RhinoSpike is a site that allows language learners to get recorded audio in their target language. The audio is submitted by other users of the site who are native speakers of that language, and usually are also learning another language and seeking recording audio in their target language. RhinoSpike has been actively online since March 2010, and, as of May 2023, nearly 80,000 audio recordings in 90 languages have been uploaded to the site.
The Origin of RhinoSpike
Do you remember Google Wave?
Today, most people think of it as yet another in a long line of cancelled Google products. For me, I remember it fondly as the origin of RhinoSpike.
Thomas and I had been blogging about our language learning journeys on Babelhut at the time, and we had made several online friends in the language learning blogosphere (a term that was en vogue in those days).
One of those friends was Ramses, who at the time had a blog called Spanish Only. When Google Wave was announced, the three of us were excited to try it out. Primarily we used it as a chat platform, but one day Thomas had a brilliant idea: let’s learn Spanish collaboratively on Google Wave.
We gathered together a few others to learn Spanish with us on Google Wave. We made a lot of posts that embedded video from various web sites that were in Spanish and talked about them, often trying to figure out the accents of the speakers or discussing words that we didn’t understand.
One of the threads that was posted was about craters on the planet Mercury. In that thread, Thomas wished for a recording of the text so he could hear what it actually sound like when spoken. A while later, Ramses uploaded a couple of audio recordings of himself reading the text. This thread sparked the idea of RhinoSpike, a site where people can record themselves reading text for others who are learning their language.
Thomas and I got started right away building the site. We built it using Django and in March 2010, we had something to we felt was good enough to announce to the public on Twitter.
We sent emails to all of the language bloggers that we knew at the time, and many of them started sharing RhinoSpike with their followers.
Since then, we have made many updates and improvements to the site, and the user base has grown primarily by word of mouth.
RhinoSpike in the Media
RhinoSpike has also grown thanks to mentions in the media and popular websites:
- Lifehacker: RhinoSpike Teaches You Foreign Languages by Hearing Native Speakers - Whitson Gordon, June 16, 2010
- The New York Times: Learning a Language From an Expert, on the Web - Peter Wayner, July 28, 2010
- Fluent in 3 Months: How to prepare, record & upload a video entirely in a foreign language just after starting to learn it - Benny Lewis, July 1, 2011
- Fox Business: Six Foolproof Tricks for NOT Embarrassing Yourself in a Foreign Language - Melody Warnick, June 28, 2012
- Tim Ferriss: 12 Rules for Learning Foreign Languages in Record Time — The Only Post You’ll Ever Need - Benny Lewis, March 21, 2014
- Scientific American Mind: How to Teach Old Ears New Tricks - Gabriel Wyner, July 1, 2014
- Actual Fluency: RhinoSpike Review: Excellent for improving listening skills - Kris Broholm, May 25, 2021
My favorite place that RhinoSpike has been mentioned is in a fantastic book by Gabriel Wyner called Fluent Forever. RhinoSpike is not just mentioned in passing, it’s listed as a serious resource to help you learn a language! Gabriel was kind enough to send me a signed copy of his book.
Gabriel has since created a company and an app based on the concepts in his book, which also go by the name Fluent Forever. If you’re learning one of the languages supported by the app, I recommend checking it out.
Interviews with me about RhinoSpike
- Interview with Peter Carroll, founder of the audio language learning platform Rhinospike - Gabriel Gelman | Sprachheld, May 5, 2017
- How & Why To Create Personalised Listening Resources (YouTube link) - Leo Listening, September 5, 2019