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Learn Japanese with LexiCandy

Utilizing cultural immersion, in lieu of travel, to further vocabulary and context

by David Graver
on 09 June 2015

There are many tactics for learning a second (or third) language. Most can be rather daunting, and employ a very traditional form of memorization—with a couple tricks thrown in. New webapp LexiCandy is different. It utilizes an array of media (including songs and TV shows) to engage participants on a cultural level—making learning extra exciting. Immersion is the best way to grab hold of a language, but not everyone can take months off and travel abroad. With LexiCandy's upcoming beta launch, commencing with Japanese content, Japan comes a little bit closer. This isn't an entry-point to a new language, however, it's for truly locking it down. We spoke with the company's founder (who also happens to be CH's Senior Developer) Carol Glenn about the inspiration and functionality behind it all.

"I have been studying Japanese for a long time," says Glenn. "It's the whole reason why I started this project. The idea is, whenever you are taking lessons in a language, after a few years you get to the point where people begin telling you that if you want to continue, you need to watch TV and listen to music in that language." Glenn found the act of going to a movie or watching a TV show in Japanese to be disruptive. "There's such a huge gulf between what you need to know and what you do know. If you do try to push past this, you'll find yourself stopping and starting and looking up more words—or characters." Glenn wondered, what if those words and characters were available (with definitions) as the content was being consumed?

The idea came during the "there's an app for that" moment of time, but with a background in Rails development, Glenn went the web route—after a year of waiting and thinking someone else would probably develop something like this. At its core, however, is Glenn's personal experience and insight. "If you are learning a language, not only do you need to improve by listening to people talk in normal situations, but so much is context dependent—even the way we pronounce a word depends on what falls around it." Some people fall victim to speaking other languages as if it were English, instead of understanding the grammar of the target language. Culture changes this—it offers extra context and explanation.

As for how LexiCandy works, it's as easy as building a profile page and then browsing content on a shop page. In a clever more, Glenn allows users to pay per word learned, at a reasonable price per word, and also allows for an easy opt-out. "If people do not feel it's useful, they can stop at any time," Glenn notes. People tend to pick their favorite piece of content, for instance a J-pop song, and learn all the lyrics. The site populates a variety of other content pertaining to the artist, and users can then continue to explore if they'd like. Glenn's system identifies words in each song and tracks them, so if they appear in another piece of content, a user isn't charged again. The content varies from famous Japanese pieces to emerging artists, and really, it's fun.

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Images courtesy of LexiCandy

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