LoomVue Sneak Peak

We are excited to give a sneak peak into the updated beta version of LoomVue’s extension that is being tested with teachers and students this week! While currently it is only available to those testing it out as part of our Phase I SBIR grant for the Department of Education, we plan to release a related version of the public in the coming months. The current version has been iteratively updated based on feedback from beta testers, language learning experts, teachers, and students (thanks for the help WestEd!). Below is a brief summary of the LoomVue Chrome Browser Extension (LoomVue for short).

Overview

LoomVue helps you implicitly learn a new language while you browse the web. It does this by “flipping” words from one language into another, creating what linguists call a dynamic diglot weave, as shown below.

Figure 1: A Smithsonian webpage is shown with the LoomVue Browser Extension window open and Vocabulary Learning Mode enabled. LoomVue has flipped many of the natively English words into Spanish. Mousing over the flipped word criatura shows the original English word creature in a tooltip. Tooltip icons can be used to play the sound of the target language word, favorite to the word to study later, or report an error. Users can modify the appearance of the flipped words (e.g., change their color, make them italics), toggle the extension on/off entirely or for a specific website, change the source and target language, and modify other settings as described below.

LoomVue is designed to accomplish two primary goals:

  1. Help readers expand their target language vocabulary.
  2. Help readers understand difficult target language texts.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these goals below. Our examples will assume that a native English speaker is interested in learning Spanish. Our app currently allows English-to-Spanish, English-to-French, English-to-Italian and the other direction for English Language Learners.

Vocabulary Learning Mode

Vocabulary learning mode introduces users to new target language vocabulary words as you read websites in your native language. The result looks like Figure 1 above. Student users can flip words that appear in a word pack assigned to them by a teacher and/or flip words from LoomVue’s list of over 25,000 words. The difficulty range of LoomVue’s words, as well as the percent of words flipped on a page can be customized in the settings.

In addition, users can visit the LoomVue app website to study words through flashcards and quizzes and track their progress as shown in Figures 2–4.

Figure 2: List of words that were Favorited when reading. Words can be studied using Flashcards or quiz questions available on the Practice tab. Progress is based on points earned answering questions correctly.
Figure 3: Practice example quiz question. Question types vary. This example shows an audio prompt and multiple choice answer with feedback (millas was incorrectly chosen first, after which artículo was correctly chosen). Other question types require learners to type in the correct word, with prompts if they need help.
Figure 4: Dashboard showing user’s time spent reading and studying vocabulary words per day, as well as key metrics such as Words Mastered and Points Earned. Users can view data for the past week or month. Teachers can view Dashboard information for each student in one of their classes.

Research suggests that the combination of learning words in context (i.e., while reading) and through drill-and-practice methods increases vocabulary more than using only one approach.

Aided Reading Mode

Aided Reading Mode helps readers better understand difficult texts in their target language, while also exposing them to new words. This mode is used only when reading texts in a target language (e.g., Spanish in our case). Many of the hardest words on a page are flipped back into the speaker’s native language as shown in Figure 5. The Level of help can be adjusted to flip more or less words depending on the fluency of the reader.

Figure 5: Natively Spanish NASA website with Aided Reading Mode enabled. Many of the more difficult words are flipped back into English, given a novice learner a better chance of understanding the article with less frustration. Words can also be listened to or favorited for later study.

Machine Translation and Alignment Engine

Although less visible, a major component of our system is the machine translation and alignment algorithms that we have implemented. Many existing tools do not consider the correct meaning of a specific word when flipping it. Our machine translation engine translates the entire sentence, helping identify the correct meaning. It then uses an alignment algorithm to match the corresponding language words. While no machine translation tool is perfect, we have been thrilled with the accuracy so far. We have primarily focused on nouns in the current implementation, since accuracy is highest with them, but our preliminary results for other parts of speech look very promising.

Product Roadmap

No prototype is perfect. We have a long list of feature requests from our beta users and also plans of our own. A few of the big ticket items that we’ll be working on this year include:

  • Release a public version of our current beta!
  • Enhance our teacher LoomVue web app and content (e.g., word packs) to fully support the LoomVue educational version. We’re especially anxious to help the growing number of English Language Learners in schools.
  • Improve machine translation engine to support additional word types and phrases.
  • Massively expand our portfolio of source and target languages by building on recent developments in state-of-the-art machine learning technology.
  • Create a LoomVue mobile app so everything will work on your phone.

Creating AI-powered software that supports language learning anywhere on the web