Coming this fall to the Mountain View Community Playhouse, a classic musical updated for today's Valley:
My Fair Founder
Can master symbolicist Henry Higgins (played by Paul Graham in his first musical-theater role) win a bet by coaching ambitious but crude-speaking Eliza Doolittle to be the toast of Sand Hill Road in three short months?
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll sing along to tunes such as:
The Gain in this Domain stays Mainly with the Brain
LOL, he says "your language is the language of Shakespeare, Milton and the Bible"... I wonder if it was meant to be funny , out of ignorance or arrogance...
As I've posted before, there is this sort of inherent imperialist bias people have with someone who does not have a good command or English. A hundred years ago, it may have been an indication of class (and to some degree still is today). But to look down and be utterly dismissive of someone because they have an accent is just plain dumb.
In PGs defense, just because someone is dumb doesn't mean people will cease to engage in such behavior. And given that the entrepreneur is the one on the selling side, it may behoove him/her to brush up on whichever accent is appealing to those to be sold.
I personally have several accents in English and I subconsciously switch from one to another depending on whom I'm speaking with. If necessary I change languages all together. Reality is, I am better able to connect with the other person this way.
The original play was by George Bernard Shaw. Any commentary on the absurdities and arrogance of the British class system is deliberate. Though by "the Bible" he's equally referring to the King James translation, which was regarded as a major literary influence, on par with Shakespeare.
> As I've posted before, there is this sort of inherent imperialist bias people have with someone who does not have a good command or English.
I think that's true in any language. I see this in myself sometimes, and I have to consciously correct myself that one's accent or grasp of a foreign language has nothing to do with intelligence or any other quality other than time spent practicing.
> I personally have several accents in English and I subconsciously switch from one to another depending on whom I'm speaking with.
Not being a native English speaker, I do this too. My American accent is just as fake as my English one, but I think people are used to you speaking a certain accent, and switching seems fake to them. I'll have to start talking to the next Englishman I meet with an English accent, and see how they react when I switch to an American one, which is what I usually use.
Good job for the work. But seriously, I don't think you even have a MVP yet. If the purpose of this site is to correct people's accent, having a generate voice(huge electronic accent) is not acceptable at all.
I couldn't find your pricing anywhere... I'm a native English speaker, so this product isn't relevant to me, but I wouldn't want be comfortable recommending it to anyone without knowing how much it'd cost after those first 3 months. Really critical to have in an easy-to-find place on the website IMO.
I am terribly sorry if it came across like this. To be honest, the only reason I did not have a public subscription page is that I was too lazy to add logic for displaying buttons with "account signup" links, instead of "payment" ones for anonymous visitors. And now it bit me back today.
You might add something on the landing page saying what exactly you do. I read through everything and it doesn't specify how it'll improve English; is it just drills? A therapist to coach people? Pronunciation checking software?
If you simplify an explanation, it still needs to do the explaining, even if it's in the form of a high-level overview. I don't even see mention of the dialect you're teaching. Especially since you're targeting people in the STEM industry (people who tend to value knowledge and precision), I'd recommend having a more specific description available for those who want, even if it's not the first message that greets the viewer.
Since we're on the subject of what your software does, and since as a native English speaker, I don't want to [ab]use your free trial just to study its workings, could you please provide that explanation here? :) Do you teach the basics of English phonology or do you just provide [auto-generated] text for users to mimic. Do you provide Rosetta Stone-like pronunciation feedback? If you don't provide basic instruction in English phonology, I highly recommend you consider adding it. Being well versed in articulatory phonetics, I taught myself Chinese phonology (Standard Mandarin) from Wikipedia. Despite not having very good Chinese, I've passed for a native speaker in short telephone conversations on multiple occasions. Even if it takes weeks to give the student the phonetic background that I had (I don't know if it would), you'll then be able to give them near-native pronunciation almost instantly, and then they'll only need to iron out the kinks with your mimic drills before sounding like a native. I don't know if this is the approach used by most accent coaches, but it's highly effective.
The only feedback the user gets is a score for the current phrase, and highlighting of the words that he has mispronounced.
For example: If the phrase was "Where is the closest hospital?" but you said "Where is the closest clinic?", the application would highlight correct words in green and incorrect ones (hospital in this case) in orange/red depending on the word distance of "clinic" to "hospital")
I never thought about giving basic information about English phonology, but you make a very valid point. I will look into this further, and please let me know about any detailed resources about this subject.
It would be really useful to replay what user said, or even better, replay incorrectly pronounced word and then correct pronunciation. Right now there is no good way for user to correct mistakes, even if it's clear that there is a mistake.
No matter what price points you choose, someone will always want to pay less. You don't want to undercharge either; a copy of Rosetta Stone runs about $500 for discs or $39/month for their online courses.
Thanks for the input. I am a total newbie when it comes to pricing, and open to any logical advice. Maybe I can add a message to the payment page that says something like "1 month of membership costs less than 1 hour of private 1 to 1 tutoring".
There is only a common spelling difference in the written sense though. An American would not fully understand someone from Yorkshire speaking Yorkshire dialect, nor would they understand someone from Merseyside, Glasgow, etc. if they were speaking in their dialect.
I'm from Yorkshire originally, my dialect is totally different from those in Merseyside or the North East (for example.) How we speak and how we write is different. 'British English' only exists in the written form and I don't believe that is what this service is aiming to 'improve'.
UK regional accents/dialects are something which are favourable. The North East dialect, for example, is seen as favourable in call centres because the majority find it a 'nice' or 'friendly' dialect.
I don't understand the idea of 'if you're a start-up don't have an accent/dialect'.
(Noting that some words, like "to table" have the opposite meanings in British and American English. When Americans say "table" the British say "shelve" and when the British say "table" the Americans say "put forward" or "propose.")
Oh, I'm not really disagreeing. The expression "a : b :: c : d" means a is to b what c is to d. There are just as many American accents as British accents, but Brits commonly refer to the conglomeration as American English, or to someone having "an American accent", and can have a similarly hard time differentiating between them.
So "British English" just refers to speaking English with one of many British accents, I'm guessing in this case approximately London English that is not Cockney.
I'm a native American English speaker who is also into startups (and has lived in a lot of places, communicating with non-native speakers in English, as well as my really horrible Kurdish, Pashto, Dari, French, Arabic, etc. phrases...). Observations:
1) You should fully Americanize all the spellings. It is American English people want.
2) This would be far too boring for me to stick with if it is things like "I went to the cinema yesterday". A coherent story, or even better, a domain-specific lesson, would be a much more engaging way to teach a language. I was able to learn when it was "talk to my driver about the security situation and drive plan", but never cared enough for casual conversation. I am usually happy to talk to people who speak horrible English about things I care about, which presumably for the hn audience is tech, startups, etc., but not about sports (cricket!?). If you could do a vertical-specific sayafter.me it would be awesome.
That's not a mature response. I've look at your other comments and you look like you've made some worthwhile contribution but this comment is not what I visit HN daily for.
I agree with te_chris, it is not only arrogant but incorrect to make that assumption. I don't actually mind using 'color', but you live in a small world if you think that only a certain accent is relevant.
I used to teach English to non-native speakers. All of them wanted to learn English with an American accent. I think they are actually doing themselves a disservice because they fail to understand the subtle differences of class status an accent signals. A more British inflected accent is an easy way to signal higher education and status to an American. They go a bit gaga for British accents. It's also easier to fake a British accent.
The weird thing in the Middle East is (outside of Saudi) most of the formal instruction was in British English, but everyone watched US tv, and the demand was generally for a American English (even after 9/11 and the unwelcoming US immigration policy).
Same thing in China and Thailand; I don't know about other countries.
The context here was "people who are having a hard time working in the US tech industry/being funded by US VCs due to accents". Obviously if you intend to work in the UK or another country which uses a different accent, it makes sense to learn in that accent. IIRC the phone bank people in Asia actually train people in specific accents based on the client for this very reason.
(A totally fluent UK/IE/etc English speaker probably is fine in any context, but I don't think someone learning from a webapp is starting from that point. If you are going to be a moderate speaker, it is better to be moderate in the target accent.)
Is there any evidence this actually works? You're motivating your product by saying it helps you keep your job if you have a thick accent. Does your product work? How does it compare to competitors? Adding this information would improve credibility.
Nice theory, but even non-native people that have been living in their new country will retain their accent for a long time. Unless they make a conscious effort to get rid of it, that is; most people don't, though.
> I've always been uncomfortable with my pronunciations.
You mean "my pronunciation." English is pretty weird about when we do and do not use the plural form and this trips up a lot of people :) I wouldn't mention it, but given that you're here for the specific purpose of improving your English, I thought you'd want to know.
Speaking of which, mass nouns always trip non-native speakers up, especially in IT. Do NOT use the following words: datas, informations, softwares. Data is already the plural of the Latin word datum and none of those words are used by native speakers.
I would add 'codes' to that use as it is often misused, but there are a lot of times when using it is correct, so you'll just have to study up on the rules for mass nouns sometime.
It's not the most natural thing to say but it can still fly:
"Merriam-Webster provides a free online dictionary, thesaurus, audio pronunciations, [...]"
in a way that 'softwares' and 'advices' would not.
I would add 'codes' to that use as it is often misused
To make this even more confusing, in some contexts, 'codes' is used as a plural in ways you never would for general purpose programming, even though it refers to the same thing. Physics (nuclear, in particular) simulations are a case in point:
I would accept that usage, but not "my pronunciations." The hard part for foreign speakers is that this usage is perfectly comprehensible, so it would rarely get corrected, while sounding bad to native speakers.
Which is, of course, quite harmful to someone who wants to improve. And yes, I know of no simple answer as to when to use 'code' vs. 'codes', but I will say that I think that 'source codes' is probably always wrong. At least, I am unable to find a sentence using that which sounds right, though it might be possible for it to be correct if you were talking about something other than the source code of a computer program.
I would accept that usage, but not "my pronunciations."
My filter might be a bit more lenient because I imagine an implied 'my pronunciations of some particular words" after it. I still wouldn't say it or write it but it doesn't poke me in the eye as much, especially in the middle of otherwise idiomatic-sounding casual English. So context counts as well - as do the tastes of the person reading your stuff. Someone might think you an illiterate clod for a misused "it's" or "your" or "whomever".
Anyway, I think we're actually in violent agreement, my only point is the nuances are tough and not subject to easy rules.
Oh, and you were saying
At least, I am unable to find a sentence using that which sounds right, though it might be possible for it to be correct if you were talking about something other than the source code of a computer program.
That just makes the NY Times sound clueless. Perhaps it shouldn't, but it does.
Then again, I seem to recall some observation about the evolution of language where the less-used irregular words change more frequently, and 'source code' is not something people outside of technology discuss. But that's probably why the usage, which makes them seem like outsiders, sounds bad to me.
I actually talked to some Firefox Devs at the State of the Browser conference. Unfortunately they said that speech input for Firefox will not be available unless Google decides to open source their speech recognition technology or give away licenses to their software.
Alright I just deployed a hotfix that includes TLDs for: com, net, org, de, fr, in, ru, it, tr.
I will also be adding lots of new content soon, so if you are interested in a particular theme for words/phrases ("flowers", "dog breeds", "Flirting 101" etc) just let me know. I will give them higher priority.
I have no special theme right in mind, I usually speak english only when I travel, so it's mainly general purpose language. This could be as well asking for menu in restaurant, discussing tech with other developers or debating politics with foreign friends.
On the other hand, the idea of isolating words that are especially often wrongly pronounced for a given native language you mentioned in an other comment sounds really awesome : I'm less interested in getting a specific word right than getting right specific sounds used in a lot of words (but I guess this does not help you to select your first words, sorry about that).