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JTLanguage Origins

In my own language study a long time ago, I was frustrated by the amount of time and effort I had to spend in setting up tools for learning, rather than actually studying the language. First it was making flash cards out of index cards, then it was typing in words in to flash card programs, or editing the data so I could get it into the right format for import into the flash card programs.

Then I found some cool websites such as ChinesePod and the Innovative Language sites, but I felt their flash card mechanisms were too limited, and again, required too much effort to set up and maintain. During that time I was also helping out with a local English class for Chinese immigrants, and wanted to find tools to help them in their study of English.

Being a software engineer, (and having a history of tackling huge and ambitious personal programming projects) it occured to me that I could probably create my own set of tools for learning that would address the issues I was facing, both for my own language study, and which I thought would be useful for others as well.

I wanted something that would really focus on the content, both in managing large amounts of it, and making it easier to actually create it and use it. This led to the idea of creating a web site that would provide all of these tools in one place in an integrated way, and this became JTLanguage.

I created a first version of the website, which though not complete in terms of all the planned features, was pretty extensive. However, I found the UI a bit too complicated, and the internal model was not scaling well (slower the bigger the data got). This led me to start over from scratch, creating version 2.0 using a better UI and data model.

For mobile use, I also wanted to have phone app versions of JTLanguage that could be used off-line. Rather than create them from scratch independent of the JTLanguage website, it occured to me that I could create common libraries for the data model, controller, and also share to some extent the same Razor code (source code for the HTML). Thus in the rewrite I followed this structure, and quite early developed the phone app versions of JTLanguage in tandem.

At present, I'm finally at the point where the core content management and study mechanisms that I had originally envisioned (and more) are in place and usable (though there are still some new ideas to implement), and I've created the start of the survival language courses. Now the following challenges remain:

  • Do another round of testing, feature hole fixing, documentation, and get the phone apps and survival courses released.
  • Hope some teachers and students start showing up to make use of JTLanguage. I might need to do some marketing myself.
  • Implement the other planned features, such as the dictionary and forum.
  • Develop new study mechanisms, such as language 'bots.

See the "What's Ahead" section in What's New for something of a to-do list.

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