Readlang Blog

Read for pleasure and super‑fast language acquisition

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

June 5, 2015

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

After getting a great reception on various language learning and productivity blogs, I figured it was time to improve the web reader to help you read even faster, more comfortably, and put your web browsing habit to good use.

To benefit most from this you should have a basic understanding of your chosen language, if you don’t then I’d recommend starting with a beginner course. Top of my list would be 1) a good teacher in-person or over Skype, 2) a Michael Thomas audio course and 3) Duolingo. Alternatively, feel free to jump in at the deep end and use Readlang to puzzle your way through some native content.

Here’s how it’ll help you:

1. NEW “Translations Above” Mode arrives to the Web Reader

Switch between old Replace mode, and the new Above mode, which scribbles the translation as a gloss above the original word.

Translations above glossing mode arrives on Web Reader

This will give you the correct meaning 95% of the time, and let you carry on with minimum disruption to your reading flow.

Less disruption => More enjoyment => Habit forming

2. NEW (Chrome Extension only): Nicer window arrangement

If a word isn’t correctly translated in-line, you can open a popup dictionary. This is now posisioned neatly to the left or right of your main browsing window:

Web Reader with Dictionary reading Star Wars

(Note: This dictionary is customizable - for Spanish the default is the excellent WordReference but if you have a favorite dictionary, you can set it in the preferences.)

3. NEW: Compact, mobile friendly, movable toolbar

The Readlang toolbar is smaller and stays out of your way allowing you to enjoy the web page. If it is annoying in the default top-right location, click the Menu button and set it to one of the other page corners

Web Reader position

On mobile devices, the toolbar shrinks down, allowing access to all functions from the Menu button

Click to translate works on links just like other text. To open the link, simply hover over it and click the Open Link → popup which appears.

Open link

On mobile devices, a little clickable → arrow will appear next to each link while the Web Reader is active.

5. NEW (Chrome Extension only): Seamless browsing experience

Once opened, the Web Reader will stay open while you browse different pages within the same tab. To close it, simply select Close from the menu.

6. Practice all your words and phrases with flashcards customized for you

This isn’t new but is worth repeating…


Every word and phrase you translate is converted into a flashcard. And not just any old flashcard, these advanced flashcards offer:

  1. The context around the word / phrase. Context is extremely important for learning and flashcard apps often neglect it.
  2. Word frequency lists are used to prioritize the most used words in a language first. Did you click both “cat” and “aardvark” while reading, well, the word frequency list will make sure you learn “cat” first. (Am I discriminating against aardvarks here? Why yes, I suppose I am, and so should you!)
  3. A spaced repetition algorithm will ensure you spend your time optimally, by repeating the words you find difficult more often.

Each of the 50+ languages has a popular links page, full of news, blogs, short story sites, etc… The less popular languages may only have small selections, but the pages for the popular languages are well populated and extremely useful, e.g.: English, Spanish, French, German, etc…

With more people now using Readlang, there are more and higher quality popular links than before, so if you haven’t been there in a while, now is a good time to check again.

More to come

I really hope these new tools help to improve your language skills. There’s still plenty more good stuff to come, if you want to contribute to the direction of Readlang’s progress, please vote for your favorite ideas on the feedback forum.

If you like this or find it useful at all, please don’t keep it to yourself, consider if you have friends who may benefit. It is ideally suited for anyone who spends a lot of time on the web and wants a fresh approach to language learning.

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