Knowble

Knowble introduction from Knowble Articles on Vimeo.

Knowble is a free site that gives you news articles based on your vocabulary level and interests. You do need to sign up with an e-mail address.

First, you’ll take a vocabulary test, and the site gauges your level. Then, it gives you a variety of short news articles to choose from. Read them and take a quick vocab/comprehension test:

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As you do more articles, you add to your list of “learned” vocabulary.

The site is not limited to English learning. At this time, German, Spanish and Dutch are also available. And you can change your “support language” in the Preferences section. This will determine the language used when you hover over the blue vocabulary words. If you change the support language to Japanese, it will give you a Japanese translation of the word. I also tried changing it to English and found it buggy. Sometimes it gave me the word in other contexts, but more than a few times it told me, “No translation possible.”

Another problem is that the translate function is not very smart. For instance, in this sentence:

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When I hover over “spell” it tells me スペル。 And “out” is アウト. Not only not helpful, but not accurate. The verbal phrase ” spell out” means “to explain in detail”. And when I hover over “curb” it tells me 縁石. Yes, sometimes “curb” does mean that, but in this context, it’s a verb, and it means “to limit or control something”.

So, as I often tell my students, be careful when you use a dictionary or translation software. You need your brain, too.

I found the vocabulary & reading comprehension quizzes a bit tedious and not necessarily indicative of comprehension — even if you don’t really know the word, you can still guess the right answer by elimination. But I do like that the quiz is not about translation. You need to put the word into a new context, and that’s better in some ways that just clicking on the correct definition.

All in all, the site has some things that could be improved, but it may be a good place to get some quick reading practice with topics you’re interested in and with vocabulary that matches your level of comfort. The site keeps a list of your “learned” words, too, which could be useful for you to create your own review quizzes. And despite the problems with the hovering function, I think it’s actually good that it’s not that reliable — it’s a good reminder for students to become more aware when they look up words or use translation software.

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