What makes WordBrewery a uniquely effective way to learn a language?

The most common question we get from people who haven’t yet tried WordBrewery yet is what makes us different from the many other language-learning apps available. The truth is that we are very different, and some aspects of our approach have no equivalent in other apps. While there are many things other apps do well, WordBrewery focuses on teaching high-frequency vocabulary in context through real sentences from the news. We believe this is the most efficient way to master the vocabulary and grammar you need for fluency.

Learning languages one sentence at a time makes studying fun, fast, and painless.

WordBrewery founder Ryan McCarl studied abroad twice and took courses or tutoring in nine languages in high school and college. But formal opportunities to study languages become much less common after college for most people. What many language-learners face after formal schooling ends is a gradual, painful deterioration of the language skills we spent hundreds of hours building.

Ryan started WordBrewery because he wanted a way to study languages as efficiently as possible in the “hidden moments” of each day—the time spent commuting, waiting in line, waiting on hold, etc. (The idea of using “hidden moments” to study languages comes from Barry Farber’s fantastic How to Learn Any Language).

Cognitive scientists have long known that people learn best in short study sessions. Attention is essential to learning and memory, and sustained focus is particularly difficult in the age of the Internet. Instead of fighting against that tendency by presenting you with an overwhelming task requiring sustained time and willpower—a task like reading an entire article, book, or textbook chapter in your target language—we simply ask you to read a single sentence and learn as much as you can from it.

You can get translations and other information about any word in the sentence by hovering your cursor over it (on the desktop site) or pressing it (on the mobile site); if our definition doesn’t give you enough information, we provide links to look up the word on Google or Wiktionary with one click. If you want more of the context surrounding the sentence, you can click the newspaper icon to view the original article from which the sentence was scraped. Finally, if you want to check your understanding of the full sentence, you can view and compare machine translations of the sentence from Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, and occasionally WordBrewery’s own human translators by pressing the translate button. We will soon add a feature for users to add their own translations and definitions.

To check your understanding of a WordBrewery sentence, click the translate icon to see translations from both Google and Microsoft. To check your understanding of a WordBrewery sentence, click the translate icon to see translations from both Google and Microsoft.

When you’re sure you understand the sentence and have added any unknown words to your vocabulary lists, we encourage you to retrieve another sentence by either clicking a word you want to learn more about or by clicking the “Refresh” button. If you have found a sentence helpful and want to review it later, just click the star icon to add it to a study list. Subscribers can export these lists to Anki or Quizlet.

Of course, our sentences are not plucked at random from news sources. Every sentence in WordBrewery’s database is tested with our proprietary algorithm to ensure it contains only high-frequency words. These sentences are packed with meaning and information for language learners. A single sentence contains information about grammar, vocabulary, and word usage; it may also teach you something new about the culture of a place where your target language is spoken. Each sentence you study on WordBrewery will bring you closer to mastery of the vocabulary and grammar you need to reach your goals. And since we have over one million sentences in our database and add new ones every day, we can accompany you and help you grow at any stage of your language-learning journey.

Help WordBrewery teach your language as effectively as possible

WordBrewery has no outside investment or marketing budget, so we depend on our users to help us fund development and spread the word. Your subscriptions, donations, and social media posts about WordBrewery help us build the mobile app, game mode, and language courses we are working on. They also help us continue to add features like native-speaker audio, curated Anki decks, human-edited translations, and advanced natural language processing tools that help you learn as efficiently as possible.