One of the programs that I’ve recently started to delve into is called LWT which is short for Learning with Text. LWT is a great open source project created by a really cool guy in 2010. He published his LWT in 2011 as a free, open source project open to the public domain.
So what exactly is Learning with Text do for you? Its basically a supplemental reading program, that helps you dissect what you’re reading, look words up in dictionaries, save meanings and notes on words or phrases in a language you’re trying to learn. As you learn words you have a color ranking system based on how familiar the word is to you, even add audio and a versatile ability to export cards to an srs, such as anki. All of this is done inside the program and can help eliminate constant screen flipping, copying and pasting, and otherwise wasting time with juggling things when you can simply keep it self contained.
You have a few options in getting the program on your computer. For those who do not know about programming, then I recommend the web version hosted by Benny from Fluent in 3 Months. It really is the easiest to get set up with, and will be the specific version that I’m going to post pictures from. For those who do know programming, I recommend you check out the LWT picture up there, just click on it for the link, and you can find all sorts of information on how to get it setup for yourself on LWT’s main site. Plus there is some good information, links, and guides there as well (which I’ll be linking too at the end as well). There are a few more out there, and even a few acquaintances I know are thinking about hosting more Japanese friendly versions, however, Benny’s setup is already up and running and otherwise secure. It’s also absolutely free. Thanks Benny!
A lot of people do like to compare LWT to LingQ and in many ways they are similar. LingQ may have a fancier interface, however they charge you for it. I for one am all about the free and will not be reviewing LingQ.
The following are some YouTube videos that give you a nice picture of its overall features, including one from Benny himself.
If you’re unfamiliar with The Czech Experiment, I recommend you give it a good read. He’s also a language learner who covers lots of good information out there and shares his experiences of learning Czech.
So what are people saying about LWT?
Our buddy Daniel had lots to say as he’s been delving into the program intensely in the last month.
- The biggest pro is that you absolutely have to use this software. It’s so convenient, so essential, so awesome. Being able to use absolutely any text you want to learn makes the process more fun and more relevant to your interests.
- Everything is integrated into one window, the text, the dictionary, and the card creator. This completely takes away the annoyance of window switching. Super effective!!
- This is an extremely customizable tool, especially when it comes to which dictionaries you want to use (yes you can use more than one!)
- Once you go through the text, you can read it without the help of a dictionary or furigana since it’s all inline. This helps make reading a much more fluid experience, and a great confidence booster too.
- This self-contained text factor is especially useful on a device like a Kindle, or if you’re printing out your LWT texts.
- The real icing on the cake is that you can export all your findings to Anki, a tool already well known in the Japanese learning community. The terms, translations, readings, and the sentence you found it in are all included, keeping everything in context.Cons
- Setup can be daunting, even for the technically minded! I would highly recommend using a hosted server, such as this one (http://fi3m.com/lwt), since everything is already set up and working. It is a server based tool, so it only makes sense to use it that way rather than just running locally on your computer.
- There are some particular challenges for Japanese, a language that does not typically use spaces between words. There are various solutions, but personally I leave it at the default setting (remove spaces and treat each word as a character) and then use the feature where I can tell the site where the word begins and ends myself.
KanjiWarrior shared a few of his thoughts on Twitter with me as well.
I like LWT, but one of the drawbacks to me is lack of built-in dictionaries, and lack of support for Asian languages.Also the time associated with preparing a text before you can read it and having to input the definitions.I have a lot more to say about LWT but hard to confine it to 140 characters. I guess I’ll have to blog about it again soon.
Lan (Landorien) also shared some of his experiences with actually trying to set up LWT on his computer.
- installation looks intimidating but is pretty straightforward
- i installed it on my web host and got it working without trouble
- testing is somewhat coarse-grained compared to anki. i haven’t used it much, preferring to export terms to anki
- exporting is easy and creates a useful deck. you’ll probably have to rearrange the card layout to suit your preferences
- default styles make it hard to read especially for Japanese. i have a style sheet on my blog that replaces the text area font with a more readable font and changes the background to a tan colour which makes it a lot easier on the eyes for extended reading.
- editing text while reading is annoying. you get taken to a separate edit view, where you have to scroll down to the spot you wanted to edit, and then when you go back to reading you have to find your spot again. an inline edit would be very helpful
- i had been using mecab to parse the text, setting LWT to remove spaces but not to make each character a separate word. this however required me to edit the text wherever mecab combined two words that should have been split, which especially with names happens fairly regularly. i’ve changed over to setting LWT to make each character a separate word and adding all terms as spanning however many characters are needed. the downside of this is you don’t get an accurate count of known words, but that’s minor
- overall despite some quirks LWT is easy to use and probably the fastest way i’ve found to go through a text, completely understand it, and collect all the words for your SRS
While I agree with some of the issues, pros, and cons, that my fellow users feel, I personally find that there is a lot of pros to the cons. Because I used the already set up site, I did not have to fuss with many settings, and getting started was pretty quick. I will admit though if you’re already well into the reading of Japanese (or any language of that matter), you will be doing a lot of prep work. That is perhaps its only absolutely largest downfall.
In our next blog we’ll go over getting set up and how to use the program, then tips, tricks, and resources to use for LWT. So stick around to get your hands wet! Like/hate this program? Let us know in the comments below what you think about LWT!