Flash Cards

Those who have studied any of the dead languages trifecta (Greek, Hebrew, Latin) know that flash cards are an essential tool of language acquisition. When attending Moody Bible Institute, I could always identify the newest inductee into one of these languages as he would adorn himself with a shower curtain ring on which hung a set of vocabulary flash cards to be learned. Waiting in line for breakfast, lunch, or dinner was not wasted time, but presented itself as an opportunity to cycle through those elusive words.

As the years have past, I have found that while this archaic system of folding and cutting a 3×5 notecard into four sections (a full card would take up too much room when dealing with 1000+ words) worked well enough, it left something to be desired in terms of storage, identification of certain packs, and the general “coolness” factor. After all, who wants to come face-to-face with the inquiry “Why are you wearing a shower curtain ring?”

Which brings me to my point! The onset of mobile devices has produced a wave of flash card apps on both apple and android devices. I cannot say that most of these are good applications, but I can say that I have encountered two that have almost met my standards for a truly effective application.

1) Shinun: This application has been developed by a PhD student and is available for the ipod and ipad. It features vocabulary for numerous Hebrew and Greek grammars. It’s greatest attraction is the fact that the vocabulary is grouped according to those grammars into packs. Within those packs you can select as many chapters to study at once in whatever combination you desire. This allows a student to break free of associating words with chapters, and thus knowing the word only in relation to the other words therein. Also, you are able to mark words as learned, which eliminates them from your study session. In terms of functionality, this application is closest to the flexibility that physical flash cards provide. Yet, there is a catch…you are only capable of studying the grammars/packs the developer has previously entered. There is no ability to enter new words into the program.

2) Flashcardlet: This application utilizes the website quizlet.com. Users are able to create their own flashcards on quizlet and download them to their mobile device (in this case, ipod and ipad). The website supports 50+ languages and is perfect for the biblical languages scholar (though I am not sure about syriac yet). The flash cards you create can be made available to the general public. They can be exported with whatever delimiter you desire and can also be printed as physical flash cards. I should also note that if you do not have a mobile device, you can still make use of the cards on the website. The downside? Of course there is one. Each deck is an independent entity and cannot be easily be combined. Nevertheless, this is the best option I have seen so far, unless you do not have a need for entering your own list.

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