Lexicum – building a language app through Microsoft BizSpark

The following is a guest post from Lexicum

It is hard to overemphasise how important language is to us, both as individuals and as a civilisation. Many researchers have spent years in studying how language shapes our everyday thinking to scientifically confirm conclusions that some of us might have intuitively reached ourselves. Not only speakers of different languages think differently but even within the head of a single speaker different languages tend to lead to different thought processes, thus providing much valued different perspectives.

But learning a language is surely easier said than done because it is such a complex process. Out of the many parts it involves there certainly is one that's endless – vocabulary. We need words to pronounce our first greetings or questions or to even start talking about grammar. This is the beginning of a long process that never ends but rather always involves that odd new topic, be it fishing, gourmet or any other hobby or interest. Language learning starts and ends with vocabulary.

We people are all different. There are no right or wrong ways that are universally applicable. Yet, we all need to grow our active vocabulary and to achieve this, we all need to practice. Further, the practice needs to be engaging so that we stay motivated and develop a habit.

At Lexicum we are a team of linguistic experts and educational researchers - but also language learners. Our own needs have pushed us to search for tools and techniques that we've needed and ultimately to go ahead and develop a new platform to combine these in a way that can be personal for everyone. The Lexicum app is the result of our efforts and it’s now publicly accessible for learners and any interested teachers can approach us for a demo of the free teacher module. It was developed with the support of the Microsoft BizSpark programme which equips innovators with all the necessary tools to develop revolutionary apps.

It starts from the fundamental building block – a personalised dictionary and thesaurus, a wordbook in your pocket. We've made sure to make it easily accessible with commonly used devices. It is multiplatform and flexible to allow for easy and frequent practice, something necessary for a continuous learning experience. We've made it possible for you to modify your translated meanings as a way to fine-tune your content.

The dictionary on its own wouldn't be of much use if it didn't come along with exercises to work one's way through the collected vocabulary. Lexicum already supports exercises for both individual and group practice, always determined by your own set of words. When on your own you can use flashcards – many of us are used to these as a way to memorise new words and their meanings. Many years of research have shown that flashcards are most useful when brought up according to a specific pattern called spaced repetition. Because of that, Lexicum would make sure that the better you've learned a word, the less frequent you get tested on it.

Of course, memorising is just the beginning. It is not only important to remember words, but also to know when and how to use them – to make them part of one's active language. Probably this is where habits vary most. Some people might prefer to make sentences that they know are perfectly correct, others might want to ignore mistakes as long as they can compose intelligible phrases. There's no right or wrong here, the drive to keep practising is important. Because of that, we've provided the necessary functionality and learning community, and leave it to you to figure out how you want to engage with it. You can share and invite friends to engage in learning conversations and come up with your own exercises.

We are also currently experimenting with other types of exercises, such as reading and listening comprehension, fill-in-the-gaps and crosswords - there's no single right way for you to learn languages and vocabulary. We'd love it if you share with us what exercises you value most – please let us know what your thoughts are in the comments section below.

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