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28/02/2023 - 08:30

New vocabulary app for people learning Icelandic

New vocabulary app for people learning Icelandic - Available at University of Iceland

Academics and students at the University of Iceland have developed the vocabulary solution IceFlash 4K, a set of flashcards for studying Icelandic as a second language. The deck contains the 4000 most frequent words in Icelandic and can help those learning Icelandic as a second language to enrich their vocabulary.

"Flashcards are cards used to memorize material. On one side there is a topic we want to learn about, e.g. a word, and on the other side there is something we want to memorize on the topic, in this case the meaning of the word on the other side. We look at the front and try to remember what it says on the other side before we turn the card. This is a well-known and well-established method used in diverse studies. The cards used to be made out of paper but now they are usually digital on phones or in computers," says Anton Karl Ingason, associate professor of Icelandic linguistics and language technology at the University of Iceland.

Anton has been developing the solution with his colleagues Xindan Xu, Veroniku Teresu Kolka and Alesiu Kovaleva at the University of Iceland's Institute of Linguistics. Xindan Xu did the technical work on the project and translation work in Chinese and English and she was, furthermore, first author of a peer-reviewed article on the project while Alesia Kovalova and Veronika Teresa Kolka worked on translation work in Ukrainian and Polish.The solution is programmed in the Anki app that you can download to your phone or computer. The following versions are available: Icelandic-English, Icelandic-Polish, Icelandic-Chinese, and Icelandic-Ukrainan. 

Flashcards are well suited to build vocabulary

"There has been rapid progress in Icelandic language technology in recent years, both when it comes to software and databases. The spark for this project was born when we saw the possibilities in using numerous products from this recent research and development to support the creation of flash cards for the Icelandic language. We also believe that there is a considerable demand for tools to facilitate learning Icelandic; this project is thus a certain contribution to meet this demand," says Anton and the solution is part of UI26, the University of Iceland's strategy, which emphasises strengthening the Icelandic language in a world of change.

The data in the solutions come from diverse places according to Anton. "Frequency data derived from Icelandic corpus is used to emphasise the most common words, manual translations were used for this project, selected patterns for declension come from an Icelandic contemporary database, the pronunciation is produced with phonetic software and a speech synthesizer, and a well-known international programme helping people memorise things faster is used to maximise the users' progress," he explains. 

When asked on the benefits of flashcards Anton say that they have been proven conclusively to be an effective tool to memorise things. "This is why they work well as a support in building a vocabulary where the number of words matter in order to understand the meaning of a text. However, they do not replace other methods as this is only one part of learning a language. It is not a productive method when learning a language to only focus on vocabulary, but if people are in the process of learning a new language it can be beneficial to have a convenient tool to learn new words," says Anton.

The vocabulary app is open to all and is free of charge. Anton points out that those behind the project have made sure that others can use the database behind the solution by open-source access. "This means that others can take what we have made and use it in another way in another context," he points out.

The vocabulary app IceFlash 4K and instructions on set-up can be found on the University website.

Anton Karl Ingason