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Welcome to Fool’s Flashcard Review. I am a lifetime student of language for whom the study of vocabulary flashcards has become an important daily part of maintaining and growing my language skills. I am currently a PhD candidate studying modern East Asian History.

Interval Study

In the summer of 1998, while studying Chinese at a summer program in Beijing, I was overwhelmed by the some fifty or so new vocabulary items were were learning each day. I was also trying to review and remember thousands of Japanese words and Kanji characters learned during the past few years studying in Japan and the United States. In Beijing I decided to create a more rational system, studying my flashcards at certain increasing intervals of time. I maintained this system by incrementing a number in the corner of the card each time I got it right and then, referring to a chart on my wall, placed the cards into a flashcard box corresponding to the day when I should review the card next. I called this “schedule” of study the “time to forget” schedule and the process itself “interval study.”

From Paper Flashcards to Software

I continued to use my paper flashcard system but always believed it would be better if the system was moved from the cumbersome paper system into a piece of software.  When I returned to China to continue studying Chinese in 1999 I wrote a piece of Macintosh software (OS 9) called “Flashcard Wizard” that incorporated my system of “interval study” and I depended on this for my Japanese and Chinese language review for several years. The software was distributed here at Fool’s Workshop.  

I never updated Flashcard Wizard for OS X nor completed a web version of the software to be called Fool’s House of Cards. However, in the meantime there has been an explosion of flashcard software developement for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux which often includes various forms of interval study, a feature which I believe is essential to efficient long-term vocabulary maintenance when you are not in an environment that provides opportunities to practice your skills frequently. I also discovered that I was by no means the earliest to come up with the idea of using interval study in software. This method, also called “spaced repetition” or the “Leitner method,” was first implemented in software by the Polish scholar and programmer Piotr Wozniak over ten years before Flashcard Wizard came and his program SuperMemo continues to be popular. 

Fool’s Flashcard Review

While my PhD studies have forced me to abandon software development, I still depend on flashcard study for my language review in Korean, Japanese, modern and classical Chinese. I also believe that my experience with language study and with designing flashcard software gives me as good a background as anyone to review other software solutions out there. I created this site to review flashcard applications I come across that I think may be of interest to other language learners. I use a Mac. You can get your reviews of Windows software elsewhere.

As of the writing of this, I currently use iFlash, which I believe to be the best OS X software currently available to implement a form of interval study. However, it is by no means the only software out there and so I have decided to post reviews of other products as I come across them. 

All the reviews on this page are done based on certain assumptions about what I believe makes a good flashcard program for a student of language, who is the primary audience of this site. Read more about what I believe to be the basic features needed in a good flashcard application here.

K. M. Lawson