When I went to Paris, I was surprisingly able to muddle through basic conversations asking for directions or making small talk just by using what was left in the recesses of my mind from 10th grade French class. Most of the people there spoke English anyway, so my limited vocabulary wasn’t too stressfully taxed. And although the French have a reputation for being ultra-snobbish, I got the distinct impression that at least some of them appreciated my effort at trying to communicate using the native language of the land. So when I got back, I made it my mission to become proficient in French. And while I was at it, why not add Spanish too and become multilingual? It was a noble plan, until I realized that language learning software like Rosetta Stone starts at around $200, and lessons with an instructor or in a class go up from there. Thankfully, technology came to the rescue with a really innovative way to learn a new language for free online.

If you use Google Chrome as your internet browser, you can add an extension that will allow you to gradually immerse yourself in the language of your choice. When you turn the extension on, random words and phrases of the webpages you browse will appear in that language. Choose from any of the 64 languages available in Google Translate (except Japanese). You set the level of expertise to novice, intermediate, or fluent to control how much of the page gets translated, whether it’s just a couple of words or the entire page. If you place your cursor over the word or phrase you can hear the correct pronunciation; click it and get the English translation.

The idea of language immersion is widely regarded as beneficial because you’re getting the grammar, syntax, and context of a new language all at the same time which is supposed to maximize your understanding of it. Add to that the fact that you’re reading pieces of the new language on websites whose content you’re already interested in and this extension should have you speaking fluently in no time! Bon Chance!

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