KS Edouard Song designs and builds technologies as creative expressions of potential futures.

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A vocabulary trainer directed by the learner’s own reading wishes.


Learning a foreign language is a tortuous and exacting adventure often made bearable by a few prospects: holding conversations, understanding the news, reading books or watching movies in their original language…

The balance shifts when these long-term motivations are supplanted by short-term desires (solving harder exercises, getting better grades, reaching the next level…). This happens when the learner effort and achievements are defined in relation to the course (or the learning application), undermining any aspiration the learner may initially have.

    Vocaboscope is a vocabulary trainer driven by the learner reading wishes.

    Vocaboscope sees the vocabulary contained within books (or movies). It can then, for any given book, compare this collection of words with people’s own lexicon and assess whether their vocabulary is sufficient to ensure a smooth and autonomous reading.

      Fig 1

      Comparing a learner lexicon with a book vocabulary, section by section

      More, learners can (and are encouraged to) make reading wishes: say, one wants to read “Les Misérables“ in French, but their vocabulary is currently lacking. In this case, Vocaboscope will help them fulfil these wishes, by setting up vocabulary training sessions with the objective of memorising the required words to meet the associated thresholds 1.

        Fig 2

        Memorising vocabulary through tailored exercises

        These practice sessions are entirely personalised: the exercises tackle the very words that appear in the transcript of the wished books (or movies), and account for the learner actual proficiency (greater knowledge means more difficult questions). These activities are also scheduled following a spaced-repetition algorithm to optimise memorisation efficiency 2.

        Once enough words have been assimilated for a given book, the parent wish is set as fulfilled, and the learner is notified. It is now time for action, time to step back from Vocaboscope and interact directly with the book. Learners hard work and effort are at the service of their own wishes.

        • 1

          An evaluation can also be carried out to (conservatively) estimate a learner vocabulary level, to avoid spending time learning words that were already mastered.

        • 2

          The lapse of time between reviews of the same word depends on the performance of past questions: a word will be reviewed more often if a student struggles with it.

        Vocaboscope tries to make people more optimistic and ambitious about their abilities when learning a language, encouraging them to have direct interactions with original books and movies.

        Wishes are mandatory. No wish, no word to memorize, no learning; this means that learners must give themselves a motivation to study, they must make wishes before using Vocaboscope. It does not matter whether these hopes are accessible or wild, wishes will be fulfilled without exception: it is simply a matter of practice and time. There is no condition, no uncertainty, no magic. If they are willing to commit enough energy to learn some vocabulary, they will be able to read their wished books at some point.

          Fig 3

          Wishes arranged in a calendar-like format, from wishes in progress from fulfilled wishes (shown as to-do tasks)

          So, when every book, even the most cryptic ones, seems reachable through practice, the entire world becomes a catalogue of opportunities waiting to be explored. Fulfilled wishes generate new ambitions, and more and more words get memorised in the process.

            Vocaboscope is now in public beta.

              Selected projects

              • Phototaxon2019–present

                A photography exercise in creativity.
              • Vocaboscope2015–present

                A vocabulary trainer directed by the learner’s own reading wishes.
              • Reflecting pool2014

                A learning method for university courses powered by students’ critical thinking.
              • Koala hoop2013

                A portable basketball hoop mountable on existing street furniture.
              • Timelines2013

                A bus stop which empowers travellers in making informed routing decisions.