Speaking of learning a new language, we usually think of watching long tedious YouTube videos, or holding a massive language intro book in your hand. But how many people have ever thought of the black little sound box located somewhere in the house -- Amazon Echo? Today we introduce a brand new way to learn a new language. It is interactive, instant-feedback, and most importantly, it makes the best use of your fragmented time. If you are cooking in the kitchen, learn Spanish as well as cooking your food.

What it does

This Alexa Skill gives user vocabulary quizzes. The user will be prompted to choose the length of the quiz, i.e., how many words the person wants to be tested on. The user will then be prompted to speak out either a Spanish word or an English word upon given the meaning of the word in the other language. Alexa will then give instant feedback on whether or not the user is correct. If given the wrong answers in two consecutive runs, Alexa will give user the correct answer.

How we built it

We utilized the service provided by AWS. We apply Python as our backend sources and our own endpoint for hosting Alexa. Then, we combine intents and handler methods that are unique to Alexa to build a function that prompt the user to test their knowledge in Spanish given the English words that exist in our database.

Challenges we ran into

The first challenge was how should we determine what we need. At the starting stage of our project, we spend an entire night on setting up the development environment of DynamoDB with Java on our machines. However, it turned out that using local DynamoDB environment is not absolutely required. We then switch to full cloud development on the next morning and made substantial progress thereafter.

We have no experience in building a Alexa Skill before. The biggest challenge we encountered was understanding the methods, logic, and control flow that are provided and required by Alexa. We spent the most debugging time on dealing with parameter passing between IntentHandler methods to create the control flow we desired. After countless rounds of attempting new fixes, looking up documents and examples, we finally nailed our goal of building a fully functional vocabulary tester.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Created a complete control flow in an environment in which none of us have experience in, including user voice-input taking, IntentHandling creating and branching, asserting true or false based on user's reply, replying proper messages in different cases, and choosing the most efficient data structure to connect the words in two languages.

What we learned

Since having only 36 hours to design an application is very time-constrained, we learned to set up milestones at every stage in order to know that we were on the right track. In addition, we also learned to cooperate with one another to reach a goal that is promising and meaningful.

What's next for TacoQuiz

We will host the data to the real database as the demand of the consumers for this Alexa Skill becomes larger and larger. Therefore, hosting the data to the real database not only enables us to include more people, but also encourage a learning atmosphere. In addition, we hope that we can deploy this function to our daily devices, such as phones, Amazon Echo, etc., so customers can have easy access to our handy function. Moreover, in the future, we hope that customers can add their own custom word lists to Alexa using AWS, and Alexa can test them based on the lists given.

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