Offenbach, January 2017. A joint project between L-Pub, TU Darmstadt and Ernst Klett Sprachen receives funding from Hessen Agentur to pioneer foreign language learning.

The new joint project is called a!, which stands for “automated language instruction” and represents the next chapter in pioneering software for language learning. A cooperation between L-Pub GmbH, Ernst Klett Publishing and the Ubiquitous Knowledge Processing (UKP) Lab at Technical University Darmstadt, a! has now received funding via the “Hessen ModellProjekt” from the Hessen Agentur.

Over the next two years, a! (spoken “ali”) will focus on the creation of level-specific learning materials. This includes the automated analysis of texts and corresponding exercises to deliver a learning experience tailored to the individual. Together the partners will provide an important next step in improving digital technologies for foreign language learning.

Foreign language learning demands innovation

As a language student, you want to work with content that is especially interesting to you. To support your learning, L-Pub developed a new reading format, the “L-Book”, which is a mix of e-book and language trainer. In a book that you choose, you receive individualized exercises, depending on what you click on. This individualized and contextualized learning approach delivers a huge added value, as learning is more targeted and motivation increases.

How does an L-Book work?

While reading an L-Book, you can look up words and find accurate definitions which fit the context exactly (in contrast to the often generalized suggestions provided by dictionaries embedded in e-readers). The L-Book can also offer detailed, language-specific information on grammar and meaning.

The L-Book also lets you practice new words in the same context as you read them. This is key, as learners are automatically confronted with correct usage, and many words may not make sense when they are isolated from a context.

What role will a! play in all this?

The a! project will add deeper levels of sophistication to the L-Book’s individualized and contextualized approach, bringing in scientific methods for even better didactics, machine learning for more precise classification of the exercises and adaptive parameters to fine tune the learning experience to each learner, based on their real-time progress. As a starting point, the partners will run experiments with complex learning formats, such as C-Tests.

What is a C-Test?

C-Tests are a special kind of test in which the second half of every second word is replaced by a gap. By filling in the word endings, language learners practice not only the selection of the correct word but also the correct flexion and word order. C-Tests are a proven means to establish a student’s aptitude level.

The L-Book + C-Test = individualized, adaptive learning

The a! project will innovate methods to generate an individualized C-Test. While the production of a C-Test is relatively uncomplicated, the main challenge lies in selecting a text suitable to the learner’s level, and then adapting how the software decides which word endings to omit.

The UKP will use machine learning to achieve an individualized, level-specific adaptation of the C-Test, based on training data comprised of pre-classified texts, learner generated content and learner progress through a series of exercises. The machine learning will help determine the degree of difficulty of each gap and possible interdependencies between two or more gaps in a given text.

New solutions in digital education

The combination of the analysis of a text’s learning level and the link to adaptive exercises will help pioneer and validate this new context-based approach to learning languages.

All in all, the a! project represents a milestone in the further development of the L-Book and its significance for language learners everywhere. Stay tuned as L-Pub reports regularly on the progress of this project.

If you are a publisher and want to learn about L-Books and how they might be relevant to you, please get in touch with us! We would be happy to demonstrate to you how they work and explain our different sales models in detail.

If you are an educator or a language learner, write to us to find out how you can participate in our pilot tests.

This project (HA-Projekt-Nr.: 521/17-03) is sponsored in part by the Hessen ModellProjekte financed by the LOEWE – Landes-Offensive zur Entwicklung Wissenschaftlich-ökonomischer Exzellenz, Förderlinie 3: KMU-Verbundvorhaben.

More information at (Available only in German)