Reverse Flashcard programs

Posted on June 29, 2010


I would like to discuss one of the main issues encountered with using reverse flashcards programs, when you learn languages.

– Let’s take the example of the English word “striped”, like in the expression “I am wearing a striped jacket”.

You would translate “striped” for a “chaqueta” in Spanish by “a rayas” or “de rayas” but the words “rayada” and “listada” would also be correct.
Note that those last 2 Spanish words have a different meaning and means also “scratched” in English.

– The same word translated for a “veste” in French will be “à rayures”, “rayée”, “striée” and even “zébrée

– The reverse translation for the French “rayé” as an adjective is therefore “striped” for a fabric or “scratched” for a record or for a surface. You may also use “crossed out” in English for this word.

There are many examples such as this in foreign languages which makes learning language very funny sometimes. The point is that a serious vocabulary learning program must use for each word to learn a precise context, like “fabric” or “record, surface” to get the user to learn the right word in the proper context. Otherwise, so many possible situations or contexts will create a lot of confusion.

It is therefore absolutely impossible to translate these words from one language into the other and vice versa. The original meaning of the word might be completely lost and could lead to a totally false reverse translation.

Posted in: Education, Languages