Read for pleasure and super‑fast language acquisition

Learn Languages By Reading

January 31, 2013

I’m a huge fan of reading to learn languages. It’s less stressful than interaction or formal studying, it gets you a lot of exposure to new words and grammar, and can be very enjoyable. How enjoyable depends on the difficulty, the content, and your tools for translating.

The first two are closely related, and for a complete beginner it’s almost impossible to find interesting content that’s accessible. At this level you’re restricted to simple kids stories, which get boring fast. For more interesting content, it takes so long to struggle though that you quickly lose the context of what you’re reading. What you need is to reach the level at which you can follow the plot of a novel, or the gist of an article, and get enjoyment out of it.

Translation tools can enable you to read content beyond your capability. The traditional method is the trusty dictionary, which breaks your reading flow every time you use it. Now in the early stages you shouldn’t translate every unknown word, just enough so that you get the idea. But if that means translating a word per sentence, you’re doomed when it comes to understanding and enjoying an interesting story. It’s just too much effort. Modern eReaders offer far less disruptive translation, in Readlang a single click on a word is all that’s needed.

One argument in support of paper dictionaries is that the act of looking up words will help you learn. Some take this further and manually jot down a list of translated words. There is some truth to this but it’s very inefficient and makes reading less enjoyable. This is the main problem I created Readlang to solve, it will remember translated words for you and test you on them later, without breaking your flow.

I’ve just opened Readlang for public beta, try it out.

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