Read for pleasure and super‑fast language acquisition

Turn your favorite novel into a motivating and effective language learning tool

July 5, 2015 by Steve - Comments

If you enjoy reading novels, and wish to learn a second language, then you’re in luck, since reading can form a highly motivating and effective way for you to absorb the grammar, vocabulary and culture of a language.

Not so long ago, reading a novel in a second language was a mammoth undertaking, and required a very high level in the language, coupled with a lot of motivation. Today, things have improved enormously with online dictionaries and e-readers allowing you to lookup words while you read. It’s still a big task, but reading aids mean that you can progress more quickly, and tackle enjoyable, interesting stories far earlier than you would have in the past.

Every time you get stuck and need to look up a word or decipher a sentence costs you precious mental effort which should be devoted to the story you are reading. By making the lookup process frictionless you are able to devote more of your brain to understanding and enjoying the story.

Kindle and other e-readers offer translation but it isn’t their core functionality so often the experience is slow and requires tapping the screen multiple times, sapping your limited concentration. Readlang on the other hand is designed for language learning, fast translations are it’s raison d’être, and it provides them in the most frictionless way possible. Just one tap to translate a word, or one swipe to translate a phrase.

Translating novel

Find a novel to read

Childrens’s books, or books you’ve already read in your first language can be a great choice. You can upload any novel to read with Readlang, provided you have it in plain text or DRM-free epub format. If you like Harry Potter, purchasing the epub from Pottermore is simple. If Harry Potter isn’t your thing, or you want more choice, things get slightly complicated…

The spanner in the works - DRM (Digital Rights Management)

All the major book publishers have decided to encrypt the ebooks we buy so they can only be read by software that they control, e.g. Kindle books can only be read on Kindle apps or devices. The reason is to prevent piracy (which it’s failing at) but as a side-effect makes it difficult for those of us who purchase books legally to read them with our preferred software. Luckily there is a way around this which requires following a few technical steps, so if you’re reasonably computer literate, and have decided to read a whole novel in a new language, it would be silly to let this little technical problem get in your way.

(Learn more about DRM at Defective by Design.)

The solution - remove the DRM (Digital Rights Management) from your book before uploading

(Note: I’m not sure about the legallity of this process in different countries, so check for yourself whether it’s OK to manipulate a book you purchased for your own personal use.)

To read any novel with Readlang, do the following:

  1. Follow the appropriate instructions for removing DRM with the free software Calibre:
  2. Export the book from Calibre in .epub format.

  3. Upload the .epub book into Readlang via the upload page. DON’T tick the Public checkbox, this book should only be accessible to you and not shared with other users.

  4. Enjoy reading your novel with Readlang’s translation tools, and optionally review your new vocabulary later with flashcards. Here’s a demo to help you get started.

NOTE: Readlang is free to use for unlimited single word translations, and comes with 10 phrase translations per day for free. For unlimited phrase translations, you can upgrade to Premium for $30 / year or $4 / month.

Please, please, please, DON’T share any copyrighted content publicly on Readlang, this is illegal and wrong.


Learn a language while you surf - training wheels for browsing the web in French, Spanish, German + 50 other languages

June 5, 2015 by Steve - Comments

Entranced while browsing the web

The best way to learn a language is to form productive habits, and what easier habit to form than browsing the web? Turn your addiction into a powerfull learning tool with the redesigned Web Reader.

New Web Reader design


Chapters and Rich Formatting

April 15, 2015 by Steve - Comments

Based on your feedback, Readlang has become a fully fledged eReader with the addition of chapter navigation, as well as bold and italics:


Auto Highlight Words As You Read

March 17, 2015 by Steve - Comments

Context is key when learning language. Wouldn’t it be nice to access previous contexts you’ve seen a word in every time you encounter it in a new text?

Based on popular demand, I’ve added the ability to auto-highlight words you’ve previously translated as they appear in new texts. Clicking on any of these underlined words will trigger a pop up showing the translation along with previous contexts.


New Translation Glossing Mode

March 8, 2015 by Steve - Comments

Readlang’s main feature is inline word and phrase translation, as seen here in the Web Reader:


My Favorite Tools For Learning Spanish

November 28, 2014 by Steve - Comments

The best way to learn to speak Spanish is to just speak Spanish. Ideally with native Spanish speakers. But there’s also a lot you can do completely independently, and these are some of my favourite methods of self-study.

By the way, although I’ve focussed on Spanish, these methods are applicable for many languages.

1. Michel Thomas

This is a great place to start. It gives you a really good feel for the grammar, getting you to construct quite complex sentences from the very start, which really gets you motivated with the feeling of rapid progress. The format is unusual in that there are two other students on the CD who are learning alongside you and who will often fumble through an answer to be corrected firmly by Michel. It sounds strange but it really works. As with most language learning CDs, it’s best to actively participate, pausing after each question and speaking the answer aloud, or in your head, before listening to the student’s and Michel’s responses.

After finishing this course you should have developed a really good intuitive feel for the structure of the language, but will still have a very limited vocabulary.


8 Reasons You Should Read More (includes waffles)

May 28, 2014 by Steve - Comments
Selfie of myself reading at the lab. Note the professional Readlang logo in the background ;-)

I’m already addicted to reading in my native language of English. As a child I would read computer magazines cover to cover, as a teenager I started reading novels like The Andromeda Strain, and now as a guy who works at a computer all day long, even when working I’m habitually reading blogs, forums, wikipedia articles, news sites, you name it! So when I decided to learn Spanish, it was only natural to make reading the foundation, and reading in Spanish is now my core daily language learning habit. Here are 8 benefits:


Tips to take charge of your vocabulary learning

April 23, 2014 by Steve - Comments

Readlang now has a powerful new Words page:

This is a flexible tool to manage your vocabulary, whether you’re a hardcore language geek or simply looking for new ways to speed up your learning. Bear in mind that none of this is necessary to use Readlang, which you can very happily do using only the Library and Learn pages. The Words page is a great addition for those who want to take a more hands-on approach to their vocabulary learning.

Here are some useful tips for making the most of the Words page:


Are some people naturally better at learning languages?

April 19, 2014 by Steve - Comments

I just read a fascinating article about the development of Hi-LAB, the “High Level Language Aptitude Battery” test designed to help the US military identify individuals with high language learning potential. It was borne out of a frustration with seeing so many language professionals getting ‘stuck’ at basic proficiency and not progressing to become fluent. After some research, CASL (Center for the Advanced Study of Language at the University of Maryland) concluded that the following three traits were linked to language learning success:


Practise Words From Specific Books

April 17, 2014 by Steve - Comments

By default, Readlang will select flashcards for you to practise which are useful, high frequency words, and are scheduled for review according to Readlang’s spaced repetition algorithm.

But what if you are focussed on a more specific goal? Perhaps your job or studies require you to learn technical terms, or perhaps like me you’re working your way through Harry Potter and would like to restrict your study to those books. I’ve recently added a new feature for Readlang Supporters that allows you to choose to study words from any text from which you’ve translated 10 or more words or phrases, for example:


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!


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!


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:


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.


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.


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