Wikipedia defines the language laboratory as an audio or audio-visual installation used as an aid in modern language teaching. I still remember the language lab in my university comprises a teacher console which is connected to a number of rows of student booths each of which contains a headset with a boom arm microphone. The teacher used the teach console (tape recorder) to play back the tape, and usually it is one way communication from teacher to student. When the language lab goes online, things are getting changed. You can take the advantage of web technology to choose the course and communicate freely with your tutors and classmates who may be far away from you. And you can even download the lesson to your iPod or mobile phone and listen to it on the go. We have written about many online solutions to language learning, they all look good, but Hank Horkoff, CEO of ChinesePod wants to bring the language learning to next level. He said: Language Lab should die and OpenLanguage is the future, which sounds very ambitious but also promising.

OpenLanguage

Hank recently published a post detailing his idea of OpenLanguage project. He wrote the mission statement:

“To create, as a community, the leading international language-learning platform for language classes (teacher and students as key stakeholders) that brings together the best lessons from publishers and the best study tools from developers.”

OpenLanguage is a mobile learning network designed as a space in which language teachers can distribute learning materials and collaborate with their students. It contains two key elements: Client Site and Partner Platform. On the client site, it provides online course management system, two-way interaction between teachers and students and web/mobile tools to deliver learning content. The partner platform will give the publishers as well as developers to sell their lesson content and learning tools. Hank described it: It is an online marketplace in which language schools utilize modern web tools to supplement their existing teaching materials in a white-label partnership.

The OpenLanguage project will be officially kicked off next Monday. I am really looking forwards to how it will be executed.

Vertical Open Platform

As you may know, there are many online social networks nowadays in China. We used to discuss on the crowded Chinese social networks, we said the vertical social network might be a way out. The OpenLanguage projects actually inspired me another concept which I call it Vertical Open Platform. You may question on this. Since it is Open and able to embrace everything, how come it goes vertical? That is true, but I think it also make some sense. Facebook’s open platform gives everyone the possibility of interacting with millions of users, which is super cool. But I am afraid that it is hard for many of Facebook apps which focus on particular area to succeed. They can be easily buried by other apps which are suitable for users’ common taste because Facebook is a generic social network whose users come in from different background and for different purpose. But if social networks go vertical, e.g. a network for language learning. Are you expecting an application like Friends For Sale will be running on and dominating its open platform? Probably not. That is why a vertical open platform, like OpenLanguage will exist.