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  • The Best Source of Words in Context: Google Images + Google Translate

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    In the last Q&A, I talked about getting words in context from Google images + Google translate.  Let’s talk about this a bit, because it’s an extraordinary pair of tools.

    The goal is to find good examples for abstract/functional words.  Let’s say I want to find a good example for когда (when).  If I search Google images inside of Google translate, I get examples like this one:

    Which, on mouse-over, gives me:

    The machine translation lets you find a good example quickly, and see how its used in the sentence.  You won’t use the English translation in your Anki deck, so you’ll end up memorizing everything in the target language (You might still remember the English translation for a few weeks, but eventually, the stronger memory will be the relationships between the words in the target language).  Here, for example, you get two sentences, and one is pretty clear in meaning (‘When I will be eighty five’), the other a bit less so (It’s ‘When I start to lose my slippers’, and it doesn’t fit with the picture as directly.)  So I’m going to take the first sentence, and put it in my Anki deck with the picture:

    Front Side: [...] мне будет восемьдесят пять

    Back Side: когда

    I’ll make two cards out of this (когда on the front side, the picture with the sentence on the back).  I’ll also use this as a grammar exercise (1 card only):

    Front Side:

    Когда [...] восемьдесят пять…

    Back Side:

    мне будет

    It gives me a lot of language very quickly, and the three cards support each other (adding the third card makes the first two cards easier, since I see the sentence more often).  It took me 30 seconds to find the example, and another 30 seconds to make the three cards.  In that minute, I’ve picked up an essential, difficult to picture word, and a grammatical construction for expressing my age in the future, and Anki will make sure that it’s memorized long term.

    So!  How to do this easily? If you’re studying a common language, go here. I’ve already created a link for you. If not, read on:

    1. Go figure out your 2-character language code here (English is en):

    2. Now go to this handy dandy link (it’ll open in a new window)

    3. Follow these instructions:

    4. Enjoy your awesome source of words in context with pictures!


    12 thoughts on “The Best Source of Words in Context: Google Images + Google Translate

    1. Fabio

      Hi, I study german and I use Anki too for learning new words. I learned about 600 words by Anki, but i think your method (just pics=no translation) is better: do you think i should now to replace in my old cards my italian translation (I’m italian)with pics?

    2. Ray

      Thank you for this! I just randomly came across your site, and this will be perfect for my Japanese studies. Truly appreciate you sharing your tips.

    3. Briar

      I wasn’t able to get this to work when trying a language code with more than 2 letters. pt-BR is the language code for Brazil but for some reason it won’t work.

    4. carl

      Hi Gabe,

      I am really digging the website and I am looking forward to the book. Also, the method is helping me with learning french.

      A quick note about this blog post: Rather than screw around with the URL it might be easier to just use the google translate plugin… you just click on it and then it translates the page to your language of choice. Hopefully this is easier/helpful.

      Here is a link to the google translate plugin for chrome:

      I suspect it also exists for Firefox, Safari and Opera as well.


      Aussi, si vous voulez répondre en français puis je peux pratiquer ma traduction! (Je suis un débutant!)

    5. Stephan

      Hi Gabe,

      thank you for this great resource. I have also researched quite extensively about language acquisition methods and yours and Tim Ferriss’ approaches seem to be the most comprehensive and efficient.
      Somehow I am still not able to make the google picture translate method work. I have tried it out for Korean but not every picture provides a translation. Do I do sth wrong here?

    6. Pingback: How to use iMacros to automate your word research | Tower of Babelfish

    7. Pingback: How to learn grammar and abstract words without translation | Tower of Babelfish

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