Usona Esperantisto № 2022:5 (sep–okt)
More software suggestions for building vocabulary
Jeremy Genovese’s article in issue 2022:3 did a great job of explaining the benefits of spaced repetition software. I’d like to add a few more suggestions.
Like many others, I was introduced to Esperanto through Duolingo. As I progressed in the course, I found myself forgetting words from earlier lessons. This led me to search for a flashcard program to supplement Duolingo.
As Jeremy mentioned, Memrise has many benefits: it’s free, cross-platform, and there are many user-created decks. However, it is not easy to edit any of those decks. Sometimes I’d run into a word in Duolingo that wasn’t in the Memrise deck. Or the word had additional meanings that weren’t entirely reflected in the deck. Sometimes I would just encounter a new word “in the wild” and there was no easy way to add it to a pre-existing deck. I could create new decks, but then I’d be juggling several simultaneously, which would feel overwhelming.
So I continued my search for an alternative program. Eventually I discovered Anki, which is a romanization of the Japanese word for “memorization” (暗記). The web version is free, but the iOS version has a one-time charge of $25. Caution: don’t be tricked into buying cheaper competitors that have similar-sounding names. Anki is well worth the price, as it is extremely powerful.
A downside: Anki is not very user-friendly in comparison to Memrise. The learning curve can be a bit intimidating for beginners. However, its power lies in its flexibly. With Anki, I can add flashcards whenever I want, and I can edit them whenever I want. I can add synonyms, related words, and even change the formatting of the cards. Nearly everything is editable.
I quickly found myself in a groove where I’d first open Anki to review past cards. Then I’d open Duolingo and push forward into new material. Each new word would get added to my Anki deck to be reviewed later. Bouncing back and forth between the two programs helped me move through the course faster and better retain what I’d learned.
After finishing the Duolingo course, I looked for new ways to continue expanding my vocabulary. Eventually, I came across LingQ, which was created by Steve Kaufman, a purported polyglot who claims to know 20 languages. His philosophy is to immerse oneself in content. LingQ has a free version, but it is very limited. There are a variety of recurring payment plans, but if you are serious about using the program long-term, I would consider opting for the lifetime plan, with a one-time charge of $199 per language.
LingQ has a variety of curated content that should keep one busy for a while. But the best part of LingQ is that anytime I come across an interesting article in Esperanto, I can easily import it and read it on my iPhone or computer. While reading the article, if I encounter an unfamiliar word, I can click on it, and the definition will appear. If I want, I can then add the word to a vocabulary list built into the program.
In short, LingQ makes it easy to read things without having to repeatedly stop and look up words in a dictionary. Once a week or so, I’ll go to the LingQ website on my computer, open the vocabulary list that LingQ built for me, and add each word to my Anki deck. Then I’ll press Anki’s “sync” button, and the new words get zapped to my iPhone for review.
$224 is a lot to spend, but if you do most of your Esperanto studying and reading from your iPhone or computer, Anki and LingQ are very helpful.