Learn with Oliver Review
A long time ago, I want to say around 2009 or so, I found this website called “german-flashcards.com”. It was pretty good for its time. It was a flashcard system that allowed you to make your own flashcard lists based on vocabulary that was preloaded into the system or make your own word list. It had native speakers reading the German words out so you could know the pronunciation. It didn’t cost very much so I bought a premium account with some school district funds. Eventually I switched over to StudyBlue for my students, because it is free, I can make and share my own flashcards with my students, and a few other reasons. Then one day I tweeted about StudyBlue and the owner of the website “german-flashcards.com” tweeted back asking if I had tried “Antosch and Lin” flashcards. I recognized the name as the same one that ran “german-flashcards.com” and assumed they hadn’t really updated things in a while. In talking with the owner, it seemed like it was time to give that site a second chance and give it a proper review. That is what prompted the video below.
You got most of the information you might need about this site from the video, but I think it is important to explain what really sets this apart from other flashcard systems.
1. How to make cards
Normally, flashcard systems will put most of the work on the user’s end. The company builds a platform and the user has to use it to learn what they want to learn. Duolingo has a built in flashcard app that automatically adds vocabulary as you learn it through the system. This sounds like a great idea, but it assumes if you didn’t see it on Duolingo then you must be forgetting it. It doesn’t take into account that Duolingo might not (and shouldn’t) be the only source for your German learning. StudyBlue requires you to make your own flashcards or use flashcards created by other users. Neither of those systems have audio files (although you can record your own on StudyBlue). Memrise is nice, because it does have audio recorded via the videos from which the cards were made, but that also means you are limited to only that vocabulary that is covered by that particular set of cards made by that particular user.
Learn with Oliver allows you a combination of all of those systems. You can add cards via the text (like Lingua.ly) or the words of the day (like Duolingo). You get audio (as long as you pay for it) (like Memrise). You can add cards as words or full phrases (like Lingua.ly or Readlang). It allows you to grab an entire list either made by the Learn with Oliver staff or by other users or you can choose certain words from any of those lists or add your own words to the list. This allows you to avoid adding words to your list that you know from other sources or expand a list to include things that you think should have been included in the list.
2. Ways to review
All flashcard sites have at least one version of their system that shows you one language and then shows you the other. That is how flashcards work. Some systems (StudyBlue & Duolingo) allow you to rate if you guessed the answer correctly. Other systems (StudyBlue, Lingua.ly, & Readlang) rely on review games and other “non-subjective” ways of seeing if you remember what the words were. These versions are usually multiple choice questions or type-in-the-answer type questions.
Learn with Oliver has all of those versions. You can simply look at one language and then the other like with any system. You can answer multiple choice questions. You can type in your answers (this system doesn’t have a system in place to check if you are correct automatically).
What really sets Learn with Oliver apart in this area is the word game. It is a timed test with words you may or may not know. For words or phrases, you are given 20 seconds to choose the correct answer from a list of 5 options. You are then given a point value for each answer you get correct. You can then see how you compare to other users in the system. You can also compare yourself to your less-educated self via the “Progress Tests”. The test varies based on the level you choose, but you can test yourself and then compare that test to any other tests you take at the same level. It will then show you a line graph to chart your progress.
The difference between the games and the tests are quite simple. The games only allow you one mistake. The tests allow you to make some mistakes, but docks you points for doing so. The test is a good way to check to see if you are making progress towards memorizing a certain amount of vocabulary to be considered one level or another. The games are a good way to give yourself a challenge to get as many questions in a row correct as you can.
3. Text to read
Both Lingua.ly and Readlang are systems that allow you to either browse their system or find articles in your target language on the web and make flashcards out of the words and phrases you would like to learn from those articles. Both of them have a browser extension that allows you to add words directly from the website in question. Neither of them have audio attached to the files. Duolingo allows you to read articles from around the web and hover over a word to see the translation, but doesn’t allow you to make flashcards from the words or save them in any way. It is also very limited in the types of content you can read on Duolingo and how to find it.
Learn with Oliver finds a happy medium between all of these options. It has text built into their website. Some of these articles are from around the web and others are created by the administrators of the site. Simply look at the bottom of the article to find out which it is. If is says “See also” followed by a source name, it is from that site. If it doesn’t say that at the end of the article, it is an original article created by the administrators of the site.
While Learn with Oliver doesn’t have a browser extension to allow you to visit a site and pull words to their site for flashcards like Lingua.ly or Readlang, it does allow you to copy and paste the entire article from a site to their own. The system will then analyze the text and it will then act like every other article on their site. Certain words will be greyed-out meaning that you can’t create “official” flashcards out of them, because they are not in the system yet, however, all of the other words will have audio files, which is something that neither Lingua.ly or Readlang can offer. If you add a word that is greyed-out to your flashcards, it may or may not get the audio feature added in the future. The thing I find cool about doing this on Learn with Oliver is that once you add an article to the system, any other user who is interested in that topic can automatically read the same article on their site and get the same educational value from it. This allows their list of articles to continue to expand.
Learn with Oliver‘s level filters actually work well, too. When I tested Readlang, it was as if the system didn’t know what a beginner German learner actually looked like. I clicked on “beginner” level articles and was greeted with articles from Spiegel. There is no way a beginner could read that even with the help of Readlang. Learn with Oliver‘s system seems to analyze the vocabulary used in a particular article and use that to give an assessment of what level that article should be. This is one of the advantages to having the articles directly in the site instead of simply pulling vocabulary from a site without taking into account the entire article.
What system is best?
That is a very loaded question. Each system has its advantages. You have seen the advantages of Learn with Oliver in this article, but to be fair to the other sites, each one has their strengths. StudyBlue allows you to study pretty much anything that you can study via flashcards and isn’t limited to just foreign languages. Duolingo is an entire language learning platform, complete with a mobile app, and the flashcard system is just an added bonus. It isn’t meant to be perfect on their system, because it isn’t the main part of their system. Lingua.ly integrates well on any website on the web via the browser extension. The question of “What system is best?” is really a question of “What do you want the system to do?” I’ll let you decide for yourself what system you think is best.