Clozemaster – A better vocabulary app than Duolingo?

Learning vocabulary through digital flashcards is a very popular method among autodidacts. We at Language Mentoring usually recommend the AnkiDroid app (or Brainscape for iOS users). Still our fans and students complain that they first have to create the flashcards themselves, which they do not feel like doing.

Yes, we are all aware that creating your own flashcards using new vocabulary e.g. from a TV series is several times more effective than learning from a previously existing word list. Today, however, let’s look for a solution for those of you who want to learn vocabulary through an app in a fun way and are searching for something more effective than the popular Duolingo. The answer is: Clozemaster!

Not your usual flashcards

Clozemaster logo

The name Clozemaster consists of two words – ‘cloze’ and ‘master’. ‘Cloze’ denotes a type of exercise in which you fill in blank spaces in sentences with the right words. And that’s exactly what working with this app is all about – you’ll become a master at filling in the blanks. 🙂

After a free install (available for both Android and iOS), you’ll choose what language you are learning and which one you already know. English speakers can choose from dozens of available languages to learn.

How it works

Clozemaster - choose Vocabulary, Listening, Multiple choice or Text input

Clozemaster is available on desktop (through a browser) or as a phone app, and after registering and logging in, your progress will be synchronized in both versions. All you need is an internet connection.

After choosing a language combination, the app will show you multiple learning options:

  • MULTIPLE CHOICE – this option means you will be choosing one of four words to fill in.
  • TEXT INPUT – you will be typing in with the keyboard. Because this is a more challenging option, a correct answer will award you double points!
  • If you choose CLOZE-LISTENING, the app will first read out the sentence on every flashcard, then show you the sentence with a missing word. Your job is to add the missing word based on what you heard – again, either by choosing from one of the solutions offered, or by typing in the word with your keyboard. If you have the free version, you’ll have only one unit in the ‘LISTENING’ category available per day. If you want to use this option more often, you’ll have to buy the PRO version.

Managing your flashcards

Given the fact that you do not create your own cards in Clozemaster and are using a previously existing corpus, you may come across a unit containing a type of vocabulary that’s not important to you and you don’t want to learn. The developers made sure you can choose what exactly you want to do with the given flashcard.

To do this, you can click on one of the 5 little icons that appear after your answer:

Clozemaster - What is on the screen after you select a word
  • Speakers – you can replay the sentence.
  • Check mark – you can pick this option when you have completely mastered the flashcard. The app will then mark it as 100% learned and subsequently won’t show it to you again (or only very rarely).
  • Cross – If you don’t have a clue what to fill in to the sentence, mark it with a cross icon. The app will then return your learned score back to 0% and will proceed to show you this flashcard more often in the future.
  • Star – you can use this to save a card to your favorites (only available in the paid version).
  • Using the Stop sign you will tell the app to ignore a card and to never show it to you again.

Thanks to these options you can easily filter out any irrelevant vocabulary and focus on the words you want. 

(Regular) repetition is the mother of skill

Clozemaster shows you flashcards based on the Spaced Repetition System algorithm (or SRS for short). New cards and cards you haven’t seen before are shown to you more often so that you encounter them more regularly.

The higher your learned score is (on a scale from 0-100%), the less you will see the given card. There’s a whole science to this, thanks to which we know how often we need to see the flashcards, so that they are saved to our long-term memory as effectively as possible. Many other popular flashcard apps are based on this principle, like Anki or Quizlet just to name a few.

An app better than Duolingo

Clozemaster shares a lot of similarities with Duolingo, one of the most popular vocabulary learning apps in the world. You’ve probably already come across this name and its owl mascot. Duolingo also offers going over vocabulary within sentences and testing your familiarity with them in multiple ways.

But there’s one key difference between them: in Duolingo, you must regularly repeat completed units, no matter how well you know the vocabulary. On the other hand, Clozemaster uses the SRS principle described above. Even if you already knew all the words from the first 10 units of Duolingo, you’ll still have to go over them again in a few days. The same frequency also applies to words that give you a hard time. That’s why the rate of words successfully saved into your long-term memory is relatively low in Duolingo, and why many learners are disappointed after learning about this in a few weeks. In this respect I consider Clozemaster to be a more effective app.

Can’t get far without context

We always say that when writing down vocabulary into your Goldlist or on flashcards, it is better to write down whole phrases rather than just single words. This is because when you connect a few words, grammar and syntax take hold. That means learning them will come way more naturally than cramming them into your head from textbooks.

Clozemaster presents the words in context

Clozemaster presents the words to you as parts of sentences, giving you the entire context you need. That’s a big plus. In addition, when you repeat the sentences aloud, you will see that learning will be far easier for you.

What about system?

That’s what’s so great about it! You always have the app at your fingertips, so you can play around with it anywhere. You can use it to fill down time, when you’re waiting for something, eating lunch, or commuting. Or you can tell yourself that you are going to have 10 minutes with it as a reward for completing a conversation class or two pages from an autodidacts’ book. The possibilities are endless.

It’s really fun

The app has an attractive 8-bit design that will remind you of your childhood days spent playing video games. However, I would like to mention a small quibble about the app. At first glance, the user interface is not very user-friendly, but after looking around a bit, you’ll see that it’s actually very simple.

Whenever you fill in the right word on a flashcard, you’ll hear a congratulatory ‘ding!’, which is really motivating 🙂. The title screen also features a leader board button. There, you’ll see all the cool people with the biggest amount of points, as well as your current position. Well, doesn’t that just make you want to reach the top ten? 🙂

Something for the more advanced

Some users report that the app often contains slang and colloquialisms, sometimes even more vulgar words show up. That can make it a bit harder to select the word the card wants from you. If you do not want to learn such vocabulary, you can go ahead and use the buttons for filtering cards I described above. However, if your language level is sufficient, feel free to get into slang 🙂.

Summary

I would recommend the app as a plaything, more of a reward than a core method for learning a language. It’s fun, always at hand, and it always offers great contact with vocabulary in context. It is based on a scientifically proven principle of regular repetition. Thanks to that, it is a more effective learning tool than Duolingo, for example. Its visual design is pretty and it’s easy to use. The robot reading your sentences also has a soothing voice.

The need for an internet connection in the free version is certainly a drawback, making the use of it impossible for people with no available data or WiFi on their phone. Some might find the occasional presence of slang or even vulgar language undesirable. This, however, can be remedied with filtering options on the flashcards.

So, what’s your take on Clozemaster? Do you think it could replace Duolingo on your phone? 🙂 Try it out, it’s free. And if you don’t like it, there are still plenty of alternatives, like writing down phrases into a notebook using the Goldlist Method.

Translation: Pavol Huraj

The author of this blog post is Katarína Václaviková, member of the Language Mentoring team.

Language Mentoring provides a complete guide for learning any language using simple and often free resources on the internet and in bookshops. It was founded by polyglot, language mentor and author of this website, Lýdia Machová, PhD., in 2016. She's learned 9 languages by herself and she adds another one every other year. Her philosophy is that everybody can learn a language regardless talent, age or other qualities – if they know how to do it.

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