Scaffold Second Language Reading with Lingro

Give language learners an alternative to Google Translate

A seemingly constant struggle for language teachers is figuring out how to help students combat the urge to copy assigned text and delegate the second language reading to Google Translate. It’s understandable that students do this: as long as they are getting help with one word, why not translate the entire text?

Scaffolding second language text is a proven strategy to aid learners in successfully engaging with and comprehending the reading, though doing so can be time-intensive for teachers. For some, Lingro.com may be the solution you’ve been looking for.

Lingro is a site that essentially duplicates any web page, making every word on the original clickable. When a user clicks a word on the Lingro version of the page, a dictionary definition of the word appears in a floating popup window.

How Lingro works

Start on the web page you want students to read and copy the URL (the website address). In a new tab on your browser, go to www.Lingro.com and paste the URL you copied in the text box at the top of the page (see #1 in the screenshot below). You will then have the option of selecting the dictionary you want applied. For example, if you are a French teacher and your English-speaking students are reading in French, select the French-> English dictionary. For ELL (and other language) teachers, note that in addition to leaving the dictionary in English, you can offer students translations in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Swedish, Russian, Dutch and Chinese.

Getting started with Lingro takes about ten seconds and might be the help students need in order to do their best before defaulting to a translation site.

Once you have entered the website address and selected your dictionary, click on the blue arrow to the right and voila! The original website will now appear looking just as it did with one major difference: every word may now be clicked on for a dictionary definition/translation.

An additional small but important difference with this new page is that the web address now has lingro.com in it. For example, the original URL http://cogdogblog.com/2017/04/open-as-in-apertures/ is now shown as http://lingro.com/translate/http://cogdogblog.com/2017/04/open-as-in-apertures/. If you copy this new URL, you can then share it with students and it will take them directly to the Lingro version of the site that you created for them.

When framing this for students, I would explain that the Lingro dictionary is there to help them with what they don’t know. While students are able to click on any words for translation, they should do their best to understand passages on their own and only lean on Lingro for an assist when needed.

Pro Tip #1 | Create accounts

Students can register for free Lingro accounts. The advantage to doing this is that Lingro will keep track of their history of clicked words. It also provides the complete sentence in which the words appeared so that the language is always accessible in context and not just isolated words. For higher frequency words, this can be helpful for students to be able to go back and review vocabulary. It could also offer teachers valuable insights into just how much individual students rely on scaffolding with a given text.

Pro Tip #2 | Track student time

For teachers concerned about accountability (as in, “How will I know if students utilized the Lingro scaffolding versus defaulting to the Google Translate crutch?”), combining Lingro with Stackup is a solution that will give you piece of mind…and it takes less than a minute of your time to set up!

I’ve written previously about the free Stackup Chrome extension and how to get started with this “Fitbit for online reading.” Disclosure: I am the Director of Education at Stackup, so I may be biased in thinking it’s awesome:) Because of this role, I am also available for FREE professional development to help you get up and started so don’t hesitate to reach out!

Once you (and your students) have signed up for Stackup and installed the free Chrome extension, go to your Challenges page and click on Create a challenge. Give your challenge a title, select the start & end dates, and establish for how much reading time you want the challenge goal to be (between 5 minutes and 1000 hours). In the Type of Challenge menu, select Website and then paste the Lingro.com URL (that you created above) in the Websites field. Double check that the Challenge is as you’d like and click Create Challenge.

This will generate a unique Challenge code that you will give to students. From their dashboards (easily accessed by clicking on the extension or by going to manager.stackup.net), students will then enter the Challenge code in the Find a Challenge field. Their final step is to click to join the Challenge.

From there, everything is fully automated. You and your students will have a leaderboard on which you can view how much time each has spent reading the article. It’s a great way to gamify reading and help language teachers know whether and to what extent students utilized the scaffolding resource that was created for them.


If you liked this post, please click the heart to recommend it to others. As always, I appreciate your response posts and invite you to follow me on Medium and Twitter. Please reach out if I can support you and your students with Stackup by emailing noah@stackup.net.