- DeepL Translator. Quite a noteworthy alternative to good old Google Translate. Ten languages (English and Portuguese are available in two dialect variations) with exceptionally high quality of translation. Some of the languages offer the possibility to select the best translation option from a few suggested ones. Translation of (a) an inserted text (b) an uploaded .docx or .ppt file. A desktop version for Windows and Mac. The paid version from €6 per month (annual subscription).
- SkeLL. Corpus search engine for six languages (English has the most functional base though). No registration or payment required. Three search modes (a) sample sentences with a typed word (b) set expressions and collocations with the word (c) synonyms of the word. Personally, my favourite tool to check whether 'they say so'.
- Reverso Context. Context translator for 14 languages (not all of which bond translation pairs to each other) that at times suggests pretty odd sentences, but generally allows to understand the meaning of a word or expression in context. Selection of synonyms and various parts of speech. Embedded pronunciation of sentences suggested (in both languages). A desktop version (at least for Windows).
- Insprirassion. Search for the fitting adjectives/adverbs/other parts of speech. Synonyms and antonyms as well as rhymes and metaphors (the latter has a conditional success rate). 11 languages. Can't say that the proposed result is absolutely reliable (better to double-check with some corpus search engine), but as an option to find 'the right word' is good to get a couple of ideas.
- Acapela Group. Machine pronunciation of a typed word, phrase or text in a selected language. More than 30 available languages and 120 voice modifications (including children voices) sound quite close to natural. Dialect variations (e.g. English in five dialects, Swedish in four ones). The only disadvantage (at least in the browser version) is the background melody which cannot be called quiet and unobtrusive.
- Forvo. The largest online database of native pronunciations. Listen and compare a wide variety of pronunciations of a word or expression depending on the regional dialect or accent. A huge number of languages: world and rare, living and constructed, modern and dead. Free registration allows to request words that are not yet in the database, upload own pronunciations and assess the quality of the others.
- toPhonetics. For the fabulously rare lovers of phonetic transcriptions. Type a word/phrase/sentence into the text field, get the equivalent in the form of an IFA (International Phonetic Transcription) and the superpower to voice over the written words on your own without a voice assistant (although an electronic voice function is also available). Eight languages (European and Asian) on the webpage and the iOs and Android apps.
Spaced repetition software
- Mochi. A new hero among spaced repetition apps. In the best traditions of East Asian design, maximum minimalism. A single screen of pleasant grey-beige shade and just a couple of tabs — no frills. Possibility to design double-sided cards, as well as single-sided ones, for example, with gaps. The most basic text formatting and attaching external files. A built-in voiceover feature, however, the mechanical voice sounds, to my taste, unnecessarily creaky. Decks can be shared or worked through a special cram mode, which doesn't affect the regular flow of repetitions. Users can set the algorithm on their own by choosing intervals for the two possible answers in the program: "remember" and "forgot" — no space for uncertainties like "remember, but not sure". A simple and user-friendly mobile app. BUT. A significant BUT — almost none of the described makes sense without a paid subscription ($5 a month). All created cards and preset settings will be lost every time you clear your browser cache. And forget about device synchronisation — for the paying users only.
- Space. A decent minimalist design and clean algorithm. One of my two favourites among SRS at the time of writing this paragraph. Quick, intuitive to use, and really not overloaded with unnecessary features when customizing cards (basic font formatting, list creation, image attaching and drawing tools are available with an easy transition from the front side to the back one). Light and dark modes. Integration with Unsplash for cute images as deck covers. Search in all-the-cards-and-decks that Quizlet desperately lacks for so long. Setting a card limit per session and reminders. Mobile and browser versions. Though, in the latter, you can only register an account, add new cards and synchronize them with the mobile version. The only inconvenience is that we can add only one card at a time. However, as developers say, bulk upload is scheduled for the foreseen future along with the further development of the browser version. And yes, the most important thing — free forever.
- Cambridge Online Dictionary. One and a half billion words of English. Databases of Learner's dictionary, Essential British English and Essential American English. A selection of bilingual dictionaries for several European and Asian languages. In-depth grammar articles and a thesaurus that meticulously explains the differences and similarities of smart / intelligent / bright / sharp / brilliant and others. A language blog, level-by-level themed word selections with interactive quizzes, and the most eye-catching — the daily votes to add new words and phrases in the dictionary — a vocabulary served piping hot from the very modern language.
- Lexico (Oxford Dictionary). Where Cambridge is, Oxford is around. The digital database for English and Spanish languages available free of charge, in contrast to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) that costs a pretty penny for an annual subscription. Lexico provides information about grammar, punctuation, word origins as well as a thesaurus and word lists. The sample sentences are usually much more impressive in structure and intricacy than those in Cambridge. On the contrary, Lexico contains a large stock of archaic and less-used vocabulary that Cambridge doesn't simply have.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Another lexical giant, explaining English vocabulary since 1831. According to the good old Wiki, one of its founders, an American lexicographer Noah Webster was the first to refer to the American (phonetic) spelling in the words like centre (instead of British centre) or program (instead of British programme) in the original version of the dictionary. The electronic version is completely free of charge and, like Cambridge and Lexico, replete with a variety of extras (thesaurus, visual dictionary, word of the day, etc.).
- English Corpora. A collection of English corpora (the largest, the iWeb Corpus, contains about 14 billion words). A potentially useful tool for searching for how often words or phrases are used in context. Spoiler - the more often, the more likely the chosen combination sounds natural to native speakers. The number of searches without registration is limited (occasionally, an anonymous user is redirected to the page, which kindly reminds about registration), but the process does not require any special effort and takes a couple of minutes. For those particularly sophisticated, the entire lexicon brontosaurus is available for download and offline use.
- Thesaurus. The largest (upon its own statement) thesaurus dictionary on the web. A selection of words' synonyms and antonyms when our own imagination can no longer save us. Collaborative service with dictionary.com with additional sections for meanings (explaining emoji, slang, memes, etc.), etymologies and recommendations for improving writing skills.
- Sentence Dictionary. Some kind of analogue of the corpus search engine, but with a selection of less ornate sentences. Ready-made lists of 1,000 and 5,000 of the most common English words and, respectively, sentences with them starring. A similar selection of 1,500 fixed expressions in context. Of the dubious: an attempt to gamify sentence-writing with other users, resulting in something like "Wedding, the dog fart in the sky.", and a service for adding text to a picture (apparently specifically for conservative postcards on Whatsapp).
- Grammarly. One of the favourites for checking English text for spelling, syntax and stylistic errors, which will also kindly assess the reader's level of emotional engagement. The text can be pasted on the text surface directly or uploaded as a separate document and formatted. The language variants (British, American, Canadian, Australian) and the intended style (formal or informal) are to choose. Despite a significant number of limitations, the free version still allows editing the stream of English consciousness to get an optimum level of adequacy. Usually, premium underlining gets successfully removed by corpus searches or by 'googling punctuation rules'. Or by a subscription from $11.66 a month.
- Textranch. For the perfectionists who strive to make it just like a native. A service where real humans (sorry, AI) proofread English texts for errors, grammar and style. Users can check a text up to 140 characters for free (but registration is required). Above 140, the cost is measured by the number of characters, i.e. the longer the text, the more expensive. For example, a text that has about 1000 characters will cost around $3.30, but payment within a prepaid tariff saves up to 30%. There is also a distinct function for proofreading external documents with a lot of text, where the cost is determined individually. In any case, Textranch is an extremely useful bookmark for when we really need a perfect proofread.
- LEO. An online dictionary service created by the computer science department of the Technical University of Munich. In simple terms, a multilingual online dictionary of German (with nine language pairs). In response to a query for a particular word, the pedantic German service offers not only a trivial translation but all the material associated with it: nouns (including set expressions and collocations), verbs (even if the word is from another part of speech), chunks, catchphrases and, finally, simple sentence examples. Also links to tables of declensions, conjugations and pronunciations — in short, the complete set.
- Linguee. My second favourite dictionary believes in the power of contextual learning and suggests dozens of sentences with the searched word in different meanings. It doesn't hesitate to cite several stable expressions or word forms in other parts of speech either. Pronunciation, unfortunately, is not always there, but if it is, complete Hochdeutsch. Integration with Wikipedia that quickly teleports the user to the corresponding page. Linguee is another product by the team of DeepL Translator (The Wonderful) developers. Thus concise and pleasing to the eye design and an easy switch between both services.
- Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache. A mastodon dictionary, whose possibilities are pretty challenging to grasp at first (especially if German is not at least at the pre-intermediate level yet). Interpretation of a word with a dozen details: etymology, word formation, frequency (including historical) and references to numerous corpora. There may be something else I might have missed due to my humble experience in serious German.
- German verb conjugator. Despite its self-explanatory title, the possibilities of the service go beyond just verbs. A user can also inflect nouns, adjectives, articles and pronouns. In other words, everything we can conjugate and decline in German. Also, translations into a number of languages (the translation database is updated by enthusiastic users), lists of derivatives and combinations with other parts of speech.
- Deutsch Plus. An online German grammar guide. Not a perfectly complete one, but sufficient enough to get a general comprehension of German grammar up to B1-B2 levels.
- Vorleser. For those who suffer listening comprehension. A free collection of a variety of audiobooks with accompanying scripts. Four waves of online radio in different genres if we solely want to listen to something in the language rather than delving into great parsings (ideal for background listening and getting used to the sounds of the German). Search by book author and by the name of the reader. A free app for iOs and Android.