Introducing LWT: The free, open-source computer, iPad & mobile foreign language reading tool

Introducing LWT: The free, open-source computer, iPad & mobile foreign language reading tool

Benny

The video gives my overview of this incredibly useful and totally free tool – check it out! As I say, today you are in for a treat :D

A new feature has been added to fluentin3months.com for everybody to use – a foreign language reading interface, which can be an incredibly useful tool to help you advance quicker in being able to read and absorb vocabulary in your target language no matter what that language may be.

All you have to do is go to fi3m.com/lwt and you’ll find it to be pretty straightforward to navigate, especially after looking at the video above and the links below to get an idea how to use it fully. If you don’t have a log-in for the Fluent in 3 months forum yet, get that here as your log-in will keep your languages, texts and stored words/phrases private just to you. You cannot access the online system without logging in.

Since this system is stored online, you will be able to read those texts on your computer, iPad (or other tablet) or your mobile device – all you need is an Internet connection!

Background

Last year I reviewed a website called LingQ, and while I can’t say I appreciated many of the features (or staff) of that commercial site I did actually really like specifically the reading interface. It was an encouraging and practical way to read texts in foreign languages (German in my case) and improve your vocabulary while you are at it.

The problem is that it’s not something I can globally recommend to people because too many important features are for subscription paid customers only (which can get expensive since it’s starts at $120/year for the basic account), and it has an extremely limited list of languages (i.e. not a single one of the six languages I’ve learned in the last year is offered on that site). And new features are added very slowly.

But I was very pleased to see that an open source foreign language learning system has been developed by J. Pierre, which has been inspired by LingQ, but gone way beyond it in adding many features, and no limitation on which languages you can study, and that it is totally free.

The only catch I saw was that it had a somewhat intimidating installation process. It’s not that it’s complicated, but the steps require many people to do some things in environments they are not at all familiar with. If you are not interested in using the online version on my site, then you can install it yourself locally on your computer. The problem is that you can only use it on that computer, and you can’t really use it offline anyway because that removes the dictionary feature.

So I worked with Eddie, who is a reader of the blog, to tweak the code such that people could skip that installation procedure and use it online instantly, and after some testing it is ready for you all to try out!

Instructions

There are many features of this reading system, and I wouldn’t hope to write an extensive explanation of them all here. Instead I highly recommend you check out the site of origin of the open-source system here:

lwt.sourceforge.net

This page explains everything you could hope to know about Learning With Texts, including detailed instructions on how to install it on your own computer (which you can skip if you prefer to use it on this site immediately). Videocasts of other people explaining its use are included, as well as an explanation of all features.

If you are unsure of using it after playing around a little, I’d recommend you start reading the instructions from here, but here are my brief instructions on how to go about reading your first text in the system. First make sure you know what text you’d like to read – go to a blog, or news website for your target language, or find other text like song lyrics you may want to learn. Then:

  1. Sign up, log in and then just go to fi3m.com/lwt (or fluentin3months.com/lwt) whenever you wish in future.
  2. Click “My Languages”. If your language is already included, great! If not, just click New Language and follow these instructions to fill in the information.
  3. Back on the main page, select that language from the drop-down list, and then click My Texts and then New Text
  4. Paste the body of the text you wish to read (not too long – up to 1,000 words or so should be fine) into the box, and add the appropriate title. If you have audio associated with the text (news reading or music with lyrics) then upload that audio to a free dropbox account in the public folder (or other online host), and paste the dropbox URL into the audio field so you have stop/play controls within the interface.
  5. Click Save and Open and you will see the reading interface I showed in the video. Read through, and click words or phrases you don’t understand and the dictionary should open automatically in the bottom-right. In some languages an individual concept may be across multiple words (such as “get on with”, “like shooting fish in a barrel” etc.), so click that number (the appropriate word ending is indicated) to look that full term up instead. When you are sure of the translation, use the top-right panel to add that word to your personal study database, indicating its difficulty level.
  6. Continue like this until you understand the full text!

After that you can test yourself using the built-in flashcard feature, or you can export the terms so that you can access them using a Spaced Repetition System. Further instructions to do that for LWT are given on this blog. This way you will be fully confident about the tricky words and know what they mean when they come up in future.

[One of the final bugs we're ironing out on the online version is that this export feature is not working in some browsers but is in others - that will be fixed as soon as possible, but switch browsers just for the export until then if it doesn't work for you.]

And of course by using the system more, you will improve your reading abilities more and be able to track how well you are doing. The number of words is not particularly meaningful (for example dog and dogs would count as two, not one word learned), but it’s motivating to see that number rise and see less and less words highlighted as you put more texts into it!

It’s also very useful to have your tricky words plucked directly out of texts for you to study so systematically.

Give it a try and let me know how useful you think it is in the comments below!

Since this is open source, you are welcome to code some new features yourself. If you’d like to contribute, or if you have suggestions for new features, please contact the author in the LWT forum here. He cannot help with bug reports unique to this site.

If you are having trouble using any features specifically on this site (that may work in the standard version), or need any tips on how to set-up Learning With Texts then head on over to the Fi3M forum LWT section and let us know!

Thanks and happy reading! :D

The video gives my overview of this incredibly useful and totally free tool – check it out! As I say, today you are in for a treat A new feature has been added to fluentin3months.com for everybody to use – a foreign language reading interface, which can be an incredibly useful tool to help you […]

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