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Language learning app branches out to 40 new languages – and 40 more ways to learn Welsh

06 Jun 2024 5 minute read
SaySomethinginWelsh

Stephen Price

Language learning app SaySomethinginWelsh is set to branch out to 40 new languages, whilst also providing Welsh learning for the same number of speakers of different languages.

In a recent update posted to one of their learner forums, founder Aran Jones shared his excitement, before carefully answering queries from some of the app’s current users.

Aran Jones started his language learning platform as a labour of love almost 15 years ago. His goal was simple – to reverse the language shift that has taken place in Wales and to make it digital friendly with personal tutor involvement.

“The dream”

In his forum post, Aran detailed how he has been answering questions about ‘SSi for other languages’ frequently over the years – “usually with a mixture of fluffy optimism and bitter caution,” but that he is now in a position to share a more wholesome update.

Explaining his journey to create a French course after years of work in the background, he shared that one had recently been made live in the new app.

Aran Jones (right) chats to Jeremy Vine about his language learning methods

Aran said: “That’s exciting, but what it implies is even more exciting. Thanks to our AI whisperer Tom, that French course was automated from start to finish (apart from some of the fiddly stuff around running programs and storing results, which we’re going to get automated in the near future) and required precisely zero input from me.

“This means that over the next couple of months, we can confidently expect to publish a new language every week (and we can probably go faster, but I don’t want to claim that until I can see it happening).

“We currently have a limit of about 40 languages that we can do in this way, because we’re dependent on the availability of the necessary large language models – but Google has just released a tool that can produce translation for a language if given a grammar book for that language, which is an extraordinary development.”

Welsh through 40 languages

Importantly, he wrote: “So, our new aim is to have 40 new languages for English and Welsh speakers and English and Welsh available to learn through the medium of 40 languages by the end of this year.

“Next year (if not sooner) we’ll start matching up all the language pairs inside that 40 – think French for Spanish speakers, Spanish for French speakers etc.

With confidence, he added: The “long term dream of building a course for every language is now starting to look very achievable.”

Aran asked for patience while things go live with the new app in the app stores, and besides a few refining elements “everything else is ready”.

He finished: “I’ve got it too wrong too many times to be willing to make a prediction! It could potentially be as little as two weeks – but I think it’s fair to say that everyone on the team is going to be pretty disappointed if we don’t launch the new app before the end of June.”

Elation

Commenter, Martin Smith added: “Oh my goodness, it’s Norwegian and Irish that I am desperate to learn. I’ve been using SaySomething for learning Welsh and think that the SaySomething method is really good.”

Gruntius said: “As promised, Aran showed me the French taster yesterday and I have to say that it looks and sounds really, really good … I’d like to put everyone who’s mentioned AI at ease, the voices sound COMPLETELY natural.

“I’ll probably never learn more than Welsh, Spanish and maybe French but the prospect of all that language learning choice at our fingertips is extremely exciting.

“And the idea that in the future anyone in the world will be able to learn any other language they fancy is incredible. Well done SSi, amazing work.”

SaySomethinginWelsh

While many shared concerns about AI, Aran responded: “Yes, I think there are some interesting decision points ahead of us – in the short term, we’ll be putting increases in turnover back into tech dev and marketing, but if we do get through to genuine surplus, the balance between ‘real-ifying’ AI output and supporting smaller languages that don’t have the AI output will be an interesting one.

“I’ve certainly heard at least some AI voices (in several languages) that I wouldn’t be able to tell from humans, but if we get feedback/data that some courses are unpopular because they fall into the uncanny valley, we’ll certainly pay attention.

“Perhaps the most likely outcome will be around licensing ‘real’ voices to model for the AI, once we get a bit closer to a consensus on the right balance between work/reward in that field…

As a proud Welsh speaker and advocate for learning Cymraeg, Aran finished: “Welsh-for-lots-of-other-language-speakers will be one of our biggest goals.”

The future

Aran told Nation.Cymru: “This feels like an exciting and terrifying time for us – we’re on the verge of what I’ve been dreaming about for over 15 years.

“If the next few months go well, we’ll be able to make a far more valuable contribution to the future of the Welsh language than anything we’ve managed previously.

“We’ve always wanted to help drive real, sustainable change, and every step we take in that direction feels hugely emotional and encouraging for the whole team.”

Find out more about SaySomethinginWelsh, or start your Welsh language learning journey and support the development of Welsh learning in multiple languages here.


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Dail y Goeden
Dail y Goeden
4 minutes ago

Newyddion gwych! – Brilliant news – including that from this interview Aran sounds to be firmly grounded in experience and caution for progress. Pob dymuniad da i’r fenter – ac i bawb sy’n dysgu unrhyw iaith. Every good wish to this project – and to anyone learning (or teaching!) any language.

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