Innovation That Matters

Vocabulary tool by Berlitz uses Twitter for social learning

Publishing & Media

For those who want to learn a new language—or even brush up on a current one—there’s already Popling for instruction one small bite at a time. Now a new alternative from Berlitz takes a similar approach but adds a social element with multimedia instruction and Twitter-like capabilities. With support for 15 different languages, Vocabu offers a social way to build vocabulary. Users begin by entering the words they want to master—input can be done manually, or via the “Vocabu Wordclipper,” which lets them highlight any word on a page and drag it to their browser for automatic inclusion. A series of preset libraries are also available. Users can set goals as well in terms of the number of words they’d like to master each week, with badges to look forward to when they do. From there, Vocabu helps users learn the words from their “wordstreams” by trawling the web for visual references using sites like Flickr or for examples of the words used in sentences from real-time tweets on Twitter. Users of Vocabu can form groups for mutual learning and inspiration, and a “follow me” function mimics the one on Twitter for sharing and comparing the wordstreams being studied. Vocabu will soon be available as a desktop application, with an added word trainer function. Apps for iPhone and Android are on the way, too. Currently free and in beta, Vocabu will operate on a business model that offers both freemium and premium services. When we wrote about Popling early last year, we were impressed by its bite-sized approach to educational instruction; now, Vocabu’s addition of social elements makes just as much sense. Purveyors of other educational material—time to bring a social element to your own instructional offerings?



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