New Google Chrome extension helps users learn new languages

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There are no shortcuts to learning a new language, which is why it can be a tough feat, but a new Google Chrome plug-in is looking to simplify the language-learning experience using Netflix.

Language Learning with Netflix is a Google Chrome extension that allows users to watch Netflix with dual subtitles.

To begin, users select their native language and then their desired learning language. Users are then prompted to select their level of understanding of their desired language, which are based on the number of words known.

Being able to improve language skill while watching favorite foreign shows, such as the Spanish Netflix hit “Narcos” (2015 – 2017) or German mystery thriller “Dark” (2017 – current), can make language learning not only easy, but entertaining as well.

Linda Ordonez, adjunct professor of modern languages and literature, sees the LLN plug-in as a useful tool and would recommend it to her own Spanish students.

“I would even use it myself because I like to watch the Spanish shows. A lot of the time I have to rewatch it like twice just to understand what they are saying. Sometimes I have to pause it and then look at the subtitles, especially when it’s Spanish from other parts of the world,” Ordonez said. 

One feature of LLN is its automatic pause. As the subtitles are presented, there is an option to toggle an automated pause that allows time to read in both languages.

While paused, words are highlighted based on the users selected level of understanding. Users can select the highlighted words to get a definition.

As far as language acquisition and retention are concerned, Ambar Hurtado, University of California, Riverside, linguistic graduate and lecturer at California State University, San Bernardino, said she believes LLN can be helpful with language retention. However, Hurtado suggests users should not be completely dependent on the extension for language acquisition.

“Technology is always a great way to get started with a new language, but we need social contexts to practice language to really help bring it all together,” Hurtado said. “In order to adapt to social contexts and the fluidity of conversation, we need to practice it in live contexts as well. Technology can do wonders to help us understand grammatical features and patterns in new ways.”

While LLN does not claim to teach users a new language fully, it does state that it will help. Hurtado, said she believes the best usage of the extension would be to watch in an unscripted fashion and authenticity is the best way to receive the full benefits of LLN.

“The claim that scripted entertainment is authentic conversation remains controversial. This app would probably be most helpful when used with documentaries or reality shows because this is as close as we get to authentic, unscripted conversation in filmed entertainment.”

Madilyn Moritz, graphic design major, has taken two semesters of Mandarin courses but is also an avid anime watcher. Although Moritz studied Mandarin, she has always been fascinated with Japanese culture and said she believes she could use the app to help understand the language more.

“I definitely could see this being useful. Not only because of anime but also because I think (Japan) is such a cool country, a place that I’ve always been interested in, the culture and visiting some day. Learning the language could be really enriching and a cool skill to have,” Moritz said.

The LLN: Language Learning with Netflix plug-in is available for download from Google Chrome, offering more than 80 languages, including Spanish and Chinese. To download, visit www.languagelearningwithnetflix.com.

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