Another year is winding to a close, and this gives us time to reflect and be thankful for all that has happened in the last 12 months. 2017 has been a big year for Linguisticator and for me personally. Let me review some of the highlights, and also set out some of the vision for 2018 and beyond when it comes to language and memory training program development.
TED X Cambridge University
Early this past year, I gave my first TED X talk at Cambridge University. The first several weeks of the year were spent in preparation, creating the elaborate 3D walk-throughs that made up the slides of my talk, as well as practicing the delivery of the talk itself. I like to prepare for any presentation, but felt a particular gravity to the opportunity to present my work of the last decade on such a large and prestigious platform as TEDx. The event itself was remarkable, and I enjoyed both my own presentation as well as those by the other speakers. I met many wonderful people through the event with whom I am still in close contact.
Although the first several weeks of the year were consumed with preparation and delivery, only a small cluster of my own friends in Cambridge were able to see the talk itself in February. It was not until August that the edited version was uploaded onto YouTube for the rest of the world to see.
Signing up New Language Teachers
It has taken several years to build up, test, and refine the content and format of the language training programs we provide at Linguisticator. Now that we have a good sense of what needs to go into a total language package, as well as how to put that material in there, we have begun to move more quickly on the development of new programs for new languages. We signed on board Selay Pamir to work on our Turkish courses, Maria Terentieva to work on Russian, Mahbod Ghaffari to work on Persian, Kolfinna Jonatansdóttir to work on Icelandic, Adah Yao to work on Mandarin, and Bryn Jones to work on Welsh.
Launch of Turkish Program
While several new languages are under development, we have put out the first module in our Turkish series, a course in Turkish essentials presented by Selay Pamir. This course teaches essential vocabulary and grammar in Turkish, and comes complete with 3D animations demonstrating how to build a memory palace to store and retain all of the content in the program.
Awarding of KEEP+ Funding
This year, we were successful in an application for £30,000 of grant funding from the KEEP+ program from the European Union Development Fund. This supports our collaboration with the University of Westminster in London, with whom we are working on the development of our virtual reality software for building memory palaces, Macunx VR. We have subsequently run a formal search and hiring process, and are pleased to welcome on board Aleksander Kojic as our full-time developer for Macunx VR. We are also pleased to welcome his twin brother Milos as part of the team. As these brothers come from Bosnia, we are in the process of obtaining visas so that they can actually get started on working in London, but they have already been hard at work on the software in Austria, where they completed their studies. We are aiming to launch the first version of Macunx VR on the Steam platform in early 2018.
Cambridge Autism Learning
A significant project over this past year has been our collaboration with the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University to develop new tools and resources for minimally verbal autistic children. As most of this work has been research and development, we have not shared much of our progress with the Linguisticator community. Nonetheless, this has taken a significant amount of time and work, and we are very proud of the first iteration of a new training program aimed at parents of minimally verbal autistic children. More than this, we have set up an entire new platform called Cambridge Autism Learning in order to host courses and resources related to all aspects of autism.
Courses, Courses, Courses
In addition to creating all of the prerecorded self-study courses and materials that go online, we have run a number of in person courses and workshops throughout the year, including German language classes at the genome campus south of Cambridge, English courses for Mandarin speakers via the Varsity Program, and pronunciation courses for non-native speakers of English delivered to people all over the world via WebEx.
We have also started creating streamlined video demonstrations and tutorials that we are putting on YouTube. We started adding these videos only in the autumn of 2017, including an overview of fluency, a demonstration of using memory palaces to spell with dyslexia, and an explanation of how pronunciation can be learned through movement. We have more demonstrations and tutorials that we will be filming, editing, and uploading in the new year.
The Vision – What’s Next
It has been a busy year, and we have accomplished a lot, but we have a lot planned for both 2018 and beyond. Our developers are hard at work getting the first iteration of Macunx ready for launch, and more than just exciting in its own right, this will open up all kinds of new capabilities at Linguisticator.
Our vision is not only to expand the number of languages for which we offer courses, but also to expand and improve all of our existing courses to include all of the materials necessary in order to reach a high level of fluency. We have been working on a template map of language functions that can be used to describe all of the core vocabulary and constructions necessary to develop fluency within a given functional area. Our intention is to develop course modules for each language in each of these functional areas. When coupled with the grammatical maps, as well as an understanding of how to internalize the various cultural components of a language, this will represent the most complete and streamlined depiction of the parts and pieces of a language.
Each language will be broken up into 14 separate courses, covering everything from grammar, to functional vocabulary, to pronunciation, to cultural aspects. For each course, all the material will first be set out and explained, and then a spatial memory structure will be provided so that learners can store and internalize all of that material, as well as retain it and use it. With Macunx VR, we will be able to provide virtual demonstrations of memory palaces for all aspects of all courses, rather than just step-by-step instructions for how to store the material using imaginative memory palaces.
This means that not only will we be building out more courses for each language – as well as full packages for more languages – but each portion of each language will also be accompanied by a pre-constructed virtual memory palace. These memory palaces can be used in a variety of ways:
- As a screen cast example provided within all of our online courses so that you can get an idea of how to build the memory palace, but then go and use your imagination to build your own
- As a screen cast example provided in our online courses which you would then use as your own virtual memory palace
- Or, as an actual virtual reality memory palace that you fill up and augment using your own mnemonics via Macunx VR
Beyond this, we will also be working on exciting projects to facilitate the use of Macunx VR in a range of disciplines and applications beyond just language. We have had a tremendous amount of interest from people wanting to build memory palaces for subjects as varied as medicine and anatomy, the Bible, and winetasting.