Stick to Language Learning: A Review of FlashSticks

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My office is almost always messy; a fact that irritates my wife and leads my feet to small sharp objects from time to time. Every so often I attempt to clean it a little bit but following Christmas this year I am finally able to take advantage of the piles of junk and use my disorderly ways to boost my French vocabulary.

What can I say, I’m an opportunist!

Having junk everywhere means that I can now use my brand new FlashSticks notes to make my office even messier.

FlashSticks are – quite simply – sticky flashcards that you can post all over things in your home, office, school or, well, anywhere really. I’m sure they’re not the first people to realize that sticking word tags on everything is a decent way to improve your language skills, but they do appear to be the first ones to literally use custom Post-It notes.

FlashSticks are, like I said before, an incredibly simple method for advancing your foreign language vocabulary. You simply peel the word you’re looking for off of the pad and stick it on whatever it represents.

As you go about your life, wandering about your home you passively encounter words as you wander your typical route between the computer, the fridge and the keurig.

  

Or maybe that’s just me.

But through my thoroughly domestic travels I can now immerse myself in a magical realm of flashcards conveniently placed throughout my house.

For those of you who follow any of my other recent posts I’ve mentioned a couple times over the past two weeks now that my goal for 2015 is to learn 100 French words per month – a rather humble goal, I think, but one I intend to supplement with FlashSticks.

Furthermore – and this is pretty cool – FlashSticks are color coded according to gender; pink for feminine, blue for masculine, yellow for neuter and green for non-applicable words.

You may call that sexist, but it’s a horribly efficient and easily remembered system that works. Especially for native English speakers like me who have a hard time learning and remembering genders in a foreign language.

You can see this illustrated in the image below.

What is included?

I was gifted the French Beginner Box Set, a great big box with 600 French words of an introductory level difficulty, and I’ve honestly barely begun to scratch the surface of its contents.

Not only does it include hundreds of words, all assembled in a convenient booklet arranged by subject, but Flashsticks also includes something akin to stickerbooks in which you place the notes in their respective spots after you’re done (actively) learning with them.

It’s a nice way of keeping track of which words you’ve mastered – and lets face it, eventually sticky notes tend to lose their stick, and using them for their intended purpose begins to become more and more difficult. This is a great way to keep your collection preserved past its original use.

It’s a simple package, and it’s a simple product. The only real hassle being cleaning up fallen sticky notes from the floor because you stuck them to a weird surface. And if there are shortcomings with the stickiness – they’re the fault of Post-It, not FlashSticks.

There’s an app for that

So big sticky flashcards are all well and good you say, but couldn’t I just make my own? Write a word down on a Post-It note and voila?

Sure, and that’s actually not a bad idea – though it would be a lot of work – especially if you wanted to make 600 of them.

However, and you know how much I love this stuff, FlashSticks has an app, something your homegrown notes probably will not! The app accesses the camera on your phone or tablet. All you have to do is hover your device over the card in question and just like a QR scanner it will read the card and offer you a super quick video with a fantastically high quality audio recording of your word.

The ability to hear the words you’re learning spoken by fluent speakers is really invaluable and it’s something many other flashcard apps and programs do not always come with.

Oh, and it’s totally free – albeit it does no good if you don’t purchase the notes themselves first.

The cons


It’s kind of hard to argue with something as elegantly simple as flashcards with glue so my biggest complaints are mostly in regards to the stickiness of the notes. Again, not really an awful lot FlashSticks can do about this, so you just need to be careful and try not to stomp fallen notes into the ground too much.

As always – and I hope it goes without saying by now – you can’t learn a language in its entirety using FlashSticks, obviously. You need to diversify your learning strategies as much as possible and realize that this product is a supplement to other methods, not a replacement.

I’m not a huge fan of the phonetic (pronunciation) style and would personally prefer it if it were written using IPA.(Though I understand it’s not fair to expect the general population to read IPA)  I think the used style could be confusing and lead to inaccurate pronunciations with languages that differ drastically from English – especially anything tonal. However an easy work-around for this problem is to use the app if you’re uncertain of a particular pronunciation. It only takes a second and you get to hear it from a native.

All in all a forgivable shortcoming.

Product information

FlashSticks are currently available in French, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, German, Portuguese, English and British Sign Language. It is likely that more languages could be added in the future.
The Sticks are available in three levels, Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced, and vary slightly in their offerings. For example French is available both in 200 word packs for $7.65 (€ 6.35, £4.99) as well as a Beginner’s Starter Set, a much larger box of 600 words that includes the booklets. The starter set runs around $46 (€38.31, £29.99).

Many languages are only offered in the 200 word packs.

The mobile app is available for both Android and iOS devices and is completely free with the purchase of FlashSticks.

Conclusion

I would absolutely recommend FlashSticks as a superb addition to your language learning toolkit.

The price is not too extreme, the value high and the product can be used almost anywhere you can find a semi-flat surface!

In addition, FlashSticks seem to me as though they could make an excellent tool for use in language classrooms looking to add a splash of color to the walls and decor, and are absolutely suitable for all ages and proficiency levels.

You can check out FlashSticks here on their website.

Have you used FlashSticks before? What are your thoughts?




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  • W8post

    “spoken by fluent speakers”, you mean those Americans who do not even speak/pronounce their own language, i.e., English, properly? (like the voices on Siri, Bing, Google translate)?

  • wjshelton

    So whose accent do YOU think is “proper”? Probably not mine, since I”m not only an American, but a Southerner….

  • I must admit I’m a bit confused by the comment as well.

    Why is it hard to believe that there are fluent speakers of the languages FlashSticks offers available to do audio recordings? Even in the US around 20% of the population speaks a language other than English natively in the home, and many more of us speak more than one language.

    Furthermore, FlashSticks is actually a British company, so no Americans were likely used in the making of this app.

    It would appear to me that your comment is simply a random stab at Americans and doesn’t seem especially relevant to anything.

  • Yes, that will do.

    That’s kind of interesting actually. I’m surprised that they would have such a difficult time. When I was working in ESL we were working primarily with immigrants looking to work on citizenship goals.

    Most of them were exceptionally poor and didn’t do an awful lot of traveling. At the time I never really wondered how the English we taught them could alter their experience depending on where in the anglosphere they may have gone.

    However, you still made the fairly straightforward assertion that Americans don’t or can’t speak their own language “properly”. As the other commentor asks – what is proper?

    Like I said, it does seem like a simple stab at Americans, but what you’re describing isn’t a flaw with Americans or American English. Accents and dialects are simply different, not inferior, unnatural or anything else.

    I’m guessing that in Mexico most ESL learners are learning American English for obvious geographical reasons. I’m also fairly certain you were taught British English growing up or in school or whatever, right?

    I’ve worked with ESL tutors in the past whose native languages were not English – you actually make superb teachers because you tend to have a strong grasp on what it’s like to learn English and can more easily relate to a learner and their struggles. But there were occasionally “complications” when it came to British English speakers teaching non-speakers American English, or British English in America.

    Anyway my concern originally was that your comment was simply taking a stab at Americans, linguistically – a frequent phenomenon actually, and one that seemed to be irrelevant to the topic.

    That doesn’t really appear to be the case anymore, so I apologize if my own response was misconstrued.

    Thanks for commenting again though! I’d love to teach English in Mexico, alas life had other plans.

  • W8post

    Not exactly the topic, but it’s about English/English.
    Once I was on the Board of Directors of a social group of Foreigners in Mexico. So I met this new guy from Seattle who was anxious to retire and settle in MX. (Then!) He was the [ex] head of Human Resources at Boeing; not a first class ‘dumbo’ so to say. He asked me for something to read, with preference anything that dealt with MX. I gave him the book ‘Mornings in Mexico” of D.H.Lawrence. After a week we met again and I asked him he liked the book. ‘John’ answered: “Can’t read it, don’t understand; IT IS IN ENGLISH [sic].

  • Well perhaps John’s issues weren’t that he literally couldn’t understand the words so much as the content. I mean as much as I’d like to understand physics if you gave me the Memoirs of Richard Feynman I’d probably not understand anything.

    Also, just because the man is intelligent in one aspect – be it business, HR, engineering, etc, doesn’t mean he had the patience for or the interest in culture/languages that are probably necessary for relocating successfully.

    I’m sure you can recall a certain ex-president of the US who isn’t going to be winning any High IQ Society merit badges. 😉

    Though, fun fact, Bush is actually conversational in Spanish – surely as a product of being a Texan, but our current, much more (generally) intelligent president, is extraordinarily monolingual.

    Bigger point though; you can’t judge Americans on one person’s inadequacies. But I can see where you’re coming from.

  • W8post

    Fot the time being I keep it up [?] with Stephen Hawking; but thanks for the reply. And yes, [or no], not all Americans [USA] are the same.