Broccoli: Sprinkling Lightweight Vocabulary Learning into Everyday Information Diets


The learning of a new language remains to this date a cognitive task that requires considerable diligence and willpower, recent advances and tools notwithstanding. In this paper, we propose Broccoli, a new paradigm aimed at reducing the required effort by seamlessly embedding vocabulary learning into users’ everyday information diets. This is achieved by inconspicuously switching chosen words encountered by the user for their translation in the target language. Thus, by seeing words in context, the user can assimilate new vocabulary without much conscious effort. We validate our approach in a careful user study, finding that the efficacy of the lightweight Broccoli approach is competitive with traditional, memorization-based vocabulary learning. The low cognitive overhead is manifested in a pronounced decrease in learners’ usage of mnemonic learning strategies, as compared to traditional learning. Finally, we establish that language patterns in typical information diets are compatible with spaced-repetition strategies, thus enabling an efficient use of the Broccoli paradigm. Overall, our work establishes the feasibility of a novel and powerful “install-and-forget” approach for embedded language acquisition.
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