Tag Archives: vocabulary learning

Best Chrome Extensions for Learning Languages

Best Chrome Extensions for Learning Languages

Best Chrome Extensions for Learning Languages

Extensive reading in a foreign language is an extremely effective way to increase your vocabulary, but without the use of graded readers or interlinear translations, it can be frustrating and tedious using a dictionary to look up words that you don’t know. Luckily there are some Chrome extensions that you can use when reading webpages to instantly translate words and even save them to flashcard decks to review later. These Chrome extensions for learning languages all use Google Translate to produce the translations, but let’s take a look at their different options and features.

 

Readlang Web Reader

My favorite Chrome extension for learning vocabulary through translation is Readlang because it saves every word you click on as flashcards so you can review them later. The entire sentence is also saved so you have the context, which is very important in learning vocabulary. You can also change the settings so that you hear the pronunciation after you click the word, and import the entire webpage to your Readlang account. The free account gives you unlimited single word translations and 10 phrase translations per day, while the premium account is only $5 a month or $48 a year. You can also install the Readlang bookmarklet on mobile or tablet (Safari or Chrome on iOS and Chrome on Android).

Readlang Web Reader Chrome Extension for Learning Vocabulary through Translation

Readlang Web Reader

Readlang Flashcards created from words you clicked on

The words you clicked on and the entire sentence are imported into your flashcards

 

Mango Reader Beta

The Mango Reader extension was just released in April and it is still in Beta mode, but it looks promising. After installing the extension, choose the language that you’re learning in the settings, and then just double click on a word. The translation will appear, along with a speaker icon to listen to the pronunciation, plus links to WordReference and conjugation websites. If you have a Mango account, you can sign in and have the option to save the word to your Vocab List to study later. You may have access to Mango Languages for free through your local American or Canadian library, but if not, unfortunately there isn’t a free option to create an account just for Mango Reader. However, for $20 a month or $175 a year, you will have unlimited access to all of their language courses (71 languages and counting.)

One small bug I noticed was that the pronunciation is sometimes an American accent pronouncing the word as if it were English, but the second click produced the correct pronunciation in the correct language. Currently, the supported languages for Mango Reader include: Modern Standard Arabic, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, and Latin American Spanish.

Mango Reader Beta Chrome ExtensionMango Reader Beta 

 

Lingua.ly

The Lingua.ly extension uses both the Ultralingua and Babylon dictionaries as well as Google Translate. Each word you Alt + double click on is automatically added to your word list at webapp.lingua.ly – however, there appear to be some bugs since the export words to other applications function does not currently work. Lingua.ly is completely free and there are no limits on how many words you can look up or save.

Lingualy Chrome Extension for Learning Languages through Translation

Lingua.ly

Google Translate

Of course, Google Translate has their own Chrome extension that makes it easy to quickly look up a translation. With the Google Translate extension, you highlight a word to get the translation (and pronunciation, if available). Clicking on More will take you directly to the translate.google.com page.

Google Translate Chrome Extension

Google Translate Chrome Extension

 

Overall, I prefer to use Readlang because of the minimalist interface and the fact that the entire sentence is automatically saved. Sometimes I just use Google Translate if I’m not interested in saving words to flashcard decks. If you already use Mango Languages often, then their web reader might be a better option so you can save your word lists to your existing account. And if you would like other options besides translations from Google, then try Lingua.ly.

Any others?

Are there other Chrome extensions for learning languages that you recommend? Let me know!

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects

Free Learning How to Learn MOOC on Coursera

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects

Learning How to Learn is a free MOOC available through Coursera. It is a self-paced course which just started January 4, 2016, and I highly recommend it if you have trouble studying or remembering what you study. It includes valuable information about how your brain and memory work, and offers advice on how to study, take notes, conquer procrastination, etc. as well as what is NOT good for learning, i.e. constant re-reading and too much highlighting, for example.

This course is actually one of the most popular courses on Coursera, and the instructors deliver the content in a great way. While this course is broad enough to encompass learning material for various subjects, they do mention learning languages and the techniques are just as valid for learning languages as for learning math or science. One technique is the Pomodoro technique. Basically, you should study for 25 minutes (set a timer), and then take a 5 minute break – to stretch, exercise, have a snack, or just relax – and then do another 25 minute session, followed by another 5 minute break, and so on.

They also mention spaced repetition, which you are probably familiar with if you use Anki, Memrise, and other online study websites. The idea is to space out your learning and study over time rather than trying to cram and memorize everything at once. It is better to let your brain rest for a day or two and then repeat the material in order to really learn it.

The course is only 4 weeks long and new sessions start often if aren’t able to keep up with the quizzes this time around. The course is based on the book A Mind for Numbers, written by one of the instructors, Dr. Barbara Oakley. It is not required for the course, but it does delve deeper into the topic of learning math and science.

Learning How to Learn is based on the book A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley

Let me know if you’ve taken this MOOC and what your thoughts are on it.

Topic vs. Frequency in Vocabulary Learning

Teachers and learners of languages, I am looking for your input in the topic vs. frequency debate. Almost all textbooks and coursebooks introduce vocabulary in chapter topics or themes such as food, clothing, transportation, etc.  These related words are often used to fill in the slots of functional phrases, which a lot of current books are based on thanks to the  popularity of the communicative approach. For example, one of the chapters in the French textbook that I use in my class combines the functions of offering, accepting and refusing with the topic of drinks. So students are expected to memorize the question Voulez-vous boire un/e ____ ? and the vocabulary list is full of nouns such as un verre de lait, une tasse de thé, un coca, un chocolat chaud, etc. (The conjugation of vouloir is not actually taught in this or any preceding chapters.)

The problems with presenting vocabulary like this, however, is that it goes against vocabulary acquisition research. Many researchers have argued that grouping vocabulary into topics (and therefore semantic sets) actually hinders acquisition and confuses the students more. The topics tend to represent concrete concepts as well and can easily be illustrated in the chapters with pictures or photographs – which consequently leaves out abstract ideas. Plus words grouped according to topic mean that the words are not grouped according to frequency, which is the most important criterion for selecting vocabulary to teach/learn first.  Of course, frequency is not the only criterion, but it should be the starting point for vocabulary selection.

Learn opposites together = forever confused

If frequency is supported by research and topic is not, then why do all textbooks teach vocabulary based on topic? Is it because it easier to write textbooks in this way? Is it easier for the instructor to teach in this way? Is it considered less boring and more engaging for students to learn in this manner even if it goes against vocabulary acquisition research?

I’ve heard arguments that students should learn vocabulary in topics so they can talk about them right away, but that doesn’t make sense if the students don’t even have the basic vocabulary needed to construct sentences. Even if you learn all the articles of clothing, what exactly can you say about them? How can you have conversations about clothes if all you know if a list of nouns? In my class’s textbook, students learn to say Je porte un/e ___ and then some adjectives to describe the clothes. I really don’t see how that is going to help them communicate in the real world.

It seems to me that it’s more of a classroom vs. real world debate. We want students to be able to use the language as soon as possible, even if that means teaching things that will only ever be used inside the classroom. But isn’t it our job as educators to prepare students as much as possible for the future when they will leave our classrooms? Or are we simply just trying to make sure they don’t fall asleep in class?

I’ m not saying that students should just learn the 2,000 most frequent words of a language in sequential order. That would be rather boring and frustrating. But there is a much better way of presenting vocabulary – the most frequent words among a few topics presented in story format, for example – that textbook authors keep resisting. And I want to know why! Is it because the textbook publishing industry does not want to change and try something new (for fear of losing money)? Is it because too many people think it’s more logical to learn vocabulary in semantic sets regardless of what research says? Personally I feel it is much more logical to learn the words that you are most likely to encounter, i.e. the most frequent words. Even if there are problems with frequency – such as, what texts were used in the corpus to generate the frequency data? – it is actually supported by research, and that is what is most important to me.

How many first year French students do you think really need to learn the words arc-boutant (flying buttress) or fluocompacte (energy-saving) but not tel (such), également (also), soit (either…or), mener (to lead), appartenir (to belong to), atteindre (to reach), entier (whole), moindre (least), or intérêt (interest)? These are all words that are not taught in the active vocabulary lists of ANY of the 12 first year textbooks that I am analyzing and they are all ranked among the top 500 most frequent words in French.

So what do you think?