Saturday, November 28, 2009

How can Tatoeba be useful for language learners?

In response to byzantinist who asked on Twitter :
How can Tatoeba be useful for language learners, other than learning by adding sentences or using the sentences in SRS?
Honestly, at the current state of the project, there isn't much more than that.
There are no grammar explanations, there are no lessons, there's not much people to ask for help, there's not much data in languages other than English and Japanese, and the data is not even always reliable... Generally speaking, you can use Tatoeba as a complement to your language learning, but by itself there is no way it will teach you a language. (Yea, I know, I'm not very good at marketing :D)

But the project has not reached its full potential yet. My team and I have a lot of ambition, we just don't have a lot of free time...

To give you a better idea of the context, when I started the project I was very frustrated with online dictionaries and I had this vision of a "dictionary" in which whatever you are searching for, it will always provide you with results. Most importantly, it will always provide you with example sentences (and their translations). That would be useful, right?
And I felt : why can someone make a collaborative encyclopedia (c.f. Wikipedia), but no one is trying to make a collaborative "dictionary"? Because obviously you can't build a "dictionary" like this unless you have at least thousands of people who are supporting your vision and who are willing to contribute.
To make a story short, I spent a few years building the tool I envisioned (at least its core). Lately some other people got involved and are helping me make this project grow faster. And now, we're reaching a phase where we really need a community, and preferably a smart one... I mean, if we cannot gather a bunch of dedicated and knowledgeable people to participate, then the project is going to remain useless despite its huge potential.

Basically, at the moment, the project is focused on building a community and gathering/organizing data, more than on integrating language learning features (although we would love to). Because there is no point building a language learning application if you don't have any good data to use... And the sad truth is that it's kind of difficult to find good data. So the concept is : we gather a lot of data, try to organize it, ensure it is of good quality and make it freely accessible, downloadable and redistributable, so that anyone who has a great idea for a language learning application (or a language tool) can just focus on coding the application and rely on us to provide data of excellent quality. And again, all of this is only possible with a strong community...

However, if you have any specific ideas of features that would make your language learning experience better, just let us know and we'll be glad to work on it. I mean, the project is constantly evolving. As far as we're concerned, we're not going to stop integrating new features anytime soon.


  1. i agree with Trang, at this point we're at a critical point of tatoeba

    the community is growing and so as the visibility of our project of the web, but the feature are still slow, so we both need to develop new features fast enough to make tatoeba interesting for newcomers but not too fast to make this features enough complete and not deceive new comers

    and in the same time we must gather a community to not make the newcomers feels alone, but not too fast, because people can't stay if the features are enough , and it's easier to make someone come one time than 2 time

    hum not easy everyday to be part of a collaborativ project

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