Language Immersion add-on for Google Chrome

Update (1/4/16) – A number of readers have reported that they can no longer get this add-on to work. I tried it and it didn’t work for me, either. I’m afraid it might just be a case of an old extension, which hasn’t been updated in quite some time, not being compatible with the latest versions of Chrome. Pity!


If you use Google Chrome, there’s a nifty little add-on you might want to check out, called Language Immersion for Chrome. It’s built using Google’s automatic translation services, so you can select from 64 different languages. It also allows you to select a level of fluency (from beginner to fluent). The add-on takes whatever web site you’re looking at and randomly replaces words with your foreign language equivalent. Clicking on them changes them to English, and hovering over them will give you a pronunciation.

It’s certainly not something that is going to replace serious study and reading target language material, but every little bit helps, and it’s a neat way to sprinkle some language exposure into your daily web routine.

Back to this craziness (and learning with texts)

So, I’ve been a blogger-in-missing for nearly half a year now. Considering my last, depressing post in August, I imagine some readers thought I just gave up altogether. I’ve actually received some emails from random readers, asking if all is well, since I’ve been so quiet. I’ve not given up nor died – just paused for a (long) while. I did toss language learning aside out of frustration for a while, and then other things in my life took over. A new girlfriend, the holidays, followed by a new, full time job. I think I’ve read maybe a paragraph or two of German since last September. Tsk, tsk, right?

But, the siren calls of difficult grammar, unknown words, and streams of unintelligible gibberish are too strong, so I’m starting to get back into it. A news article here, a podcast listen there. I’m planning on focusing on German, French, and (perhaps) Russian for a while. I might dabble a tiny bit with Italian, perhaps doing an Assimil lesson every day or two. We’ll see.

Unrelated to my hiatus from language learning, there’s a cool, new (to me) toy available: Learning with Texts. It is, for all intents and purposes, an open source copy of LingQ. You can run it on your own web host, or you can set up a dummy web server on your computer to run it. Lots of thorough instructions on the site, so do check it out. I’m pretty excited about it personally, as I always liked the idea of LingQ, but just thought the price point was a bit too high.

 

The “Lyrics” tab on iPods

Geoff has a great post on making use of the Lyrics information, which iTunes lets you attach to any audio file in your library. Once you sync your iPod with your iTunes library, whatever you put in the Lyrics information tab will be available on your iPod.

As he says, while it’s meant for lyrics, it’s really just a text field, so you can put anything in it – Assimil dialogues, troublesome vocabulary, or transcripts of whatever you’re listening to. I’ve had an iPod of some sort for years now, and I never thought of doing this, even after seeing some podcasts come packaged this way, like Slow German. All this time, I’ve been printing out copies of the transcripts for Deutsche Welle’s Top Thema podcasts, when I could have just been copying and pasting the text into the Lyrics field.

Yabla – Foreign Language Videos With Subtitles and Translations

I recently learned about a website called Yabla, which offers Spanish and French videos complete with transcripts and translations:

Only Yabla language immersion sites give you authentic television, music videos, drama, interviews, travel, and Yabla exclusive shoots from throughout the world. Our unique player technology is designed with language learners in mind: Slow Play, Integrated Dictionaries, Listening Game, Dual Language Subtitles, and more.

I took their player for a spin, and quite liked it. The transcript isn’t just a big block of text, but instead, is integrated into the player. Each sentence or phrase appears as it’s spoken, and pressing back takes you to the beginning of the sentence. The Slow Play feature is also nice, slowing the video and audio down to perhaps 1/2 to 3/4 regular speed. The audio sounds slightly robotic after being treated this way, but it’s still quite usable. I’m usually wary of language “games”, finding most of them useless, but the Listening Game at Yabla actually seems useful. What it does is removes a random word from the transcript; you listen and watch, and try to fill in the missing word. I can certainly see where playing this occasionally could help one’s listening comprehension.

Hopefully, the amount of French videos catches up with the Spanish; as of right now, there’s around 5 hours of video at Yabla French, and nearly 20 hours at LoMasTv. Still, though, 5 hours of French video with transcripts and translations is a treasure trove for the French learner, so I won’t complain. 🙂 Do check it out, just bear in mind that their is a subscription fee of $9.95 a month. If you sign up for longer periods of time (6 months, a year), you get a discount.

Lang-8

Jaered from Lang-8 sent me an email a few days ago, asking me to check out the Lang-8 site, and perhaps blog about it. So, what is Lang-8? It’s a bit like many other language exchange sites – you sign up, you can search profiles, etc. – but with one major difference. The main pull behind Lang-8 is that you can post directly to the site and receive corrections from native speakers of your target language. When you click on a journal entry, each sentence is linked, so that you can click on it and correct it, using buttons for red and blue text, as well as bold and crossout.

It seems like a pretty good idea to me, being able to post and get corrections from any native speaker who comes along. I love language exchanges, and I’ve made many good friends via them; but being able to just post something and get corrections without going through the ordeal of finding a partner, doing the introductions, figuring out how we’re going to correct, etc… that’s quite nice.

The site seems to be dominated by those who are learning East Asian languages (particularly Japanese), but there are European speakers floating around in the mass. I think the correction interface is a little clunky and could use some work, but it’s still usable; the site as a whole could use some decluttering, as it seems awfully busy. Overall, though, I’m quite fond of the overall idea. Do check it out.

Lingro.com – Awesome Online Dictionary

I recently came across lingro.com through my ‘net travels, and while it could be improved in many areas, it’s already one of my favorite tools. While the site has a regular dictionary look-up, what I really love is the overlay feature (or “web viewer” as they call it). You go to lingro.com, select your target language, and enter a website URL; once the page loads, every word on the page is clickable. Click one, and a pop-up window appears with the meaning of the word. There’s also a toolbar at the bottom of the window that you can type a word into, to look up a word that isn’t on the page. (It’s also helpful to look up compound words, as many that are logical in nature don’t have a unique entry.) Here’s what it looks like:

Screenshot of Lingro.com in Action

Once you’ve made an account, Lingro keeps track of all of the words you look up. It also maintains a list of all of the sentences that the words appeared in, which makes it all that easier to add sentence items to your SRS application (I recommend Anki).

The site also has a rudimentary flashcard system, but it really is that: rudimentary. I’ve already poked the developers to add an “export” feature. 🙂

The dictionaries themselves are all open source, meaning they’re free, and they always will be. Furthermore, they’re largely user-built, so if you hit a word that isn’t in the dictionary you’re using, add it. If you’ve ever used the German dictionary dict.cc, Lingro works more or less the same way. The definitions aren’t always as good as you’d find in a commercial dictionary, but the ease of use – click the word, get a definition – still makes it a worthwhile tool.

Lingro currently has dictionaries for English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Polish and Swedish.

Typing in German made easier

I’ve been studying German for 4 years or so now, and since I began, I’ve been pounding away with alt-code keys. Alt+0220 for Ü, alt+0246 for ö, etc. I just discovered something which will save me quite a bit of time: DeKey.

It’s a custom German keymap for Windows Vista or Windows XP, which allows you to easily type letters commonly used in German, e.g.:

ü, ö, ä, ß, «, », etc.

Instead of using the alt-codes, all you have to do is hold down the Alt key and hit the corresponding letter, so:

R-alt + u = ü
R-alt + a = ä
R-alt + shift + o = Ö

You can download the installer here; instructions on how to enable the keyboard are included in the zip file.