Table of Contents:
- What You'll Need
- Process Overview
- How difficult is it to create a lesson for Language Mentor?
- What kind of audio content do I need?
- What do I need besides audio content?
If you're reading this page you're probably interested in, or at least curious about, what is involved in creating and publishing lessons for the Language Mentor platform. This page attempts to provide a general overview. You can find a list of pages that provide detailed information on the lesson creation process here.
We assume that you have at least a bit of experience with the Language Mentor mobile app. If not, we suggest that you give it a spin. The things that we explain on this page will make a lot more sense once you've done so. See our home page for pointers on downloading and exploring Language Mentor.
Here are a few basic concepts that you should understand from the outset:
- Language Mentor's lessons are "audio centric" because Language Mentor is designed for use while learners are doing other things - exercising, doing chores, etc.
- Language Mentor lessons are either "single language" or "dual language". Both (of course) provide audio for the language that is being taught. Dual language lessons also provide translations in the learner's native language. For example, a single language Chinese lesson would offer only Chinese content, whereas a dual language Chinese lesson could provide translations in English or some other language.
- You can create Language Mentor lessons for any language. Dual language lessons can provide translations in any language. For example, you can create lessons for Spanish speakers who want to learn English, for Swahili speakers who want to learn Chinese, etc.
- Language Mentor lessons are broken up into "chunks". Chunks are small pieces of lessons that are presented to the user, one at a time. Dialogs are broken up into chunks consisting of phrases and sentences; vocabulary lists are broken up into chunks consisting of words. In a dual language lesson, a chunk includes both native and target language content. For example, "Thank you" and "Merci" could make up a single chunk in an English-to-French lesson. Most lessons contain between 10 and 50 chunks.
- Obviously, you or one of your associates will need to be fluent in your lessons' target language.
- You'll need "voice talent" (amateur or professional) to transform written scripts into recorded audio.
- You'll need audio editing skills. If you don't have these they're fairly easy to acquire.
- You'll need to edit a few files that are in XML format. Don't be intimidated :) we provide simple, detailed instructions on how to do this.
- You'll need to use an FTP client such as FileZilla to upload finished lessons to your lesson library server. If you're not a very technical person you may need some help setting up this software with the right settings. Once setup is done, it's easy to use.
- The most technically challenging task is to create the lesson library in the first place. This will be located on your web hosting server, or your organization's server. If you don't currently have a web hosting, you'll need to talk to your organization's IT department or open an account with a web hosting service. If you're not a geek, you'll need to find one who can help you.
- Write a lesson script in the lesson's target language.
- Break it up into chunks - ideally 15 syllables or less per chunk.
- Record audio for the target language.
- Edit the audio, creating one file for each chunk in the lesson.
- Create a lesson XML file. You can either do this by hand, starting from a template that we provide, or you can use our Lesson Creator tool - currently in development - to generate an XML file based on your script. If you're interested in the latter option please contact us.
- Package the audio files and the XML file into a ZIP file.
- Deploy the XML file and the ZIP file to your library.
If you're creating a dual language lesson the process will also include these steps:
- Translate each chunk into the lesson's native language.
- Record audio for the native language.
- Edit the native language audio, creating one file for each chunk.
How difficult is it to create a lesson?
That depends. First of all, ask yourself these questions:
- How professional do I want my lessons to be? Some creators will invest considerable time into writing lessons, record audio content in a professional recording studio, and hire professional voice talent. This is an excellent approach, but it's not the only way to go. It's also possible for ordinary individuals to create lessons using nothing more than a computer, a headset microphone, and some creative ideas.
- Are you going to use existing audio content? If so, this may make the process significantly easier. In our experience a 40-chunk dual language lesson can be created and deployed in about two hours by an experienced person working with existing audio content. Note that this is in the best-case scenario, where you have audio content for both the native language and the target language of the lesson. Of course, single language lessons are easier to create. And it's worth noting that there's a great deal of public domain audio available that can be used for this purpose.
- Are you fluent in the lesson's target language? If you are creating a dual language lesson, are you fluent in the lesson's native language? If you answered "yes" to either or both of these questions, your task will be considerably easier. If not, you'll either need to hire a translator or find another approach. In our experience "pair translation" - with one person fluent in each language, and both people somewhat competent in the other language - can work well.
None of the work involved in this process is particularly difficult for a computer-savvy person. On the other hand, it can take some time to learn all the required details. Learning to edit audio isn't difficult, but it does take time. The same is true for editing XML. Also, be aware that if you want to create high quality lessons you'll have to pay a great deal of attention to detail.
- The possibilities are endless - it can be pretty much any recording of the human voice which you've created or have the right to use. Here are a few things to bear in mind...
- You'll be breaking each lesson up into chunks, generally consisting of up to 15 syllables each. If you're creating dual language lessons, you'll need to have corresponding native language and target language audio for each chunk. In other words, you'll need recorded content that says the same thing in two different languages, for each chunk.
- While you can use almost any recording of the human voice, some types of audio can be more challenging to edit than others. For example, a conversation in which the participants frequently interrupt one another - and in the process speak simultaneously - may not be practical to use.
- We discuss the process of creating and/or obtaining audio content in detail on our Create/Edit Audio Files page.
- As mentioned, you'll need to know how to do basic audio editing, using a program such as the free Audacity audio editor. For the most part, the audio editing will consist of breaking language content files up into chunks - so that you end up with one native language file and one target language file for each chunk - and ensuring that the audio in each chunk is equally loud. You can find an introduction to Audacity, and tutorials, at http://www.guidesandtutorials.com/audacity-tutorial.html. Additional information on how to use Audacity to create lessons for Language Mentor can be found at our Create/Edit Audio Files page.
- You'll need to know how to name your chunk audio files. This is fairly simple and is clearly explained in the pages that follow.
- You'll need a very basic understanding of the XML text format. Even if you've never heard of XML before, don't let this intimidate you - we'll provide simple explanations as we go along.
Where Do I Start?
Our main Creating Lessons page contains a list of pages that explain the entire lesson creation process in detail. They are arranged, roughly, in the same order in which you'll do the steps that they explain. You can either go through them in order, or jump around and read those that interest you most.