Chrome users, you no longer have an excuse for browsing the web mindlessly. Thanks to Google, you could be learning how to say “I can haz cheezburger” in one of 64 languages!
Google calls its new Chrome extension “just a little experiment that may delight (or infuriate) the neurolinguists in the house,” and while it most certainly won’t replace actual language classes or language learning software, it’s a fun way to test your skills and perhaps pick up some new vocabulary.
Here’s how it works: once you install the extension, you can select a language and your fluency level. Then, as long as the extension is on, a certain percentage of the text on each page you visit will appear in that language. If you don’t know a word or phrase, you can generally puzzle out the meaning using context clues. For pronunciation help, just roll your cursor across the text, and a robotic female voice will pronounce it for you. If you’re really stuck on the meaning or you just want to double-check yourself, a quick click of the mouse is all it takes to translate it back to English.
So, how well does it work? Obviously, a browser extension in and of itself is not going to get you anywhere near fluency. Google’s translations are imperfect, so take them with a grain of salt. Lifehacker notes that “the translations might use the wrong gender or the more literal/formal versions of words and phrases.”
Additionally, you probably won’t want to have it on all time — as Time’s Techland blog noted,
“It can be a little disorienting to be reading in English and all of a sudden be interrupted by a Spanish phrase, which sometimes doesn’t entirely make sense in the context of the sentence.”
Still, it’s a fun way for language geeks to browse the web, and perhaps to hone your foreign language skills.