Jul 25, 2010

Announcing The Pali Tutor

Learning to read Pali is something many students of Buddhism would like to do, but many are put off because initially it seems so difficult. Admittedly, it's a shallower learning curve if you've already,  at some time, studied Latin or another inflected language. I went through school so far back in the mists of time that Latin was still a compulsory subject in High School. Although I remembered almost nothing of it by the time I tried my hand at Pali, the idea of inflected nouns was not altogether foreign to me.

If you can cross that conceptual bridge, what remains is the donkey work involved in learning any language; the memorization of vocabulary, declensions and conjugations. Having suffered an injury that kept me from useful labour out of doors most of this spring and summer, I found something useful to do indoors and brushed up on my Javascript to carry out a project I've had percolating in my mind for some time.



The result is the Pali Tutor, an online application that lets the user do interactive memory drills for Pali vocabulary and declensions. I may add conjugations at some future time. If anyone finds this useful, drop me a line. Especially write to me if you find any mistakes or bugs.

This is actually my second iteration of this idea, the previous one done about a decade ago was in Hypertalk format, which is now obsolete. Computers are here to remind us of anicca.

7 comments:

Jayarava said...

I think you almost have a useful application, but there are some problems which make me unlikely to use it.

Having made an error there is no way to correct it! No backspace or undo. Which means if I make a wrong click (which I am likely to do) then I have to start from scratch.

I'm happy typing Unicode diacritics from my keyboard, and would like a way to enter things directly. Typing by mouse clicks is no good for me.

Navigating around the grids is painfully slow - it would be better for memory to fill the grid in the check it. Why not arrow keys?

I appreciate your efforts but I think you have some way to go.

Best Wishes
Jayarava

BTW the previous comment is spam, the link leads to a Chinese porn website.

Gabor said...

Dear Bhante,

Nice kick-start, there are some rough edges to smoothen.

Use @font-face in your CSS, so users don't even notice they are missing Gentium.

Useful links:
http://paulirish.com/2010/font-face-gotchas/
http://www.fontsquirrel.com/fontface/generator
http://paulirish.com/2009/bulletproof-font-face-implementation-syntax/
http://paulirish.com/2009/fighting-the-font-face-fout/

One can figure out the interface, but the layout doesn't focus the user's attention, the user shouldn't need to look for the right buttons. I think you are trying too much at once with the interface, it's a bit of an airplane's control panel :) See Anki's interface for inspiration:
http://ichi2.net/anki/

Employ Fitt's law:
http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2006/08/fitts-law-and-infinite-width.html
http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2010/03/the-opposite-of-fitts-law.html

There are too many colors and too much contrast. Contrast should be limited to guide the users's attention, otherwise it's disorienting.

Please, don't do frames... div boxes, div boxes!

Keyboard hotkeys would improve the flow of operation.

Typing sounds and words could be added with users typing velthius. It just doesn't work that the user should spend 30+ secs hunting for 6 letters.

Good luck and few bugs!
Gabor

Ajahn Punnadhammo said...

Thanks for the useful comments, which I will look into for future versions.

Jayarava - there is a way to correct mistakes; the "Oops" button. In the Declension Drill it restores the current cell to its original (stem) condition. In the Vocab drill it removes the last letter entered.

Also, in Noun Declension one can move quickly through the table by successively selecting "Show Answer" and "Check Answer"

the poet's apprentice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jen said...

http://www.manythings.org/q/kana.php?u=katakana

This is a good site for drilling katakana. Good pedagogy, good functionality.

Johann said...

Sadhu!
Thanks a lot for the share.

_()_

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