Language Reactor (formerly known as Language Learning with Netflix [LLN] and Language Learning with YouTube [LLY]) is a fairly new Chrome extension that language learners are loving to help them enjoy foreign language movies and series. And in this Language Reactor review, we’re talking about why.
Let’s dive into how to use Language Reactor, why, and the absolute plethora of options (+ counting!) that are available for language learners who want to use foreign language media to learn a language.
Language Reactor: an overview
Language Reactor’s job is to take the subtitles already available in any given video and present them in a way that is engaging and significantly more useful for learning a language.
This is an important distinction: alone, subtitles are meant for audiences that are hard of hearing, process spoken words a little slowly, or any number of needs that can benefit from accommodations.
And while they are helpful for foreign language audiences, it can take a lot of creativity to get the most out of them…without Language Reactor. That said, let’s look at the opportunities offered to us when watching our favorite Netflix series.
From the get-go, with Language Reactor’s most basic settings, you get the following tools:
- current subtitles in the target language, front and center
- their translation into your native language
- an overview of the previous/next subtitles, with their translations
- automatic pausing when reviewing specific words or phrases
And all of these options are completely customizable; over time, they can be used to highlight new words, highlight difficult words, or you can hide them altogether. We’ll look at these options more in detail later.
These options are just the tip of the iceberg of this Language Reactor review – let’s see what else we can do!
Learning new words with Language Learning with Netflix
Language Reactor is most powerful when it comes to how many ways language learners can use subtitles to learn a language. This includes simple features, like getting the translations of words when you roll over them, to the most advanced use cases, like building up your vocab in order of frequency words (i.e. the most common words in the language first, the least common ones last).
While this tool is best for intermediate or advanced language learners – as beginners likely don’t have the comprehension level to understand anything – this does make Language Reactor more of an option for beginners! It’s easy to focus on the most useful beginner words first, before diving into more complex, niche vocabulary.
Watch the above video to see features in action like:
- roll over words to pause and translate
- click to see:
- other occurrences of the word in the episode
- links to the word in your favorite online dictionary
- find other example sentences with the word in Tatoeba (a commonly-used source of sentences for language learners, like in platforms like Clozemaster)
- read, listen to, translate, and save any sentence, be it in the episode itself or one of the sentences sourced from Tatoeba
- sorting the words presented in the transcript from most common to least common
And, finally, the option to color-code your vocabulary words to easily differentiate between words that you know, words that you’re learning, and words that aren’t important to you, so you can ignore them.
Holy options, Batman!
Note: in the above video, the audio clips don’t match up at all when choosing other occurrences of a word in the episode, but the Tatoeba clips match up just fine. I can’t say whether that’s a platform glitch or a ‘me’ thing.
Speed options in Language Reactor
Depending on any particular show or movie (or your comprehension level in different languages), it can be helpful to have finely tuned controls when it comes to speed. Fortunately, Language Reactor’s tools here are both helpful and very easy to find and use.
Specifically, it can take a few tries to process the meaning of a sentence. This is why Language Reactor offers users the ability to:
- automatically pause after every line
- repeat sentences with just a keystroke
- speed up and slow down audio in real time
It is worth noting that while it’s super accessible to be able to slow down audio, I don’t personally recommend doing so, or at least not long-term.
If you’re just starting out, that’s fine, but your intention should be building up your foreign language comprehension so that you can understand the audio at its native speed – this is because depending on slower audio will teach you to recognize different sounds.
Therefore, unless you’re only interested in listening to media where you can control the speed (so limited understanding of things like conversations and music), I’d make sure to build up your comprehension to not depend on that particular feature!
How to customize Language Reactor
Because Language Reactor depends on the content already on Netflix and YouTube, this Chrome extension truly succeeds in giving language learners the power to customize the tool for themselves.
Many of these settings can depend on the media you’re watching – for example, if you’re watching Las Chicas del Cable like I was in preparation for Language TV Club, don’t count on switching to something like Thai without double-checking.
In this case, you can use the Catalogues, which we’ll see in a second.
Clicking around the settings, you can customize options like:
- audio language (i.e. the language native to the show/movie, or dubbed audio)
- subtitle language
- translation language (your native language or another advanced language)
- show/hide subtitles
- playback speed
- keyboard shortcuts for efficient playback
Netflix and YouTube Catalogues
There’s no disagreement about how powerful this Chrome extension is, but where do you start? There is so much content on both platforms, it can undoubtedly be overwhelming to not only search for something that any given language learner will enjoy but also supports their target/native language.
Fortunately, right on the Language Reactor website, you can browse their searchable catalogues!
Select the appropriate platform and have fun exploring the content available based on settings like genre, country, number of subscribers, and even just directly searching for a show or keyword you’re interested in.
While you can click directly into whatever you choose, I do wish the Netflix movies/shows linked you to the “more info” page, not directly to the media. This just adds an extra step to browsing media that can get really frustrating really quickly.
You can also see new options available shortly, including using text or video files to create your own experience, which would put Language Reactor in direct competition with LingQ! I’m excited to see how these features turn out.
Saved & highlighted vocab
Once you’ve picked your media and consumed it however you like, Language Reactor’s final magic trick is how it helps you to learn vocab!
This is a powerful ability, although it’s a paid one (but only like $5/month). Based on the aforementioned ranking of words (most commonly used to least) and combined with the words you save as you watch Netflix/YouTube, the options are essentially limitless.
Thanks to Language Reactor’s help, it’s easy to pick out new words as they come up in your watching and fill in the blanks based on your level (or not).
Once you have your words picked out, easily export them into whatever flashcard tool you prefer, like Anki or any other platform that allows you to create your own flashcards by uploading an Excel sheet.
At this point, this Language Reactor review is a bit more for the technologically savvy language learner, or at least those who have their own flashcard system for bulk-uploading terms, especially via .csv or similar.
However, this does have more to do with the flashcard platform than Language Reactor itself; it’s easy enough to download the file, not necessarily quite so easy to upload it to various resources. Looking for a flashcard system? Try the “bulk upload” option in my app search.
Language Reactor review: the pros and cons
This Language Reactor review undoubtedly proves that language learners who already enjoy using YouTube or Netflix to learn a language should not sleep on this tool. Just install the Chrome extension, and you’re good to go – while there are tons of options to customize your subtitles, you don’t have to make any decisions until you want to.
Language Reactor is already wildly helpful just as a free Chrome extension, but the paid subscription (priced at only $5/month) makes the process of learning a language with Netflix and YouTube exponentially more useful. I’ve been a fan of this tool since its inception.
However, because of the immersion style of learning, you’ll likely need to have at least an intermediate level of comprehension in your target language. Beginners can find value in this tool, but you’ll have to be picky about what/how much you want to understand.
You’ll also need regular access to a computer, as Language Reactor is a Chrome extension and therefore only works on a desktop or laptop computer.
Otherwise, you’ve got nothing to lose – click here to try Language Reactor for yourself!