Always one for interesting ideas, I was glad to see this suggestion from Aaron of Language Classes on how to automate language learning, especially using the quickly expanding IFTTT tool, among others. Check out his unique ideas here!
Over to you Aaron:
One of the biggest challenges for students of any foreign language is finding the time to study.
Many of us have started, stopped and restarted learning a foreign language several times. After a long day at school or work, chores, meals, and maybe a workout we often feel unmotivated or lack the time to study. One of the best ways to find time to study is to use technology to automate your language study.
Benny is obviously a huge proponent of finding the most efficient to learn languages and has many posts about hacking your studies. One way I like to “hack” my time, is to automate the process of language learning in as many ways as I can.
How to Automate!
Here are two tools I’ve found and think are useful. Please leave your comments if you’ve found other tools or methods of using these same tools for learning.
IFTTT – If this then that is a website that allows you to do basic programming without any programming knowledge.
It allows you to schedule tasks based on events or time. For instance, every time you get an email from a specific email address or with the word “Spanish” in the subject line you can program IFTTT to then send you a text message. There are dozens of applications that you can integrate IFTTT with including your email, text messages, RSS readers, FB groups, or Instagram as a few examples.
When you create an if-then command on IFTTT it is called a recipe. You can search other peoples recipes, create your own and if you want share them with others. There are endless possibilities. Even if you don’t find language specific ones you can use someone else's base recipe and just change the details, such as to download a podcast.
Here is an example:
Download Language Podcast
You need to first subscribe to the podcast of your choice using an RSS reader. I like www.feedly.com
Then create a recipe in IFTTT that says:
If a new podcast (podcast name from RSS reader) then text my phone #. Or: email me, download the file to my google drive, soundcloud, or dropbox.
Read Blog Post
If you want to get updated every time any other language blogger posts another great blog post you can use the recipe I shared above. Just sign up for ifttt then click use recipe and its is all done for you.
Use can use this similar recipe to subscribe to word-of-the-day websites, blogs, youtube channels, and podcasts.
You can even instruct ifttt to include the downloaded file in the email if you like.
More recipe ideas
- Reminders – You can create reminders based on dates or times to remind you to study. The difference between this and a calendar or alarm is you can instruct it to notify you in many different ways.
- Save for later – Using the youtube, rss, or even twitter apps you can save items to use later. This is great for when you find something interesting but don’t have time to review it right away.
- Hashtags – If you want to learn slang, twitter is a great tool. Find out common hashtags that are used on twitter by Spanish speakers then setup a recipe to add their tweets to a google doc so you can study them later.
Video Instruction on How to Use IFTTT
Here’s a list of great podcasts, youtube channels, and websites you may want to subscribe to if you are learning Spanish. You can use IFTTT to manage and send you the new content.
Another Great Tool
Many of you know know about Anki, the flashcard tool that allows you to create and review flash cards.
Anki uses the Spaced Repetition system that emphasizes consistent review of vocabulary over time versus intensive study. Anki has a large user base and there are many “decks” that are already made for languages that you can download or you can create your own. You can download someone else’s deck to get started and then begin to customize it by removing words you don’t want and keeping the ones you do want.
The only problems with Anki are that it can be a bit user unfriendly and the iOS app is expensive.
An alternative to this is a great app that works with your smartphone or computer browser (available for Chrome, Chrome for IOS, and Safari IOS), ReadLang.
The ReadLang app helps you create and review flashcards just like Anki but it also brings some automation to the process. ReadLang works in your browser and allows you to select any text, video, audio, or web link and add it to a flashcard. So, as you are reading or studying, like you normally would, and you see a new word you want to remember or you would like to know in a foreign language you can simply highlight it and ReadLang will create a new flashcard.
ReadLang saves you time by streamlining the process of creating a flashcard. Cards are created in the moment instead of having to stop what you are doing and open a new application to create a card or trying to remember at a later time. The greatest time saver is that ReadLang will automatically translate the words for you and will create a flashcard with the new word and the correct translation and definition.
This will streamline and automate your study time instead of spending more time creating resources than actually studying. Not to mention that ReadLang includes the same great flashcard review system as Anki and you have them on your phone anywhere you go.
If you prefer to still use Anki’s software ReadLang can export your library of flashcards and is compatible with Anki.
This is not a complete list of ways you can automate your language learning process. However, it should get you thinking of ways you can simplify and automate your language studies.
The options are endless and you have probably already found your own little life hacks for learning. Please share your thoughts and ideas with everyone in the comments. If you like this article let us know so we can bring you more great ideas.
If you liked the article, we're planning to publish a lot of great articles like this one once we launch our blog at www.LanguageClasses.com. We invite you to become an early bird by joining our newsletter and get all the good stuff when the time comes. We’ll give you some free language learning materials once we launch 🙂