Want to teach the world to speak

Jan 8, 2019

Tekst: Anne-Lise Aakervik
Foto: synlig.no

Sounds Good is now Capeesh and takes aim to become the preferred digital language learning tool, tailored to its users’ unique needs.


In 2015, we wrote about two language researchers at NTNU, Professor Jacques Koreman and Associate Professor Olaf Husby, who used a database (CALST) as the starting point for a digital tool designed to help users improve their listening and pronunciation proficiency based on the user’s native language. Along with TTO, the team secured a grant from NTNU Discovery to develop a tool for practising listening and pronunciation.

Sounds Good was established in 2017, with Marie Jacobsen Lauvås as managing director. The company is now developing a new linguistic tool based on the same technology.

Sounds Good’s engine makes use of advanced artificial intelligence as well as the database CALST, which is the result of long-term research at NTNU’s Department of Language and Literature. The researchers involved have gone to extraordinary lengths to record phonetic representations of more than 500 languages, including 8 variants of Norwegian.

Rote learning
The best way to learn new sounds as an adult is so-called motor repetition of exercises, i.e. rote learning or “cramming”.

Repeating sounds over and over is quite tedious, however. Sounds Good therefore wanted to find a way to make it fun, challenging and educational. The commercialization project at NTNU had already proven that the product needed better adaptation, including elements from games, for example, to make it more user-friendly.

In October 2017, Sounds Good partnered with the company Box of Words from Oslo, who proved to be a perfect match for the expertise of Sounds Good.

Global ambitions
Together, the company developed Capeesh, software designed to deliver custom language training to customers in the corporate market, with relevant industry terminology and pronunciation, but in a fun way. Many companies recruit new employees from all over the world. These companies often use specialized terminology, and all employees need to know these terms in both Norwegian and English. New employees need a quick introduction to the lingo.  Users can practice by completing various exercises while receiving instruction from the Lin, the game’s character. As in other games, users earn points and level up if they get the answers right. The end goal is to be able to speak as fluently as possible.

“Today, we have six employees and a number of consultants, and we hope to reach millions of users. Our market is global, as we can provide training in 6 languages (Norwegian, English, German, French, Spanish and Dutch), and we can create custom exercises aimed at more than 500 native languages. The corporate market is expanding rapidly in this new global reality, where people find jobs across national borders,” Marie Jacobsen Lauvås concludes.

Facts Capeesh
Capeesh means “he/she/it understand” The word comes from the Italian capisce, which is the third person singular present tense of the verb capire– ‘to understand’.

In order to get started with Capeesh, the user has to enter a little bit of information about themselves. This includes the language they want to learn, native languages they already know and what they want to be able to talk about, such as field- or discipline-specific topics. Capeesh then tailors all exercises to the user’s individual needs.

Read more and try it out on the website: www.capeesh.com

Fakta Capeesh

Capeesh betyr ’forstår du?’. Ordet kommer fra italiensk capisce, som er tredje person entall bøyning av verbet capire, som betyr ’forstå’.
For å komme i gang med Capeesh må brukeren legge inn litt informasjon om seg selv. Det er språket man ønsker å lære, morsmål man snakker fra før og hva man ønsker å kunne snakke om. Eksempelvis faglige ting. Capeesh skreddersyr deretter alle øvelsene etter brukerens behov.
Les mer og prøv ut på hjemmesiden: www.capeesh.com

Per Arne Wilson
Epost: per.arne.wilson@ntnu.no,
Kontortelefon: 73 59 02 99
Kontoradresse: Hovedbygget,
Høgskoleringen 1, Rom 007, 7012 Trondheim