Category Archives: software

Real-Time Language Translation with Google Translate App and Smartphone Camera

The World Lens app by QuestVisual was introduced in 2010 and used a typical smartphone camera to convert printed text in real time. Here’s the video announcing the product:


Google recently integrated the technology in their translate app, so now with a single app you can perform a variety of translation tasks. With the World Lens app, additional languages required an in-app purchase. The Google product will include 36 languages for free.


Learn More

Here are some resources to learn more about the technology.

Rosetta Stone Language Learning Software

Walter Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal has stated: “Rosetta Stone may be the next best thing to living in a country.” You’ll find other praise for the product used heavily in their marketing materials. The Rosetta Stone System is used by the State Department, NASA, and 9,000 other public and nonprofit agencies. It’s used by over 8,000 corporations and more than 20,000 educational institutions.

Yet Rosetta Stone has also drawn criticism from people, including higher education academics and professors who specialize in computer assisted language learning. This leaves language learners at a loss to know who to believe.

This 2013 article featured on the Modern Language Association website addresses some concerns: “Is Rosetta Stone a Viable Option for Second-Language Learning?

One concern about Rosetta Stone is that a common set of images and base vocabulary are shared across different languages. For example, in the Spanish lesson below, one would expect to see culturally relevant images of people and places where Spanish is predominantly spoken. The man shown in the lower left picture has the Hindi “Om” written on the building behind him (perhaps at a temple). This image would be helpful for those trying to understand the context of the Hindi language and associated culture. However, in a lesson about Spanish it is out of place and disorients the learner.

Image from the Rosetta Stone Demo interactive advertisement on 22 August 2014.
Image from the Rosetta Stone Demo interactive advertisement on 22 August 2014.

There’s also been a concern that the program oversimplifies language learning by focusing only on vocabulary and simple dialogs without providing a substantive introduction to the grammar and phonetics of a language.

It may be that those who praise the product and those who criticize it are both wrong:

  • The supporters of Rosetta Stone make lofty and glorified claims about what it can do – stating that the product is all you need to become fluent in a language.
  • The critics of Rosetta Stone seem to be arguing that the product is completely worthless.

In reality, most language learners will rely on many tools and resources to learn a language. The more tools and experiences you have, the more deep and rich your understanding will be of a language and its culture(s). A mix of classroom learning, interactive software, and immersion in a foreign country are all helpful for anyone learning a language. Mobile apps, handwritten flash cards, YouTube videos, Skype sessions, and audio recordings are all examples of tools to consider.

The best way to evaluate Rosetta Stone is to try out the free online demo. The real question a language learner needs to ask is whether or not this or any learning tool is worth the cost for what it offers.

Here are a few apps and online resources to use as a comparison:


SIL International NRSI: Computers & Writing Systems



SIL serves language communities worldwide, building their capacity for sustainable language development, by means of research, translation, training and materials development.

One of the valuable resources offered by SIL are various computer fonts, such as the Doulos SIL font set.

You can download the the Doulos SIL font set from the SIL website.

There’s a maintenance release of the font for use with Firefox, but most people will use the official release.

Apple Mac computer users can expand/open the zip file, and then double-click on the font to have it installed using the Apple Font Book utility. Windows users can use a similar method to install the font. It is also compatible with Linux.

Teaching Chinese as a Second Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Instruction – Helen Shen – University of Iowa – Peking University – Book and Video Instruction CD DVD



Teaching Chinese as a Second Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Instruction by Helen Shen is an exceptional resource for instructors of Chinese. The resource was developed by Professor Helen Shen of the University of Iowa and published by Peking University. Additional works by Shen are available on Amazon.


The book consists of eight chapters and covers basic and advanced knowledge of Chinese teaching. It includes information about Chinese characters,radicals,words,and vocabulary and then talks about orthographic knowledge acquisition and instruction. It also deals with cognitive and psychoIinguistic models for Chinese vocabulary acquisition, and provides many frameworks for CFL vocabulary instruction.

Video Companion Software

The video companion software provides excellent teachings samples for illustrating various instructional methods and techniques.

Software Installation Instructions

The StarForce Video Player is required to view the companion videos. It is located on the installation CD/DVD. Follow these instructions to install the player and view the videos.

  1. Insert the installation disc.
  2. Double click on the StarForce Video Player .exe file.
  3. An initial message will indicate “Checking disc…”20140310mo-demo-video1
  4. You’ll be asked if you want to install a necessary driver. Click Yes.
  5. You’ll be asked to provide the Disc Key. This is printed along the top of the disc. Enter the key and then click Next.20140310mo-demo-video4
  6. You may get an error message indicating that emulation software is running.
  7. Click Retry. If that doesn’t help, try restarting the computer. Make sure you are using an Administrator account on the computer. Try another disc. Eventually you should end up with a video menu similar to the one below.