One of the most tedious parts of learning a new language is stumbling half-asleep through a boring textbook. When I was studying Chinese, one of my readers included articles on how to renew a student visa, why credit card debt is bad, and whether or not depression is a “disease of civilization.” As a result, I barely remember any of the vocabulary words it included.
Lingua.ly wants to cure textbook malaise by turning the entire Internet into a language learning tool. The startup just introduced its first app, which is now available for free in the Google Play store (an iOS version is in the works). Languages currently supported are English, Chinese, Hebrew, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Russian.
TechCrunch first profiled Lingua.ly when it launched as a Chrome extension that allows users to save vocabulary from websites and automatically turn them into flashcards. Targeted at beginning to advanced language learners, Lingua.ly is meant to encourage immersion learning.
The Lingua.ly app enables users to access your flashcards and other material on your tablet or smartphone. The app encourages you to learn in short bursts instead of cramming. For example, you can choose how many flashcards to study at a time: Coffee Break (five words), Regular Size (15 words), or Word Feast (30 words).
Each flashcard includes photos, a pronunciation guide, and a snippet of the online text you originally selected the word from to put it into context. You can turn Lingua.ly’s autopronunce feature on if you want to hear what the word sounds like as soon as you “flip” your flashcard over.
One of the app’s handiest features is a reader that selects articles from the Web-based on your reading level. You can pick from a wide array of topics and Lingua.ly automatically selects vocabulary words for you from the text. An integrated dictionary lets you look up words in over 40 languages.
The reader, which is targeted at learners stuck on the “intermediate plateau,” is currently available only for English, Spanish, French, Hebrew and Arabic, but more languages should be added soon. The app will also add social media content so users can practice their reading skills by browsing content from Facebook and Twitter. This nifty feature is already available on the browser extension.