Choosing a digital flashcard app or site


Digital flashcards, whether on websites or as apps, are great because they can do so much more than paper, such as track your progress. Unfortunately, many apps

There are flashcard apps that are specifically for Chinese; these normally either come with fixed cardsets (like HSK lists) or are integrated with a dictionary from which you can add words to your own cardsets. Of course, general purpose flashcard systems can be used, but in choosing one for studying Chinese, there are some features that I consider essential. Apart from being able to handle Chinese characters (which should not really be a question anymore), here are some features to look for when considering what will suit your learning style:

  1. have at least 3 “sides” to each card (e.g. hanzi/pinyin/English). This is something you cannot do with paper cards and is particularly important for Chinese.
  2. option of starting with any side (test your ability to recognize characters separately from your ability to produce them)
  3. ability to include sounds and/or pictures (suit your own learning style; multiple points of reinforcement)
  4. options for the order and frequency of a card’s presentation (e.g. Leitner, spaced repetition, or at least random vs. ordered)
  5. ability to combine card sets (if you’re on Lesson 5, it’s good to be able to study everything from 1 to 5 at once) or at least organize them
  6. customization of appearance (most learners will want the Chinese characters to be in a larger font size than the transliteration or translation; use color coding)
  7. options for testing modes (e.g. multiple choice quizzes or fill-in-the-blank, as well as normal card-flipping). More game-like modes are also possible.
  8. import/export of cards. The ability to export text files means you can easily transfer cards from one app/site to another (so you’re not locked into one forever) or just keep a backup for yourself. The ability to import comma- (csv) or tab-separated text allows you to make cards in a simple text or spreadsheet file on your computer, rather than in the app’s interface. or import a file that you (or someone else) exported from another app. Even if you do not want to create your cards in a file, when comparing different apps/sites, you may want to consider how easily you can create cards in the interface.
  9. community for sharing cardsets or integration with other flashcard communities (such as Quizlet or Flashcard Exchange), although I consider card-making itself educational and worth doing for yourself. Communities may also include discussion forums, direct message of other users, and other social features.

A great website that lets you easily compare general purpose iOS flashcard apps by many of these features is

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