Review: New Flashsticks App

Hi guys! As you may have seen from some of my 6WC progress reports, I’ve been playing around (a lot!) with the new FlashSticks app – and it’s kind of awesome.

So here are my thoughts on it – and, why I’ve been using it so much!

Review FlashSticks App

Alright, so I did do that one video review about FlashSticks wayyyyy back in January I think – and I said then that although the app was interesting (you could use it to scan the FlashSticks and get a video of the pronunciation/sign), it did seem a little unnecessary. There are, after all, plenty of other places you can find those things and although it was all nicely laid out, I, at least, wasn’t really using it.

So when I got an email about a month ago from FlashSticks, saying they’d released the new app, I was pretty excited to try it out – and I’m pleased to say that some cool features have been added.

First things first; when you open up the app it asks you to create an account – which I just did by linking it to my Facebook account, but you can do that however you like. Then you get this home screen:

Flashsticks app home

Scan FlashStick is the same as before; point it at your FlashStick and scan it and a video will pop up with the pronunciation. Cool. I honestly haven’t watched the Explainer Video (oops!) and the Go Unlimited leads you to a screen that asks you to upgrade for more access, which I haven’t really investigated either (more on that later).

For now, we’ll just look at the Learning Journey and Scan Object choices.

The Learning Journey opens up a screen like this:

Learning Journey 1

Each of those pictures corresponds to a set of FlashSticks in the beginner, intermediate or advanced set – usually there are seventy-five words per category, though the Basics and Bonus Words categories are different (fifty and one hundred and fifty, respectively). Choose one of the categories, and suddenly things look like this:

Learning Journey 2

(Well, the language doesn’t just change, but you get what I mean.)

On the left you have all the words in that category, in their digital FlashStick forms (and some of the pictures are so cute). If you look at the words, you can see all kinds of different information about them: grammar tips, related words, useful sentences – and you can even make your own notes to help you remember! On the right, you have Word Challenges – games designed to test you on what you’ve learnt. The only way to fill that progress bar or add to your word score is to get the words right in the two games currently available – word flash and word drop.

Word flash kind of reminds me of that game show Catchphrase; you see different parts of the FlashStick and you have to match it to the English or TL word. Word drop is a spelling game; you get all of the letters and then you have to put them in the right order. Both are fun games and challenging in different ways – you get all the letters in word drop but if it’s a long word and you really don’t know it, you might run out of time; you can wait until you see the picture to guess the English word in word flash but if you really don’t know the TL word, you’ll probably still get it wrong.

The other games look like they’ll be fun too, though I don’t know when they’ll be developed. Also, as of right now you can only do a Learning Journey for French or Spanish, but BSL, English, German and Italian are listed as coming soon. I am really excited to see how it goes with BSL; that’s definitely one I’d like to try out!

So that’s how the Learning Journey goes – if you do all three levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced), then you learn a total of 2,300 words, which is a fair amount to get through. It’s a pretty cool way of learning lots of different words and I really enjoyed going through it for Spanish (and am enjoying it for French; it’s so colourful and addictive!).

Now, to Scan Object.

This, I think, is really really cool. Maybe I’m just easily impressed, but I love it.

Basically you use this to scan any object (any object) and it will tell you what that object is and give you a translation – in way more languages than are offered for the Learning Journey, or even for FlashSticks themselves.

Let me show you a few I tried today:

Object scan cow 1

Object scan stapler 1 Object scan nail varnish 1

These were just three things I found on my desk – and I was really impressed at however it is they’re identified, this was awesome! The translations look a little iffy, maybe, but considering the number of languages involved and the fact that you can scan almost anything, then I would assume it’s machine translated. For most languages you can play audio too, which is cool – but let’s take a quick look at that little simplify button…

What that does is allow you to choose some words from what the object has been identified as and only translate what you pick. So, like this:

Object scan cow 2 Object scan nail varnish 3 Object scan stapler 2

I didn’t need beige with the little Milka cow and I didn’t need the colours of my panda stapler, so I got rid of those and translated the basics – which tends to be a little more accurate. I’ve also just shown Mandarin, Spanish and German here, but they had translations for words in Slovak too (yay!) as well as, like I mentioned, loads of other languages – so it might be worth downloading it and playing around with that.

Now: why am I using the app so much?

Basically, I was invited to be involved in the FlashSticks challenge – I, along with a bunch of other language bloggers/YouTubers and journalists, am trying to learn as many words on the app as possible by the end of November.

I’ve already learnt all the Spanish words, which is why I’ve been trying out the French ones too – and I’m surprised to see how many I remember!

This is also why I don’t really know much about the subscription model that’s going on; for the purposes of the challenge (and because I agreed to review the app), my account has been upgraded so I can’t see how much it costs per feature or per year.

So yes, I’m sorry that I don’t know what the restrictions on the free version of the app are, but it’s free to download and should be easy enough then to find out what happens when you upgrade.

There are, however, a few things that I don’t like so much, which are:

  • you need an internet connection. You can’t log in without an internet connection (at least, I couldn’t!) and you can’t (obviously) download notes without one. I found that out the hard way; I have 1GB of data per month on my phone out here and I blasted through it this month in eleven days (accidental FaceTiming problems…) so now I have to use the app when I’m on wifi. Something to be aware of if you’re like me and tend to do this sort of thing.
  • the app is still in development; so some of the games aren’t available and it can occasionally be a little glitchy. Plus if you’re not learning French or Spanish then it’s not going to be of as much use to you. However, the object scan feature does work in many different languages, so there’s that.
  • it’s based on FlashSticks, which means there’s a certain set of vocabulary that you can’t change. Not so great if you have other words to learn and want to use this app, but if you’re looking to learn some core vocabulary, then it’s fairly good.

How good then is this app for language learning? 

For me, it’s a nice addition to the resources I already have. I sailed through 2,300 words of Spanish vocabulary in I think less than a week, so I can’t pretend that I know them all well, but it consolidated my knowledge of lots of those words and, most importantly, it was fun. Watching your score go up is a little addictive (I cannot emphasise enough how much I’m drawn in by gameified things…) and it’s all bright and colourful and encourages you to learn. It might not be the be all and end all of language learning apps, but it’s a great addition to a pretty useful product – and it doesn’t feel like it’s simply trying to sell you the product the entire time, which is a nice change.

Plus, the initial version is free, so it’s got to be worth a try, right?

Let me know if you’ve used the app before and if you have, what you thought of it! I’m sure there’s probably points I’ve missed, but this post has definitely gone on long enough. 😉 Until next time!

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