Browser Extension Offers Bitesize Vocab For Luxembourgish Learners

On English websites a user-customisable amount of English words will be switched out with their Luxembourgish counterparts (Illustration © Silicon Luxembourg)

Creative technologist Tom Faber is helping Luxembourgish-learners boost their vocabulary with a free browser extension, LëtzRead, which he launched at the end of January. He spoke to Silicon Luxembourg about this handy educational tool.

What’s your elevator pitch for the LëtzRead browser extension?

Luxembourgish-learners often struggle to find opportunities to get exposed to Lëtzebuergesch – a necessity for improving their proficiency. With LëtzRead, you can integrate Luxembourgish consistently and effortlessly into your daily life and, best of all, just by browsing the web as you usually do.

It works by translating a few words on English websites into Luxembourgish to help you refresh and advance your vocabulary bit by bit. As one of the Sproochentest’s (editor’s note: the language test for obtaining nationality) main parts is about describing a picture fluently, it’s certainly valuable to have an expansive vocabulary ready at hand.

How can people use it?

LëtzRead is available as a free browser extension, and installing it is as easy as navigating to LetzRead.com. Once done, on English websites a user-customisable amount of English words will be switched out with their Luxembourgish counterparts.

If there’s a word unknown to you, just hover over (or touch) the word and the original English will be displayed for understanding. You can customise the translation frequency or turn the browser extension on or off whenever you like.

“People are excited to find out about LëtzRead and how it can give them the “super power” to easily integrate Luxembourgish into their lives.”

Tom Faber

Who is behind LëtzRead?

LëtzRead started as a side-project of mine. As a native Luxembourger, I noticed that many learners of Luxembourgish often seek, but do not have the opportunity, to integrate Luxembourgish into their life. As a creative technologist I’m passionate about designing delightful ‍human-centred experiences and solving problems in a multidisciplinary fashion to help people.

While researching language learning options, I got inspired by the concept of the innovative Toucan browser extension (which does the same for other languages). However, as I realised that the Luxembourg market is probably too small for them to justify expanding here, I set out to build my own version for Lëtzebuergesch. Since I already worked on all kinds of digital things, from websites over (web) apps to applied machine-learning – but not a browser extension yet – it was also a bit of a matter of personal interest.

You have very kindly made this tool available free of charge. What is your business model?

The idea was to build a little free tool for everyone to enjoy. Yet, development turned out not so little: language processing is complex and some aspects of extension coding proved more challenging and time consuming than anticipated.

While I think the current state of LëtzRead is mighty useful and I’m happy to further develop it, in order to be able to invest more time into additional functionality (if there’s enough demand), I will have to consider adding some paid “Pro Features” (e.g. audio pronunciations, example phrases, activation by custom time schedule, etc..) for people looking to fast-track their language-learning. Of course it would be best if there was a way to keep new features free for everyone.

What has been the feedback so far for LëtzRead?

Up to now, I got purely positive feedback! People are excited to find out about LëtzRead and how it can give them the “super power” to easily integrate Luxembourgish into their lives. That being said, one has to keep in mind that it’s a beta version and even the best automatic translation software can err. While I think LëtzRead’s overall accuracy is high enough to be useful for vocabulary training, users should expect that there will be occasional words that don’t fit, especially when a translation depends on specific context (LëtzRead works best when used in your spare time on general web browsing, reading news, pop-cultural wikipedia pages, etc).

Also, there were already some suggestions for additional features. In general I’m always looking forward to hearing from people, and they can write to me anytime about their experiences.

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