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Frequently Asked Questions

Installation

Blue Canoe is available for iOS and Android devices. For the Individual version, go to your app store and search for Blue Canoe. When you find the app, download and open it. There is both a free limited version of Blue Canoe, and the option to upgrade to use all activities and practice with thousands of sentences.

For Group licenses for teachers, schools and organizations, contact info@blucanoelearning.com to get set up.

Individual / Consumers (individuals coming to the app store):

  • How do I sign up? After downloading the app, click Get Started to create a new account. Enter your email address. To verify your email, you will receive an email with a code, and you must enter that code onto the form. Then follow the instructions to create a password. 
  • I didn’t receive an email with a code. The system automatically sends an email to the email address you entered within a few minutes or less. If you don’t see it, please double check that you entered it correctly, and look in your spam folder. 
  • Why do I only have access to a few lessons? Blue Canoe offers everyone the opportunity to learn to improve their spoken English, for free. If you would like to upgrade to have access to more lessons, more vocabulary, and more activities, please subscribe. 
  • I have tried to log in using my email address, but it says my email address does not exist. If you have not already created an account by going through the Get Started process, you will not be able to log in. Please click “Get Started” to create a new account.

Group / Special Programs:

  • After your professional program has provided your email address to Blue Canoe, you will automatically receive an email that has a link for you to download the app and a temporary password. If you do not see it, please look for it in your spam folder (it is from “no-reply@bluecanoelearning.com”). If you still do not see it, download the app from the Apple or Google Play app store, and contact us at feedback@bluecanoelearning.com.
  • Which email address should I use? You must use the same email address that your professional program provided to Blue Canoe for you.
  • Why do I only have access to a few lessons? It sounds like you signed up for the free version of Blue Canoe rather than logging in to the Professional Programs version. Please email us at feedback@bluecanoelearning.com with your name, email address, and the name of your Professional Program that provided your subscription to you, and we will help you.
  • I have tried to log in using my email address, and I know my email address was provided as part of a special program, but it says my email address is not accepted? First, please make sure that you are using the same email address that was provided to Blue Canoe for you. Second, please email us at feedback@bluecanoelearning.com with the name of your professional program, your name and email address, and a screenshot of what the app is showing you. We will respond and help you.

Devices

Blue Canoe is designed and tested for mobile phones. The app works on some tablets, but is not tested nor optimized for tablets. The app doesn’t work on desktop nor laptop computers.

 Blue Canoe works on iPhone 5S and Android 5 and newer systems.

Feedback

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

Why Blue Canoe?

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.

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.

Follow us on social media, and we 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!

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, because there is no such thing as “perfect” English anyway! 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.

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

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.

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.

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.

The key vowel sound of each word is one of the most important sounds that helps listeners understand you. In addition, vowels are quite complicated. Therefore, helping you learn to produce the key vowel sounds is one of the fastest and most effective ways to improve. Blue Canoe also helps with consonants, but typically only after prioritizing feedback on stress and vowel sounds.

Why are vowels 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.

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.

The Color It Out game

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!

The most important thing is that you are repeating the same Color (the same vowel sound) six times in a row with every turn. That helps you create new pathways in your brain, because 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.

To get the most out of your turn, hold the phone in one hand and use your Open Hand to mark the stress of each word. 

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.

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 pile. 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.

Pronunciation Feedback

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

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.

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.

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.

Sentences/Lessons

Sentences are organized into Topics (Life, Work, School, etc.), and Lessons (Going to a Restaurant, Talking on the Phone, etc.). You can select the topic and lesson that interests you.

Each lesson has 6 sentences. For each sentence:

  • You can listen to the model recording.
  • You can look at the way the sentence is divided into different lines — each line is a “thought group”, and needs to have a rhythm.
  • You can learn the key words of each line and what Color they are, and practice them.
  • Then you can record yourself saying the sentence, and get feedback.
  • If any words are highlighted in your feedback, click the word, and then do the mini-lessons to improve your pronunciation of that word.
  • When you are ready, re-record the sentence.
  • And remember to use your Open Hand to improve your clarity and score!

The Sort It Out game

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 need to complete at least three games of Color it Out in order to unlock Sort it Out.

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.

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.

Color Vowel Dictionary

Use the Color Vowel 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.

Tips from our teachers

Color it OutWhen it’s your turn and you arrive at a pair of words that interests you, spend some time with “help me say my turn” — listen to it five times, each time closing your eyes to notice the vowel sound flooding. Do not look at the words while this is happening; just listen and use your Open Hand. On the fifth repetition, say the phrase in chorus with the recording (still without looking at the words). Then play your turn like normal and see how it feels!

 Sort it Out! – At the end of a round, click “Review words” to see the words you played. Use the Open Hand and flood each list.

 Lessons:

  • When you get feedback that presents a list of words for flooding, play that flood 3 times– twice with your eyes closed, and a third time while reading and saying the words in chorus (all the while using your Open Hand).
  • If you are noticing that a certain sound is challenging for you, look for the Language Lesson that focuses on that sound and play it. Also watch the video for that sound.

 Video – Watch 1 video a day, and really try to become aware of that sound or technique.

 Dictionary:

  • Look up a word that you find difficult to pronounce, then play the anchor phrase and the word audio, alternating, five times (just listening), then five more times while saying the word in chorus with the recordings. Use the Open Hand throughout these repetitions. All of this repetition triggers flooding that then transfers to practice.
  • Look up a word, play the anchor phrase once, then play the word 10 times in quick succession. Let the sound flood over you until the word turns into “music.” You’ll notice the stressed Color Vowel sound along with the change in pitch resulting from stress.