Toucan: Can you learn a language by surfing the web?
Learning new languages is a time-consuming task, even if you focus your attention on certain aspects, for example, reading and comprehension. The last decade has seen the rise of new language learning services and apps, which help you learn languages, or at least the required vocabulary.
Toucan falls into this category. You can use the browser extension to learn the following languages: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish.
What sets it apart, compared to apps like Duolingo or Memrise, is the fact that you learn languages on the web pages you visit. The main idea behind Toucan is to replace certain words on web pages with words from another language. Move the mouse over a word and you get the translation and an option to hear it pronounced.
You get contextual translations and on-demand translations for all words in the free version of the service. The preferences display a handful of important options. Use these to select the language you want to learn, the number of words you want Toucan to translate into the desired language, and your language experience.
Toucan only translates a few beginner words by default, but you can change the number of translations and experience level to change that.
The extension can be used on any site, but must be granted explicit access. It’s a good compromise between offering the service to everyone and preventing it from having access to all sites and automatically translating words on all sites.
Options to suspend the automatic translation function on individual sites or on all sites are provided.
The basic version can be extended with a premium subscription. It’s available for less than €4 per month and adds quizzes, games, saved word reviews, and personalized learning experiences to the service.
Can we learn a language with Toucan?
Toucan focuses on vocabulary and, to some extent, pronunciation. It works surprisingly well when it comes to improving your vocabulary, but it lacks support for other basics, such as grammar or speaking.
Toucan is best used as an add-on tool for learning any of the supported languages, but it is not a standalone language learning service.
If you’re already learning a language, you might find Toucan useful as a tool to improve your vocabulary. One of the great features of Toucan is that it works on the sites you visit and the words you learn using it can come from an area of interest rather than more generic scenarios.
All in all, it’s worth a try if you’re learning one of the languages and want to improve your vocabulary.
Now you: how do we learn languages?