10 Lingua.ly Hacks for Language Teachers

Lingua.ly helps language students expand their vocabulary and improve their reading skills using foreign newspaper articles —but it does a whole lot more than that too. Here are our Top Tips for Using Lingua.ly in the Language Classroom.

1. Find Authentic Content for Your Lesson


Tell Lingua.ly which words to look for by entering them in the sidebar. The platform creates a feed of current newspaper articles that contain as close as possible to 90% of the words in your lesson. Enter new vocabulary every week and we’ll use that information to provide more and more complex articles as the year goes on. Find a headline that interests you? Preview it, click on the link at the bottom to visit the original article and you’re good to go!

2. Encourage Learners to Bring Language into Class


Ask your students to download the free mobile versions of the app (Android/iPhone) and assign a word scavenger hunt for homework. E.g. Look up one food from the grocery store, one piece of furniture from your living room, one object from inside your backpack. The app will provide a definition, image, audio and example sentence for each one. You can later have them share the words they’ve collected in class and make a group list of words that are important to your students.

3.  Give Extra Credit


Lingua.ly is a great way to reward students who want to practice outside of class. Set up a  reward program and give extra credit for reading Lingua.ly articles, collecting new words and practicing via the spaced repetition game.  Students can simply open up their points console and email you a screenshot that records the total articles, words and practice correct they have earned for the week.

4. Follow Local News


Assign students genres to report on e.g. Entertainment, Politics, Science. Ask them to choose an article from their assigned category and present a news story on a weekly basis. As a follow up group activity, start off with the same set of words and then look for them in the various Lingua.ly categories. Compile a class list of sentences that present the same word used in different contexts.

5. Take Students on a Virtual Field-Trip


Looking for a language lab project? All you need is Google Chrome and the Lingua.ly Extension. Have students log in to their Lingua.ly accounts and turn word collection on. Choose a site to browse to as a group e.g. the Louvre’s websiteCarreFour or even Paris Metro and then just let them explore. Students can move all over the site and click on unknown words to look them up. When the visit is over, return to Lingua.ly to review the new terms and see what kind of newspaper articles they generate.

6. Use Student Vocabulary for Activities


Just because your students collect words inside Lingua.ly, it doesn’t mean that vocabulary is locked inside our system. We have an easy import/export function so you can bring words in, and more importantly, pull them out for classroom activities, games and quizzes that reflect your students’ individual working vocabularies. Just ask students to copy and paste their exported word list into an email and you can pick and choose the words you’d like to use in class.

7. Help Learners Keep Vocabulary Active


It’s difficult to maintain a long list of newly acquired words in memory. Help students keep an active vocabulary by asking them to practice all of the words the Lingua.ly system assigns them on a rolling basis. We use an adaptive spaced repetition algorithm (disguised as a fun practice game!) to ensure each student sees the right words for him or her at optimal intervals to avoid forgetting what they’ve learned.

8. Teach Reading Comprehension Strategies

Strategy training empowers language learners. Lingua.ly is a great platform for teaching reading strategies like skimming and scanning because you can take advantage of our Web App’s side-by-side article and vocabulary presentation (see our blog post on Glossing). Have students bring up an article that interests them, explain how the strategy works and then embark on some practice activities as a class. We have a lot more tips on implementing these strategies in this blog so now that you’re here, please feel free to look around!

9. Turn Recipes into Food for Thought


Create a list of common ingredients in your language’s cuisine e.g. beurre, sel, poulet and then have students either visit a local cooking blog with the browser extension or see what kind of food articles they can find in the Lingua.ly “feed.” Students look up new words along the way and then you just have to decide which recipes you’d like to assign them for homework! TOP TIP: Recipes are a great way to practice imperatives and commands.

10. Embark on Class Research Projects  

Lingua.ly’s browser extension helps your students become comfortable in target language rich environments and empowers them to seek out new language and use the resources available to them (a dictionary, flashcards, practice game) to carry on learning even when you’re not there to help them. You can acclimatize learners to this “digital” immersion experience by encouraging online research projects on cultural topics that require navigating target language websites.

Have an idea we haven’t thought of? We’d love to hear from you!  We’re working on new features and teacher/student dashboards to make Lingua.ly easier for everyone to use. So please send us your tips for using Lingua.ly in the language classroom and suggestions for new features or just leave us a comment below. Thanks and Happy Learning from Team Lingua.ly!

We Are All Polyglots!


Here at Lingua.ly we love learning, reading, writing, speaking and living languages. It’s a passion that extends from the development team and their vast knowledge of code, to our talented user experience, design, marketing and pr teams, to the founders themselves (Jan and Orly are fluent in 4+ languages each). Indeed even our investors, interns and accountants are studying a new language.

We added all of the languages up and discovered that Team Lingua.ly can speak a whopping 17 languages! Have you ever heard of a startup better suited to tackle the challenge of helping people learn a language online? We certainly haven’t.

So what does this mean for Lingua.ly users? Well, we know how difficult it is to learn languages and we are on a mission to make things easier for the learner and to help everyone from beginner to intermediate and advanced learners, use what’s available for free online to bootstrap their learning, enhance vocabulary and find success in fluency.

For us, it’s not just about developing a better dictionary, practice game or mobile app (although we care about these things too!). It’s about providing a language learning experience that motivates you to acquire more words in a meaningful way. So happy Wednesday and happy learning from the Lingua.ly Team!

What languages do we know? French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, English, German, Dutch, Danish, Modern Standard Arabic, Darija, Hebrew, Russian, Greek, Latin, Dari and Urdu

The ABCs of Language Learning (Pt. 2)


Here’s the second installation in our five part series to guide you through some of the key terminology and researcher approved hacks for bootstrapping your way to fluency. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you can find it here.

G is for Goals, Grammar and Glossing
Everyone has goals, but making sure you know exactly why you’re learning a language and setting clear goals about what you hope to achieve is key. While it’s up for debate whether or not grammar can be explicitly taught, the more exposure to authentic content you get, the greater the chances grammar will be acquired. Glossing is a reading strategy that can up your comprehension. Learn more: Goals, Grammar, Glossing

H is for Hard Languages and Good Habits
Some languages are definitely harder than others. Do you know what makes them hard and how you can be successful learning a “difficult” language? Following the habits of the Good Language Learner is a start. Modeling the behaviors of others who employ successful strategies can help you stay motivated too! Learn more: Hard Languages, The Good Language Learner

I is for Individual Differences, Immersion and Interaction
No learner has the same set of strengths and weaknesses and each of us is impacted by a variety of factors commonly referred to as “Individual Differences.” Knowing what kind of language learner you are can help massively when it comes to using strategies more effectively. And it doesn’t get much better than immersion when you’re trying to learn a language. That’s because immersion ensures you are surrounded by target language input, that you see words over and over again, in context, and that you have plenty of opportunities for interaction with native speakers. Learn more: Individual Differences, Immersion, Interaction

J and K are for Just Kidding, Let’s Stick with I
The Intermediate Plateau is a common term used to describe the difficult journey from intermediate to advanced proficiency. Once you’ve mastered the basics of a language (its grammar and most frequent vocabulary), it can be hard to motivate yourself to learn more. However, acquiring a more nuanced and native speaker-like vocabulary is the solution. And how can you achieve stellar results in terms of vocabulary breadth and depth? By collecting words from context of course! Learn more: The Intermediate Plateau

Read More from this Series: The ABCs of Language Learning (Pt. 1)

3 Lingua.ly Vocab Tricks


There are plenty of boring ways to learn vocabulary (think lists, memory drills, flashcards) but why do things the old fashioned way when technology makes so much more possible? Put a few of these into practice and learn new words like an edtech pro.

Prepare a recipe and learn all of the ingredients
Add a few words to the Lingua.ly iPhone or Android apps that describe the kind of food you like to eat (e.g. chocolate, savory, sour) and then visit the Lingua.ly Food Feed to find a recipe that peaks your fancy. Open it up and turn your evening into a word feast. Be sure you learn any unknown ingredients before you get started and don’t forget to practice your commands with all of those imperative verb tenses. Here’s an Italian experience to get you started: Cucina Italiana

Go shopping and describe the merchandise
Open up Chrome (make sure you have the Lingua.ly extension installed) and visit the website of you favorite French fashion designer, German car maker or Spanish wine producer. Start adding items to your basket and checking out the descriptions as you go. They’ll be plenty of hip new vocabulary terms (think adjectives galore) hidden throughout the site. We guarantee you’ll never describe a pair of jeans in the same way again.

Be a local and read the news
Do you have an interest in a particular city or region where locals speak the language you are learning? Add some town and province names to Lingua.ly and then sift through your news feed to stay abreast of current events in the region. We’ll serve you everything from culture to crime so be prepared to REALLY get to know the local scene.

Want more hacks? Try these posts out for size:
Which words should I learn first?
Put your words under the microscope
Best practices for vocabulary




Practice Makes Perfect


New Smart Practice Features for the Lingua.ly iOS App, PLUS Lingua.ly for Portuguese, Arabic and Russian speakers!

How do you know when it’s the right time for review? Should you be spending your energy learning new words or practicing old ones? Hack vocabulary learning and make your language study more efficient with spaced-repetition practice reminders and personalized push notifications. SRS technology uses an algorithm to determine when a review session is most effective. If your practice box is empty, then a feed of foreign newspaper articles awaits. Learn new words and immerse yourself in authentic content to inspire your learning.  Available for free on the iTunes Store in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Russian. Includes: news feed, smart dictionary, flashcards, practice game, leaderboards & more.

The ABCs of Language Learning (Pt.1)


Learning a language is different from studying subjects like Science, Math or Social Studies. That’s because you’re not only learning the language, but you’re learning HOW to learn a language at the same time. Fortunately, there’s a whole field of social science dedicated to understanding how we learn and acquire languages. So we’ve put together a five part series to guide you through some of the key terminology and researcher approved hacks for bootstrapping your way to fluency. Now let’s get started!

A is for Attitude, Aptitude and Acquisition
As with most things in life, attitude is everything. A positive attitude keeps anxiety at bay and affective filters low, allowing more new language in and keeping motivation high. And did you know that aptitude can be enhanced? In fact, you can actually train your brain to process language more efficiently. Last but not least, acquisition is the act of internalizing language to which you have been exposed without the deliberate memorization of a word and its definition. A pretty nifty time saver if you hate studying vocabulary! Read more: aptitudeacquisition

B is for Breadth and Beginners
One of the most important things you can do in early language study is to build out the breadth of your vocabulary. Put more simply this means “learn more words.” Words are the building blocks of language and if you’re wondering where to begin, we have some pretty simple tips for you, including this post on which words to learn first (hint: start with what you can see). Read more: breadth, beginners

C is for Context, Creativity and Connections
The world is pretty much in agreement when it comes to learning a new word from context: it’s a far superior method. And while there are many ways to approach contextualized learning, pairing it with a creative approach makes the experience more fun and memorable. Finally, language is a network. That means the more connections you make between new words, the better! Read more: context, creativity, connections

D is for Dictionary and Depth
A dictionary is every language learner’s best friend. Just make sure you know how to use it effectively so you don’t go into cognitive overload. Wondering what depth has to do with vocabulary study? Everything! There are so many things to know about a word, so drill down and get to know your terms better. Read more: dictionary, depth

E is for Efficacy, Exams and E-Learning
It turns out self-efficacy is an even stronger predictor of success in language learning than motivation, so if you don’t know what it’s all about, check out this post. And when it comes to keeping track of your own progress, vocabulary tests are pretty unavoidable so make sure you know how to choose the right one. Read more: tests

F is for Frequency and Flashcards
Every language learner should have a list of the most frequent words in the language they are learning. Master these first and life we become a whole lot easier. The Lingua.ly algorithm looks for authentic news articles that contain words you already know, so we work frequency stats in an even smarter way, based on your own personal vocabulary. And what’s the best way to review? With dynamic flashcards of course! Read more: flashcards

Be successful in a new language

SuccessTo learn a new language you need the right combination of attitude and aptitude, not to mention heaps of motivation. Yet sometimes it can still feel like you’re drowning in a sea of new letters, sounds and words. That’s when you could use a dose of that secret ingredient to success avid language learners and polyglots have been using for years. It’s called self-efficacy but don’t let the name fool you. It’s a lot easier to put into practice than you think.

Self-efficacy is the idea of taking a larger task, like learning a language, and breaking it into manageable steps. The self-efficacious language learner focuses on meeting measurable goals and learning step-by-step. He or she is not concerned with all of the language that has yet to be learned and instead focuses on mastering one vocabulary list, grammar point or skill at a time and making gradual and concentrated progress.

Studies have shown that self-efficacy is such a strong predictor of success in language mastery that it can be even more powerful than motivation. That’s because self-efficacious learners are also less anxious and nervous about making errors, which in turn helps them keep a low affective filter and retain more new language from the input.

So how can you be more self-efficacious in your language study? Start by identifying what you’d like to achieve as an end goal and then build a step-by-step plan to reach it. Here are a few questions to help you get started:

Why do you want to learn a language?
For travel
For work
For school
For fun

Which of the following skills is most important for you in your new language?

How much time and effort are you willing to dedicate to learning a language?
All of my time
Most of my time
Some of my time
A little of my time

Remember, tools like Lingua.ly can help, but in the end you are the only person who can ensure you achieve success in your new language. Now it’s time to check out our post on building a language learning pan and get going on your first step. Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter how small the task, if you learn one new thing at a time, practice regularly and keep yourself motivated — you can do great things!

Lingua.ly Launches New iPhone App


Lingua.ly announces the launch of its new iOS app, aims to re-imagine the way we learn new languages and expand our vocabulary through our iOS mobile devices.

Already featured as a leading language platform by numerous international news organizations — including The New York Times, Venture Beat, and Tech Crunch — Lingua.ly expands its “digital immersion”-style of learning to the iOS sphere.

The new app, which also includes an iOS8 widget and adds support for 4 new languages (Italian, German, Dutch and Portuguese), compliments Lingua.ly’s free online learning platform that uses real news articles to immerse its users in a unique language learning experience.

Now with the added mobility of the iOS app, a user can read a news article in a foreign language anytime anywhere, highlight a word they do not understand, and simply add it to the “words” tab with their Smart Dictionary.

Users can then view their new words in a Facebook-style newsfeed — the first of its kind on free language platforms — creating an adaptive learning tool that they can access and study at their own pace no matter where they are.

“The new Lingua.ly iOS app makes learning real and personal so language from your daily life becomes the centerpiece of the experience, driving your exposure to authentic content,” says Lingua.ly CEO and Co-Founder Dr. Jan Ihmels. “By moving away from menial exercises and textbooks and immersing people in real news stories, users of the app can expand their vocabulary and gain unparalleled insight into the language and culture,” he adds.

Now with Lingua.ly’s “digital immersion” available on all iOS devices, Ihmels explains, users can catch up on their daily news and revise their words through text, audio and images from the comfort of their iPhones.

“We know that immersion is the best way to actively learn a new language,” he says. “The Lingua.ly app, just like the web platform, makes use of all of the free resources we have on the web. Smartphones and tablets add unprecedented mobility to this already engaging activity,” he notes.

As smart mobile devices continue to become an integral part of our everyday lives, more and more people are looking towards applications, such as Lingua.ly, to easily expand their language knowledge. According to Forbes, the current market penetration of Smartphones in the US alone has climbed to 58% — a figure complimented by the explosion in language apps promoting their own style of learning.

“We don’t offer sets of lessons. Instead we allow users to choose the words that they want to learn, making the experience highly engaging, personal and adaptive,” explains Ihmels. “Because Lingua.ly’s intelligent algorithm identifies the user’s language level to compliment the vocabulary they already know, our users can start learning at any level they choose without restrictions,” he adds.

Available now for free through the Apple App Store, Lingua.ly can be used to learn French, Spanish, English, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, Italian, German, Dutch and Portuguese.

6 Ways to Use Language

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Not everyone who studies a second language is interested in communicating with native speakers. But for most of us, it’s all about the INTERACTION and therefore it is important to consider Jakobson’s 6 Functions as we put our language use to the test. So how dynamic are you when it comes to speaking in a new tongue?

1. Describing- Can you describe what you see, what’s happening around you and how you feel? These are all important CAN-DOs that will help immensely when you arrive in the target country and need to a) tell airport officials your luggage is not present b) you really need your luggage because you have a train to catch c) you would be so happy if they would just find your luggage!

2. Expressing- Do you just state the facts or do you always add a little “Mais, oui!” or “Zut alors!” to your conversation? Interjections and expressions of your emotional state help make language more real and personal. If you haven’t already learned to decorate your phrases with these words, watch a few films or television sitcoms in your target language and pay careful attention to the dialogue, you will be sure to pick some up!

3. Commanding- We all like to order people around but do you feel confident enough in your target language to try out the imperative? It may be a warm phrase like “Go on, open it!” when you hand a gift to your host family or it could be a safety concern such as “Don’t touch- it’s dangerous!” Either way, imperatives are a great way to get someone’s attention and a skill every learner must master.

4. Choosing- How careful are you when you speak? Do you attempt to be eloquent or are words just words? Often, as we improve our command over the language, crafting a message for the sake of the words itself can be a fun way to put new vocabulary to use. It also helps us develop an appreciation for the literary and spoken word tradition of the target culture.

5. Engaging- Do you know how to make small talk and chit chat with people in a line– how about in French? Discussing the weather, the football or the traffic and knowing how to start and stop polite conversation is an essential skill for a language learner. You may not have all of the words you need to get by but just engaging will expose you to your interlocutor’s vocabulary, which is a veritable treasure chest of native speaker phrases!

6. Analyzing- Can you describe the new grammar rule you’ve just learned using the target language? Language to discuss language can be tricky but it really is the only way to escape your mother tongue and fully immerse yourself in another register. Try setting your dictionary to French-French and you’ll get used to it in no time.

Language use is an evolving skill. The more practice you get, the more highly developed all of the functions will become. The best way to achieve this is through lots of conversation and as much interaction as possible, either via real world immersion or an organized exchange like PenPal Schools. Remember, you can always use Lingua.ly to save the new words you are learning and find interesting local newspaper articles to inspire future conversations!

Best Practices for Vocabulary

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It may sound easy, but learning vocabulary can be more complicated than you think if you want your new words to make a lasting first impression. That’s because the manner in which you meet a word and the way it is initially saved in memory effects its storage over time. So how do you go about achieving those memorable results?

#1 Draw a picture Visually encoding a word helps your brain create a more dynamic memory. And you don’t have to rely on existing images either. Sit down and let the illustration begin! It’s not only fun but an excellent way to infuse some creativity into the language learning process.

#2 Say it out loud Not all of us are audio learners but no matter your strengths, being able to pronounce and recognize a new word by ear is key when it comes to language learning. Plus, matching sounds with letters comes with added benefits including the enhancement of reading comprehension skills– who knew?

#3 See it in context Drilling one word at a time is a great exercise for recall, but seeing a word in context is a far superior way of making more interesting memories. That’s because your brain will secretly be picking up on all sorts of subtle clues about form, meaning and use as you process a sentence. (TIP: Check out the feed to experience the cadillac of context based learning.)

#4 Look it up! You may think you know a word until you look it up in the dictionary and find it has a handful of alternate meanings and forms. It’s okay to concentrate on just one for the meantime because knowing variants exist will help you expand your vocabulary later on, when the time is right.

#5 Find its friends Words hardly ever show up on their own. Instead they tend to be found in the presence of collocates. Knowing which words your new vocabulary likes to “hang out” with can not only help you recognize it faster but enhance your knowledge of related terms at the same time.

These tips guarantee your new words will get some extra cognitive attention, which is the secret sauce of any good language learner. And if you’re really going for the vocabulary learning gold, control the amount of words you study per session and the frequency of review to give your memory an added boost. Now that you know what to do, which words will you learn first?