Understand spoken language

New and radically improved algorithm for word and phrase teaching order

Submitted by Hugh on 16 May 2015

I'm very pleased to announce a new and radically improved algorithm for word and phrase teaching order. The technical details will get a bit, well, technical, but the basic message is simple: Lingopolo will now teach you the Thai words and phrases in a much more optimal order.

Strict frequency order for words and phrases

The first big difference is that Lingopolo now teaches all words and phrases in strictly word frequency order. It will follow not only the frequency order from the words by frequency page, but also teach all of the thousands of phrases, exactly based on the frequency of these words.

For example, Lingopolo will teach the words for to speak and language before it teaches the word for Halloween, because language occurs a lot more frequently than Halloween.

But, also, and perhaps more importantly, once Lingopolo has taught you words such as to speak and language, it will realise that you should therefore be capable of learning the phrase "What language does he speak?".

In fact, over a year ago, in my blog post Learning words in order of frequency of use, I thought I'd cracked that. It was true that words were introduced in order of frequency. However, the problem was that things could get quickly muddled if you had a go at learning anything out of sequence. For example, I had clicked on the Learn button for the phrase A camel can have one or two humps. OK, fair enough, why not? So far so good. The problem was, that previously once this phrase had entered the Lingopolo box system, Lingopolo treated it as priority over other words and phrases which were in the unstarted pile. Now, Lingopolo always checks strictly every word and phrase to make sure it is displayed in the optimal order. Sure, if I want to practise an obscure sentence like "A camel can have one or two humps", then I can do so using the Learn button. However, as soon as I return to something like the recommended All Thai lesson, Lingopolo will now check to see what other words or phrases are more important (based on word frequency), before teaching me again the camel sentence.

Time-based repetition rather than box-based repetition

The second big change is that Lingopolo now uses time-based repetition. Lingopolo keeps track of when it last asked you a word or phrase, and gradually and automatically increases the length of time between each asking of a word or phrase.

Technically speaking, Lingopolo now uses the more sophisticated algorithm used for asking questions called SM2, which is used by software such as Anki.

Previously Lingopolo had used a simpler and less powerful algorithm called Leitner boxes.

How to use?

The best way to experience this is to learn using the recommended All Thai lesson. This will automatically take you from the most basic words to the most advanced phrases in the most efficient order. It will immediately give you lots and lots of practise of each new word in the context of real phrases as soon as it can.

These two changes - strict frequency order and time-based repetition - radically improve the learning experience. They are like the difference between search engines before Google and after Google; the first might have been OK, but the new one is superb!

I am still the #1 user of Lingopolo, and I can say that I have personally tried the new algorithm, and find it to be excellent. I thoroughly recommend you give it a try.

Note that the FAQ What do the levels mean for the words in a lesson? has been updated with the full details.