App Review: Vocabularium lets you learn vocabulary in 9 Languages


I was pointed to the Vocabularium app, a newly-released Android App for vocabulary learning. I installed it on my tablet and played around with it, of which I’m providing you a small review with pictures. This review is essentially a walkthrough of my experience with the app, in which I also integrate my comments about its various features. (I took them as photos rather than screenshots as I thought that could provide you a more authentic feel of the user experience).

Interface and options

The app lets you select your native language and one of the 9 other languages you may want to learn. The menu pops out as you open the app, but you can easily change your selection later. It also asks you if you want to use it in the social mode (more on that later).

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To begin with, I chose Polish (I always wanted to improve that language) and got the next screen, which is very straightforward. I chose Start.

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The app then presents you a list of subjects to learn words about. They have both beginner, advanced and expert subjects. Although I imagine some of the lines between beginner and more advanced vocabulary may be hard to draw, on first impression it seemed that they roughly correspond to the order in which many traditional language courses would present you vocabulary, thus it seems like this app could be a nice supplement to that.

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I chose Animals. The app then provides further categories into which vocabulary is divided.

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While, when I chose animals, the categories were precise enough, I noticed later on they were a bit less precise in some sections, e.g. if you choose verbs:

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I see the difficulty of categorising verbs, but I also think this is something that may be improved with later versions.

Anyhow, as I said, I chose animals on my first run, and I went with my favourite of them all – birds. You are then presented a list of vocabulary one by one and have to click Next through to the next item.

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Some of the vocabulary in birds is tricky.

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However, you receive words in a similar layout and manner regardless of the category you choose. This is what happens if you choose a different language, and personality traits as your topic:

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Review exercises

After you are done reviewing the words, you are asked to either review the list again or go to the next exercise – recognising words. To do that, you are presented with an audio rendering of each word and asked to recognise that word from the list (much like in the game Who Wants to be A Millionaire, except you have six options and not four).

(At this point, though, I ran into a small problem: the audio would not play on my tablet, at least not in the Offline mode. This was a bit frustrating as the rest of the sounds from the application (associated to clicking on menus and so on) would work just fine. I’m hopeful this is either something that is local to my particular tablet, or something that is to be solved soon, though)

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These words that you have to guess from are often very close to each other, thus it forces you to remember how exactly a word was spelled. While I can see use in that, as learning precise spelling is important, I do have some second thoughts about this: me personally, when I am learning languages, I try to focus on the big picture and to pay less attention to getting everything exactly right. Therefore I may be willing to overlook some spelling mistakes I would make as long as I remember generally what words sound, thinking that I can always perfect my spelling later on after I already know the words well enough.

Because of that, while I do see the advantage of learning vocabulary in this heedful way, I also think it might be more useful for someone like me at later stages rather than the beginning. But then again, that is me, who is much in favour of focusing broadly.

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If you click Remove 3, you are only presented with three choices, which is somewhat easier to guess from.

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History and social mode

One nice feature of the app is that it is pretty gamified: it gives you scores and allows you to review your score at any point of the game.

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It also has the interesting option of inviting friends and allowing them to access your score, allowing both of you to mutually reinforce your learning. In the words of the app:

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I never got to try that out, though, mainly because I could not quickly find people interested in learning vocabulary with me. It might be a much better feature for social or classroom learning. (At the same time, I would be slightly worried about sharing all my score with someone else – while possibly a motivating factor, is this not akin to sharing your grades with the rest of the class to see? Perhaps the author could think of a way to limit the amount of data that is shared.)

Last and not least, the App has a nice name and logo, which stood out on my home screen:

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The verdict

A pretty interesting app for vocabulary learning, although you may make more use of it if you’re focused on scrupulous learning than just superficially familiarising yourself with many words. The app is free – you can check it out on the App store.

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