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January 22, 2008 12:51 AM   Subscribe

I am in a search of a program that will help me memorize words...

I am an avid reader, but since English is my second language, I've been using dictionary a lot. I've noticed that I had to look up the same words twice, thrice and so on, so for some time I've been thinking about making a word collection and sticking everything on my wall in a post-it-note fashion. Now, writing every word down will prove a tedious task. For example, I was reading Nabokov's Lolita (which by the way, molested me on more than one level) :) and I can't even remember how many times I had to look through a dictionary per single paragraph.

What I am looking for is software or something, that will automate the whole process, where I copy/paste a certain definition in the program (or whatever) and that would create (PDF perhaps?) pages that I can later print, cut and stick on my wall.

Does anybody know something resembling what I am describing?
posted by GrooveStix to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I actually find the art of writing down whatever I'm hoping to remember helps me to remember.

Otherwise, why not Word or any other word processing document? If you structure it
Word TAB definition PARAGRAPH
you will be able to sort it it alphabetically after each new entry.
posted by b33j at 1:21 AM on January 22, 2008

Writing down does help, but the abovementioned example is not even close to extreme, to explain what I go through when I read some other more "gifted" writers. Also, I've tried doing the Word processor shebang, but it is a very high maintenance for me. Wanna try organize my Best-of-Nabokov 200 word collection? :)

So something that will organize everything in different sized blocks (different colors too, maybe), and let me only worry about my printer ink running out(as usual), is much better than any word processor...
Maybe even a Firefox extension (wink, wink) could help!
posted by GrooveStix at 1:54 AM on January 22, 2008

I'm not sure if it enables creating a printable sheet, but iFlash works really well for memorizing vocabulary.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 2:08 AM on January 22, 2008

I do have an access to a Mac, but I don't own one (got stuck on WinXp). Maybe I'll just ask some of my fanboy Mac evangelists, to try the program and let me know...
posted by GrooveStix at 2:23 AM on January 22, 2008

Flashcard Exchange lets you do essentially what you want, plus you can play Memory with your words.
posted by buka at 5:48 AM on January 22, 2008

I think that hand-written paper flash cards are the best. The act of writing out a definition helps me memorize in a way that typing does not.
posted by sockpup at 7:39 AM on January 22, 2008

Genius 1.7 is the most . . . GENIUS program I've downloaded in a while. They do flash cards, sure, but they do them in such a way as to remind you of the ones you're prone to getting wrong and reinforce the ones you're correct about.

(Sorry, Mac users only)
posted by arnicae at 9:47 AM on January 22, 2008

This would be an excellent Firefox add-in feature: every time you click to look up a word, it keeps that lookup in a log that you can export to a flashcard application (or they could build a flashcard app into the add-in).

But if that isn't available, how about this? There’s an add-in called "Enhanced History Manager" (try here) (and, dude, it's number 420) that allows you to sort your Firefox history and copy and paste from it. I just used it to copy and paste some test lookups to a Word document. Then maybe you can import the text file into a flashcard application.

So: read in your browser (even Lolita, I suppose), be sure to look up every word you don't know, even if you don't read the definition when you look it up, and eventually export the dictionary lookup history to a flashcard application.
posted by pracowity at 10:40 AM on January 22, 2008

I'm a huge fan of VTrain and the Leitner system for memorizing things. VTrain has a lot of keyboard shortcuts, which facilitates flashcard creation. Also their printing options are nice.

VTrain's main competition seems to be SuperMemo; you could check that out as well.

It's not totally automated, but it should get you pretty close.
posted by blahtsk at 4:53 PM on January 22, 2008

I use provoc. It is a great piece of software, is free, and does exactly what you want (customizable print-outs).

It is Mac OS X only though (but works on leopard!).
posted by benji at 7:16 PM on January 22, 2008

My favorite flashcard program is FullRecall. However lately I've been using one called OpenCards, which piggybacks on openoffice impress, so you get great formatting capabilities for multimedia in the cards. Both are nice in that they are cross platform, but fullrecall is the more mature out of the two.
posted by Syntoad at 7:29 PM on January 22, 2008

Might help if I actually read the whole question first huh? If you're wanting printable cards check out It's free, and it creates pdfs. Aside from that I will also second flashcard exchange, but I'm not sure if you can print from a free account.
posted by Syntoad at 7:37 PM on January 22, 2008

The only problem is that I have to pay $20 to print (too much for a college student) but I'll tinker with it and see what is there to do.

@arnicae & benji
I'll look into those programs as a alternate solution, so thanks for the info, Apple might save the day after all.

I wish I knew somebody who can code extensions, I would definitely harass them to write something simple and useful, like this. :) BTW, I indeed read the last quarter of Lolita in my browser, because I used this dictionary program that gave me instant M-W definitions when I middle-clicked on a certain word. That's how I managed to finish the book, unlike many other perverts. :)

@blahtsk & Syntoad
Whoa, so many people, so many ideas. Tell you what, I'll try your suggestions and I'll send you a special *thank you* note if you manage to resolve this erm mental molestation (I know the verb is wrong, but I am inclined to carry on with the overall theme) :)

I hope I am not stopping people for sharing more ideas with this post, I know it's demented, and professional help is sought. Certain keywords that I didn't think of before (notecards, flashcards...) will surely help me find what I am looking for.
posted by GrooveStix at 8:14 PM on January 22, 2008

Let me share my method for memorizing Chinese words and characters. It works pretty well. You can vary it to suit your needs.

--hundreds of blank white business cards (you can buy them from some paper wholesaler or printing supply store)
--one pack of colored blank business cards (any color)
--rubber bands (always keep a fresh supply -- they can get old and snap)
--small pencils (I use the kind that are plastic tubes filled with plastic pencil points. They're sturdy and never wear out because you can take the old point out of the front, and put it into the back to push the new point out the front. The ones I use are about 10cm long, so I can put them in any pocket. You could use pens if you want, but pencils are easier to erase if you goof)

--While reading, write each new word on one side of a card. You can look up the definition right then and write it on the back, or you can collect several of them and write the definitions on the back later.
--When I want to write the definition on the back, I flip the card over by turning the top of the card to the bottom; I don't flip the card over like turning a page in a book. The reason for this is when you study the cards, it is much easier and more natural to flip them this way.
--After you've made about 50 cards with the word on one side and the definition (or native language meaning) on the other, take 25 cards and put them in a pile. Put a mark (any mark) on one side of a colored card, and then put that colored card on the top of that pile. This is your working pile. Put a rubber band around it.
--Put another colored card on the top of the remaining cards. This is your extra pile (which will also double as your already-studied pile, as I'll demonstrate below). Put a rubber band around it.
--Put both packs in your pocket, with a pencil or two.

--Pick up your working pack and put it face up (with the mark on the colored card facing you) in your left hand (or right hand if you're left-handed). Take the rubber band off and put it around the middle and ring fingers of your left hand. Take the colored card and move it to the back without flipping it over (the colored card never gets flipped over. It's purpose is just to let you know which is the front of the pack; the mark you made faces front).
--Look at the first word. Can you say the definition? Flip the card over and see if you are right. If you are right, put a mark in the upper right hand corner of the word side, then flip the card over to the definition side, and move it to the back. If you can't say the definition, don't make a mark, and move the card to the back without flipping it over.
--As time permits, do more cards. Eventually the colored card will come back to the front of the pack. When this happens, just move it to the back again without flipping it over.
--By now you will have some cards come up on the definition side (because you were right in saying the definition when you saw the word). Looking at the definition, can you say the word? Flip the card over to see if you are right. If you are right, put a mark in the upper right hand corner of the word side, then flip the card over to the word side, and move it to the back. If you can't say the word, don't make a mark, and move the card to the back without flipping it over.
--When you have five marks in the upper right hand corner of a card both on the word side and on the definition side, you know the word. Take it out of the pile and put it on top of the colored card on the extra (not-yet-studied) pile. Now the colored card on that pile divides what you have already studied from what you haven't yet studied. Take a new card from that pack, and put it in your working pack. This way, your working pack always has 25 cards in it.

You can study these cards anywhere, anytime you have even a few seconds. If you're in a boring meeting, or something like that, you can hold the cards in your hands and do a card here and there, while still paying attention to the meeting. I study cards when I'm in a taxi or on the bus, walking, waiting for someone, during group conversations when the topic turns to something uninteresting, etc. My (Chinese) vocabulary is steadily increasing.

Hope this helps.
posted by strangeguitars at 6:54 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

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