Once you figure out how to get started, the beginning stages of learning a language are a breeze. The learning curve is steep and you really get a quick sense of accomplishment from the time you spend studying.
The intermediate stage, however, is an entirely different beast.
If it isn’t plaguing you with frustratingly difficult grammar, you’re stuck in the doldrums of a learning plateau, at a complete loss as to how to break through and finally arrive at that upper intermediate or advanced stage.
Lately, in an effort to avoid getting stuck at the intermediate level, I decided to make extensive reading a greater part of my language learning approach. In the past, for languages that are close to my native language – French, Spanish, Italian, and German – I found extensive reading to be effective. It was relatively easy to understand quite a bit of what I was reading by doing just a bit of deduction.
And when I started to apply the same method to more distant languages – Russian, Korean and Chinese – I discovered that the same rules apply, even if required looking things up more often.
Needless to say, my recent study schedule includes far more reading that it did only a few months ago and I am constantly on the lookout for new reading material in my target languages that are relevant to me personally and that I know I will enjoy.
For new learners, a book in one’s target language can be quite intimidating. There are a lot of things that might be too foreign all at once – pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, etc. – and so the task seems overwhelming.
When this is the case, my first suggestion is to invest in dual language books (not children’s books!). There are many different options when it comes to dual language books, but they can be hard to find for certain languages and even pretty expensive.
With Beelinguapp, however, dual language reading becomes more affordable and convenient than ever.
Beelinguapp is currently available for Android phones, but they are holding a Kickstarter campaign in order to develop an iOS version of their app. The campaign will also make it possible for Beelinguapp to add 45 more stories and 3 more languages. You can learn more about how to support them on Kickstarter.
Features That I Like
It is available in 10 languages and you can use any language combination you wish. // Currently, Beelinguapp is available for learners or speakers of Arabic, English, Turkish, Hindi, Russian, French, Portuguese, Chinese, German, and Spanish. You can choose to read the selections in any combination of languages, so you can learn Portuguese through French or just study Russian using your native language.
There are several ways you can filter the available titles. // Language, level, and category are a few of the ways that you can view the titles available. You’re sure to find something you like with all the ways you can filter the results.
The amount of free content. // At the time of writing, there are about 24 free stories available. This is a nice selection of material for those not ready/sure about investing in the app. You’re likely to find something you want to try out and read for free rather than force yourself through a reading on a topic that doesn’t interest you.
There is audio available for each of the readings. // For those interested in improving their listening comprehension or just curious about how the words they’re reading actually sound, there are recordings from native speakers of each of the texts.
You can use the audio as a standalone feature. // You don’t need to have the app open and viewable on your phone to use the audio feature. If you’d like to use the readings as an audiobook in your car or while on the go, the app still functions when the screen is locked.
You can turn off the side by side reading feature. // If you want to increase the challenge, you can turn off the side by side reading feature and just work through the texts in your target language.
Features I Feel Can Improve
The accompanying images don’t match the content quality. // I firmly believe that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I also know that there are those that are new to the app that might be skeptical about the quality of the texts based on the design.
There are too many ads. // I understand that the app designer needs to make money in order to continue to create content, but there are just too many ads on the app at this time. Especially since there are also paid texts.
The karaoke style cursor doesn’t always move in sync with the audio. // It’s not by much, but if you’re really new at reading in the language, or if the language is very different from your own, this might throw you off.
The audio quality isn’t super for every language/title. // In some cases, the speaker reads through the passages a bit too quickly, in others there are audio glitches and pops.
The audio is only available at one speed. // It would be really awesome if the audio were available at slow and native speeds.
Overall, I really enjoyed using Beelinguapp. Since I’m incorporating reading into my learning strategy more and more, I see a lot of potential for something like this – especially for those interested in tackling more than one language.
The reading selections are short, which makes them feel much less intimidating than taking on a full book. Plus they’re on an interesting assortment of topics – everything from history to culture, fiction to science.
Beelinguapp was developed by David Montiel, a programmer from Mexico who now lives in Germany. He used texts and audiobooks to learn the German language, which is why he sought to develop Beelinguapp – it filled a gap he felt was missing from his learning tools.
What about you?
What are your thoughts about extended reading?
Do you have any apps or books or dual language books that you’re digging into at the moment? Or that you enjoyed in the past? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.