Learn French or Spanish While You GChat

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Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC
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Between emailing, texting, instant messaging, Facebooking and Instagramming, multitasking is everything these days. The question isn’t whether you are doing more than one thing at once, it’s how many things are you doing at once. And that’s the world into which WaitChatter fits so organically.

The Google Chrome application allows you to learn new words in French and Spanish in those down moments when you’re waiting for someone to instant message you back. So, say, you message your friend, “Hey, does lunch at 1:30 work for you?” In the seconds or minutes it takes your friend to respond with either an affirmative or negative, the WaitChatter application pops up with a mini vocabulary lesson.

The application was developed by computer science PhD student Carrie Cai as part of research in the User Interface Design group at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. To use the application, you have to be a Gmail user and you have to be using Google chats. The more updated version of Google’s instant messaging system, Google Hangouts, doesn’t work with the application. It’s easy-peasy to switch back and forth, though, if you want to give it a try. The download is available here.

Related: Duolingo, the Chart-Topping Language App, Unveils a Platform for Teachers

The idea behind WaitChatter is that while we live in an exponentially more connected world every day, we also live in one that gets busier and busier. Carving out time to learn another language, if you aren’t in school, can feel impossible. For many people, it just never happens.

“Even for those who attempt to learn informally, the busyness of daily life makes it difficult to schedule regular time for practice,” says MIT. “Despite the struggle to find time for learning, there are countless moments in a day that go wasted, due to suboptimal scheduling or necessary waiting.”

So far, WaitChatter is only available to teach vocabulary in French and Spanish. The app hopes to expand its repertoire of languages in the future, according to its website.

Related: Meet Dash and Dot, Robot Toys That Teach Kids How to Code

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