A student in New Zealand may have come up with a way to make learning a language easier.

Michael Walmsley, a PhD student, is working on a project to allow learners to read texts in a foreign language interspersed with words in their native language. He’s been awarded almost NZ$100,000 to help fund his research into the idea.

The software engineering student will spend the next three years researching ways to tap into existing online resources, such as Wikipedia and the Wiktionary, to create suitable reading texts for language learners.

Both online resources come in around 170 languages.

Mr Walmsley hopes to develop software to use them to automatically create suitable texts.

At this stage he is focusing on Japanese and Spanish with the hope to one day bring in te reo.

“The goal is to make learning a language fit into people’s busy schedules,” he said. (Source: Stuff.co.nz)

The idea is an interesting one, especially as people are increasingly busy with less time to spend on learning a language. It would also take away some of the frustration learners feel when constantly reaching for a dictionary whilst reading a text. My concern is that it would create gaps in knowledge, however, and perhaps even create more hybrid languages such as Spanglish – people could end up merely speaking a mix of their native language and target language rather than becoming fluent.

It’s definitely worth watching out for the results of the project though.