This App Helps You Learn Foreign Languages ‘Fast’

Researchers have developed an app to help you learn foreign languages faster, even during the time gap spent waiting for a friend or co-worker to respond while chatting on Google Chat.

WaitChatter, a Chrome extension for GChat, generates interactive foreign language vocabulary exercises, so you can make the most of your time as a conversation partner is typing out a response.

Carrie Cai, a PhD student at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, discovered that the average person spends up to 15 minutes a day waiting for replies, in other words about an hour and a half a week.

“But what if you could do something constructive with those moments like, say, learn a language? That’s precisely what the new app provides,” Cai said in MIT Technology Review.

What makes the system effective is that it detects when you are waiting for an instant message.”This integrated approach, which we call ‘wait-learning’, is far less likely to be perceived as time consuming or intrusive compared to using a separate learning app,” Cai said.

Another key differentiator is that WaitChatter is embedded right within the chatbox.With most other micro-learning apps, like Duolingo, users may feel as if they have to make a significant extra effort or set aside time to study up.

ith WaitChatter, they don’t have to close a window or even switch apps, since it’s incorporated into the programme they are already using.WaitChatter has been tested in two languages: French and Spanish.

In a two-week pilot study, WaitChatter users learned an average of four words per day. The system pulls words from both a built-in list and from the user’s ongoing chat conversations.

For example, people discussing their pets might be quizzed on terms about animals, while those chatting about an upcoming Starbucks date will learn words for “coffee” and “tea”. 

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