I really like WordChamp to help me with learning foreign languages. It was good for me when I was learning French. It is good to me now that I am learning Spanish. And the last couple of months it was getting better nearly on a weekly basis.
That did not used to be the case. I looked at them just over a year ago and they had some interesting ideas, but the best features (like Web Reader) were for paying customers only. They received a reasonably good review from Calico Journal (Computer Assisted Language Instruction COnsortium), but the interface was a bit busy with trying to be all things to everybody. You also had to be online and on their website to use it.
How things changed. Everything is now free. Interface has been simplified, so most of the time only the language you learn and the language you know show up. They have added downloadable version of the audio from the flash card lists. They have even released a Firefox plugin, so you can use their translation while browsing the web, rather than always starting from their own website. Finally, to notify people of all these exciting new features, they setup an RSS feed.
And here is the clincher, they have contacted me directly to talk about the latest and greatest feature they just released: developer/reader API. I was planning to test the API already (I saw it in RSS feed notification), but being contacted about it made me feel like an important A-list’er. They knew my email because I submitted site feeback, error reports and suggestions to WordChamp before, but usually all these reports are one way.
The thing is – I have submitted feedback to other companies plenty of times before, but rarely got even a confirmation back. With WordChamp, I received a personal email from the company’s founder with thoughtful commentary on features and bugs I talked about. In fact, I think at least one of my suggestions has since been implemented. This is what I call listening to the users.
As it was, I was going to test the reader API anyway, but now I will make sure it gets done soon. I will need to dig a bit into the internals of my blogging software, but it is doable.
Now, all this does not mean that I think WordChamp is the best thing from the sliced bread. I still think there is a lot of room for improvement. I would really (really, really) like the flashcard quiz interface to use Leitner spaced repetition system. I think there is a lot more that can be done with podcasts. I believe adding stories (audio+text) with a bit of computational linguistics magic would take the service to new heghts. But – even without all that – I still like WordChamp more than hundreds of other sites I have reviewed and I recommend it to language students (and teachers) any chance I get.
I am really looking forward to new features WordChamp will bring in and I will certainly keep them notified if I will notice a problem or think of a feature they could add. And if you haven’t tried it yet, do!