I have developed and maintained various ReactJS websites where Spanish and Portuguese language learners engage in practice activities. The apps also employ Redux and Ajax+PHP. I designed and implemented – from the-bottom-up – this website and infrastructure. It lets students learn with activities that provide feedback using natural language processing principles. 

My understanding of the state of the art comes from my involvement in research on computer-assisted language learning. Although a lot of progress has been made in our understanding of the cognitive and psychological conditions that speed up second language acquisition, the vast majority of the websites that language learning students have access to employ techniques that reflect antiquated perspectives and myths about effective practice. Most commercial products engage students in drill and practice activities. The type of activities that this website offers allows students to take advantage of multimedia and natural language processing. 

To be more specific, students listen to brief language samples that are contextualized within a story, and they not only answer questions that check their comprehension but also they are asked to provide personal reactions and responses to what they hear. This sort of cognitive engagement helps students to make connections between grammar and vocabulary aspects of the second language, while at the same time associating personal and emotional mental processes with what they are learning. Research today shows that when learners engage new experiences from both a factual and a personal perspective, long-term gains are more possible.

When students are asked to practice particular grammar structures and vocabulary words, a unique feature of the activities on this website is the use of subtle visual feedback on how close they are to being correct as they are typing their answers. Websites today wait for students to complete an item or an entire activity before letting them know whether and how many of their answers are correct. Activities on this website largely abandoned this practice: students view an accuracy meter as they are typing Spanish or Portuguese in some focused activity, such as one that emphasizes verbs in the past tense. 


Demo activities

Practicing Portuguese verbs and pronouns

This activity takes the typical fill-in-the-blank paradigm to another level, involving NLP technologies.

The activity also integrates the following technologies:

  • Data for the activity reside in MySQL database.
  • ReactJS ajax routines obtain data from the database via PHP.
  • Redux interacts with ReactJS to manage providing feedback, monitoring progress, and showing students answers once they have completed the whole task.

🔗 Go to the activity!

Practicing Portuguese numbers

This activity involves listening comprehension. Students listen to a number pronounced in Portuguese, and then they are to type the number with Portuguese conventions. This activity integrates the same technologies as the previous one. Additionally, I generated the mp3/ogg files using AWS Polly text-to-speech services, which I authored in Python.

For item 1, type the number 24.090 — which is how Portuguese writes 24,090. For item 2, answer with 175.

🔗 Go to the activity!