Skimming and Scanning: What’s the difference?

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Reading Strategies
When it comes to reading in a second language, strategies are every learner’s best friend. Making sure you start off with an engaging text that contains words you already know is step one in employing a new strategy (’s suggested articles are there to help you with this). But being aware of how the strategy works and what it is designed to do is also an important part of the equation.

You’ve probably heard of skimming and scanning, two activities at the top of the list of the most commonly employed strategies for first and second language reading alike. But did you know they are geared to help you understand a text in two different ways? So, how can you know which one to use and when?

Skimming–Reading for main idea
Many learners find it is helpful to employ a skimming strategy when they need to quickly ascertain the gist of a text. Skimming is a top-down strategy (for more on this see’s blog post on top-down and bottom-up processing) that helps you activate prior knowledge on a given topic to provide a basis for making inferences  and integrating new information gleaned from the text.

When you allow your eyes to quickly run over sentences in order to understand the main idea through keywords, you are using a skimming strategy. With skimming, it’s all about spending time on the introduction and topic sentence so you have a general idea of what you are reading about before you skim through the rest  and process topical words that re-inforce your understanding of the main idea. You certainly don’t pick up on everything with this technique, and chances are you will miss out on the nuances and details of the text, but that’s what scanning’s for!

Scanning–Reading for detail
When you are looking for a specific piece of information, scanning is the right strategy for you. For example, you may not care what the article says about the growing popularity of high school athletic programs, you just want to know what they have to say about basketball so you scan the text for related keywords. Instead of filtering out detailed information as you would do in skimming, you are actively looking for details that match your query. That means you disregard every word you come across until something appears which is closely linked to basketball and then you pause and focus in on the target word to see what the article has to say.

Many learners find running a finger across printed text helps them scan more effectively. When you read on a mobile device, scrolling strategically can help you achieve the same results. Remember, with scanning you need to focus your attention on one thing and then engage a close reading of select portions of the text until you feel your question has been answered. With scanning, a dictionary can sometimes be your best friend as looking up unknown words in a sentence gives you a more comprehensive understanding of the content. But don’t feel overwhelmed if you end up juggling a few new terms at a time.’s mobile dictionary is there to make a flashcard for every word you look up so you can move on with your reading and practice the new vocabulary later.

Get Reading!
Reading is one of the best ways to increase your vocabulary when you are learning a new language. Begin with’s reading suggestions and then start skimming and scanning at will. Strategies can help you become a more efficient and effective reader and save you a great deal of time in the process!

Directionality in reading comprehension, employing top-down and bottom-up strategies

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Top-down and bottom-up processing in second language reading comprehension — sounds like language fit for computer programmers vs. language learners doesn’t it? That’s because both terms refer to models which illustrate how the human brain goes about processing (i.e. understanding) texts. Learning to employ top-down and bottom-up strategies can help make you a more efficient reader which in turn means you’ll collect more new vocabulary words from every article you pick up and have more fun doing it!

TOP-DOWN Reading for gist
Top-down processing refers to the activity of trying to understand the big picture of what you are reading from a few clues so your mind can make inferences to help you fill in any gaps in your understanding, not to mention integrate the details you pick up from closer reading. Think of it this way, if we erased more than half of the words in this sentence you would still be able to understand the gist: Sally sells sea-shells by the sea shore ->____sells ___shells__ ___ sea ____. In fact, as long as you could understand the verb “sell” you would know someone is selling something somewhere.  Where does this extra information come from? A cerebral depository commonly referred to as prior knowledge. We all have it and it’s what we use to make better sense of the world around us based on our previous experiences.

BOTTOM-UP Reading for detail
With bottom-up processing, you start with the smallest units of language, meaning letters, words, clauses and phrases and try to understand what they mean before fitting them into the larger text. Bottom-up processing allows us to collect all kinds of new vocabulary from what we read in a second language and enhance our understanding of grammar and how phrases function in different contexts. Depending on your level, bottom-up processing might entail decoding words so you can recognise collections of letters and look them up in a dictionary. For more advanced learners, it might be examining how a clause or lexical chunk functions in a particular sentence.

MIX IT UP Employing complimentary strategies
No matter which strategy you start with, remember that they are complementary. A balanced approach is always a winner and of course using’s hand-picked article suggestions will give you an automatic head-start as you’re guaranteed to recognise the words they contain. It takes some practice, but employing top-down and bottom-up comprehension strategies can help make reading a more enjoyable part of your language learning repertoire.

Mapping sounds to letters: Why phonics makes a difference in learning to read in a second language

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Sounds are for listening and the alphabet is the key to reading, correct? Actually, learning which letters (a.k.a. ‘graphemes’) stand for different sounds (a.k.a. ‘phonemes’) in the language you are learning is one of the most important things you can do to enhance reading comprehension ability down the line.

Researchers refer to it as grapheme/phoneme mapping but don’t be overwhelmed by the technical term. When you were a child you learned phonics in school to help you sound out words and read in your native tongue. In learning a second language, it’s as simple as repeating this process.

Languages are characterized by unique and defining sets of sound and letter combinations. That’s why even if you don’t speak a language, you can learn to recognize it by ear because of the way it sounds. So, even if the alphabet of the language you are learning is already familiar to you, you will still have to learn to apply new sounds to the letters in order to successfully decode and read your target language vocabulary words.

A dictionary won’t be much help in identifying the common patterns, but you can find lists of these letter and sound groups on the Internet. Nevertheless, the best method for teaching your brain the sound and letter correspondence rules of your new language is through extensive exposure to authentic input.

Surround yourself with language. Try watching a film and setting the subtitles to the same language the actors are speaking. As you listen and read you are automatically learning to map sounds to letters and giving yourself a much better chance of becoming a strong reader later on. So round out your reading experience with some phonics practice (remember all of our flashcards come with an audio bite that reads your word out-loud) and become a decoding all-star in no time!

Forget the eggs and collect some new words instead!

This Easter weekend take Mobile instead of a basket and go out on a word hunt once the chocolate eggs have all been found. Holidays offer the perfect opportunity to collect new terms wherever you can find them in real articles from around the web. Each word you learn expands your vocabulary in immeasurable ways and reinforces what your brain already knows about the language you are learning, from possible sound and letter combinations to root meanings and semantic overlap.

Language is one of the most colorful and exciting entities you can be in the business of collecting and helps you look up words with a free mobile dictionary, create flashcards with images, audio and example sentences to help vocabulary stick and review with fun practice games so you can not only acquire new terms but keep them all fresh and activated within your working vocabulary.

Looking for a challenge? Direct your word hunt with fun goals like collecting ten descriptive words for food or 5 words used to discuss eco-friendly living. No matter which category of words you choose, we promise you’ll enjoy the search as much as your new lexical bounty!

Vocabulary in language learning, the many ways to know a word!

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When you’re learning a new language, vocabulary seems like the most straightforward thing to master, doesn’t it? It’s not as complex as understanding grammar. It’s not as tricky as employing native speaker greetings and complex set phrases. You find a word, look it up in your dictionary and memorize it. Simple– except there’s much more to it than that.

Every good language learner knows there are a myriad of things you can learn about a word and not all of the information is a walk in the park to gather. The most obvious starting point is to recognise a word’s written or spoken form. This requires being able to decode the alphabet in which its written and isolate it from the other words on the page or alternatively to parse speech in order to hear where it starts and stops in conversation.

Producing a word is another challenge altogether: First, can you say it? Second, can you spell it? Third, do you know how to use it? Fourth, do you know when to use it? Fifth, do you know when not to use it? And all of these categories can be broken down further. Take saying the word for example, you need to know where to place the intonation, how to pronounce the middle vowel combination, what to do with the ending when it’s followed by a certain preposition etc….

While learning the many layers of a word takes hard work and dedication, one of the best ways to ensure you are going beyond surface level familiarity is to actively seek out new authentic contexts in which the word can be found. The more you hear and see a word used in different ways, the more you will implicitly understand about it. lets you use the vocabulary you are learning to direct reading suggestions at your level so you can see your word in as many authentic environments as the Internet offers on any given day. So what are you waiting for? Start getting more familiar with your words today and see what new places they can take you!

Language Study: Which words should I learn first?

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 22.49.30Let’s face it, when you’re a new learner it’s easy for language study to become overwhelming. There are so many unknown words to look up and so many words to learn! How can anyone know where to begin? While it may seem like the dictionary is the only book you’re reading lately, fear not because researchers (& know some things about where to start and there are a few basic rules you can apply to help guide you down the quickest path to fluency.

1. Start with what you can see…We mean nouns you interact with everyday: apple, milk, car, chair. When you’re learning a new language it’s important that you begin with concrete, tangible words that you are more likely to try and recall in your new tongue and that your brain has an easier time storing. Leave the abstract and fuzzy terms (say existentialism and the like) for later on when you have become more efficient at learning vocabulary.

2. Learn words that go together…Give your brain a break and don’t go learning monkey and horse one minute only to switch to pencil and notebook the next. Remember that language is connected so when you learn groups of words that often appear in sentences together you are making it easier to learn the words around them too. You’re also lighting up entire nodes of your brain in the process. Learn how to use each word on its own but approach lists thematically before you go all helter skelter in your vocabulary study.

3. Learn words that are easy for you to remember…Sound like a trick question? It’s not. The difficulty of learning a word is different for every word and for every individual that encounters that particular word. It’s a complex formula that factors in what languages you speak, what you already know, what vocabulary is meaningful for you etc. So if you find that remembering words that begin with the letter D, end in -ing or have something to do with cats is easier for you, start with them and work your way towards the more challenging letter strings, objects and sounds when you’re ready.

And of course, the cardinal rule in learning vocabulary is be sure to review often. When you first learn a new  word, it needs to be activated at strategic intervals to facilitate the journey from short to long-term memory. So, start off on the right foot with’s flashcard and practice game learning system. Study the vocabulary you want to learn and you’ll be conversing like a native in no time.

Immerse yourself in language: Finding realia in the digital world

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Immersion is about surrounding yourself with language. Language from the back of the cereal box, the bumper sticker on the car in front of you, the entrance ticket to the world wonder you’re about to visit….it is inescapable and this very fact makes you more apt to receive and remember it when you’re in the right context and have repeated exposure to the same words. But what happens when you study a language from outside of the target country? You have to go out of your way to create the same all encompassing experience.

So where do you find real language to learn from? Chances are, not in your textbook or any other material that was purposefully created with beginner learners in mind. If you’ve ever had to suffer through a dummed down text on some dry topic you couldn’t care less about, you know the importance of realia: authentic language that engages your mind and peaks your interest!

Language is a living thing used by its speakers everyday to go grocery shopping, buy electronics, discuss politics and engage in chit-chat about the weather. So, there’s no excuse for picking boring and in-authentic material to help you learn. All you need is a dictionary and a learning platform (like Mobile) to help you look up new vocabulary and keep track of it as you go.

At we support reading suggestions for five languages, with more on the way in the near future.  Choose from Arts, Business, Education, Entertainment, Food, Shorts, Beginners, Green, Health, Living, News, Politics, Psychology, Religion, Science, Sports, Style, Technology and Travel categories to find the right resource for you and experience the best digital immersion can offer…have fun learning a language and leave the stale text books behind!

Learning a Language? It’s all about the connections!

ConnectionsWhile the science of how we store language in the bilingual lexicon is still a hot topic for applied linguistics researchers, one thing we know for sure is that language is part of an interconnected network linked by phonemes (sounds), graphemes (letters), concepts and usage. When you practice a vocabulary word, the benefits extend to every other entry in the cerebral neighborhood, lighting up your brain in a phenomenon called “spreading activation.”

Sure, making new connections by learning novel words and outwardly expanding your network is important in language learning. But it’s just as important to enhance internal connections and access your words regularly to keep them active. ”When people think about learning a language they often forget that one of the most important activities for intermediate learners and beyond is ‘language maintenance.’” explains CEO Dr. Jan Ihmels.

One of the best activities to keep things fresh is reading as you’re likely to encounter a wide array of familiar words, particularly when you use authentic articles from’s READ tab. Our practice sessions are there to help you out with the rest. figures out which words you need to see and when the most effective time is for you to review them so you can sit back, relax and collect new vocabulary carefree.

So try a smart practice session today (they come in coffee break through word feast session sizes) and light up your brain with language!

Vocabulary in Language Learning: A Steady Diet of New Words

A Steady Diet of Words
Learning a language is all about acquiring more of its basic building blocks: words. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are easy to learn, some are hard. It all depends on who you are, what language(s) you speak, what language(s) you are learning and what words you already know.

At, we understand that getting your tongue around new vocabulary is one of the most important things you can do as a language learner to reach your goal of fluency. So following the English expression “feed your head” we built a system that helps you consume enough new words to progress while ensuring you still get time to chew on your existing vocabulary every now and then.

Use Mobile’s dictionary and reading suggestions to serve up a breakfast, lunch and dinner full of comfort terms and exotic treats. Order yourself up a word feast today and keep the following best practices in mind:

1. Expand the “breadth” of your working vocabulary This means go after new terms, perhaps words related to those you already know, but ones which cover a more nuanced meaning of a topic. Once you get through the 1,000 most frequent words in a language, the rest is icing on the cake. Concrete words or labels for everyday objects are always helpful to have on hand but you’ll find cherry picking novel, intriguing and more abstract concept labels to be rewarding both for your sense of adventure and the reach of your register.

2. Drill down for more “depth” in your vocabulary This means making sure you see a word you know in as many sentences as possible. You can be on friendly terms with a word in one context and have no idea that it can be used to say something completely different in another. That’s why you have to work to increase the depth of your knowledge of any given word. Don’t be satisfied with just recognising and producing your words, know how to use them in a variety of ways.

#5 Mobile: A New Way to Read in a Second Language

#5 Mobile: A New Way to Read in a Second Language You know you’re supposed to read the Spanish papers to keep your language skills fresh, but how often do you end up with an article that goes over your head? You’ve found a treasure chest of descriptive words in an article about Madrid’s tapas scene, how do you ensure they make it into your working vocabulary?’s new smartphone app. has a built in-dictionary and flashcard maker for its foreign language reader so you can look up words as you go and make sure you remember them when you move on.

The problem with learning from context is that an article needs to satisfy a number of conditions before the activity can help you achieve efficient vocabulary acquisition. What you are reading needs to be interesting to you, contain real and authentic language and be pitched at one step above your level so it provides both a review of words you already know, and a sprinkle of new terms for  you to learn.

Try flying solo when reading from online sources and you’re faced with the hurtle of first picking something you can understand, and second, the labor intensive task of looking up words in your dictionary and making new flashcards to keep track of them.  With so much headache, no wonder many language learners just give up and do their assigned text book readings instead.

At we know that if you want to be fluent in a language, you need your daily dose of vocabulary. And where is the best place to find it? In context.’s reading selections provide a host of authentic articles on topics that engage your mind and provide the scaffolding you need to learn on your own. So pick out a headline from Mobile and start mining for words. Collect at will and let yourself go, you’ll be mastering new vocabulary at the speed of light in no time!