Frequently Asked Questions

Installation

How do I download the Blue Canoe app to my iPhone?

On your iPhone, go to the App Store and search for Blue Canoe. When you find the app, download and open it.

Once you open Blue Canoe, you will be able to sign up and create a new Blue Canoe account with the email that you provided for the pilot. (Note: that is the only email that will be valid.) In the process, you will get a new email sent to you with a Confirmation code that you will need to finish signing up.

For detailed, step-by-step screenshots, take a look at How to Start on iPhone.

How do I download the Blue Canoe app to my Android phone?

On your Android phone, go to the Google Play Store and search for Blue Canoe. When you find the app, download and open it.

Once you open Blue Canoe, you will be able to sign up and create a Blue Canoe account with the email that you provided for the pilot. (Note: that is the only email that will be valid.) In the process, you will get a new email sent to you with a Confirmation code that you will need to finish signing up.

For detailed, step-by-step screenshots, take a look at How to Start on Android.

Feedback

Where can I direct questions or feedback?

Providing helpful feedback will be a key to the success of our pilot. We encourage you to contact us with any questions, comments, or feedback. Simply email us at feedback@bluecanoelearning.com. Thank you!

Why Blue Canoe?

What makes Blue Canoe different from the thousands of resources for learning English?

Blue Canoe combines brain science with artificial intelligence. We are born with the ability to understand ALL of the languages of the world through the learning center of our brain. As we mature, our brain suppresses the sounds it does not hear on a regular basis in an effort to work at optimal efficiency. It requires rewiring our brain to recognize language sounds that are different from our native language. This rewiring involves bypassing the language center our brain to use, instead, the areas that interpret music, rhythm, colors, images and kinesthetic learning.

We have all experienced hearing a foreign singer who sounds perfect when singing in English, but clearly has an accent when speaking during interviews. That is the effect of bypassing the language center and using the part of the brain that interprets music.

How do I get the most out of Blue Canoe?

Your brain is a muscle that needs practice to learn to perceive and pronounce new language sounds. Playing Blue Canoe for 10 minutes or more each day will help you improve quickly, and is better than only playing once or twice a week for a longer period of time.

Go to Settings, and turn on the Reminders, and set them so that you get a notification for a convenient time of day on weekdays and weekends to remind you to play.

As you go about your day, try to apply what you have been learning in Blue Canoe to your daily conversations. Notice where the main stress is in words, and the color of the vowel.

We will invite you to join a private Facebook Group, and will periodically send you interesting tips and short lessons via email. Do your best to read these, and participate. The more you immerse yourself in learning, the more you will get out of it!

My accent is part of my identity. Why should I change it?

A person’s accent reflects their cultural identity, and we absolutely respect and understand that. It is not our goal to change your identity, to make you sound exactly like a news broadcaster, or to have you speak ‘perfect’ English. Rather, our goal is to help you increase your comprehensibility. Comprehensibility is the measure of how easily a listener can understand your English. The higher your comprehensibility, the higher the listener’s confidence is in your English, which of course raises your own speaking confidence as well. Here, mastering the stressed rhythm of English is critical; native speakers of English subconsciously detect unexpected rhythm, which can impede comprehensibility and reduce trust. We consider our mission ‘accent addition’ rather than ‘accent change.’ We want you to retain your identity while expanding your repertoire to create greater confidence in your listeners.

Why is ten minutes a day important? It doesn’t sound like enough time.

We agree with Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do; Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” Whether we talk about exercise, study, diet, work, or other disciplines, we see that less is more if it is done consistently. A short practice every day is far more effective than longer practices less frequently. You are, of course, welcome to play Blue Canoe as long as you like, but the key lies in the habit. Try to play for ten minutes a day, and keep your day streak strong!

Color Vowel® System

What is the Color Vowel® System?

The Color Vowel® System is a proven methodology that helps non-native English speakers improve their pronunciation. It was developed about 20 years ago and is used by top institutions, including the U.S. Department of State, Harvard University, Yale University and Georgetown University. It has helped more than 1 million students so far.

The Color Vowel System works by rewiring the brain to hear vowel sounds, which are the most critical component to being understood when speaking English. The Color Vowel System bypasses the language center of your brain to use, instead, the areas that interpret music, rhythm, colors, images and kinesthetic learning.

The two most important parts of speaking in a way that is easily understood are (1) put emphasis, or “stress,” on the main syllable in each word, and (2) use the correct vowel sound for the main syllable. Once a speaker does these two things well, it is much easier to understand him or her.

The Color Vowel System gives an anchor phrase to each of the 14 main vowel sounds of English. The anchor phrase is both a color and an object that each use that same sound. BLUE MOON, GREEN TEA and BROWN COW are examples of anchor phrases.

Every word in the English language can be described as having a color, and that color is the color of the vowel of the main syllable. So “canoe” is a BLUE MOON word, and “teacher” is a GREEN TEA word.

Why is part of words underlined?

You must put emphasis, or “stress,” on the main syllable in order to be understood in English. Since written English does not provide clues as to which syllable is the main syllable, we help by underlining the main vowel sound that you must emphasize.

I have seen the use of opening your hand as you say a syllable. Why?

By opening your hand as you say the stressed syllable, you are signaling with a different muscle to your brain that you need to notice this syllable and say it longer.

You are really focused on vowels. Why do you not talk about consonants?

Generally speaking, consonants are easier to produce and are more straightforward in regards to what sounds they make. For example, when you see the letter ‘m’ you know with a high level of certainty that it represents the sound /m/. Some consonants do make a few other sounds, as in the letter ‘c’ which can represent the /k/ or /s/ sound, but most are “what you see if what you get.” Also, consonants are easier to describe how to articulate; you can describe where your tongue, lips, and/or teeth should be touching (unlike vowel sounds, which are produced with no contact of the tongue, lips and teeth). Finally, one of the main functions of consonants is to show tense or number, as in the difference between ‘work’ and ‘worked’ or ‘play’ and ‘plays.’ The consonant sound tells us these details, but is not central to the main meaning.

Vowels, in contrast, are more complicated. The first reason is that each vowel letter can produce several different sounds, and each vowel sound can be represented by several different spelling patterns, which highlights the separation between spoken and written English. Also, most differences in dialects are due to a slight difference in movement or placement of the vocal tract while producing vowel sounds. There is great dialectical variety of how native speakers produce vowels, but not so with consonants. We like to say that the consonants are stars, whereas vowels are the space between the stars. That ‘space between the stars’ is where the meaning is, which is central to comprehensibility.

The Color It Out game

How do I play Color It Out?

Color It Out is a card game between you and the computer. You and the computer are each dealt an initial set of cards. The first one to get rid of all their cards wins the game. But, the real reason to play is to practice your pronunciation!

Please click the “Learn to Play” button from the Color It Out menu for a tutorial on how to play the card game. You can also watch a video tutorial.

What are the Special Cards?

After you have played a few games and are comfortable, we introduce a few Special Cards, just for fun.

Wild Card: You can play this card when you do not have a card that has a color match for either the top or the bottom colors of the card on the discard pilot. Once you play it, you get to select what color you want it to be.

+2 Card: Some cards have a “+2” symbol in the middle them. When you play a card with this symbol, take your turn in the regular way. At the end of your turn, the computer will have to take two new cards. If the computer plays a card with a +2, you will have to take two cards.

Skip Card: In the middle of some cards is a special symbol of an “O” with a “/” inside it. When you play a card with this symbol, take your turn in the regular way. At the end of your turn, the computer will skip its turn, and you get to go again. If the computer plays a card with a skip symbol, you will have to skip your turn.

Top secrets to being easily understood

Why is it important to say a 6-word turn?

A 6-word turn is an important part of why the Color Vowel@ System and Blue Canoe work! An example is “BLUE MOON shoe, BLUE MOON flew.” By repeating a particular vowel sound six times in a row — for example the Blue vowel sound found in the words blue, moon, shoe, and flew — you are helping your brain to hear it as an actual sound, and not just trying to interpret it as a language sound similar to a language sound from your native language. This is a critical step toward hearing it as it actually sounds, and then being able to reproduce it when you speak.

Pronunciation Score

What does my Pronunciation Score mean?

Blue Canoe has created the first objective Pronunciation Score. It currently only reflects your practice in Color It Out. After your first couple of games of Color It Out, the app will estimate your score. The more you play, the more accurate your score will become. As you practice, your score will improve.

The Pronunciation Score is a guide rather than an absolute. We will continually increase the difficulty of Color It Out by adding new, more complex words. And we will add your performance from other activities in the app, such as Sort It Out. You may see your score drop as we make these changes. You will then practice the new words and activities to increase your score.

100-200: People rarely understand you.

200-300: People sometimes understand you, especially if they are sympathetic.

300-400: People usually understand you, but have to focus.

400-500: People always understand you, and say you have a charming accent.

500+: Native speaker

How does my score change?

Every time you complete a game, or if you end a game by pausing or going to the main menu, Blue Canoe adds your game experiences to your cumulative score.

Note: if you stop in the middle of a game and force close / abandon the app, Blue Canoe cannot save the data from that game.

Pronunciation Feedback

After you take your turn speaking, Blue Canoe’s artificial intelligence (AI) engine evaluates it and provides feedback.

What does the green checkmark mean?

A green check mark means “Great job!” That does not mean that you have spoken the word perfectly. It means that you are doing very well for your level, and the best thing for you to do is to continue to play and practice.

What does the “Let’s continue” feedback mean?

Sometimes the “Let’s continue” feedback means that you are working on improving something, and that the best way to improve right now is to continue playing. You cannot always make huge changes right away!

Sometimes the “Let’s continue” feedback means that, for a variety of reasons, Blue Canoe cannot immediately analyze your turn.

Why do I sometimes get “There is too much background noise…”

The Blue Canoe speech recognition engine needs to hear your speech very clearly in order to detect any errors and provide feedback. If the background either has other people talking, or too loud a general ambient noise, the speech recognition engine will make too many errors.

If you get this feedback, please move to a quieter place to play Blue Canoe.

What does 'Hear My Turn' mean? Why do I only see it certain situations?

When you see the “ear” icon with “Hear My Turn,” you can click it to hear the recording of what you just said. This feature was a request from our customers. To make the most of this feature, click “Help Me Say My Turn” above the cards, click “Hear My Turn” to listen to what you said, and go back and forth as needed to hear the difference. Then click “Try again” and give it another try.

“Hear My Turn” appears when the app determines that you need more practice with a vowel sound you just said.

The Sort It Out game

How do I play Sort It Out?

Sort It Out is a casual game between you and the computer. You will have fun “sorting” words into two color vowel anchor phrases, for example, GREEN TEA and BLUE MOON. As you complete more and more levels, the words come down from the top of your screen faster, and are more complex.

You will find you need to quietly say the word to yourself in order to decide which anchor phrase “bucket” to put it in. Even moving your mouth quietly is rewiring your brain to hear and say those vowel sounds correctly.

Sort It Out was created based on feedback from customers asking for an activity they could play that does not require a quiet space in the same way as Color It Out. Sort It Out is another great way to get in your 10 minutes of practice in the Blue Canoe app.

Click the “Help” button in the upper right corner of Sort It Out for a tutorial on how to play the game.

Pronunciation Dictionary

How do I use the Color Vowel Dictionary?

Use the dictionary any time you come across a word you do not know how to pronounce. Simply type in the word and click “search.” You see a button to hear how the word sounds and another button to hear its corresponding color vowel anchor phrase.

Bonus: as with any dictionary, it will give you the definition of the word so you use it in the correct situation.