Read books in new languages

Parallettext.io is an online tool that helps you learn languages by reading a book in a foreign language with your native language side-by-side. You can click on any sentence to hear it out loud. I’m not sure how helpful it is to learn an entirely new language, but it’s useful for me to read in Spanish from time to time to remind myself of how sentences are structured differently. Right now, I spend a little time each day working my way through Alice in Wonderland. — CD

LearningClaudia Dawson
Python Tutorials

One of the things I miss about the 1980s was writing programs for fun in BASIC. A couple of years ago I started playing around with Python. It’s easy to learn, and powerful enough to do anything I would want to automate. Christian Thompson’s YouTube channel has wonderful Python tutorials for beginners. Check out the one on how to program a Pong clone. — MF

LearningClaudia Dawson
Beautiful star-gazing app

Last week my friend texted to tell me that 4 planets were visible and I should go outside to check them out. I was only able to see 3, but I found them quickly with the beautifully designed SkyView app ($1.99, also on Android). I just held my phone up to the sky and SkyView pinpointed where they were precisely. For the occasional stargazer this app is more than enough. — CD

LearningClaudia Dawson
Learn celsius

Part 1: Here’s an easy way to approximately convert Centigrade to Fahrenheit: “double the Centigrade temp, subtract the first digit of the result from the result and add 32.” Example: 16 C = (32-3)+32 = 61 F. (This tip is from Fodor’s Travel website.) — MF

Part 2: Recomendo reader Don wrote to tell us, “Your Centigrade to Fahrenheit conversion works ‘sorta’ as long as the result of doubling the C number is a two-digit number. I’ve always doubled the C number and subtracted 10%, then added 32. Most folks can figure out 10% and subtract it. Also, this doesn’t result in an approximation, but the correct result.” — MF

Part 3: The US is basically the only country in the world not using metric. It’s not that hard to learn a rough sense of how many kilometers in a mile, or pounds in a kilo. But it is very hard to convert temperatures between Centigrade and Fahrenheit. The solution is to convert all your thermometers to Centigrade: on your phone, in or outside of your house, on websites. Have any digital device display only Celsius, so you can’t cheat. In about a year, you’ll have a reliable and native sense of what’s cool and warm in degrees C. This is supremely handy if you travel anywhere outside of the US. — KK

LearningClaudia Dawson
Best ocean tide app

One of my favorite uses for the supercomputer I carry in my pocket is to tell me when high or low tide will be, and how high or low. I live near the ocean, so tide level is important for beach walks. My goto tide app is TideTrac, $3 on iOS. — KK

LearningClaudia Dawson
Wikipedia tool

V for Wikipedia recreates the childhood joy of getting lost in my old Encyclopedia set. One subject would inspire me to look up another and I’d end up flipping back and forth between pages and indexes for hours. Now I can use my iPhone and seamlessly jump to the next subject with a quick tap. Honestly, this app is so easy and enjoyable to use — totally worth the $4.99. — CD

LearningClaudia Dawson
Learn a new skill

I signed up for a free 30-day trial of Skillshare because I wanted to improve my drawing skills, and I did. There’s more than 16,000 video classes to choose from. A monthly subscription is $15 per month, but I opted to cancel before the trial ended — they make it really easy and in fact, when I went to cancel they extended my trial another month! They also offer classes in photography, film, cooking and writing. — CD

LearningClaudia Dawson
Learn about nature

I used the iNaturalist app when I was hiking and took a picture of a tree that I wanted to know the name of. I just uploaded the picture and labeled it as “I don’t know what this is.” The next morning, I was happily surprised to see an email alerting me that another user identified it for me! It’s like a collaborative classroom on your phone. — CD

LearningClaudia Dawson
Explainer videos

I love good explainer videos. The best are made by Kurzgesagt. Their 5-minute videos are stunningly animated and cover topics such as automation, genetic engineering, gamma ray bursts, and ebola. They often leave me in awe about our universe. — MF

LearningClaudia Dawson
Painless history

My favorite example of how video is displacing much of what books used to do is this short YouTube video on the History of Japan. In only 9 minutes it covers the complex, twisted, obscure history of Japan but with insight and clarity. (One of its subtle tricks is to use nick names instead of proper names for people.) The clip has racked up 30 million views because it teaches so well. — KK

LearningClaudia Dawson
Analogies about technology

Sideways Dictionary uses analogies to explain technology. You can contribute your own, upvote those you like or downvote those you don’t find helpful. Here’s one to describe API: “It’s like a LEGO brick. An application without an API is like a LEGO brick without nodules (are they called nodules?) – it’s not much fun and you can’t build anything new with it.” — by Nick Asbury. — CD

LearningClaudia Dawson
Learn to negotiate

A great one-episode podcast that taught me a lot about negotiation that I wished I had learned decades ago: “How Creatives Should Negotiate”, run by Ramit Sethi on the Tim Ferriss podcast. As the title suggests this 1.5-hour seminar is aimed at creatives such as photographers, musicians, designers, and the like, but really the advice is useful to anyone. — KK

LearningClaudia Dawson
Skill builder

Two Slate journalists attended a class on negotiation skills at Columbia Business School and created a 10-episode podcast called Negotiation Academy. After listening to the series, I feel like I can negotiate a better deal for myself from now on. — MF

LearningClaudia Dawson
$1500 Sandwich

A reminder of the progress we all enjoy. A curious fellow decides to spend six months growing his own wheat and vegetables, making his own cheese and meat, evaporating his own salt in order to make his own sandwich from scratch. He spent $1500 on this lunch, and in this short, How To Make A $1500 Sandwich, he gives the particulars of what is really involved in our everyday consumption. Like the Toaster Project, which was an earlier attempt by an artist who spent a year to make a $30 electric toaster from scratch (iron ore, petroleum plastic), it conveys in concrete terms the huge subsidy we get from modern civilization. I repeatedly return to these brilliant examples. — KK

LearningClaudia Dawson