Readlang Blog

Read for pleasure and super‑fast language acquisition

A Future Language Learning Platform

May 31, 2013 by Steve - Comments

Here are a bunch of popular language learning websites:

Notice a common thread? They all re-implement their own spaced repetition system and all except for LingQ1 don’t share their data2. This means if I’ve invested time with one tool, there’s a resistence to switching to a new one. And the experience I have with a new tool will be inferior until it learns about me.

Imagine if all these tools backed onto an open learning platform which stores your progress on each word or concept. You could encounter a new word on Duolingo one day, test yourself on it with flashcards in Anki the next, then encounter the same word in an iPhone game the next day, and all these events would contribute to the same user profile. New apps would hook into this data to provide you with a personalised experience from the start. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Of course, getting all the existing sites on board with this is a tough proposition. But if this existed and got a bit of traction, users would demand that new language learning tools or games use it.

I’m not sure exactly what it’ll look like but it should provide an open standard API to:

For bonus points it could incorporate grammatical rules, understand conjugation of verbs, provide good dictionary definitions, translations, etc…

I predict that one day an open platform like this will exist, and an ecosystem of connected language learning tools will emerge.

  1. LingQ does provide an API allowing read/write access to the words and the spaced repetition data, which is good, but doesn't seem to have attracted much of an ecosystem as far as I see. Largely due to the paywall for users.
  2. I suppose you could look inside Anki's local sqlite database, but if you're developing for the web, that doesn't count.

</small> (PS. As for how these ideas may affect Readlang, I’m not exactly sure yet, but stay tuned!)


Happy Half-Birthday!

May 30, 2013 by Steve - Comments

Today is exactly 6 months since the first lines of Readlang’s source code were written:

commit 945599f750750ed19c37fe7337934f5e83999e8a
Author: Steve Ridout <>
Date:   Fri Nov 30 10:56:31 2012 +0100

	initial commit

And the idea to make the site was only born a couple of days before that, so it really is a half year old. I was living in Spain and frustrasted with my progress in Spanish. At the same time, I was keen to start a new programming project, and Readlang seemed a natural fit. I’d code the site by day, and in the evenings I’d test it to read books and learn Spanish, perfect!

I got a reader prototype up and running pretty quickly, and I was reading a novel with google translations within the first week. The site’s come a long way since then. I wonder what it’ll look like in another six months time…


YouTube Transcriptions

May 12, 2013 by Steve - Comments

There’s a new feature on the site. It started life as plain audio to listen along with texts but got ‘upgraded’ to YouTube instead, for three reasons:

  1. There is a vast array of content already on YouTube.
  2. It has video - you can see things!
  3. I don’t have to store all the audio on my server, which keeps things simple for me.

I still think that plain audio would be cool to have, but this lets me get something out there that works, and get back to improving the more core aspects of the site.

You can try it out by watching the following videos in Spanish:

Let me know if you think this is useful, or if you think it could be improved.


The 200th Beta Tester

April 11, 2013 by Steve - Comments

Yesterday the 200th Readlang beta tester signed up. A modest number but it keeps me motivated, so thanks to all of you, especially those who are using it regularly and providing feedback!

I’m working on an audio feature now that I’m very excited about. Will share more details when it’s ready.


Phrase Translation and Anki Export

March 15, 2013 by Steve - Comments

I introduced readlang on the How To Learn Any Language forum recently and have received some useful feedback. I’ve implemented two of the suggestions already.


Word Frequencies

February 28, 2013 by Steve - Comments

Readlang got an awesome new feature today, it now prioritises words by their frequency.

This means I get to learn the most useful words first, which is important since I have over 500 words sitting in my queue:

Thanks to Hermit Dave for his list of word frequencies which made this feature so simple to add to the site. The only language missing is Catalan, sorry!


Video Tutorial

February 26, 2013 by Steve - Comments

Update. The video below is out of date, here is the latest version.

I’m still busy working on the site and have made a short screencast to introduce the basic features.


Parallel Texts

February 3, 2013 by Steve - Comments

Parallel texts are a great learning tool for beginners. These allow you to quickly switch back and fore between the translated version and the original without breaking your flow too much. The problem is it’s almost too easy to rely on the translated version, and figuring out the matching point in the translated version sometimes takes a little searching. Aside from portability they haven’t improved much in over 2000 years.


Learn Languages By Reading

January 31, 2013 by Steve - Comments

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.


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