Introduction to using Flashcards

The app Vocable Box works the same way as a box filled with flashcards, which are used to memorize all the important vocables of any language. On one side of a single card there's a word or sentence written in the native language, and on its back is the translation in the foreign language.

Initially, the student has to decide if he wants to try to recall the solution written in the native or foreign language. To learn the other direction of translation, the student can only turn his stack of flashcards. It's more important to translate into a foreign language because during communications thinking occurs in the native tongue. Thereby, it isn't uncommon that the foreign word is known, but its translation starting with the native word isn't retrievable in the memory. For reading in a foreign language and speech comprehension, the reverse translation is essential, too. It's wrong to conclude that the other direction of a translation should also be known when one direction of translation is well memorized.

During the learning process flashcards meeting any criteria are picked, which are learned as long as each vocable is stored in the long-term memory. The training of the next following flashcard begins with reading the source word on the first card. After that follows thinking about the correct translation of that given source word. Furthermore, the student considers the spelling and pronunciation of the target word.

How is that word spelled exactly, and how is it pronounced correctly?

Later, the student turns the card around to compare his solution found with the target word given on the flashcard. If the learner succeeded in memorizing the solution, the current flashcard is put away. Otherwise, after he failed, the flashcard is returned to the back of the stack of flashcards to look at it again. Subsequently, he continues with the translation of the next following flashcard of the remaining stack.

The criteria for choosing the appropriate flashcards are among others weak words - which are regularly forgotten, the entire vocabulary of a semester test, words of a particular category - like irregular verbs, slang, poker terms, etcetera...

During everyday life, there's a lot of opportunities to learn new vocables or to repeat already memorized words. The target of the training for every vocable is to be able to memorize its forward and backward translation so well that it becomes totally effortless to find the correct solution.

Basic Functionality

Principally, the app consists of the sections (1) "Dictionary", (2) "Summary", (3) "Trainer", and (4) "Setup".

(1) The "Dictionary" includes the aggregated vocabulary of a single foreign language or all foreign languages together. Each entry consists of a native word or sentence and its translation, given as the appropriate foreign word or sentence. Additionally, the native and the foreign parts can be assigned custom word categories.

The dictionary is organized based on either the foreign or native language. That means it's all starting with the mother tongue and leading to the foreign language or vice versa. This implementation indicates that the app doesn't support translations between two foreign languages.

For each entry, the dictionary states how well the student has learned each particular vocable so far. Therefore, every entry listed includes a percentage (rating), which declares clearly and understandable, how well the student can memorize the translation of that vocable. Furthermore, the used percentage of a translation in the dictionary is dependent on the organization of the dictionary, resulting in the outcome that forward translations and back translations are handled separately.

As a result, that percentage might show that the student knows the translation of the word or sentence very well (90% or above). Furthermore, it could mean that particular translation has to be better trained further on (around 50%). Otherwise, that rating could indicate that the translation hasn't been learned sufficiently (below 50%).

The displayed entries of the dictionary can be filtered, respectively sorted using various criteria. Thus, it's possible to sort it by using the strongest or weakest entries of all given translations. Additionally, a foreign or native word category can be chosen to filter the displayed entries. Furthermore, the user can search the dictionary by entering a term in the native or foreign language.

(2) The "Summary" section grants a glimpse into the state of internalized knowledge. It shows which parts of the dictionary (word categories) are well trained, and which topics do need more exercise. Unlike in the dictionary, a claimed percentage in the summary doesn't represent a single translation, but a selection of translations instead. Each word category defines its unique selection of entries, which are using that category. Therefore, the word category's percentage stated is the arithmetical average over all attached translations.

Such a word category is, for example, the entire English vocabulary of the 3rd semester of the University of Applied Sciences (word category: "3rd sem. German - UAS").

(3) The "Trainer" tests a certain part (word category, random words, recently checked unit, ...) of the dictionary. Finally, it assesses how thoroughly the student has learned the prompted translations so far. Through the response of the user, saying if a vocable has been translated right or wrong, it updates the state of knowledge of that specific vocable. Therefore, for the training can be defined that the trainer prompts the weakest or strongest vocables in the first place.

Focusing on the most difficult flashcards matches the Leitner system, where the worst vocables are checked more frequently by ending up in the first box, after being translated wrong.

After the learning process, the dictionary is sorted correspondingly to the learning unit to visualize which vocables have been translated correctly or faulty. That way the student can overview what he has been recently learned. Any and all wrong answered, red highlighted entries of the sorted dictionary, should be instantly repeated. Following this learning methodology achieves the best progress.

(4) In the "Setup" is defined which languages and configuration properties Vocable Box uses. There has to exist a native language as well as at least a foreign language before new translations can be added or trained. In contrast to the native language, the number of foreign languages isn't limited. That's why the currently used foreign language in the app needs to be selected beforehand.

Any language has its word categories, which are specified by the user. He's able to assign the respective categories to the foreign and native parts of each suitable translation at any time. These categories are providing further information about the topic area, word class, word application, and learning unit.

It's, for example, practicable to use the categories "formal" and "informal" to distinguish business-related vocabulary from the language used in everyday life. After attaching the matching one of these two categories to all the entries in the dictionary, it's all set and done.

A user defined word category of any of the languages available in Vocable Box (native language or selected foreign language) respectively the category of all entries "*" of a language, which is created by the app, can be exported into a file ("file.vocbox") and shared. In doing so, Email, iMessage, and AirDrop or copying that vocable file from the Mac/PC to the iCloud Drive/VocableBox/Import directory is supported.

That enables the user to import all translation, inclusively the attached categories, from such a vocabulary file into his dictionary by using the App's import functionality. Therefore, Vocable Box offers the import configuration assistant, which makes the process as straightforward and painless as possible. All ambiguities are revealed to the user.

Such as:
- a native language, which is different than the native language of the vocable file
- multiple foreign languages sharing the same language name but using a distinct language region e.g. Deutsch / DE and Deutsch / CH
- etc.

Before importing the user decides with the support of the assistant, if the wants to map the imported foreign language to any foreign language available or if a new entry for that language should be created. In the situation, where it's a non-conforming native language that has nothing in common with the used native language of the app, he should abort the import process at any given time.

iCloud Synchronization

When using multiple devices, which use the same preconfigured iCloud user account in "Settings", the app automatically synchronizes all its data. That means all entered or changed language specifics (languages, categories, translations, learning progress, etc.) are automatically shared among all devices by the use of the internet connection available on each device.
It's important to be aware that the app doesn't need to be connected to the internet to work properly. There're only a few operations where the app has to use the current data pool as well as an active internet connection to iCloud. These are defining, respectively, redefining the native language, deleting any existing foreign language, deleting the entire database, as well as the import/export functionality.

Performing any other operation in Vocable Box, which leads to a changed data pool, can be synchronized with iCloud at a later time. Speaking of operations, such as adding new translations to the "Dictionary", querying translations of a category by using the "Trainer", or modifying some existing translations by assigning to them a new category of a semester examination. These previously listed operations are only a few examples of all the actions conceivable that don't need to be synchronized with iCloud momentarily. Nevertheless, it's explicitly recommended to synchronize with iCloud at the next opportunity, once a connection to the internet becomes available again. That could be back at home or at a café, where a Wi-Fi connection can be used or back at home after a vacation abroad.

User Interface and Help

The user interface of the app, as well as its functionality, can be intuitively understood. That's why a technically experienced smartphone user does barely need a training period to use the app efficiently. That's also valid because the delete operation of a language or translation works, as usual, with a swipe to the left. Furthermore, the app informs the user using feedback dialogs, why any operation (such as adding a translation) couldn't be executed. That makes it unnecessary to look up the manual for an explanation.

For all other users, there's a short overview of the most important functions. Also, the help button in the settings leads to the VocableBox-Homepage. There the functionality of the app is explained down to the last detail. On that app homepage, all resources (short overview, complete manual, FAQ - frequently asked questions) can be found.