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frequently asked questions about the program...

What is Instant English?   

Who is it for?

How / why does it work?  

How do I install it?

How do students use it?

frequently asked questions about the authoring tools... 

How is data organized? 

How do I create and edit dictionaries?  

How do I create and edit lessons?  

How do I add recorded sound to a lesson?  

How do I create and Install recorded sounds?  

How do I create icons?  

How do I customize the navigation menu bar?

What is Instant English?  Instant English is a suite of computer applications that includes a curriculum an authoring tool for lessons and an editable data base. You may need a simple graphics program to create new icons and a sound-editing program to record sound files.  The CD works on Windows 95, 98,2K and XP. It includes printable workbooks.  See: PRODUCTS  

The two features of Instant English that are revolutionary are its authoring capability and it's unique visual vocabulary and syntax. The latter feature was awarded a patent in 1999.   For a description of each application, see COMPONENTS 

Who is it for? Literacy ESL students and teachers.   

The program is designed for students who may not know how to read or write in any language. It is visually obvious and there are no explanations or directions.     
The program includes authoring tools. Teachers can create lessons and invent new ways of introducing the literacy student to the alphabet, the keyboard, the pronunciation of English words and the word order and cadence of English sentences

How and why does it work?     

Immersion:  Instant English uses an immersion method. No verbal or written translation is provided, but the icon sentences provide a visual explication of meaning. Translation can never be word for word. Converting grammar, particularly word order, from one language to another slows down learning and creates hesitant speakers. That is why immersion methods use only the target language to accelerate learning.    

No text:  A first language is learned by associating individual sounds and sound patterns with objects, gestures and behavior. Instant English uses a visual equivalent of events (icon strings) connected to speech sounds.    

Deconstructing sentences:  Words in a sentence can be heard separately by clicking on individual icons. The student can shift from single icon to sentence at will, making the sentence more comprehensible. Listening to the sentence as a whole can train the ear to detect how these individual sounds are blended together and accented.   

User-friendly: "User-friendly" and "programmed learning" was invented by Montessori, who designed materials that were self-teaching. She supported this method by restricting teachers to the role of programmers. They could not explain--They could only demonstrate. The teacher's role was to invent materials and methods that could be used independently of explanation. 

What Instant English is not:    

Not a game:  Although Instant English is efficient--combining reading, writing, listening and grammar in one object--the icon block--, it is also very linear. The author can only produce sentences. It cannot create game-like or test-like interactions, such as those dear to the hearts of Language teachers--substitutions, transformations, matching games, cloze exercises, fill-in-the-blank, and free writing. The student can only type sentences and listen. They cannot explore or play games.     

That is the downside. However, experience with non-literate adults has shown that fear of the computer inhibits novice computer users from exploring programs that use hypertext strategies. The linearity of Instant English is a relief to adults who cannot read or write and wish to concentrate on the sound and meaning of words and sentences. The program is designed for adults. The inventor of Instant English is eager to try the program with students who have hearing or reading disabilities or stroke.   

Not hard-wired: The upside of Instant English is its authoring capability. All other language programs are hard-wired. One cannot edit lessons or create new ones. The authoring tools permit teachers to teach any subject from hygiene to culture, and allow teachers to use songs and personal narratives in their lessons.

How do I install the program? 
Your installation CD will install itself. This wizard installs Instant Author, Instant Tutor and Instant Dictionary. It also runs the Data Utility, which installs the lessons and dictionaries. On the CD is also a set of workbooks in Word format. Drag these books into "My documents".     

When you are finished please restart your computer. After installation you will see a "tutor" icon on the desktop. That is the shortcut to the student version of the program. If you want to use the authoring tools, look on the Start Menu\programs tab.    

You may have an additional CD with icons. These do not need to be installed. Just drag and drop this folder into your Hard Drive wherever you want it. Use the icons to illustrate hard copy lessons in Word or another publishing program.    

If you have Instant English already installed on your computer and you have new lessons or dictionaries to add, use the Data Update Utility. (On the Start Menu) The Data Utility will ask you to provide the path to the source of your new data. If it's on a CD-ROM, use that drive letter. If it's on a floppy, type a:\  

How does the student navigate?   Students access lessons by clicking on the hour. A drop-down menu shows the lessons for that hour. If the clock icons do not appear, click on the book stack in the upper left hand corner of the screen. This toggles the clocks on and off. The book stack is also used to access the menu from inside a lesson, so the student can make a new choice.
to a new page:  Students click on the open book icon on the task bar to turn pages back or forward, or to see what page they are on.  to a new Lesson:  The student should NOT exit the program to pick a new lesson. The bookstack opens the menu navigator.
How does the student use the program for literacy?  for listening:  The student can hear the sentence by clicking on the oblong button at the head of the sentence, next to the icons. Clicking on any icon produces the sound of that word.  for writing:   Clicking on the small triangle button to the left of the text boxes activates text-to-speech dictation. The student moves from word to word with the space bar. The program will correct a failure to capitalize. Students will need to learn how to backspace to get rid of unwanted letters.   
for the alphabet:   Students using the tutor may select "all caps" (button on task bar) if they cannot match the keyboard to lower case. The input will appear in lower case. for reading:   The round toggle button under the triangle turns the prompts on and off. If students want to read the whole sentence, they should click this button..   
for pronunciation:  When any icon is clicked, the sound for that word is activated by text-to-speech. A graphic box containing lips move as the mouth does when it is articulating this word.

To perfect their pronunication, students should turn off the shop lamp icon on the task bar. That hides the text prompts. Then they should not type; they should only click on the sentence and repeat it over and over.
for grammar:  When the mouse is passed over any icon, a grammar label pops up, including the name of the word, the part of speech and the tense (if a verb). The grammar labels are also used as a "cheat sheet" for the student who turns off the spelling prompts to make the lesson more difficult. If they are stumped as to the spelling of the word, they can mouse over the icon and get a quick look.   
for comprehension:   Vocabulary is learned by listening. With minimal practice, the student learns to see the sentence as a whole and guess at the meaning from the context. It is not important to understand the exact meaning of each word in the sentence; a general ballpark feeling for what's going on is enough to create a comfort level with the gist of the sentence. The one-to-one correspondence of sound and vision provides a direct grasp of word order.

for context Learning: Students can generalize the meaning of a word by seeing a different icon for each meaning that word had. They can also learn tense by observing the shaded background of past tense.

Each icon is a visual metaphor for a particular meaning, so there are many many icons for the same word, depending on the context of the sentence.

for punctuation:  Students must enter a punctuation mark in the final typing box at the end of each sentence. The text to speech feature will pronounce the name of the mark. If the student fails to capitalize any word, the program will correct the tudent and beep a reminder.    for testing:  Students can test themselves by turning off the lamp icon on the task bar. (not the same as the toggle button on the sentence kernel.) This hides the spelling prompts that normally pop up under the typing box. To see the prompts again, click the lamp on.  Teachers can also use the workbooks included on the CD.
How is data organized? a library:   Dictionaries are files created by the Dictionary application. They can be renamed and moved, and the folders that hold them can be renamed and moved. They are all in a folder called Library. Do not rename the Library folder. 

New dictionaries can be created for other languages or for photos, or specific lessons. The current organization is by parts of speech. All but nouns are alphabetical. Nouns are by topic and sub-topic. lessons: Lessons are files created by the Author application. Individual lessons or folders of lessons can be copied, moved, renamed, etc. New folders can be created for new lessons or to organize the lessons in different folders. They are all in a folder called LESSONS. Do not rename the Lesson folder.    

You may want to duplicate a lesson and put it in more than one location. For example, you may want to put "The Lee Family" in the level 1 folder, and also in the present tense folder. You may also wish to create a folder for your own class and put the lessons you select in that folder.

How do I edit the dictionaries?  The dictionary application makes the icon blocks that are used by the Author. Each icon block has a unique spelling, an image, a sound and a grammar label.    

To edit an existing dictionary, open the program and select "open" from the taskbar. When the dictionary window appears, browse (scroll down) and click to select a file. When the file opens, go to the word list box on the left pane and scroll to find the word you wish to edit. Select it.

Change the spelling by typing over it. Change the grammar by checking a different part of speech in the grammar tree. Change the icon or sound by using the "set icon" or "set sound" boxes. If you want to add new words, icons or sounds, follow the directions under "How do I make a new dictionary". 

: Use "remove" to delete a word before trying to delete its image from the icon dialog box. The image in the seticon box cannot be deleted as long as a word is using it.

How do I make a new dictionary? 

Step 1:  Open the Dictionary application Select "new" from the file menu. When the file opens, add words in the following sequence:    Step 2:  Click "Add word"  (button on task bar, creates a blank block named "new word").  
Step 3:  Select grammar. Check the part-of speech label in the grammar tree (right hand pane). The grammar label is important because it will pop up when the mouse is moved over any icon on the lesson screen. It also appears in the author when a word is selected in the dictionary list box. The grammar designation cannot be changed in the author, so it must be set in the Instant Dictionary application.   Step 4:  Set icon.  
1.  Open the "set icon" dialog box. 
2.  In the set icon box, click the "add icons" button. An explorer window opens. 
3.  Browse to the icon file and select it. 
4.  Click "open" and the icon will appear in the set icon box.

Step 5:  Type over "new word" with the correct spelling of the word(s) you want.   

Step 6:  Check capitalization box if necessary. 
Step 7:  Save
(button on task bar). 

Multiword entries:   
You may use more than one word in a single entry, such as "social security", "United States" "babysitter" or "Dr. King". Put a space between the words. The program is smart enough to differentiate between an internal space and the space after an entry, (Normally the space bar is used to move the cursor to the next text box.  

If you want several versions of the same word, as in the case of verb conjugations, check "remember settings". The image will remain in the icon box and you can add more words and change the spelling and the grammar.   

Example of adding all tenses of a verb:

  • Add new word. Check "verb, present tense". Set icon. Type "go".  Check "remember settings".
  • Add new word. (Keep the present tense setting.) Type "goes". 
  • Add new word. Check "verb, past tense" (Icon background changes to gray.). Type "went" .  
  • Add new word. Check "verb, past participle" (icon color reverses.).Type "gone"
  • Add new word. Check "verb, present participle" (gray is deleted.) Type "going".
  • Save.  Click to remove check on "remember settings". (When you next add a word, the icon box will be blank.)

  • Authoring: How do I create and edit lessons? 

    The author application makes sentences out of icon blocks. It's a simple matter of selecting an icon block from a dictionary list and double-clicking it. It pops into a list and shows the finished sentence on the screen.  

    The program will open to a blank screen. To create a new lesson, click on "new" in the application menu bar at the top of the window.  The following windows and tool bars will open:   

    parent window:    
    Double-paned window. Left side holds sentence tree. Right side shows lesson window as it appears to the learner.  

    child window (dictionaries): Triple-paned dictionary window.  

    left pane
    shows directory tree (dictionary folders and files). Browse the tree, or type word in finder window (small edit box at top of left pane)  
    center pane shows word lists as the tree on the left opens them. Double clicking on word in the center pane enters the word into the sentence on the parent window  
    Right pane shows image and grammar tree and has sound button for testing sound.   

    floating window (visual pronunciation):    
    Animated lips pronounce the word when the icon is clicked, a word is typed, or the sentence is activated.     

    tool bar: provides drag & drop access to: "page", "sentence", "word" 

    Step 1:  Click on "new".  Lesson opens with page 1. The page title shows up on the lesson pane and at the top of the sentence list box (on the left). In the list box, you can type over "page 1" with another title.      Step 2:  Add sentence:  Click the sentence button above the sentence list box. (left-hand window-pane). Alternatively, find the sentence icon on the task bar and drag it down into the sentence window-pane. A sentence "kernel" will appear in the lesson pane on the right side of the screen. You cannot add words until you have a sentence kernel in the lesson pane. Trying to add words o a page without first adding a sentence won't work.    

    Step 3:  Find and select word. Go to the floating dictionary list box. The finder is at the top of the left-hand pane. Type a word in the finder and wait for the word to appear in the center list box. Alternatively, browse in the left hand pane of the dictionary window and scroll to the dictionary that contains the word you are seeking. The word you select will be highlighted.     


    Make sure the image that appears in the right hand pane is the right one. (There may be several icons for the same word, depending on how the word is used in context.) Also check to see that the grammar is correct for that selection. (Each word may have many grammar variations. Check the grammar tree in the right hand pane to make sure you selected the right one.) Double-click on the word highlighted in the center pane. It will appear in the sentence list box on the left side of the screen     
    Step 4.  Customize word: Right-click on the new word to customize capitalization or accent or to delete word.     Step 5.  Adding words: Continue to add words. Select the last word in the sentence from the punctuation dictionary. The program treats punctuation as just another word.      
    Step 6.  Adding sound:  If you wish to add recorded sound to any sentence, first select that sentence. Then find the mouth icon on the task bar above the sentence list box. Click on the mouth icon to open the "import sound" browser. Find the file you wish to import and once you have found it, double click to open. The sound file will be pasted to that sentence and will play when activated in the lesson. If no sound is imported, a text-to-speech synthesizer will read the sentence. Even this sound can be made to sound more natural by right-clicking each word and adding emphasis.  Step 7.  Adding sentences:  Repeat step one. It will pop up in the upper left-hand corner over the original sentence. "Grab" the sentence by pushing the mouse to the upper-left corner of the sentence. The cursor will turn into a hand. Using the hand, pull the sentence to where you want it. If the sentence is short, you can place the next one to the right of the first sentence. if the sentence is long, pull the second sentence below the first one, to the next line.     
    Q:  How many sentences on a page?  
    A:  You can add as many sentences as you want to one page, but since the student may not know how to scroll the window down, it may be preferable to start a new page after four sentences so every sentence will be visible on the screen.    
    Q:  What about lists and columns?  
    A:  If you want a column of words, treat each word like a sentence. The order in which the sentences are arranged in the list box will determine how the computer jumps to the next sentence. For example if word/sentence #2 follows #1 in the list box, and #2 is to the right of #1, the cursor will jump to the right. If #2 is positioned below #1, the cursor will jump to the next line.    
    Q:  How do I add imported sound effects?  (like music or instructions)  It is useful to use single word sentences to provide special sound effects. 


    First word/sentence is a photo of a teacher. Sentence sound is that person speaking instructions to the student.
    Next sentence is a line in the lesson. Sentence sound is the lesson line itself.  

    First word/sentence is an icon of a mouth or a musical note. Sentence sound is a musical recording.
    Next sentence is the first line of the lyric. Sentence sound is the lyric line itself.

    A:  Follow the instructions for creating and installing sounds below. 

    Continue by repeating steps 1-7. Add pages as needed.  Save lesson (frequently!  The memory may run out if you push the sentences around the screen a lot.  When that happens the computer freezes and you lose the whole lesson.  You don't wnat to start all over, do you?)

    How do I create and install recorded sounds?   

    Sounds are stored separately in any folder anywhere on your computer. If you wish to record a sentence, a song, or other sound effect, use a sound editor such as CoolEdit. Do a batch at a time so they will be at hand when you need them.
    For a new sound, open your sound editor and select "new".     

    • Settings: Set your resolution to a 16 bit, your sample rate to 11025 and use a mono channel. Voices do not need much fidelity and you want to keep your file small. 
    • Record: You will need a microphone. Choose record and speak in a soft, intimate voice. Stop recording and then click "play" to hear it. Repeat as often as needed until you like what you hear.   
    • Cut: Select all the silence or noise at the beginning and end and cut it. If you spoke too slowly, cut the gaps between words. If you spoke too quickly, add a tiny bit of silence where needed. You can zoom in to see where to insert the silence.  
    • Amplify: If it sounds too far away and faint, choose amplify and try 200-300%.  
    • Save: Your file as a windows, or WAV file. 

    For a new sound, open your sound editor and select "new".     

    • Settings: Set your resolution to a 16 bit, your sample rate to 11025 and use a mono channel. Voices do not need much fidelity and you want to keep your file small. 
    • Record: You will need a microphone. Choose record and speak in a soft, intimate voice. Stop recording and then click "play" to hear it. Repeat as often as needed until you like what you hear.   
    • Cut: Select all the silence or noise at the beginning and end and cut it. If you spoke too slowly, cut the gaps between words. If you spoke too quickly, add a tiny bit of silence where needed. You can zoom in to see where to insert the silence.  
    • Amplify: If it sounds too far away and faint, choose amplify and try 200-300%.  
    • Save: Your file as a windows, or WAV file. 

    To paste a sound on a lesson:    

    • Open the Author application to the lesson and page you want. 
    • Click on the sentence that will receive the sound. 
    • Click on the mouth icon on the sentence task bar and a dialog box will open. 
    • Select "import". Close the sound dialog box.

    That's it. You can test the sound by clicking on the button next to the sentence in the lesson pane

    How do I create new icons? 

    from a photo: 
    1.  Use a digital photo, a photo from the internet, or scan a photo into a graphics program.  
    2.  Crop the photo as small as possible.  
    3.  Change to gray scale.  
    4.  Increase the contrast to eliminate detail.  
    5.  Resize the picture to 54 pixels high.  
    6.  Save as a bitmap. (the extension should be .bmp).  

    from scratch: 
    1.  Open new file in a graphics program. Size it 54 pixels high.  
    2.  Zoom in by 600-800%.  Create a black and white image. 
    3.  "Save as" (name).bmp  

    clip art/Internet:
    1.  Select an image from the internet or your computer clip art  
    2.  Open it in Paint or another graphics program. 
    3.  Rework the image so that it is 54 pixels high.  
    4.  Save it as .bmp 

    ...icon tips  Every year more icons get added to the 3000 already available.  The goal is 5,000. Icons can be created in any graphics program. They must be 54 pixels high and must be saved as bitmaps. 

    image conventions: 
    Use black / white except for colors, flags or photos.  

    For a consistent style, make the icons look like the ones in airports, on traffic signs, and in logos--not too abstract and not too detailed (like an illustration). 

    Test the image on your friends.  If they consistently guess another word first, don't use it.  Good icons exclude multiple interpretations (if possible). 

    Make icon copies for every part of speech it fits.  Verb icons can also be used as adjectives and adverbs.  Nouns can be used as verbs.
    Plurals can be formed by putting a slice of an icon next to its singular version.

    Use photos for people's names. 

    Use separate icons for each context.  For example, cut has at least two icons; one, a scissors and another one, a knife. 

    If you are using icons in hard copy lessons, don't forget to make copies of  verbs for other tenses.  Past tense verbs have a gray background.  Participles reverse the foreground and background.

    ...make hard-copy lessons for the classroom:  You can use Word to make hard-copy lessons using icon sentences, or individual icons.  Use a table with one row for words and one for pictures. Or just insert an icon where you want it in the sentence. From the insert command, choose picture/from file. Then click "open".  It's that easy. 

    Icons are ideal for tests and "cloze" exercises where there is a blank to be filled in and you don't want to give away the word.

    ..use the workbooks included on the CD for tests and homework: The workbooks are:

    • A Orientation
    • B Computer Projects
    • C Grammar
    • D Drills

    How do I customize the navigation bar?    

    You may wish to create your own personal lesson folder for for currently assigned lessons.    

    1.  Insert a new folder into the parent folder "LESSONS". Name it. 
    3.  Drag or paste a  bitmap (54 X 54 pixels. See: icons)into your new folder.  
    4.  Once its in the folder (and only then), rename the bitmap "image.bmp". 
    5.  copy and paste one or more lessons into the folder.   

    When you open the Instant Tutor program, you will see your bitmap image on the navigation bar. When you click on this image, the lessons in your folder will appear in a pop-out menu.



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