Tuesday, 24 January 2006

BYKI and Optimus keyboard

Thanks to Google targetted adds in my gmail inbox, I found out about BYKI yesterday. It is a piece of software by Transparent Language based on flash cards. The good news is that the lite version is free and available for PC and Mac. So I downloaded it and am trying it out. It won’t teach you grammar but it is unexpectedly effective at teaching you words. Of course, they would like you to buy the full version but it’s nice to be able to try it out and actually learn something with the free version.

The only problem I have is Transparent Language themselves. I bought products from them in the past and their interpretation of sending you email about products you might be interested in verges on spam: I got quite annoyed at regularly deleting email from them telling me they had a special offer on something or other. At the end of the day, if I am serious about learning a new language, I’d rather stick to that language for some time so I’m unlikely to be a repeat customer very soon.

While using BYKI, I came back to the good old problem about learning Arabic: if you want to learn how to write it as well as speak it, you will need to be able to do the writing exercises. When you have a UK English keyboard, the only option is to use the software character map and this is very time consuming and takes all the fun out of learning anything. The obvious solution would be to get an English/Arabic keyboard and switch keyboard mapping. And the day I want to learn, say Russian, I’d need an English/Russian keyboard. But I’d hope that by then, I’d be able and would want to keep writing Arabic: I’d have to plug the Arabic keyboard back in! I’m not even getting in the complications due to the fact that I already need to be able to write French, Spanish and Italian that all require extra characters in addition to the English ones. So I set to look for something I had seen last year and found it again: the Optimus keyboard. Now, how cool is that? A keyboard where each key is an OLED that changes when you change the keyboard mapping in the OS. You want to write in English? Switch to an English layout. Arabic? Switch to an Arabic one. Russian? Ditto. It looks like it will be available in February but at what price, nobody knows. It’s a cool piece of kit though. I want one of those!

No comments: