Using Google As A Teacher

Jim Stroud from EnglishCafe.com wrote an interesting document about using Google as an aid to language learning. Many of his tips involve using Google’s vast text index to compare a search to what Google has on hand, for example:

3. Is there a word missing?

By using an asterix in a sentence, Google will assume that a word is missing and search for phrases that it thinks fills in that blank. For example…

By searching, How are you * today?

Google returns search results that includes:
*   “How are you doing today?”

*   “How are you feeling today?”

*   “How are you guys today?”

*   “How are you coping today?”

Click here to see for yourself and pay attention to the phrases that are bolded.

I really like his ideas, as they help language learners (learning English or anything else) to compare what they think is right, to what is right. If you run a search on what you think is right and get 5 results, it’s probably wrong. If you get 150,000 results, you’re probably onto something. 🙂

You can read Jim’s post here, or download the full guide here.

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.

Free access to Collins dictionaries

I was looking for a translation of a German word this morning (arbeitsreich), to see if I could find some examples of usage. At the top of the search results was this. The page answered my question, but more importantly, through it, I discovered that you can access Collins foreign language dictionaries online for free.

The dictionaries available from the site are:

Quite the bundle!