WordChamp – Internet Flashcards
An Internet flashcard web2.0 application.
Flashcards are a good way to learn new vocabulary. However there is always the task of making the cards and deciding what cards to make. Computers make the process easier, and I’m a great fan of iFlash, but it would be nice to be able to find sets of ready to use flashcards.
Enter WordChamp as a solution.
Building Flashcard Decks
The core of the system is sets of flashcards that are shared between users.
These are built using WordChamp’s dictionaries. To make a flashcard from scratch you type a word in your chosen language; if it is defined within WordChamps dictionaries, you can just copy the definition into the other side of the card. If it isn’t in the official dictionary there are also user contributed definitions that plug the gaps; although these should maybe be used with caution. The user contributions are a huge resource. It plugs the gaps and it makes a larger amount of audio files available. Your sets can be organised however you want and contain as many or as few cards as you want. I would suggest thematic sets are the most useful and about 20 or 30 cards the most manageable. If you have larger sets maybe they should be broken down.
It is also possible to upload text files and these will be parsed to make your flashcards. I was able to export my cards from iFlash into a UTF8 formatted textfile, and after cleaning them up a little import them into WordChamp. Compared to recreating them by hand I saved myself a lot of work. The basic syntax is one card per line (the line feed or return character delimits a card) in the format “English = kanji | hiragana” you can have multiple English words if you separate them with a semicolon ; It may be possible to have multiple kanji but I found it interfered with the hiragana readings.
Audio and Pictures
You can also assign audio and pictures and example sentences to your cards. This will help in expanding the type of drills you can do. Pictures are a better stimulus for remembering a word; you may be more likely to connect the Japanese to an idea rather than an English word. Being able to hear audio on your cards reinforces the word. After all speaking is the end goal usually.
If both sides of your card has audio you can download vocabulary lists as MP3 files to listen to on your iPod.
There are up to nine types of drill depending on your flashcard decks. Usually however you will be doing some sort of practice recognition.
A typical drill will show you a card in either English or Japanese, and you type an answer in the target language. exact matchs are marked as correct. You can over-ride an answer if you used something similar and you think it’s correct. You can choose whether or not you see kana readings or example sentences, or whether you hear audio or not. It is useful to have to type an answer rather than just say it in your head. It keeps you honest! Also it’s another reinforcing behaviour.
The system keeps track of how long you study. How many cards you study, how many you get right, how many you over-ride how many times it takes you to know a card. It saves all these stats and makes graphs from them. And displays them in your profile. This is an incentive to study. You don’t want to seem to be a slacker! Unfortunately there isn’t an interval learning algorithm nor a way of marking cards as learnt, almost learnt etc. The stacks are more an all or nothing affair. It is very like paper flashcards in this respect. If WordChamp would allow a user to tag a card with a value of from 1 to 5 this could be used to sort cards according to how well a user knows them.
Web Reading Assistant
Another feature is a webpage reader. This works in a very similar way to rikachan except if you are logged in you can save the words you are looking up and make a flashcard set from them. But the WordChamp system is much more powerful. It can go from any language to any language. So if English isn’t your first language you could go from Spanish to Japanese for instance. Or you could use it to look up English words that you’d like to use in Japanese.
In web2.0 fashion it is possible to contact other users and find a study partner or tandem partner. This way you can get help in your studies. A possible use might be adding example sentences to each others card stacks or recording native audio for each other. And everything like this that you do benefits the whole community as we build a ginormous picture-audio-example dictionary. Unfortunately there isn’t a user forum. The site feels a bit solitary because of this I feel. Unother feature that is missing is the ability to rate a flashcard deck. This would encourage people to make good stacks and help sort out quality from chaff.
It is also possible to find a tutor here. WordChamp takes a brokerage fee for every lesson you do and after that payment is between you and your tutor. I’m not sure how this would actually work out. A tutor would need to have a planned instruction program and have teaching skills to be anything other than a paid tandem partner.
There is the possibility that WordChamp may charge for it’s services in the future. However at the moment it’s getting quite a good deal with users contributing to building their dictionaries. You loose control over everything you upload to WordChamp. It’s hard to see where they can start changing and still keep a large userbase. Another issue is all your flashcard decks are on their website and while not impossible it is cumbersome to export them to another system. Sometimes you want to be able to use flashcards offline.
However after playing with an iPod touch in the Apple Store, I can say it works on the Touch reasonably well. With the exception of sound which doesn’t work unfortunately and you still need some sort of Internet connection. I’m waiting on iFlash for the Touch iPod before making any big and expensive decisions.
- Many pre-made flashcard decks.
- Audio dictionary.
- Many languages available.
- English to Japanese pop-up dictionaries for web browsing.
- User stats and graphs.
- MP3 download of stacks
- No interval learning systems
- No user forums
- No ratings system
- Export difficult
- Needs Internet access