Language Learning Upgrade

Students from the Taub Faculty of Computer Science join forces to develop an app to support Arabic language learners

Learning to communicate: Technion students develop an app for the “Madrasa” project in honor of International Arabic Language Day 

The UN’s International Arabic Language Day is commemorated each year on December 18, which is the anniversary of a resolution passed by the UN General Assembly making Arabic one of its official working languages. Students from the Henry and Marilyn Taub Faculty of Computer Science at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology recently developed an app for the Madrasa project to help people learn Arabic. The app features a voice recognition component that will support tens of thousands of students as they work to develop Arabic pronunciation skills.

Madrasa is a social, technological, community-oriented initiative that advocates for better communication in Israeli society through spoken Arabic courses. It promotes language learning through a platform that includes free online courses, extensive activity through digital channels, and many other collaborations. There are currently more than 100,000 students enrolled in Madrasa courses.

According to Gilad Sevitt, founder and director of Madrasa, “During our seven years of operations, we have seen the need for people to practice their speaking proficiency while learning, while hearing the same question from students over and over again: ‘What about an app?’”

This question led to the recent collaboration between “Madrasa” and the Taub Faculty of Computer Science, as part of an “Industrial Project” course under the guidance of Professor Alex Bronstein. The course is focused on cooperation with industry and in the future will also lead to collaborations with various social organizations.

The project was aided by students Mahmod Yaseen and Rajeh Ayashe, who focused on developing the voice recognition components. Students Noor Hamdan, Rina Atieh, Lina Mansour, and Wadad Boulos, worked on developing the app itself. “Working with the students was very effective and helpful,” Sevitt said. “They came on board and contributed greatly to our project and we enjoyed working together on both the linguistic and technological levels.”

Mahmod and Rajeh created an effective infrastructure for bots to have conversations with students. The bot (voice recognition component) creates a conversation in spoken Arabic and teaches new students to pronounce words and have conversations on various topics. The conversations are written by Madrasa’s pedagogical team, and the students developed an editor that directs the level of conversation and content according to the knowledge gained by each student in the online courses.

IBM has been enthusiastic about the development and is considering moving forward with it. “With the help of Technion students, we were able to develop a voice recognition component that will finally allow tens of thousands of students in our online courses to practice their pronunciation in Arabic and speak while learning,” Sevitt said. “The component will be integrated as soon as possible in the courses alongside all videos, games, and exercises, and will be a kind of conversation bot through which students can practice their proficiency of spoken Arabic.”

This project, in which Noor, Rina, Lina, and Wadad are partners, includes the initial development of the app, as well as making various adjustments and solving any glitches that come up in the future.

The app will upgrade the students’ learning experience, provide alerts, and serve as the basis for many other developments, such as mobile games and more. It is expected to be released on Beta in the coming months.