For dyslexics, existing spellcheckers only catch 20 percent of mistakes.Spellcheckers on computer software did to language what calculators have done to math, unless you are one of the 15 percent of Americans who suffer from dyslexia. While Microsoft Word’s spellchecker can tell you how to spell your words properly, it can’t handle the complex language problems that dyslexics face on a daily basis.
“The problem they have is connecting the sounds of letters to the symbols of the written language,” says Yael Karov, the CEO of Ginger Software who co-founded the Israeli company with her husband Avner Zangvil. They aim to give dyslexics software that can reduce spelling errors and improve their learning and communication skills dramatically.
Based in Tel Aviv, the company employs 15 and come October its software will be ready for Americans. Currently undergoing a Beta test, Ginger is available online for a free trial, or as a download, and will seamlessly connect to Microsoft Word as an add-on. After typing sentences, a screen will show users correct alternatives. They will also get an option to hear their sentences aloud.
Correcting at sentence level
“Our program can assist any student to write,” says Karov, who founded the company in 2007. “We can offer a few main advantages. For one, we can handle unusual spelling mistakes and can automatically ID a word out of context,” she tells ISRAEL21c.
The tool, based on complicated algorithms she explains, could change a dyslexic’s “caging” to the intended word “changing,” but more importantly recognizes words in complete sentences that currently make little sense to a computer’s built-in spellchecker.
Changes can be made in a single click. “The special thing is that it corrects at sentence level,” says Karov.
Current spellcheckers, she has assessed, can correct about 20 percent of a dyslexic’s misspelled words. Ginger can correct up to 95 percent and above, and expects the rate to improve over time as the system “learns” the common errors that dyslexics are prone to make. In the future, free updates will be available to subscribers.
Often overlooked as poor learners, Ginger’s software has the power to educate a whole population of dyslexic people and allow them to function in society as though they didn’t have a disability, turning sentences like “wer do you go to scul?” to “where do you go to school?”
And for those who “feel” dyslexic when speaking and writing English as a second language, there is great news for you too: Ginger is “good for people who are English learners,” says Karov, noting that grammar correction will be available in the near future.
Fixing emails and chats
A serial entrepreneur, Karov has been working with language for about 20 years. She studied math and majored in processing natural language at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. She has founded the electronic catalogue software AGENTics; and served as the chief technology officer and R&D vice president at Rosetta Genomics.
Privately funded, Ginger is currently negotiating with a couple of top players in the US, one in the area of learning software. The company plans to launch a browser-based version of the software for use with chat programs and emails.
Another version is in the works for use in schools, to help teachers diagnose learning difficulties in students, and will be able to track progress made over time.