MORE SYSTEM IMPROVEMENTS – this time aiming at Catalan and P-Celtic

May 14, 2014

by Caoimhín


I have made some improvements to Wordlink and Multidict (and hence Clilstore) for Catalan and for the P-celtic languages, Breton, Cornish and Welsh.
I was trying to make some sense of a Breton website the other day by viewing it with Wordlink and wasn’t getting on very well – partly because I know hardly any Breton(!), partly because the online dictionaries are not very good, but partly because of a difficulty Wordlink had with Breton.
In Breton “c’h” is regarded as a single “letter”, but Wordlink was breaking Breton words such as “boulc’het” into two non-words “boulc” and “het”. It was taking the non-alphabetic character “’” to be a word-break, (the same as it does in English “words” such as “queen’s” and “isn’t”). I managed to put that right and get it to treat the sequence “c’h” in Breton (or the ascii version “c’h”) as being part of a word.
Then I remembered that Catalan has exactly the same problem with “l•l” so I put that right too. I noticed that the “l•l” was also upsetting the Hunspell dictionary headword suggestions feature in Multidict, so I have written a new general “word recognition” feature for Wordlink and Multidict which could be used for other languages too. It could be used for example to treat hyphens as part of a word. Or it could be used to get Wordlink to treat “queen’s” and “isn’t” in English as single words – but I don’t think that would be a good thing on the whole.
Anyway, it is very good to have Wordlink now treating “l•l” properly in Catalan, because Catalan is one of the POOLS-3 languages and the Catalan team will soon be adding videos and transcripts to Clilstore.
Another problem with Breton, and also the other two P-celtic languages, Cornish and Welsh, is that they have a very complicated system of word-initial mutations. The Breton word “penn” can change to “benn” or “fenn” for grammatical reasons, “tad” can change “dad” or “zad”, “kalon” to “galon” or “c’halon”. This causes big problems for learners, and means that they find it very difficult to look up words in dictionaries. (Scottish and Irish Gaelic also have initial mutation, but not so complicated, and the dictionary headword is retained in the spelling, so dictionary lookup is not a problem for learners.)
This sounded like an ideal job for the new dictionary headword suggestions feature in Multidict, so I have now programmed into it “demutation” algorithms for Breton, Cornish and Welsh. They are not perfect, I know, and I have made them a “non-priority” feature in Multidict’s set of rules – i.e. the suggestions they come up with are listed at the end, to be tried only if the surface wordform lookup fails (whereas the demutation of Scottish and Irish Gaelic words is so easily recognised and distinctive that it is a priority feature in Multidict). They should be a big help to learners, though.


Media Tips

April 26, 2014

Island Voices - Guthan nan Eilean

POOLS-3 audio and video presentation The Island Voices project originated with “Series One” in the 2005-2007 Leonardo-funded European project “POOLS”, and subsequently developed “a life of its own” after that. Technology and techniques have moved on since those early days, of course, but fundamental principles remain stable, and lessons can still be learned.

“POOLS-3” is a Transfer of Innovation project in which institutions involved in teaching Catalan, Czech, and Irish aim to replicate and develop some of the key outputs from the first POOLS project. At a recent meeting in Barcelona, Gordon Wells gave this brief presentation on approaches to media recording, based on his experiences with POOLS and Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean.

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HAPPY EVER AFTER… with best memories from Belfast

April 17, 2014

On the 7th of April “Tools for CLIL teachers” project team gathered in Belfast for their final meeting. For three busy days the team enjoyed the working atmosphere and the hospitality of the Belfast campus of The University of Ulster. As usual, Kent navigated the team directly and clearly towards the goals of the meeting, with everyone accounting for their past activities and presenting plans for the final months of the project action. Perfection has no limit – this can be easily said about Caoimhin’s (Skye) attitude towards the software of the project. We must always be alert not to miss one of his latest improvements, which can be seen as far and away from the initial obligations of the project, with the clilstore system even user-friendlier than we expected it to be. It is obvious that the project outcomes have a good future ahead, as we enjoy the growing number of units in the Clilstore, created by our end-users.

Ailbhe Ó Corráin – Director of the Irish and Celtic Studies Research Institute

Ailbhe Ó Corráin – Director of the Irish and Celtic Studies Research Institute

The project team was warmly welcomed by Professor Ailbhe Ó Corráin – Director of the Irish and Celtic Studies Research Institute and Professor Alastair Adair – Provost of the Belfast Campus of the University. This kind attention from the part of the university authorities demonstrate overall positive attitude and support for IT tools in language teaching and the use of the software developed by the project in order to boost the learning of Irish and Scottish Gaelic languages.

Prof. Alastair Adair – Provost of the Belfast Campus of the University

Prof. Alastair Adair – Provost of the Belfast Campus of the University

There is no doubt that the project website and all social networks will be active after the end of the project lifetime. Not only because other projects of languages.dk family have been using them and there is always a new one at the end of the line. We have just announced a call for Tools on-line courses and during the first hours at least 5 participants, coming from Luxembourg, Greece, Indonesia, Japan, and France have registered. Long live Tools4CLIL!!!


The world takes notice

April 17, 2014

The message about Clilstore is spreading around the world.

Here’s an example from the British Council Learn English Facebook page (937,000 followers).


MORE UPDATES before the final project meeting

April 6, 2014

By Caoimhín Ó Donnaíle,Tools project software developer

kevinThis is very last-minutish, because I am about to leave at mid-day for Yorkshire and then on to Belfast on Monday, but I have now got a file upload facility working in Clilstore.
If you edit an existing unit, you’ll see that below the green link buttons there is now a new button “Files” which takes you to a page for uploading files and managing the files which are associated with the unit.
You can’t put files straight into a new unit as you create it. You have to save the unit first, then edit it to upload the files. Then if you want to link to the files using the green link buttons, you have to write them in as “file:Crossword.htm”, or “file:Worksheet.docs” or similar.
So the new facility is not yet as slick as it could be. As well as that, it is still missing all the error checks and security checks which ought to be built into it. I need to do more work on it. It will hopefully be usable already, though, despite its faults.

In the process of doing this work, I also gave multidict.net its own crash handler, instead of using the one which I use for other SMO work. So when things crash completely and you get a red screen, the error messages will now be in English instead of Gaelic 😉

Le deagh dhùrachd,


Clilstore software developments

April 4, 2014

kevin Caoimhín Ó Donnaíle,Tools project software developer never stops improving the clilstore   system, making it more user friendly each time. Here is a description of his efforts and results.

If you have a look at unit 1835 via the test server:  http://test.multidict.net/cs/1835

you’ll see that I have been making some good progress with giving Clilstore the ability to store files attached to units, rather than authors having to store them on Dropbox or elsewhere.

Unit 1835 is a test unit, which I created by cloning unit 1657 (a unit created by Jan Hardie in Switzerland, a participant in the POOLS-T project).

The first new thing which you might spot is that unit 1835 has 5 green user defined buttons. The limit used to be 3, and when Gordon and others requested an increase I raised it up to 4. Increasing it further would at the time have made the programs and database tables a lot more complicated. However, I have now completely rewritten and improved the programming behind the buttons and you can now have as many as you like by increasing their number one-by-one. If you already have 4 and edit the unit, it will let you add a 5th. If you have 5 and edit the unit, it will let you add a 6th, and so on. Of course, if you have more buttons you need to keep the text on them shorter or you will run out of screen width.

The next thing to notice is that whereas Jan’s unit 1657 had Hot Potatoes exercises stored in Dropbox, unit 1835 has them stored in Clilstore itself. And even though there are several exercises, the links between them work ok. The files attached to unit 1835 have their own URLs and therefore can be accessed independently of the Clilstore unit:


http://test.multidict.net/cs/1835/SMO .jpg




That means that you can use addresses like this when creating the buttons. Or else you can use shorter versions such as “file:hp/index.htm” (as used behind the scenes by the button “The same exercises”). You can also use these addresses to embed pictures within the units, as I have done with the picture of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

So the new facility could potentially provide great benefits and simplifications. There are two problems, though. One is that I have not yet provided any mechanism for authors to upload files such as this to Clilstore! So the facility is not yet available for use. The files in the test unit I uploaded by hand into the database. However, it should not be too difficult to provide some kind of upload facility for authors. Then we need facilities for authors to rename and delete the files which they upload, and to warn them that if they delete a unit they will delete the files associated with it too. I’ll see how much of this I can get done before I leave on Friday morning for Yorkshire and then Belfast. However, I thought it was worth letting the TOOLS team know about the work so far in case there are any comments or ideas.

The other big problem I can see is potential abuse. Up til now we have only stored the text of Clilstore units, with Javascript banned in them. Now we are about to allow authors to store practically anything, which gets us into a whole new territory. They could store files with JavaScript which could attempt to exploit weakness in the computer. They could store Windows .exe files which if executed would attempt to install a Trojan on the user’s computer. If people started using Clilstore to store “nasties”, it would quickly spoil our Internet reputation, reduce our Google rankings and maybe even get us blacklisted by browsers. I’ll certainly need to ban storing .exe files, but I don’t know how to ban all potential problems, or even whether much can be done. We can’t ban all JavaScript because Hot Potatoes depends entirely on JavaScript to work. We’ll need to put stronger checks on new authors – such as insisting that they confirm their email address before they are registered. And we’ll need to put a limit on the size of files which can be uploaded. We could discuss things like this in Belfast.

Le deagh dhùrachd, Caoimhín (Skye)



March 24, 2014

It can be said that by mere accident the Clilstore, as well as the software of the project and the units have found entirely new application! They are used at Marijampole College for the students of Applied Foreign Languages educational programme to teach conference interpreting. Marijampole College is an institution of tertiary education providing professional BA in different programmes of social and applied sciences as well as several technical fields.


It started with dissemination, as it had been planned since the proposal stage of the project that one of the groups with which the Clilstore units would be piloted and then used will be students of Marijampole College Teacher training department. This was successfully completed, and the software was so interesting that the Dean offered to try it with the students of business English. The course of conference interpreting is rather short and the students after taking an exam are granted three credits. In fact this was the first course ever, as the programme is rather new and the third year students are the first ones to graduate from this course this year. It was a challenge to prepare something new and catchy for the students who were quite known among the staff for their lack of motivation and interest in studies. One of the things to make them come and pass the course is accumulative scoring, so that even those who have missed several classes would be able to take the exam, presenting individual work.

Everybody who is learning/teaching languages knows that this process requires a lot of individual work, i.e. you have to do homework, while the students nowadays (things were really different in my times!!!!:)) rely mostly not on their memory but on the Internet, which makes language learning simply impossible! Thus, if you want to catch their interest, you must do it with something original, something they never experienced before.

And-  Voilà!– here we have the Clilstore, something easy to use and really attractive! The tool is just perfect for teaching conference interpreting- I discovered after some research on the website. There are quite a few interesting courses that can be found on the website, including an international project of Vilnius University together with some other prominent HE institutions of Europe; not to mention the resources of DG Interpretation http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/scic/ of the EC, who use video for training new interpreters. However, we talk about students whose vocation is not necessarily interpreting or translation! They have a slightly more limited vocabulary in store and their fluency is far from that used by high level professionals, aiming to BECOME interpreters! Choosing a complicated video wouldn’t work, if the students are not equipped with the appropriate amount and variety of vocabulary. Hence they would simply loose interest, while Clilstore gives the students a possibility to work individually keeping the right pace and further creating their own units as individual task.

The story has just begun, but I see how the courses (of applied English) and the Tool of the Tools4Clil fell in love with each other. This had to happen- an entirely new application of the project tool is simply a developer wouldn’t even dreamed of!