Language acquisition is difficult and time consuming. You’ve learned the grammar—for the most part—but still can’t read news articles, websites, or even general blurbs because you don’t have as extensive a vocabulary as you’d like.
So, you have to pull out your modern day lexicon—that is, you open up a new browser tab, find a German to English dictionary, paste the word, navigate back to the page you’ve been reading, pray that you either remember the gloss you grabbed and that it’s the best gloss for the passage you’re translating, and continue on your way.
You could, of course, bypass the dictionary and go straight to Google Translate. I’m certainly guilty of this. Why go through the hard work of translating it yourself when you can get the answer immediately? Little beats instant gratification.
The obvious issue here is that you won’t learn the language if you let Google Translate do the work. You’ll also find yourself becoming increasingly frustrated going back and forth between tabs for every word you don’t know.
That’s where Google Translate’s Chrome extension comes in. If you use Google Chrome as a browser, you can add the extension by going here:
Once you’ve added the extension to your browser, you can go to the manage its options to ensure that every time you highlight a foreign word, a pop up appears with a translation:
If you don’t want the instant translation, you can change the settings to “display icon that I can click to show pop-up” or “don’t display icon or pop-up.”
Once everything is set up how you want it, you can get to translating. I’ve already found it a particularly handy tool as I read articles on Spiegel.de:
Here, I’m learning that the word Flüchtlingskrise means “Refugee crisis.”
But what’s the difference between the plugin and the website? Yes, you can highlight large chunks of text for immediate translation. But you can also simply highlight the one word you don’t know. If you’re somewhat disciplined, you can mentally restrict yourself to receiving aid only when you truly need it. And that helps you stay in the passage and build your vocabulary.
With all the tools available today, there’s no better time to learn a language and there’s no excuse for not constantly developing as a language learner!