StickyStudy: Chinese (HSK/TOP/TOCFL Hanzi Study Flashcards) is an iOS flashcard app that uses a Leitner system with five steps to card mastery. One card side is presented and you indicate whether you got the word correct or not. If you do, the card moves to the next step/Leitner box, and so on until the card is considered mastered. For each card you can also move it immediately to the “mastered” box.
When studying you can choose to see any combination of hanzi, pinyin, and English on the “question/front” and “answer/back”. So you can configure it to show just hanzi on the front (to test recognition) or to show pinyin and/or English on the front (to test your ability to recall words and write characters). You can also choose to have audio play automatically or when you tap a button (seems to work only when you have hanzi visible on the card) . It would be nice to be able to have just audio on the question/front, so that you could test your listening comprehension.
When you flip to the answer/back of the card, you will also see related words (if available), the radical and additional stroke count (useful for learning to consult print dictionaries), the number of times that you’ve studied the word and how many times you got it wrong. Tapping a button reveals example sentences.
It’s something of a pet peeve of mine, but I don’t understand why digital flashcards so often adhere to the limitations of paper in having only two “sides” to a flashcard. For Chinese, it is extremely useful, if not essential, to be able to test and track your knowledge of a word’s written form (hanzi), pronunciation (normally via pinyin, and including tones), and meaning separately. A dedicated Chinese flashcard app should allow for this.
In addition to this “study” mode, you can browse through the wordlists in a couple of ways. By default, you are presented with a grid of what look like sticky notes (the app’s eponymous feature). You can customize what is displayed on the “front” of the stickies (hanzi alone or with any one of pinyin, English, number of stokes, radical, classifier [measure word], or simplified/traditional variant).
If you tap on a sticky, it flips over to reveal detailed information for that word. As in the study mode, this includes related words, radical, your own history of studying that word, etc.
This display works surprisingly well for lists of even 100 or more words because you can use standard gestures to zoom in and pan around the grid. It does become impossible to browse much larger lists in this view, even on an iPad screen. But you can also browse by “flipping” the grid to display it as a vertically scrolling list. The list view shows more information at once and is also searchable.
The app comes pre-loaded with HSK and TOCFL lists. You can combine any of these (or parts of them) to make new lists. Words in the supplied lists are user-editable. Another nice feature is a button that lets you report a suspected error in the lists to the developer by e-mail.
You can also import your own lists from text files. Acceptable formats are given in the Help section of the app.
- Good progress tracking
- Quantity of information (radical, related words, example sentences, etc.)
- Supplied lists
- Nice, if somewhat impractical, visuals
- Backup to, and restore, from Dropbox (but see Cons also)
- Good documentation
- Two-sided cards
- Inability to have audio without hanzi on the question/front
- Inability to adjust fonts (I found the pinyin’s smaller size and lighter color rather hard to head; the alternate hanzi is even worse (see the “Complete card info” image above). Treating the related words like the example sentences would free up room on the card.
- Sync, backup, and restore only via Dropbox. I would expect (and prefer) to see iCloud and iTunes (plus e-mail for backup and sharing) first.
Overall, this is clearly a carefully developed app. The large quantity of information, plus the app’s ease of use and tracking of user progress make Sticky Study: Chinese a standout in the field of flashcard apps dedicated to Chinese.
StickyStudy: Chinese is available on the App Store.
A lite version, with fewer features, is also available.