When it comes to learning Chinese, or any other foreign language, people will be quick to offer the “best” new method of studying. They will swear by these new learning systems, frequently guaranteeing you better results than prior methods could offer; all you have to do is participate in some sort of gimmick. Simon Gray, founder of Speedy Vocab, challenges these false prophets with a simpler approach to learning Chinese. His “gimmick” being the total lack of a gimmick. Rather than offering a brand-new studying technique, his English language website and its accompanying mobile application (available for android and IOS) take a different approach, instead modernizing a classic method of studying that has been employed by students across all disciplines for ages: flashcards.
SpeeedyVocab is an intuitive Chinese language learning system that teaches Mandarin Chinese vocabulary without reinventing the wheel. The course structure is based around HSK vocabulary (ranging from unleveled “Intro” through HSK level 5). After finding your appropriate level via Speedy Vocab’s proficiency test, or simply choosing the level at which you would like to start learning, new words are introduced through digital flashcards and then reinforced through sentence building exercises and quizzes. The charm of Speedy Vocab is its simplicity and this becomes even more apparent as you visit the website. The website is aesthetically pleasing, using soft colors and not overwhelming the user with clickable options. This straight forward, almost compact feeling of the site (and the app) will persist throughout the entire user experience and really was very pleasant. When starting a new Chinese regiment or even going on any website for the first time, I find it very easy to become overwhelmed and overlook part of the learning system. This is not a risk for Speedy Vocab.
The content of Speedy Vocab is aimed at all levels of Chinese learner but can only be accessed in its full form through a membership. While there is a free trial option, this only gives you access to 50 Chinese Characters and 50 Audio Playbacks. To access the full extent of Speedy Vocab’s resources there are two options: the Monthly Plan and the Lifetime Plan. The former costs $10 per month while the latter is a one time payment of $100. Both options give you unlimited access to vocabulary words and audio files so it is up to the user to decide which plan is right for them. I would highly recommend the Free Trial to all Chinese students as not only will this help you decide whether or not you would like to make that financial commitment, but also because it adds you to the Speedy Vocab email list. I have already receieved some useful tips about the site and it gives a nice sense of being a part of the Chinese language learning community.
The most notable part of Speedy Vocab is its interactive digital flashcard system. When presented with a new set of vocabulary (ranging from 5 to 20 words at a time based on user preference), users are able to flip over cards and study them at their own pace, reshuffling and repeating until they feel comfortable with the words. Audio clips of each word’s correct pronunciation is also included to enhance the process of vocabulary acquisition.
After the user feels comfortable with the vocabulary, they are able to test themselves via quizzes and sentence building exercises which are all based on the previously studied vocabulary. The team at Speedy Vocab smartly attributes being able to put what you have learned into practice as the key to memorization, so they placed that as the final hurdle to prove a word has been “learnt.” All sentences also come with audio guides to further improve listening and pronunciation skills.
Once you successfully complete a vocabulary set, the words are added to a “Total Words Learnt” total which when placed in comparison to the 3,196 words offered, allows you to keep track of your progress, as well as easily review. There is also a timer available to track how long you have studied.
I would like to take this moment to reinterate that there is also a Speedy Vocab app available which gives you all of the same benefits as the website but from your phone or tablet.
This is where the simplicity of the website really shines. The easy-to-use layout does not miss a step as a mobile app having no concessions in return for the conveninece. Its cleanly designed interface was just as enjoyable to use on app as on the website.
The site was designed to serve as a “powerful addition” to your already existent language learning strategy or regiment. The developers urge the users of Speedy Vocab to view the resource as supplementary rather than as a cure-all. Overall, I think Speedy Vocab can offer some high-quality practice for not only general Chinese learning but also for focused HSK prep and the on-the-go option that the app gives makes it a force in the mobile language learning app market.
In closing, I was very pleased with the idea behind Speedy Vocab, not only in its modernizing of the flashcard system but in its HSK-based structure. I feel that it allows Speedy Vocab to maximize both the practicality and the relevance of the vocabulary it introduces. With cost as the only real drawback I would absolutely recommend the free trial as I thoroughly enjoyed all of my time with it. In my opinion this is a great, albeit pricey, resource to your Mandarin studies but I leave it to you to assess its monetary value.
The app both on ios and android are officially launched now. For those especially hesitant about the price, Speedy Vocab will be offering 50% off both monthly and lifetime subscriptions for the first two weeks post launch. Don`t miss the special offer!