Readlang blog

The Making of Readlang - The First 16 Months

March 27, 2014 by Steve - Comments

It’s been 16 months already. In that time the site has grown from nothing to almost 5000 users, and continues to receive awesome feedback and grow ever more quickly. But it’s not all roses. There’s a long way go to make this sustainable, and I’m very motivated to keep battling on and making it happen!

I wrote this post to share the struggles and challenges involved in creating an online business from nothing. For anyone interested in the completely open and honest story behind Readlang, check this out. (Be warned, it’s long!)

The story of the first 16 months of Readlang


Learn Languages with Harry Potter

March 8, 2014 by Steve - Comments

A failing of most language courses is that their content is so boring. It’s hard to stay motivated reading stories like “John goes to the supermarket”, I want to read about epic adventures, with drama, mystery, and wizards!

That’s why I’m so excited that the Harry Potter e-books are available to buy DRM free, ready to import into Readlang and help learn languages!

Why is this exciting?

Harry Potter is a favourite series among language learners.

Now that DRM free versions are available, this means it’s possible to read Harry Potter completely legally within Readlang, a reading interface lovingly designed especially for foreign language learners, which is getting rave reviews and testimonials.

Drag across words to translate them, Readlang is like an Ollivander wand for language learners!

Sound good? Here’s how to get started…

1. Buy the book from Pottermore

Pottermore is J.K. Rowling’s own website and online eBook shop.

Click this link to go to the Pottermore Shop

If you’ve ever purchased anything online this is reasonably straightforward, just make sure you:

2. Upload the book to Readlang

3. Read the book

Later on, you can work on learning the words or phrases you encountered while reading. Readlang’s flashcard system uses a clever algorithm to prioritise words based on their frequency, and a spaced repetition algorithm to customise the scheduling based on your past performance. Don’t worry about the details, but read and practise daily and it will work like magic.

Good luck, and please let me know if you enjoy this, encounter any problems, or have any suggestions, I’m always working on ways to make Readlang even better!

[1] DRM free versions are available from Pottermore in English (US and GB dialects), Spanish, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portugese (Brazil and Portugal dialects), Swedish.


The Unintuitive Secret to Remembering Words - Don't Try!

February 26, 2014 by Steve - Comments

If you’re stuck looking for the right word, does it drive you crazy? Do you pound your head on the table trying to remember it? Do you swear you’ve learnt this before? If only your brain would work! Just think dammit! Think!

There are two problems with this:

  1. It’s exhausting
  2. It doesn’t work!

Learning a language is a long game, you need to learn thousands of words, so can you really afford to struggle over each one? To expend all that mental energy? Of course not! And the great news is that you don’t need to. Don’t stress, move on, and after seeing it a few times, on different occasions, and ideally in different contexts, it will stick.

I’m not saying you can’t pause a second or two to see if the word comes to you, but don’t struggle or beat yourself up, it’s not worth it.

You’ve surely had the experience of having a word on the tip of your tongue. No matter what you do, it just won’t come. You leave it, and 5 minutes later, your mind wanders and the word comes to you, completely effortlessly.

I wrote this after seeing a number of people, typically beginners, approaching the flashcards in Readlang with the wrong attitude, and beating themselves up for not knowing an answer. The best way is to stay relaxed and not worry when you get a card “wrong”, remember it’s a learning aid, not a test. It’s completely fine and expected to forget things a lot. The only truly “wrong” behaviour is not practising on a daily basis!

How to apply this in different situations:

If you don’t know a word…

…while talking

…while practising with flashcards

And the main thing to remember - don’t try!


Fed up with flashcards? Try other word games for language learning

February 18, 2014 by Steve - Comments

Flashcards are effective, but let’s be honest, they can get a little boring. That’s why I created an API for Readlang allowing any web developers to create games which you can then play with your personal words and phrases.


Simply type the missing words, whose letters flicker to give you a clue. Look to the right of the screen for the translations. As you complete each screen you progress to more difficult levels. See which level you can reach!

Play Sentences Now (requires a account with previously translated words, the more words the better!)

Fill In The Blanks!

Drag each words or phrase at the top onto the matching sentence, making it disappear. Be quick, since once all the spaces fill up, the end game countdown begins.

Play Fill In The Blanks! Now (requires a account with previously translated words, the more words the better!)

It’s Your Turn!

OK, I admit the above games aren’t exactly masterpieces, but they offer a fun alternative to the usual Readlang flashcards. And more than this, they are examples that hopefully inspire you, or any programmer friends you may know, to create better games built upon the API. Some ideas for more games are:

Note that the API allows adding new words so it could be nice to mix in other sources of words too, not only the ones from the user’s Readlang account. One great source of example sentences is Tatoeba, and they even allow downloading their entire database of nearly three million sentences from their downloads page.

If any developers are interested in trying out the API, please take a look at Readlang API github repo which contains the API documentation as well as the source code for the Fill In The Blanks! example game. Suggestions or comments are very welcome!


Readlang for Teachers

February 12, 2014 by Steve - Comments

Are you a foreign language teacher? Would you like to encourage your students to read more?

You can now create reading assignments on Readlang, and track your students progress to see where they need help.

Make reading fun

Teach more effectively

Readlang tells you:

Presentation Mode

Review the most commonly translated words in front of the class with presentation mode.

Join the Trial Programme

Get free access to these new features of Readlang for yourself and your students. Simply drop me an email at:

Support this idea

Continued development of these features depends on the response I get, so if you are interested, please leave a comment below or share this with your colleagues. Thanks!

(Likewise, if you don’t like the idea, please let me know that too, and why!)

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