Flashcards are an important part of any language learning strategy from time to time. One of the biggest problems with that, though, is how boring they can be; Anki’s flashcards are highly customizable and flexible, but it’s hard to learn to use them; Memrise’s flashcards are beautifully curated, but limited past beginner levels.
In this Quizlet review, let’s dive into this study app and website under the lens of what language learners need and don’t to see if Quizlet is a language learning resource that you need to be considering!
Quizlet review for language learners
When you first load up your Quizlet account (whether on desktop or mobile), you start out with kind of a blank screen. It took me a second to register what I was supposed to do first: either create your own study set or search for a specific term and study someone else’s terms. Not a great start for a Quizlet review, but I digress.
As a general rule, I say to avoid other folks’ sets because you can’t always be sure about their quality: if terms are accurate, themes are fully fleshed out, etc. But, considering I didn’t have my own set to start, I went ahead and searched for a French set.
This view is going to be the home for most of this Quizlet review!
As you can see on the left, Quizlet offers a bunch of different ways to learn its sets! The first option, Flashcards, is obvious: the term you’re learning on one side, the defining term or clue or whatever (with room for an image) on the other side. Next up we have “Learn”, and this is where things get interesting!
For the purposes of this Quizlet review, I opted for the 7-day free trial of Quizlet Plus (which I’ll flesh out more in-depth later). I was surprised by the next prompts I got when I went to “Learn” this set!
Okay, turns out Quizlet is pretty smart! Considering this particular set was the first 2,000 most common words in French, I assumed that I knew most of it already. But, of course, I had to try out that last feature: take a test to find out!
In that drop-down menu, you can opt to be prompted either with the term or the definition, so you can test either your active or passive understanding of the term (getting ready for a test, or do you want to be able to use these terms in conversation?).
I do like this feature, but I’m not in love with it. First, I’d love if there was an option to switch to fill-in-the-blank, especially for language learners. Multiple choice makes it way too easy to guess, and foreign languages don’t come with multiple choice in real life. Also, if you don’t know a term and want to skip it, it won’t let you move forward. So you HAVE to guess. Which means you run the risk of Quizlet thinking you know a term that you don’t know.
Next step is “proving” your knowledge with flashcards.
Again with the multiple-choice. Meh.
I could easily guess a lot of these multiple-choice terms, but I know I wouldn’t actually be learning them so I purposefully chose the wrong answer (choosing nouns for what were clearly supposed to be phrases, for example).
I was excited to see the little audio icon in the upper right corner, only to realize that it was giving me the audio of the English term that I was supposed to be translating. Unhelpful, especially for French where pronunciation is tough.
I’d had enough. Clicked the “options” button in the top corner. Apparently, the thing that I didn’t like was the Pro feature of “Guidance”?
With the “Guidance” feature, Quizlet dictated the type of questions I was getting. When I turned that off, all of a sudden I had the flexibility for some more active language learning. Specifically, I could choose from the following question types:
- Flash cards
- Multiple choice
Finally! Now, there’s nothing wrong with flashcards and multiple-choice at first, but as you continue with your vocab, you should definitely be opting for active recall. This is important not only to train your brain to actually recall the word (not just recognize it) but also to get used to spelling, accents, etc.
Now THAT’s more like it! This is a much more functional way to remember that I need that “l'” in there. If this were multiple-choice or a flashcard, I probably wouldn’t be learning that small detail, which can be important. And, if it’s not important to me, I can always just override the wrong answer there. YES!
And if you don’t know the answer? Literally, click the button that says “I don’t know” – it’ll mark it as incorrect, then tell you the correct answer for next time.
Of course, all of this can be accomplished by just going the “Write” route from the beginning. But it’s really worth mentioning that just going by “Learn” is really not going to be effective for using the language in real-life settings. Passing a multiple-choice exam? Sure. Actual conversational knowledge? Nope.
Speaking of active use of the language, next up we have “Spell”! I do like this – one of my issues outside of “Spell” is that while there is audio, the audio is of the word you’re trying to translate, so the English term. Might help with some accessibility, but not with language learning.
Here you have an audio clip of someone saying the French word, which is helpful for listening comprehension! I like how they provide you with the accents so you can practice actually spelling the word correctly, keeping you accountable for using accents that many language learners ignore and assume are unnecessary.
Active recall? Check.
Listening comprehension? Check.
Helpful corrections when you get it wrong? Check.
Spelling practice is where it’s at for some simple listening practice as well as learning to actually spell foreign language words!
Finally, this section is a combination of all the options to help you test your knowledge. You get written, matching, multiple-choice, and true/false questions. Now, for testing, this is fine, in my opinion. If it’s SUPER important to you to truly test your active recall you may want to skip this and that’s your prerogative, but this section can be helpful to get a general idea of where you are.
My results for this test are an excellent example of why learning active recall is important!
Matching (especially when the words are so closely related)? Easy enough to lazily pick and choose the right answer. Written? Not so much.
BUT, I am glad that in this section, Quizlet allowed me to skip questions and just have them marked wrong. If you go into the options you can also mess with question type, the number of questions, etc. That’s nice, but what I would really like is to see some more practice stemming from these answers; so, for example, have Quizlet automatically test me again on the terms I missed.
That’s me being super nit-picky, keep in mind!
Now let’s try the “Play” options!
“Match” is a pretty simple concept: you have a handful of terms and their translations on the screen. Competing against the timer, you match up the terms with their translations.
I imagine this would be more interesting/difficult with more difficult terms, but you get the picture!
You can play as many times as you want, competing against other users who have also played this game to this flashcard set. It’s not quite as competitive as Duolingo, but you also don’t run the risk of getting hung up on things that don’t matter, either.
Just like “Match”, “Gravity” is really simple, of course. Very early-2000’s online gaming. (PS. if you like that idea and are at an intermediate level, allow me to introduce you to Clozemaster!).
“Gravity” is a lot more entertaining, and also a lot more active! In the beginning, you choose to either have to recall the term or the translation, but nonetheless you’re still writing stuff out.
Very engaging, very useful. You get one shot to get it right (press escape to skip the term and get the answer) before you get that term as a red asteroid. Get the red asteroid wrong and you lose the game!
If you scroll down past all that fun stuff (everything mentioned so far is accessible from the very first thing you see, that image at the top of this post), you can also go ahead and scroll through the vocab itself.
This particular set is fairly engaging but remember: non-professional content is not the most reliable. I mean even from here, only one term has an image. So settle your expectations unless you’re willing to curate this stuff yourself.
What I don’t like: when you click the audio button on the right, it’s great that you get to hear the French term…but I don’t need to hear the English term as well. Again, this may be helpful for accessibility reasons, but for me? That’s just straight-up annoying.
What I do like: click the stars to have more control over which terms you’re studying! This particular set has 2,000 terms, which can definitely be overwhelming. This is a fairly simple system for taking it a little bit at a time and learning better!
And while these terms are organized between “Still Learning”, “Mastered”, and “Not Studied”, it’s not the most obvious to me at first, and especially wouldn’t be with ads. It’s the little things!
Quizlet Plus is…a thing. If you’re happy studying others’ decks, it’s really just not necessary, not in my opinion. So, basically, unless you’re specifically looking for a high level of vocabulary or niche themes, you don’t need it.
I do have to say that if you want to use Quizlet to create your own decks. these perks may be beneficial to you: custom images/audio, diagrams, and scanning in documents, in particular. With Quizlet Plus you do get closer to a less overwhelming Anki. Not quite as flexible as Anki, but definitely getting there.
Nonetheless, Quizlet Plus is very reasonably priced! I don’t see any option to pay for it monthly which feels icky, but less than $50 for a year is a pretty solid price if it’s worth it to you. Quizlet Plus also comes with a free 7-day trial for you to test it out yourself, just like I used for this Quizlet review.
Quizlet review: in conclusion
To end this Quizlet review: I like Quizlet! It’s smooth (without ads – with ads it’s absolutely atrocious, but they do have to pay the bills!), it’s visually appealing, and there are several options to make studying vocabulary more engaging! So should you use it?
I think if you thoroughly enjoy Quizlet for getting in basic vocab, there’s no problem using it for free. There are a million and a half different ways to learn simple foreign language vocabulary, and if Quizlet is the thing that works for you, go for it!
If you want to use Quizlet to create your own decks, that’s when Quizlet Plus may come in handy. You can create simple flashcards no problem, and Quizlet’s features do make them more engaging as-is, but for all the bells and whistles you do have to loosen the purse strings a bit. And, if you’ve got $50 to spare/year, that’s a steal!
In conclusion? Quizlet gets my vote for digital flashcards!