John Omar Serial Builder

About Twitter Github RSS

An App to Master Any Language with Any Movie

Feb 25, 2017

I love watching movies and TV series. When learning a language, a movie is a great way to learn vocabulary, tune your accent, and get better at understanding native speakers. The problem is that you can watch an entire film and not improve at all. It's inherently a passive activity.

I created a technique to turn watching a movie or TV series into an optimized and entertaining way to master any language. Each sentence spoken in a film is split into its own little video clip. If an actor has a 10 minute monologue, I break it up into ~40 micro-videos, one for each sentence. Then I look at each clip and test myself in three phases:

Then I repeat each segment that I had trouble with, just like one does with flashcards. Unfortunately, preparing the movie is tedious and time consuming because the videos need to be cut into hundreds of segments and organized for later recall.

An Automated and Optimized Solution

The good news is that I created a desktop app to manage the entire process. You add any film and the app will break it up into short sections and segments. The app uses excercises to test all three phases (listening, writing, and speaking) and shows you your weakest segments according to a spaced repetition algorithm - just like Anki does for flashcards.

See Caterpillar App in Action:


Some people describe the app as the next step after Duolingo because you are finally learning with material that native speakers use.

So far the most frequently asked question has been: where do I get the videos? Are they already in the app?

Here’s the answer: you supply the app with your own content. For example, I own the French film Intouchables and I also have the subtitle file that I got from opensubtitles.org. That’s all I need! The app will take those two files and generate a language course. We do have some TED talks for people mastering English, but you’re free to upload any video. I think it’s best to procure your own videos because it allows you to use the content that you want to use. FluentU is a great platform for language learners, but I want to learn every word in Intouchables, not some random youtube videos that they offer. That’s part of the reason I built this app.

If you're interested in using the app, check it out or ask me anything on twitter.