Review of Lingua.ly, a Language Learning Web App

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If there is any language learning plugin you need to snag this year; this is it. You may have heard of Lingua.ly‘s brand new Web app already as a user of the Google Chrome extension they’ve had out for a while now, but if this is the first time you’ve heard of the new and improved version I’m thrilled to be able to tell you about what is shaping up to be one of my new favorite things.

*Cue the Sound of Music*

Everybody loves flashcards. Everybody loves making their own personalized flash cards to suit their own level of experience, and everybody loves being able to add more flashcards to their deck with nothing more than a couple clicks of the mouse.

What could possibly make this situation better; you ask? How about the price? This product costs about fifteen seconds of your time to download, install and maybe another 30 seconds to figure out how the pieces fit together. It’s ridiculously easy; so easy in fact that your tech impaired father who refuses to upgrade his 15 year old flip phone or Windows 98 operating system can figure it out without going blue in the face.

Adorable blue monster by lingua.ly
Little blue Lingua.ly monster.

  

Lingua.ly is a free Web app that you can sync across any devices you may own, mobile or otherwise, and use in any browser via their cloud, in order to access the words you want to focus on instead of what someone else decided you needed to know.While the Web app still utilizes the Chrome extension for now, it is said to be phasing it out shortly, leaving us with full compatibility with other browsers and none of the headaches associated with some Chrome extensions.

How does it work? As you go about your day, surfing Faceboook, checking out all of your news and media pages, perusing the links on your Twitter feed, reading the latest from George Takei, or anything else that comes across as vaguely interesting, you can click almost any word and find a translation. That word then becomes a flashcard, automatically saved to your widget, that you can then study so that the next time you encounter that word you’ll be ready.

But it gets better: Lingua.ly, based on the cards you’ve selected and are working on, will then suggest articles written in the language(s) you’re learning that are appropriate to your comprehension level making this app great for both beginning language learners or veteran polyglots. The articles are relatively short, based on what the app believes your interests might be, and you come away feeling like a boss when you successfully understand that Spanish language bullfighting story. Even cooler; the app selects articles not only based on your card selection and interests but also on the words you don’t click in an attempt to find articles with a 90:10 ratio of helpful vocabulary.

Like a boss cartoon meme guy

It helps to select a fair number of words before you start requesting articles. A list of 5 words will give it a rough time understanding your needs, but that’s easily circumvented! The app also comes with pre-made decks of cards that you can use to bolster to your repertoire quickly and start amping up your reading skills.

Go back and practice the cards as often as you like with the app’s cool little review sessions. They come in three different sizes that you can implement even during your shortest coffee break at work to keep yourself thinking in your language. The translations are high quality and accurate and do a good job of relating words to one another to provide you with synonyms rather than teaching you words entirely individually with no correlation to one another.

Did I mention it’s free?

The downsides, because there are always downsides:

The execution of this app is virtually flawless. The biggest issue right now is that the brand new program still lacks a lot of support for many of the 18+ languages it currently offers. While far from useless, most of the languages do not yet have premade decks nor the ability to select articles based on your deck. The currently supported languages are English, Spanish, French, Hebrew and Arabic, which is still pretty cool, but if you’re learning Russian like I am, you may find yourself having to find your own articles to dredge up new vocab.

That’s really not a major setback. With Russian coming out later this year, along with a stack of other cool languages, this shouldn’t be a problem for too long. If you’re learning one or more of the aforementioned languages you’re absolutely golden and can enjoy the full benefits of the app immediately.

**Edit: 7/8/14 – Russian language is now fully supported, Здоровье!

The program is really tailored most heavily towards reading. The flashcards do come with pretty awesome audio so you can get a feel for the pronunciation, but you won’t actually spend a whole lot of time speaking, even if you’re reciting the vocab out loud. That’s okay; as with every web extension or mobile app I review, you really need to be using it in tandem with other learning strategies. Lingua.ly is a fantastic program, but you shouldn’t rely on it alone to get you through to fluency. So you can decide for yourself, based on what you’re most interested in, whether or not this is really a con or a pro.

An Android app was released in early April that syncs to the app whether you’re using it on your computer, tablet or Android phone. iOS users don’t despair; your own app will be out later this year along with added support for even more languages.

Check out their promotional video for a cooler presentation of what I just said and some little blue monsters.

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