Keep Your Word, produced by Bamboo Apps is a tool for those learning a new language. It allows you to build your own dictionary as new words are discovered, classifying and grouping the terms exactly how you want to, while helping you learn a large vocabulary through various exercise modes.
As someone who seems to lack the talent for learning new languages, I was interested to see how this app could help me to grasp the basics of a foreign tongue. The first thing to note is that Keep Your Word isn’t a tool to teach you a language from scratch. The application functions more as a learning aid as you learn a language elsewhere, allowing you to gradually categorize and build up a dictionary of vocabulary.
Far from being solely a database of words, you are able to create smart groups, add ‘tags’ to easily categorize sets of words and tell the application when you have successfully memorized a word. The main selling point is the collection of ‘exercise’ tools to assist in learning vocabulary. These consist of flash cards, quizzes and the ability to print word lists.
When first opening the application, I was a little disappointed to find a lack of pre-built dictionaries or word lists. The idea of needing to create an entire dictionary for yourself from scratch seemed daunting to say the least. Fortunately, Bamboo Apps have developed Words Parade in conjunction with Keep Your Word, allowing you to easily share and download pre-built dictionaries. At present, only a couple are available — Basic Mandarin and Cantonese — though I foresee more languages being added in the future.
If a comprehensive collection of different languages are gradually added, this has the potential to really take the application to a new level.
The interface for the application is surprisingly well polished, being intuitive to use and at no point causing me any confusion. This is important, as the application is not targeted at technical Mac users. The main database page makes it clear how many words are contained within each category, and you are able to select a word in order to assign tags, add comments and mark your progress at memorizing it.
The interface for browsing through flash cards is also intuitive, with key commands to quickly navigate around the screen (space flips a card over, arrows navigate between cards, and ‘m’ marks a card as memorized). The size of the cards also expands as you enlarge the app window, making it easy to see their contents from across the room. If you’re the kind of person who likes to spend a lazy Saturday morning brushing up on foreign vocab while still in bed, it’s an amazing feature!
A potential problem, which has been well preempted, is the issue of foreign character sets. A ‘character map’ window allows you to browse through the various characters for different languages — incredibly useful for a language such as Chinese or Japanese.
While Keep Your Word does the task it is designed to do very well, it remains very much a learning tool. It won’t help you understand how to construct sentences or pronounce words. Being so simple could well be a selling point for many people, who already have their primary learning method arranged.
There is certainly room for future additions, with the concept of having several languages pre-integrated taking priority from my point of view. While the accompanying website is a good concept, more languages will need to be added for it to really provide a useful resources.
Keep Your Word requires Mac OS X Leopard and is available to purchase for $24.99. The price may be a little expensive for the functionality the app provides, but if you’re learning a new language it is certainly worth experimenting with — you may just find it to be an invaluable learning tool.