Sunday, April 24, 2016

A cool (free) tool for language learning

Not so long ago I discovered this tool from a site called Reverso. The site has a number of features for language learners, but the one that caught my eye was a relatively new one called Context. You input a word as you would for a dictionary, and select your language pair, e.g., Italian to English. What Context will give is a series of real-world sentences showing the selected word in its context.

This may be very useful to you for difficult words, words that are considered "untranslatable," or just to expand your knowledge of certain words when you are unsure or when the dictionary is not giving you a clear picture of the meaning. I've tried it myself, just out of curiosity, with notoriously slippery Italian words such as furbo or velleitario. This is how velleitario was translated in different sentences: unrealistic, wishful thinking, indecisive, pious hopes, vain (hope), bohemian better than everyone else, pie in the sky, somewhat vague, empty, and over-ambitious. And that's just a partial list.

You might be asking yourself, are these mistakes, or at least, are some of them mistakes? A few of them may be (or may be less than ideal), but most of them reflect the diversity of meanings of some words, and above all, how they can change according to context. Check it out, if only to give you new insight into the workings of language and its complexity. By the way, there is another, similar site with the same feature called I am less familiar with this one.