Sentence List: +$16 for an additional language (your pledge includes at least one already)
- Pronunciation Trainer + Sentence List Combo: +$20
- Lifetime full subscription for one language: +$220
- Gift Subscriptions: If you'd like to get a subscription for yourself and also gift a subscription to a friend, select the reward level you would like to get and then add additional money to your pledge amount. So if you want to get a $75 reward for yourself and a $120 gift reward for a friend, then select the $75 reward, and pledge $195. If you only want to get a gift for a friend (you don't want one yourself), then just pledge for the gift you'd like to get.
What Languages Will It Support?
*For this stretch goal, in all languages we don't officially support, we're adding a framework for users to learn any language they want, and also to share their learning resources with other learners.
How do subscriptions work?
How many months do I need to learn a language?
That'll depend on two things: how much time you're studying every day, and how challenging your language is.
Based on my own experiences, if you're studying for ~45 min/day and you're an English native speaker, you should be able to reach a fairly solid level of fluency (CEFR levels B2/C1) in the following amounts of time:
6 months: Level 1 languages (Closely related to English): Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch. German is a level 1.5 language, so ~9 months.
12 months: Level 2 languages (Significantly different from English): Russian, Hebrew (If we get support for all languages, this category would also include things like Hindi, Icelandic, Greek, Hungarian, Turkish, Urdu)
24 months: Level 3 languages (Very different from English): Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, Arabic
What's the difference between the full and basic subscriptions?
Our main costs have to do with image searches, native speaker support, and running our database. Those costs are primarily associated with creating flashcards, not reviewing them. So if you're just reviewing your cards, then we're not going to charge you. And if you're not using our expensive features much, then we're going to charge you less. In the final app, we have three options:
- No Subscription: Review your flashcards as much as you'd like
- Basic Subscription - $6/month [Kickstarter Backers: $4/mo for life] - Limited image search (~300 searches/mo) - limited read-only access to the community database.
- Full Subscription - $12/mo [Kickstarter Backers: $8/mo for life] - Unlimited image search - Unlimited Community Database access, including asking grammar questions from our native speakers - family rates [Kickstarter Backers: +$6/user for additional full subscriptions, +$3/user for addl. basic subscriptions]
You'll be able to pause/upgrade/downgrade your subscriptions as you wish, so you can learn a language intensely for a few months, then stop paying while you just review, and then resume if you want to learn more or add a new language. We've summarized the differences between the subscriptions in this handy dandy chart:
All $40+ pledge levels include at least one language worth of pronunciation trainers and sentence lists. In addition, all subscriptions will allow you to try out any other language's trainers/lists. If you want to grab an extra language trainer and/or sentence list, then you get a big ol' Kickstarter backer discount, along with the following included features:
What's the timeline?
If we meet our minimum funding goals, we'll start by creating a beta version of our app for Spanish (Latin America). I suspect that should be ready to play with by April of 2018. Everyone who's learning Spanish will get two months to use the app during that time, and then we'll release a full version for Spanish onto the Android/iOS app stores in June of 2018.
The other languages - French, German, Italian, Russian, and Korean - will start their beta tests shortly after the Spanish (Latin America) beta. As THOSE 2-month beta tests are completed, we'll add those languages into the final app. We should have all languages finished up and added to the final app by August of 2018.
If we start nailing our stretch goals, then we'll keep our original v1.0 release date, but our overall timeline will extend to add the new features and languages to v1.1+. We'll keep the beta test dates the same for Spanish (Latin America), French, German, Italian, Russian, and Korean.
As for the other languages, we'll have later beta test start dates (aiming at a September beta launch for English, Spanish (Castilian), Dutch, Portuguese, Hebrew, and Arabic. Aiming at November beta launch for Japanese and Mandarin, and January beta for all other languages).
No matter what language(s) you choose, you'll get at least 2 months of beta test access included with your pledge. Once those two months are over, you can decide whether you want your subscription to start immediately [and keep creating new flashcards], or whether you'd like to start it later. Whether you start your subscription immediately or not, you'll be able to review any of the flashcards you created during your beta test for as long as you'd like.
Many thanks to the extraordinary members of the Fluent Forever team, who have been putting in long hours to get this project (and the last one) ready!
To my readers and backers, I love you. Thank you.
Risks and challenges
I've run and delivered a Kickstarter, and it's taught me a lot. Kickstarters are an *extraordinary* amount of work, they can easily balloon out of control in terms of the administrative challenges involved and the amount of work promised. For my last Kickstarter, in the process of raising ~10x the minimum requested funds, I managed to promise around 10x the minimum requested work: I ended up delivering 65 different products. It turned out well - the products are high quality and my backers and customers have been happy - but it was nearly 4 years of full time work.
I now have an established company, with an established customer base and a support structure for handling large projects. I'm not going to be caught unprepared by the administrative burdens of a successful Kickstarter, though we will need to expand our staff considerably to handle an influx of >10k new backers. New staff always takes time to train, and so that transition will be a challenge.
In terms of the app design itself, I have detailed mockups for every aspect of the app, and I've done two proof of concept projects with two app design houses this year, in order to make sure that the app is feasible, to see what the process of working with an app design house is like, and to test out those app design houses. I already have design houses chosen for the project, I'm confident in the quality of their work, and so I'm not particularly worried about whether they can deliver a quality app.
Initially, there were some legal concerns about our particular use of image search in flashcards, but we've already consulted with lawyers and it appears that providing URLs of images and caching those results locally on mobile devices is considered a form of Fair Use for copyrighted imagery. We've already programmed a Proof of Concept for our image search engine and so the technological hurdles have already been overcome.
I don't foresee any design challenges that are going to be difficult to overcome with the base version of the app. There are some stretch goals that will be fairly challenging to implement and aren't fully hashed out yet, particularly our support for 'unsupported languages', and our hands free, audio-only flashcard support. If we achieve those goals, they will delay development of the final version for a while, but that just means that backers get a longer beta test to use the app, so I don't foresee that causing problems. (It may make FUTURE customers sad that they need to wait longer, but backers are #1 :) )Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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