Sunday, February 26, 2012

What's not new?

I was hoping to use this blog to announce all the exciting new features I’ve added to the Ultra Handy Japanese Verb conjugator. However in this case I’m going to explain why a couple of features have disappeared from the website: example sentences and the Ultra Handy Translator

Example sentences

There used to be a link from the verb conjugation page to page containing example sentences using that verb.  The same sentences were repeated in English, Romaji, Kana and Kanji.  These sentences were actually obtained in real time from smart.fm
The sentences were entered by people who had signed up to the smart.fm service to learn Japanese or other languages. The service was free so I signed up and gave it a go and it was great . 

The sentences were obtained in real time via the smart.fm API (application programming interface). I gave them a Kanji and they gave me back the sentences in XML format. I then had to do a bit of work to get them to display in legible html format. It worked quite well – 99% of the time it displayed a list of sentences related to the relevant verb.  In fact it was so good I couldn’t work out how they could afford to make this sort of stuff available for free.
Unfortunately this did all turn out to be too good to be true.  Smart.fm was re-branded as IKnow and became a paid service and the API was closed down.  However if you’re  serious about learning Japanese it may still be worth checking out. The pricing looks reasonable and there is also the offer of a free trial. Go to http://iknow.jp/ 

Ultra Handy Translator
This was achieved using the Google Translate API.  It gave you the same translation as you would get going via Google Translate without the benefit of having the Romaji  displayed. To make up for this functionality you got to type in the text in an Ultraman 7 speech bubble and get the results spoken by a random Kaijyu (Alien monster). 
Unfortunately the Google Translate API is another service that is no longer available for free and my web page stopped working.  According to Google this decision was “made due to the substantial economic burden caused by extensive abuse”
 In the meantime Google Translate itself is a great service that can still be used for free and can be found here http://translate.google.com/

Will I re-introduce these features in the future?

Well  I’ve checked the pricing of the paid version of the Google Translate API and it’s quoted at “$20 per 1 M characters of text, where the charges are adjusted in proportion to the number of characters actually provided”. Now maths isn’t my strong point but based on the amount of traffic that page was getting $20 would probably keep me going for a few years. I’m also hoping IKnow  might reconsider and make a public API available again. The termination message they sent stated “When the Smart.fm API is available again publicly, we will provide
relevant information for you to access it.”

So the short answer is: maybe, watch this space!

6 comments:

  1. I found this really helpful, but I am looking for something like this in an iPod app version or a website. Any recommendations?

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  3. Thanks for the comments :-)
    I may get round to doing a mobile optimized version of the site some time. Was also thinking of doing a proper mobile app version as this could work without needing an internet connection. However I would probably start with Windows Phone and Android before thinking about Iphone. Not that I've got anything against Iphones but I'd need to buy a Mac to develop the app!

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  4. Contact the guys at memrise.com. They might be working on or even have a public api for their site. I actually like it better than smart.fm before it went to a paid model. As I am all about free, I don't know what smart/iknow is like at this point.

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  5. kroenecker - thanks for the tip - memrise.com looks good!

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  6. I may get round to doing a versatile advanced variant of the site some time. Was additionally considering doing a legitimate versatile application form as this could work without requiring a web association.

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