Review: Keep Your Word

Published on Thursday, February 12, 2009 in , , , , ,

Keep Your Word logoBambooApps has released a new vocabulary cataloging and flashcard program called Keep Your Word, available for Mac OS X. This flash card program is specifically oriented towards learning vocabulary, so instead of being a general purpose flashcard program, such as Mental Case or Ebbinghaus, it's closer to a program like ProVoc (a free vocabulary program that is no longer being actively developed).

The first thing you'll notice when you load up or open a new Keep Your Word (KYW) Dictionary (collection of words to remember) is the striking similarity in appearance to iTunes (Click here, and scroll down to "Take a closer look!" for KYW screenshots). Even if you only use iTunes occasionally, this is already very familiar, and therefore already comforting.

Adding new words can be done in 2 ways. If you're taking your own course, and need to add words as time goes on, you can simply click the Add word button at the top left of the window. The other way is to download ready-made dictionaries from wordsparade.com, where you can also upload dictionaries of your own after registering. The wordsparade dictionaries are downloaded with a click, and when they're saved, you can click on them to open them up in KYW.

For each flashcard, not only can you enter a word and its translation, but also tags and comments about the word, as well. The tags are especially useful when searching for particular words or when sorting cards into smart groups (playlists generated automatically based on information from the card, such as “words added in the last week” or “food words”). I've found the comments areas are handy to record the mnemonics I use for each word.

Beyond just using the flashcard quizzing to help you learn the new vocabulary, I also recommend using standard memory techniques, as well as the approaches I discuss in my language-learning post and my mnemonic images post. Using KYW in combination with resources such as language course podcasts, social networking language sites (like babbel, livemocha, mango and myngle) can help speed up your learning and retention. Education Watch's lists of the most frequently used words can be used to help set your studying priorities, as well.

Getting back to KYW itself, flashcard testing is only one of three approaches available. There's also a “Quick Quiz”, in which you're shown a word, and two possible answers for that word, and you have to choose the correct answer. In an unusual approach, you can also have the print a randomly generated test, which can be done in your native language, the learned language, or both.

Do you want to quiz yourself while you're away from your computer? The Keep Your Word Reader (KYWR) for your iPhone or iPod Touch (available for free in the iTunes App Store) will let you do just that. Rather than having all the feature of the full program, KYWR is meant to aid in syncing your cards to your iPhone/iPod Touch, where you can drill them in the flashcard mode, as well as search and navigate your cards.

If you're a Mac user trying to learn a new language, I truly believe KYW to be the best dedicated app out there for this purpose. The familiarity of the interface, the attention to detail, and the commitment to the support really make this a standout product. The added portability of the KYWR is a nice touch, and can help increase how fast you learn a new language by giving you increased opportunities to quiz yourself. The most recent version of KYW (at this writing) is version 1.4.2, and it is currently priced at $24.95, with KYWR available for free.

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