Science suggests that the best way to learn a new language — especially as an adult — is through immersion.
For example, you might spend an extended period of time in a foreign country or enroll in a class in which your teacher speaks to you near exclusively in the unfamiliar language.
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to arrange a trip to Spain or shell out for a semester of Spanish classes. One alternative is to install a Google Chrome extension called Language Immersion, which aims to replicate the experience of language immersion while you’re browsing the internet.
Users select one of 64 languages supported by Google Translate that they’d like to learn, as well as the level of immersion they need, from “novice” to “fluent.”
The extension then translates random words on whatever you’re reading online into the foreign language. (You can click on the translated words to put them back into your native language.) If you roll over the translated words, you can hear them pronounced by a native speaker.
Having studied Hebrew in college, I installed the extension and selected intermediate-level Hebrew translation.
Here’s what a Business Insider article looked like:
To be sure, the extension has its detractors. When it debuted in 2012, some Hacker News users wrote that the text isn’t translated by native speakers, so certain phrases sound awkward because they’re translated literally.
On the other hand, Aaron Meyers of Everyday Language Learner said the extension is perfect for people who are both too busy and lazy for traditional language education.
In my experience, using the extension was pretty heartening. I’d previously believed that I’d forgotten everything I learned in my Hebrew classes — but the tool made me realise that I could in fact remember the meaning of different words if I saw or heard them in context.
And perhaps that confidence in your own language-learning abilities is the most important thing that Language Immersion offers.
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