App review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2019
Reverso Translate And Learn
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Reverso Translate and Learn

Real-world context could help motivated students explore new words

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Grades
9–12
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, World Languages, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Built-in audio features are decent, and a good statistics page makes it easy to track your progress.

Cons: Example sentences sometimes confuse more than contextualize, and automatic translations aren't consistently reliable.

Bottom Line: A cool enough concept to consider as a supplementary tool, but there's not quite enough context or scaffolding to foster lasting language acquisition.

Reverso is best suited to older students, since you can't control the content of the context-giving sentences. In our tests, even a few benign searches returned sentences with some pretty coarse language. (To their credit, the developers admit this is likely to happen.) Still, with some good expectations in place and a demo for students to help them get oriented, this could be a great app for an in-class activity about critical reading and context clues. What makes a good example sentence? What kinds of details offer helpful context clues? What kinds of sentences might just further befuddle a reader? Or, with close guidance, you might use this app's key features to help your language students develop their own review games or study aids for an upcoming exam. Some students might even find themselves drawn to Reverso's approach to word learning. It does provide a fascinatingly thorough picture of contextual word usage that will click with some students and help them understand the meanings and usages of words more deeply.

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Reverso Translate and Learn (also known as Reverso Context) is a language-learning app (iOS, Android, and web) that uses artificial intelligence technology to help users learn new words by showing how they're used within real texts and in different languages. Once you create an account, you can pick your source and target languages from 13 options and then use the search bar to search for words you'd like to learn. The app then returns several sentences in the target language that feature that word, several synonyms of that word in the target language (when possible), plus automatically generated translations. According to the developer, these example sentences are automatically drawn "from millions of previously translated texts ranging from dialogues and official documents to multilingual websites," including television scripts, novels, newspaper articles, and more. You can add these words one by one to your in-app phrasebook to continue to practice them, and you can also direct the app to provide a series of random words for you to learn and practice. Audio features include options to read words and sentences aloud, and other features allow users to further customize how they practice and encounter new vocabulary. For a monthly or annual subscription fee, you can use the app online, without ads, and with unlimited searches.

Context clue-based word learning is a proven strategy, so Reverso is focused on a valuable learning process. However, it doesn't provide that context in a way that'd be most effective for language learners. Instead, things feel a little too haphazard (as is so often the case with tools relying on artificial intelligence). Example sentences come from a wide range of unrelated sources, which is more often jarring and curious than enlightening and helpful. Random word quizzes are similarly scattershot and don't promote vocabulary development in a systematic or scaffolded way. Some sentences are truly rich enough to hint at the meaning of the word or idiom you're trying to learn, but more often these AI-generated examples don't have quite enough information to be meaningful or memorable. Also, the developer admits that some sentences might include profanity or otherwise be inappropriate for some audiences. While such entries are flagged, they still get through, and that might make this app a poor fit for a K-12 audience. And yet, even though this app has its limitations as a true language-learning tool, it's certainly worth a look since it's free and could be a good supplementary tool to aid deeper investigation into word usage -- especially because the unique focus on exploring words through real sentences in published contexts has the added benefit of teaching some grammar and idiom as well.

Overall Rating

Engagement

While the app's design is slick enough and functional, its core feature is a not-especially-fun multiple-choice quiz. 

Pedagogy

Relevant, real-world examples can be a stellar way to teach new vocabulary and translate tricky idioms; example sentences here aren't consistently reliable, but many are useful, helpful illustrations of new words in context. 

Support

There are lots of ways to track your progress, and audio pronunciations are a nice touch. 


Common Sense reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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