Icelandic: "Before You Know It" Review

This is a 30 minute review. I got myself the Icelandic Before You Know It software and Ipod.  It is very vocabulary centric.  This is actually something that a computer is good at doing. Teachers and workbook writers apparently get bored with writing drill material, so we don’t encounter a lot of opportunities for getting vocabulary drill experience.

From my own experience learning Russian, I wasn’t conversationally competent until I outgrew my 8,000 word dictionary.  I figure that means to one needs about 4,000+ words memorized before you can hope to speak a foreign language without a very patient conversational partner.

The Ipod software is very clever, as it uses “Albums” to create collections of words (one MP3 file for each word) and the English and Icelandic are displayed in the song title.

Another very good feature is the voice recognition.  My son thought that it was the best part of the whole package.  Scores went from gray to yellow to green.  For us, bad scores meant gray or low yellow.  Good scores were high yellow.  Sometimes noise and completely wrong words would score as mid-yellow, so if you use this, keep trying until you score high yellow.  My speaker did a really poor job of picking up the frictives, maybe I need to fiddle with the speaker volume.

hávaxin and hávaxinn (tall f. and m. respectively) as far as I can tell are pronounced the same. This cause some problem in some of the drills. Quirks like this would have only shown up if this had gone through some real life testing.

One bad: The Icelandic keyboard doesn’t work very well.  You can fairly easily create the þ, æ, ö, ð, doesn’t show how to make the á, í, ó, ú, é, some of which are common and important.  Right now I switch to notepad every time I need a special character the BYKI on-screen keyboard lets me down. 

One maybe bad: Icelandic has about a bazillion forms for each word (at least the verbs), kind of like latin.  I’m reviewing is putting all the adjectives into -ur form.

Another bad: The install wasn’t smooth.  On my machine, the install hung after showing 3/4 progress on the progress meter.  The FAQ say to fix it by wrecking your start up queue (by quote “Click the Load Startup Items square so that the green box goes away.”. I don’t recommend that, to risky for newbie users.  I’d recommend restarting in safe mode (hit F8 when the Windows boot screen comes up), which skips the start up queue.  Install the application, then reboot again with your normal startup queue.  The startup queue is a common source of computer problems–removing all apps from the queue can prevent device drivers and applications you like from loading (such as IM clients), in addition to preventing applications that may be causing conflicts.    Safe mode doesn’t have that risk.

One thought on “Icelandic: "Before You Know It" Review

  1. I am having problems with the Keyboard layout aswell. When i first used the program i had no troubles i could use my Danish layout.. But after i downloaded Deluxe the Keyboard Mapping seems to either not be there, or not work at all so i can’t type in the symbols.

    So i am doing what you are doing now.. Using Notepad to copy and paste letters but it is getting really frustrating i would really like to fix it soon.