Language

Chrome Extensions for Language Learners

Ivan from TandemOctober 20, 20193-min read

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As a web developer by day and a language learning enthusiast by night, let me share some of the techniques and tools I've developed to make some of the boring aspects of language learning more fun.

Personally, I think you should enjoy everything you do. If you like an activity, you will achieve success in it. Let's apply this principle to language learning.

Mining words while reading for fun

The most daunting part of language learning is, of course, cramming words. Many would agree that the most efficient way to learn vocabulary is flashcards. I subscribe to that wholeheartedly. But is there a more fun way to do flashcards?

If you enjoy reading in your target language, you are definitely looking up words from time to time. How do you make sure you remember them? Creating a flashcard right away would be distracting.

To automate this and enjoy a seamless reading experience, I've built a Google Chrome extension called Fluentcards. You can install it here. It combines an instant dictionary and your flashcards storage. It works like so:

  • You select a word or phrase you don't know
  • The extension automatically pulls up a dictionary definition Fluentcards dictionary
  • The word along with the context sentence is saved into your deck
  • You can edit and organise your deck on fluentcards.com vocab
  • The deck can be reviewed in Anki or Memrise

Language Learning with Netflix

Another aspect of language learning is being able to understand what people are saying to you. There are two components of success in this area:

  • Knowing the words
  • Having the listening skill

Once I had at least 4k words under my belt (learned using Anki and the method described above), I noticed a significant increase in listening comprehension. There's no way around vocab.

How do you train the listening skill itself, though? By listening a lot. Listening to something that you're able to understand. It's called the comprehensive input theory.

Netflix is great for language immersion and provides a good deal of native material in many languages, and usually with subtitles in many languages. A quick tip: use VPN in a country of your target language to switch the shows on Netflix to that language.

With the "Language Learning with Netflix" Chrome extension, you can have subtitles in two languages, allowing you to compare the original audio and script with a translation in your native language. The extension also allows you to change the playback speed and there's even a pop-up dictionary that suggests the most important words for you to learn!

If you're a beginner, watching children's shows like "Puffin' Rock" or "The Avengers" animated series work best. Dubbed old-time classics like the "Terminator" are very good, too. Dubbed shows are in general much easier to understand than the originals, because the voice actors tend to speak clearer than the original actors.

Langly

This Chrome extension is a simple yet effective tool for growing your vocabulary. Every time you open a new tab on your Google web browser, Langly will automatically present you with new vocabulary and its English translation on your screen. You can also hear the word spoken by a native speaker by clicking the play button. Langly is however limited to French, Spanish, and German, unfortunately.

Google Input Tools

When you start learning a language that uses a different writing system or has specific markings, locating those characters and symbols on your current keyboard can be difficult. This then poses an unnecessary challenge that can really discourage you and slow you down.

Google Input Tools is a transliteration tool, meaning you can type the word phonetically using Latin script, and it'll appear in the language that you chose.

There is also a handwriting option where you can use your cursor to draw the characters that you’re trying to type, and Google Input Tools will convert it into the correct letter or character.

Have fun!

I guess the main takeaway is to enjoy it! Learning a foreign language is exciting and shouldn't ever be boring!

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