Posted on | August 3, 2011 | 12 Comments
For the last 136 days I have been learning German. For 114 of those days, I did a German lesson on LingQ. On the 115th day, I discovered Learning with Texts. I have been using this program for the last three weeks (even reviewed it), and I want to share why I find it to not only be a valid alternative to LingQ, but also a great language learning application on its own merits.
LWT project page: link
Learning with Texts (LWT) is a reading application geared toward the language learner. The program is open-source and free and it supports all languages. One of the main aspects of LWT is speed. From the addition of new terms to the navigation between different screens, everything feels fast and seamless. The interface is user-friendly and it’s easy to find what you’re looking for.
Upon opening a text, you will be presented with a reading interface. All the words you’ve never seen before will be highlighted in blue, while words that you have dealt with in the past will have a different color depending on how well you know them (red being you barely know them and green meaning you most likely know them). There’s also the “Well known” status, identified by the grey background and green underline on words. I like the different color system for its ability to provide an overview of how well you know a text.
Clicking on a word causes three things to happen:
1. The first user-defined dictionary opens.
A dictionary defined by you will open showing the definition of the highlighted term.
Testing options are aplenty. You can choose to translate to and from your target language, and do it in context or just one word at a time. When you get a word right, its status is increased by one, and the opposite if you get it wrong. It’s simple, yet effective. I find the testing feature to be an entertaining addition, good for when you’re tired of reading.
When testing, clicking on the word will switch the word language. In the screenshot below, “schaute” switched to its meaning, “looked”.
Export & Import
You can export words and expressions for use in other applications (e.g: Anki, Flashcards Deluxe, etc), which is great if you want to study new terms from the texts you just studied.
You can import all of your terms from LingQ or from any other source, as importing in LWT offers plenty of options. The transfer of my terms from LingQ to LWT was smooth.
The first screenshot shows you the number of words in the different levels of knowledge.
The second screenshot shows you the number of words / expressions created (C), modified (A = activity), and set to known (K).
It’s definitely not a priority, but I would like to see these statistics in different ways (e.g: graphics), and also see different statistics for testing.
Adding a new language
While being able to use any language on LWT is a great asset, the way to add languages might appear menacing. There are default settings for a few languages, but for others you’ll have to input the fields on the screenshot manually. Fortunately LWT’s documentation explains how to fill the form up. I’ve actually gone and created a public spreadsheet where people can input the information needed to set up a language on LWT. Find it here.
Installation & Adding Media
LWT doesn’t come in a installer package. It requires you to manually move files and install other programs (e.g: MAMP for mac, XAMPP for Windows). While it’s not the most comfortable thing to do, the way LWT is built makes it so that it can work on any operating system as long as they have a web browser and are capable of running Apache and a MySQL server (Mac, Windows, and most if not all Linux distributions are able to).
Adding media (audio files) has to be done by putting files in a folder in your operating system or in Dropbox. At the moment there’s no support for uploading files directly from the program.
If you are willing to sacrifice speed, you can find an online, already set-up instance of LWT for free on the fluentin3months webpage.
In my three weeks of use I’ve come to get to know LWT many features, and I’ve gotten accustomed to its speed and ease of use. I feel strongly that this application is the next big thing in language learning, and as a passionate user, I just wanted to share with others what has been so useful to me.
Let me know if you have some feedback or questions!