Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Use Lang-8 and Cinch to get your foreign-language speech corrected

I previously explained how to use Lang-8 and Snapvine to get recordings of your foreign-language speech corrected. Unfortunately, Snapvine is going out of business tomorrow, but Cinch comes through to let you do pretty much the exact same thing.

How to do it, after the jump.

I've so far tried this out only once in Italian, with the following recording:

It worked just as expected; Lang-8 users quickly came back and told me where I was screwing up.

Here's the step-by-step process:
  1. You'll need accounts on both Lang-8 and Cinch, so go ahead and sign up for those.
  2. Once you've done that, go to your Cinch and click on "Record a Cinch".
  3. Press the button to record a message.
  4. Add up to 140 characters of text as a title or the like and press "Submit".
  5. Click "Link" under your profile pic next to the recording. (If you can't do this right away because the recording is "Pending", try reloading the page; that resolved the issue for me.)
  6. Copy the URL from your browser window.
  7. Head on over to Lang-8 and click on "Write a new entry".
  8. Now paste the URL that you copied over on Snapvine into your entry, add in any additional text you want (an explanation of what you're hoping they'll do is probably helpful), and submit it.
  9. Await your corrections. They will arrive shortly!
Besides needing to jump through all the hoops noted above, I've got two complaints about this set-up on Lang-8. First, unless the correctors on Lang-8 actually correct some text as well, you can't provide Lang-8's "thanks points" to them. Second, there's no quick way for them to provide you with a recording of their own (although the above process works for corrections as well as for submissions). That said, you could always just get a native speaker's recording from RhinoSpike.

There are also two other issues with Cinch that weren't issues with Snapvine. First, Cinch puts an annoying "Cinch!" at the beginning of each audio recording, so you have to hear that stupid piece of branding repeated every single time you listen to a Cinch recording. Second, as far as I can tell, Lang-8 does not support direct embedding of CinchCast audio as it did for Snapvine, so you've just gotta provide the URL so that your Lang-8 friends can click through to Cinch's site to provide you with feedback.

What would truly be spectacular is if Lang-8 would support this right out of the box. Doing it through Cinch is OK, but the process could be made much more streamlined.

One more cool thing about Cinch is the number of ways you can get audio recordings on there. One way is that you can call a U.S. number on your cellphone to leave recordings (and then add them to Lang-8 later). They've also got an iPhone app that you can use to record and upload audio files whenever the mood hits you, so you can record some foreign-language speech, upload it to Cinch, and then make Lang-8 entries out of them to get your pronunciation, etc., corrected.


  1. I think both Snapvine and Cinch are overkill for our purpose. We just need a simple audio storage place which allows 2 types of file creation: instant recording and file upload. It also needs embedded player support. That's it.

    My own worry about using overkill services is that at some point in the future, we might be asked to pay, or worse, the service provider runs out of cash and shuts down the service.

  2. I don't mind the extra options websites like Cinch offer, but I'll definitely agree that it's more than is strictly needed for language-learning purposes. I also share your worry about them demanding payment at some point on the future, or going belly up, as is so obviously an issue. And I of course think that a much simpler solution would be ideal.

    Perhaps some entrepreneur out there is reading this right now...

  3. What about recording via "Audacity" and store the audio file in "Dropbox"? You may reference that file via Dropbox-URL.

  4. I tried the Audacity + Dropbox combination that you suggested, but I find that it's more effort than just using Cinch, despite my complaints about CInch. I don't find Audacity intuitive at all. That aside, I'd have to record in Audacity, save the file into the Dropbox folder, open the Dropbox folder, get the URL, and then paste the URL. On Cinch, all I have to do is to record and then click the link button to get the URL.

  5. The problem I'm having is that people don't want to click an outside link in Lang-8.  Is there a way to embed the player like you did on this page in a Lang-8 post?