New Feature: News in Greek

News in Greek smallIt’s been a very long time since I added a new feature to the app. This is something I’ve been working on for a while now, but hasn’t been ready to release to the public. To be honest, there are still some bugs to be worked out, but it’s usable.

One of the things I like to do when learning a language is to read real text in the new language, not just things from a textbook. Obviously there are newspapers available in every language, and the internet makes it easier than ever before to find text to read. But you have to be quite good at a language to read a foreign newspaper, and even when you’re good enough there are still unusual words and turns of phrase that trip you up. And how do you get regular practice when you’re not yet good enough to read a newspaper?

I’ve added a new mode that downloads news from Greek news sources on the web, and displays it to you with a parallel translation into English. The translation isn’t perfect of course, but it’s usually good enough to give you a sense of what the sentence is saying if you’re stuck. It’s important that the foreign language content is authentic and the automated translation is in your native language, to avoid getting into bad habits.

I’m quite pleased with how this worked out, though there are a lot of limitations at the moment. One problem is that downloading other people’s content and displaying it in a different form is a legal grey area, and I don’t want to steal anyone’s content. The best I can do is to obtain news from freely available news feeds that are designed to be embedded into other sites: this is the right thing to do, but there’s a limited amount of content available and often only extracts from longer articles. I hope in the future to be able to allow you to freely browse the web and see inline translations, but there are still lots of technical challenges ahead.

Let me know if you have any feedback.

Blog rebooted

I’ve been away from this project for over a year, so the app will appear to any users to be unmaintained. In fact, I’ve started making updates a few weeks ago and am building up to a public release soon. This seemed like as good a time as any to resurrect the blog.

I did start blogging year 18 months ago, and stopped soon afterwards when I stopped maintaining the app. I never really established a firm idea of who the audience for a blog like this would be. I hope the blog might be useful to:

  • Users of the app, who want to know what features might be coming in the future and why things work the way they do.
  • Other mobile app developers, who can learn from my mistakes.

But we’ll see.

Developing Android software for language learning