online language learning

Lingua.ly Transforms The Web Into A Language-Learning Opportunity

Next Story

Former Time VP Jacqueline Hampton Joins Springpad As Its New CEO

Learning a language with the help of texts that were specifically written for learners is one thing, but over time, that tends to get boring and once you venture out to read “real” texts, you quickly realize how artificial the texts for learners are. With Lingua.ly, a smart language-learning startup out of Israel that is officially launching today, the entire web becomes a platform for language learning.

Thanks to a patent-pending natural language processing technique, Lingua.ly indexes texts on the web in Spanish, English, French, Hebrew and Arabic. After you’ve taken a few vocabulary quizzes and used the service for a little while, Lingua.ly will be able to recommend real texts for you based on the vocabulary you already know and the difficulty of the text.

Lingua.ly is a Chrome plug-in, so it’ll automatically prompt you to take new quizzes, personalized for you, as you browse the web. You can also use the plug-in to get recommendations for texts that are appropriate for your reading levels and mark up texts or browse Lingua.ly’s dictionary as you visit any site on the web.

Lingua.ly will remember the words you looked up and will start including those in your quizzes and base its reading recommendations on your knowledge. That’s definitely the strength of the service: it integrates with your daily web browsing habits and lets you learn new words as you go along.

G1v-E7G-8UeMqMtDpGhR-0In5c3eYGsX-plFhspH14Q

The company’s founders Orly Fuhrman, a Stanford Ph.D. and Jan Ihmels, a Weizmann Institute of Science Ph.D., told me last week that they realized that the web presents a new opportunity for language learning that most language-learning startups have ignored so far. If everything on the web is personalized, Fuhrman said, why is most language-learning software still based on pre-written lessons? Language learning with artificial texts, she argued, will allow you to get the basics down, but it also makes language learning boring.

Lingua.ly, then, finds the online content that’s right for your learning needs and even takes your personal interest into account (say you want to read about sports, business, travel, politics or celebrity gossip). With this service, even your Facebook feed could become a language-learning opportunity.

lG-QLE6n5aan4yrGge774NToK58OZLcZenNhjUo6cUw

The focus here is squarely on vocabulary, but as the founders told me, as you read new texts, you will automatically pick up some grammar, as well. It’s worth noting, though, that Lingua.ly is probably best used as a complement to existing language learning programs, and maybe even a traditional classroom setting.

The founders say they may expand to more languages, grammar and launch some paid features, as well. For now, Lingua.ly is already well worth a try if you are learning a new language.