education

Inflated claims about language learning

I recently posted about the trend of “productivity gurus and marketers” making inflated claims about how much people can learn or otherwise accomplish in a short time. This trend is particularly common in the domain of language learning. Language-learning apps routinely make absurd promises of fluency in their marketing materials. When building and marketing WordBrewery, I was conscious of this and tried to avoid it. Instead of making false or unrealistic claims about the tool, we promised a shorter and more efficient way to learn: “The most common 2500 words in any language make up 95% of daily vocabulary.

Productivity gurus and impossible goals

We live in the age of the “productivity guru.” A productivity guru is someone who advertises his or her own productivity and suggests that others can achieve similar results. I enjoy the books and other content produced by some people who can be characterized as productivity gurus—Cal Newport, David Allen, Tim Ferriss, and Marie Kondo, for example. But they have thousands of imitators, and for many of these, the core of their brand is exaggeration: exaggeration of what they have accomplished and of what you, the consumer, can accomplish by following their lead.

Developing a language-learning program (high-frequency sentence identifier)

UPDATE: I devoted most of my nights and weekends this year to building the program described below with the help of Kostyantyn Grinchenko, an excellent Ukrainian freelance developer. Then, after realizing that we had stumbled upon a breakthrough idea that could revolutionize language learning and help many people become fluent readers of their target language, I assembled a remote team of freelance and volunteer developers, designers, native-speaker audio recorders, and translators to help me develop it into a webapp (and future mobile app): WordBrewery.