The best way to learn new words and phrases is to use them actively. The next-best way to learn new words is to be exposed to them as much as possible. And since the wallpaper that adorns my graphical desktop environment is what I stare at most of my waking hours, I thought that it'd only make sense to add words and phrases I want to memorize there.
Half an hour after the eureka moment, I had a working hack consisting of a plain text file with words and phrases along with their translations, a wallpaper template PNG file, and a simple Bash shell script. The latter pulls a random line from the text file, and uses the template to generate a new wallpaper with the picked line. Below are all the gory details worth knowing if you want to roll out something similar.
Framing language learning as a fun gamified activity apparently works well when you're in the app subscription business, but the jury is still out on whether you can actually reach a reasonable level of language proficiency using an app as your main tool. Me? I'm old school: give me a decent text book, a dictionary, plus something to read, and I'm good to go.
There is, though, something else I added to my language learning toolbox not so long ago: a Kobo Libra 2 with KOReader installed on it. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that this combo has taken language learning to a whole new level.
Google Translate is great, until it's not. The quality of translation is undeniably impressive, and the apps have some genuinely useful features. But even if you choose to ignore the fact that Google lives off our data, there is a matter of Google Translate not working offline—not on a Linux system, anyway. And even if it could do that, there is still a case to be made for using and supporting an open-source alternative free from the shackles of surveillance capitalism.
Enter Argos Translate, an open-source neural machine translation engine that works offline and is available as a Python library, a command-line tool, a web application, and a desktop utility. Install Argos Translate on your machine, add a simple Bash shell script, and you can instantly translate a text selection from any application. Here is how to do this on Ubuntu and Linux Mint.