Check Out EnglishCentral, Real-Time Pronunciation Feedback From The Brains Behind Poodll

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Corrections made on July 25th, 2019.

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The “Poodll guy,” author of the famed media recording plugin family to which he owe his name, is announcing EnglishCentral. A plugin for Moodle-based Learning Management Systems allows English and ESL teachers to introduce interactive speaking activities with instant and precise feedback. While Poodll takes advantage of AWSNatural Language Processing (NLP) engine, EnglishCentral has built its proprietary “IntelliSpeech” engine. It is the result of a collaboration with longtime Moodler and Computer Assisted Language Learning researcher Gordon Bateson, both currently living in Japan.

Machine Learning and NLP are changing the Language Learning EdTech game

Language learning is one of the most widespread use cases for EdTech, a segment with too little standardization to properly understand and measure. Which does not prevent market analysts to guesstimate a current valuation of $46.9 USD for the global language services market, which include instruction, translation and localization. Apps and services like Duolingo and VIPKid have reached global brand recognition and billion-dollar valuations, suggesting themselves as useful and profitable ideas with sustainable impact.

Not to say the technology has been fully figured out. In fact, the opposite rings true. Language learning technologies have failed to provide a complete and fully automated solution. Duolingo covers pronunciation minimally, with no actual feedback to speak of. Students can even disable all pronunciation exercises and still move forward. The success of the Asian learning unicorn relies on armies of native freelance teachers for one-on-one sessions.

Notably, one of the main roadblocks when it comes to language learning is the ability to recognize and properly provide feedback to a student in speaking and pronunciation activities. The recent progress of voice-based products, from Amazon, Google, IBM and others, is kick-starting a new wave of services and a bigger data lake of user voice data for algorithm refinement. The implications of cutting edge research in NLP, produced only in recent years and months, could push us into a new age of interaction with machines. To date, it’s yet to be materialized.

NLP for Open EdTechpreneurs

Speaking of language learning, think of NLP as the Rosetta Stone for robots. When properly fleshed out, it will let them understand is human language more, ehm, naturally.

For longer than a year now, Justin Hunt aka “Poodll guy” has been a lone pioneer in introducing machine learning features to student activities in the LMS. We first reported about Read Aloud and its raving reception nearly a year ago, the preamble of EnglishCentral’s core functionality.

Hunt is both a foreign language and an NLP enthusiast. He’d wish to be more hands-on working on actual NLP, but the commitments of a solopreneur simply exceed his ambitions. With EnglishCentral, he is an NLP “consumer.” Considering the nascent stage of the market, it’s arguably a skill just as valuable as NLP development, if not more. As a technology that evolves faster than our understanding about it, being able to integrate existing NLP into practical, useful and actually interesting applications seems to be a sensible path.

Try a demo of EnglishCentral, even within your LMS

The EnglishCentral plugin is available for download from the Moodle Plugin Directory. Install it and get access to the demo activities in your course for free.

demo alone, however, does a great job in revealing the level of detailed feedback —down to the phoneme— and visualization EnglishCentral provides for both teacher and student.

Get a license and the plugin will give you access to over 12,000 videos, which you can add directly on your English lesson. For non-Moodle LMS, EnglishCentral is considering LTI capabilities, if a good enough opportunity reveals itself.

For pricing, help and more information, visit the website.

More Resources

Corrections made on July 25, 2019. A previous version of the article claimed that EnglishCentral used AWS speech recognition engine, and that it already provided LTI capabilities. In both cases this is true for Poodll, not EnglishCentral.


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