We spend a lot of time staring into an abyss, waiting for the person on the other end to IM. Don’t we? Well, a group a researchers at MIT are tinkering away to make that inefficacious time more productive for us.

A team of PhD students at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) has created an app, WaitChatter that basically teaches you a foreign language in that standby time when you wait for IMs from your friends.

WaitChatter teaches you basic words in foreign languages like Spanish and French while you wait for your friends to reply you back. The app was built by Carrie Cai, a PhD student at MIT’s CSAIL, as a part of ongoing research in the User Interface Design Group.

WaitChatter Helps To Learn French while you GChat

The WaitChatter app pulls in vocabulary words from its extensive database, as well as of those being used in active conversations, and spring up beneath the chat input field. In order to read the English translation of the words popping up, one simply needs to click on the “reveal” icon.

Here’s an example of how it works, you and your friend are discussing about cats on WaitChatter, the app, will unobtrusively show you beneath the messages in the chat that the French word for cat is chat. WaitChatter works with any alphabetic language that Google translate can presently handle.

The chat is the best possible way for lackadaisical people to tuck away an iota of European vocab. According to Cai, during the pilot study of two weeks, it was observed that users learned an average of around four words each day using WaitChatter. An average person loses 10 to 15 minutes per day, waiting for the person on the other end to reply while chatting over IM.

The prototype project by the MIT student is based on the education concept, according to which, short doses of information in well-spaced time intervals can have a lasting impact compared to a long exercise accomplished at a stretch.

This integrated approach is coined as “wait-learning,” and is less likely to be seen as time-consuming, especially for those who promise themselves to learn a foreign language every new year’s eve.

Currently, WaitChatter works only with Google Chat – you will need to revert back from hangouts to use it –  but there’s no need to get in a fluster, the same software can be applied to similar other IM programs such as Skype, Snapchat, iMessage, Facebook and WhatsApp. The team is now looking to exploit similar waiting situations, such as waiting for the tube to come to the station, to letting your emails to load.