Impressive, free (and dated) JLU’s language learning resourcess

The Joint Language University (JLU) provides free downloadable language courses. I have stumbled upon them while searching for the Portuguese learning resources, and I was pleased to discover more languages.

The JLU Free Language Courses

An graphic elements in a dated JLU language course
A picture in a dated JLU language course

If you point your browser to the JLU’s address you will open a page with the following language courses: Albanian, Belarusan, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Chinese Mandarin, Czech, Dari, Dutch, Egyptian Arabic, Filipino, French, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hungarian, Indonesian, Iraqi Arabic, Korean, Maranao, MSA, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Syrian Arabic, Tausug, Thai, and Vietnamese.

The courses vary in quality and extent. For example, the Portuguese course contains several books and audio resources, while the Serbian is much smaller and lacks audio. The Russian resources are extensive. The Arabic courses are impressive, with EgyptianIraqiSyrian and MSA. But, there is a catch.

Free courses, but dated language courses

Portuguese course sample page
A Portuguese course from 1960s, created on a mechanical typewriter

The good thing about the JLU free resources is that they are, well, free. Not so good about them is that they are very dated and, form the point of view of a general learner or speaker, overly military (due to its origin and purpose).

Some of the materials are from 1960s. For example, the Portuguese course was created in 1968 (the PDF is scanned mechanically typewritten content, and the MP3 is converted from tapes). The Portuguese language underwent several orthographic reforms in the meantime, which the JLU course renders more of a research material than a learning material.

I assume that “dated” is a relative term for some languages, but it is up to a learner (or mentor) to give the final judgement. However, a half of a century is a lot in terms of a current and relevant learning material. The methods in language teaching have also been updated since 60s.

The JLU language courses listed in this text are not modern, but they can be useful to linguists and language enthusiasts (even though some courses are incomplete). You can have a look at their other public materials here, but be ready for not so friendly web interface.

How to pronounce “th”

For THIN /θɪn/

  1. Put the tip of your tongue slightly out between your upper teeth.
  2. Put your hand on your larynx (in a sec we’ll see why).
  3. Practice just passing the air current and saying “ssssss”. Since this sound is voiceless, you should not feel vibrations on your hand.
  4. Now, while still “biting” your tongue say /t/. You’ll hear a mixture of /s/ and /t/. Repeat, but make sure there are no vibrations.
  5. Congratulations, that was /θ/.

For THE /ðə/

All as above, EXCEPT:

  • Practice first with /z/.
  • Pronounce /d/ and, very important:
  • You should feel the vibrations, because this sound has a lot of energy.
  • That was /ð/!

This is my reply to a question on English Language & Usage on Stackexchange. I hope it might help other people.

SNTRecorder – A tool to assist speakers in corpus recording

The purpose of SNTRecorder is to assist in corpus recording. It was written to make speakers feel easier during the recording process, by allowing them to choose they own pace in pronunciation, but again not allowing sentences to be read too fast. Written in Python, with interface created in Tkinter (Tcl/Tk), it is a multiplatform tool, executable on Linux and Windows. Download SNTRecorder (source code, 48KB).

Compiled sentence where user is allowed to read it aloud

Assistance during a recording session

SNTRecorder is not a recording software, just a small utility that assists in the process.  The best way to understand what this program do read the workflow description (taken from my MA paper about phonetics):

  1. The project is loaded and the program creates the sentences and the time list, and then  shuffles them.
  2. A user sits in front of the screen and enters the initials.
  3. The program shows a sentence and a red line in the lower part of the sentence screen. The sentence is crossed out at this step, as a signal to the speaker to read the sentence without saying it aloud.
  4. The randomly selected time for the current sentence elapses and the red line changes to green, and the text appears normal.
  5. The speaker pronounces the sentence and presses the “next” key to continue.
  6. Steps 3 through 5 repeat until all sentences are recorded.
  7. The program informs that the current session is over and asks if there is need to repeat some items. If answered yes, a window is shown to select the sentences and to repeat  steps 3-6 for a given selection. The session ends once there is no re-recording.
  8. A new user is ready and the cycle restarts.
Compiled sentence where user must wait to pronounce it

Speaker logs

The program creates a simple log for each speaker. Here is a sample of a log.

# Started at: 2011-03-11-10:42
# Ended at: 2011-03-11-10:48
# Speaker: ana
# Random time: 1-4
# Time scale: 10

Sentence t(1/SCALE s) Next
The word "theirs" is spoken. 19.6834339953 10:44:07:607000
The word "abjured" is spoken. 22.7161564864 10:44:16:982000
The word "bait" is spoken. 26.945639852 10:44:23:597000
The word "dare" is spoken. 19.9025319695 10:44:34:642000
The word "fierce" is spoken. 16.5143768762 10:44:42:457000
The word "douse" is spoken. 19.3227666274 10:44:48:136000
The word "bourse" is spoken. 34.6668924964 10:44:54:766000
The word "fears" is spoken. 21.7415600234 10:45:02:441000
The word "Job" is spoken. 18.9044580715 10:45:10:100000

The log is preceded by time and speaker information. Random time indicates the brackets for selecting minimum and maximum values the user will be prevented to move to the next sentence. The log lines consist of the sentence that was shown on the screen,  randomly selected time to prevent showing the next sentence, and finally the time when speaker pressed the “next” key.

Project settings, execution and OS difference

sntrecorder main window
Main window of the program

To create your own project, just make a copy of and leave it in the same directory. Then, edit the new file. The comments explain how to change the template sentence and insert new words. The file name (without extension) is you project name in the program. To change min and max time for users to wait between each sentence, edit TIMEMIN and TIMEMAX in file.

To execute the program, go into src folder and type python3 If your’re using Windows you’ll have to provide the full path to the file, usually something like C:\python32\python,exe, but it depends on Python version you are using (must be 3+).

Sound will not work on Linux (clicks for start and end of a sentence, which I doubt you might need). Also, you will need python3-tk library.

Program uses distinct strings for on-screen messages that are editable in, and you can provide localized versions. An example, in Serbian, is already there.

As you can see, this  is a small tool that I created to make the recording easier for students. Because this was just one of the tools I developed for my thesis, it is not user-friendly in terms of rich interface settings. But, thanks to open source and portability, you are free to adopt it to your requirements, with only a text editor and some patience. I hope you will find it useful.

Download SNTRecorder (source code, 48KB).