Read for pleasure and super‑fast language acquisition
This is a small update, but it addresses a couple of things which have bugged me about Readlang’s reading interface for a while.
Before, the page navigation UI felt clunky to me:
Now, it looks like this:
The difference may seem subtle, but it changes these three things:
The “go to start” and “go to furthest read” options now accessible by clicking on the percentage at the bottom, which will show the following popup:
It’s been 3 months since I added Context-Aware Explanations (previously known as Smart Definitions) to Readlang. I’ve had great feedback about this feature so far! Here’s a small sample:
You can access it from the reader page by opening the sidebar in a supported language. Here’s how it looks:
If you want to learn or make progress on something, then turning it into a daily habit is about the most powerful way to do that. Much has been written on this topic, but the one that stuck for me is The Seinfeld Strategy: “Your only job is to not break the chain”.
Readlang has had a streak feature for the past few years, but two things bugged me about it:
This changed a few weeks ago with the new streak feature which, if you’re a regular Readlang user, you’ll probably have noticed already! Here’s how it works:
At the top right of the page you’ll notice a flame icon with a number next to it:
For a long time, learners on Readlang have been asking for an easy way to control which words get converted into flashcards and now it finally exists!
You can now enable “delete on deselect” in which words and phrases will be deleted from your account simply by clicking an extra time to hide them.
Using an external dictionary in the Readlang sidebar is very useful for those times when the simple translation doesn’t quite cut it. But the quality of the different external dictionaries varies a lot, some of them have stopped working within Readlang, and the problem with all of them is that they aren’t aware of the context around the word or phrase you’re translating.
Wait? Readlang is back? Where did it go? Well, in one sense it never went anywhere, it’s been helping people learn languages by reading since 2013. But in 2016 I went to work at Duolingo (read more), and in 2017 I sold Readlang to them. I really enjoyed my time at Duolingo and worked on some cool stuff there including Duolingo Stories, but unfortunately Readlang stagnated. Luckily for you and I, the good people at Duolingo have sold Readlang back to me!
I found vocabulary to be the most intimidating part of learning a foreign language. I’m an engineer at heart, more at home with math & physics, where you learn a small amount of things, from which everything else can be derived.
The other aspects of Spanish such as pronunciation and grammar seemed to offer a set of rules which could be learned, practiced and internalized given a reasonable amount of studying. (I particularly like Michel Thomas and Duolingo for this.) But I had no handle on how to learn vocabulary. I’ve never been a fan of rote learning, and hence never developed skills to learn vast quantities of unrelated things. It seems to take somewhere in the order of 10,000 words to read comfortably in a foreign language. It may as well have been infinite. How on earth do you approach learning 10,000 of anything?
Readlang was originally designed for reading novels, but it was clear early on that I needed a more accessible source of free content for people to read, and what better source than the internet! For this reason, Readlang has a web importer, allowing you to import a plain text version of a web-page, a la Instapaper*. The original importer was a hastily coded affair, which included far too much cruft from the source web page and has long been due for an overhaul, so here it is…
This one’s a biggie, and has taken a while to implement.
Earlier this year I added some improvements to My Texts. But after receiving feedback from some of the most prolific sharers of content on Readlang, it was clear that more organization was required.
Have you ever felt that Chrome’s new tab page is a massive productivity sink? It tempts you with your most visited pages. Facebook, Gmail, Reddit – procrastination central. It wastes your time with watching innane viral videos and derails your train of thought. This extension takes over the new tab page to encourage browsing the web in Spanish. If you’re going to be distracted, don’t fight it, use it to your advantage!
If you read a lot, you’ll appreciate the need to keep your language learning library in order. Readlang helps you by organizing your texts and videos into the following categories:
Speaking and listening skills are an extremely important for learning a language. Readlang already has plenty of YouTube videos for you to practice listening. Songs have proved to be a favorite:
To complement this, you can now enable Speaking Mode. This provides automatic text-to-speech when you click a word or phrase in any text, and when reviewing your flashcards, Readlang will pronounce the word or phrase as it is revealed.
There are few topics more divisive among language learners than the question of translation. Is translating a bad habit? Should learners stop as soon as possible? Whatever your opinion, Readlang can now help.
From today, you can disable translations and access monolingual definitions.
The main reason people fail at learning a language is not showing up to practice every day. Effective language learners manage to incorporate the language into their lives on a regular basis, they form daily habits. Having a job where you must speak the language is ideal, but most of us need to find other ways to squeeze practice into our busy lives.
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.