One of the major hurdles for students trying
to master a foreign language is the difficulty in reading authentic texts with
unfamiliar vocabulary – looking up words in the dictionary, especially for
longer texts, is a boring and time-consuming task that can turn reading into
an exercise in frustration.
But this obstacle may be a thing of the past with the introduction of the
WordChamp(R) Web Reader, a free online tool which helps students read foreign
language websites and documents.
Simply by pointing at a word with the mouse, a student can see a
definition, hear the word or phrase pronounced by a native speaker (helping to
improve pronunciation and recall), and save the word to practice later using a
variety of integrated vocabulary drills.
Far from being a simple translation tool, the Web Reader is specifically
designed to help students and professionals with limited language skills read
foreign language websites and texts – from newspaper and journal articles, to
excerpts from literature, blogs, etc. – without the constant interruption of
having to stop and look up words in a dictionary.
Furthermore, not only does the Web Reader support dozens of languages,
including Spanish, French, German, and Chinese, but individuals can also
create and share their own translations, making the Web Reader an extremely
valuable resource for less commonly taught languages. The Web Reader is as
useful to students learning English as to English speakers learning foreign
With the WordChamp Web Reader:
— Beginning students can start reading earlier.
— Intermediate students can read longer, more complex texts.
— Students studying Japanese or Chinese, where learning thousands of
new characters can delay the reading of authentic texts, will be able to start
reading significantly sooner.
— Teachers can assign more interesting, topical texts earlier.
“When a student first starts learning a foreign language, there’s an
initial hump during which there’s no potential for using the language in any
real context,” explained Daniel Blumenthal, the creator of WordChamp.com.
“This can be very frustrating, and the attrition rates for language students
can be very high. The Web Reader was developed to get students over this
hurdle quickly by allowing them to use what they’ve learned in an authentic
context. It’s fast, easy, and very intuitive.”
How The Web Reader Works
— Students simply go to WordChamp.com, click on the Web Reader link,
and enter either a website address or a block of text they would like to read.
They then choose the language of the text and click the “submit” button.
— When the page opens up, students can run their mouse over words to
get translations, audio, and (for verbs) conjugation information.
— By clicking on a word, students can save that word to a list to be
— Teachers can also combine Web Reader with vocabulary drills so that
students can learn difficult words before reading the text.
“The Web Reader is a far more efficient way of helping students to read
and learn vocabulary from a text than simply distributing vocabulary sheets,”
explained Blumenthal. “Access and ease-of-use are key. The Web Reader is
particularly helpful for students learning Japanese or Chinese, where they
have to memorize thousands of characters to be able to read.”
WordChamp.com, home for the Web Reader, has over one million words in 70
languages and more than 70,000 audio recordings of native speakers.
WordChamp.com is being used around the world to teach a wide variety of
languages, from German at Harvard and French at Yale, to Spanish at Bard,
Japanese at Connecticut College, and Swahili at Columbia.
WordChamp is also being used in K-12 schools where it is being offered
free of charge.
“My students love using WordChamp as it makes the repetitive aspect of
vocabulary and kanji learning a lot more fun,” said Danielle de Witt, who
teaches high school Japanese in Perth, Australia. “It is extremely easy to use
and the best aspect of the website is that you can make ‘sets’ of flashcards,
dividing them into themes or units of work. With the ‘course management’
section, I can keep track of who has and hasn’t been doing the revision, and
it is so detailed you can actually even see what words students have had the
most difficulty with.”