Before You Know It

Before You Know It

Vocabulary builder with flash cards and pronunciation practice

“Before you know it” is software designed to help you build your vocabulary and practice your pronunciation in a foreign language. When you download the software from the website you can choose from 74 languages to learn. The software comes in two versions: an Express version, which is free of charge, and a deluxe version, which costs $49.95.
Both versions offer you a complete system for learning words through a flashcard-based system. The Express version only gives you 15 lists of words to learn, while the deluxe version comes with 2000 words and about 500 phrases.
The Express version doesn’t allow you to create any lists yourself. If you want more lists you can download them from list central, a website provided by Transparent Language Inc., where you can download free lists uploaded by the developer and other users of BYKI.

If you want to create your own lists, you need to buy the Deluxe version. This allows you to create lists, not only in the language you originally bought, but in any language you prefer. Besides the option to create your own lists, the deluxe version adds pronunciation practice, and software for your mobile device.

As mentioned before, BYKI uses a flashcard system for learning. The concept behind flashcards is that you learn words through 2-sided cards. The word you are learning is written in your native language on one side and in a foreign language on the other.

Although you can use paper and make your cards by hand, using software really has its advantages. For one thing, you are not ending up with stacks of paper cards. But where the software really shines, is in keeping track of which words you already know and which you still have to learn. It does this by scoring your cards. When you answer correctly several times, points are added to that card, if you answer incorrectly you loose points. The system will show cards with a lower score more often. If you mix the meaning of one word with a related word in the same list, BYKI will show the mixed-up words a few times directly after the mistake.

The flash cards come with an option to show pictures or play sounds. All cards supplied by Transparent language come with a recording of a native speaker pronouncing the word listed on the card. Sometimes the card shows an image, for example, when you are learning colors. If you want to make your own cards, you can add pictures and sounds. If you have a microphone installed on your computer, you can record directly from within the software. Of course, for this to be of any value you need a native speaker nearby, but if you happen to know one, this feature is very helpful.

The pronunciation tests are basic, but fun. You listen to the native speaker pronounce a word and you repeat the word in the microphone. After that the software analyzes your pronunciation and shows you different graphs and a score to see how close you came. If you have a hard time hearing the word, you can slowdown the playback without affecting the pitch of the voice.

If you are like me and have to travel a lot, you are not always near your computer to learn your words. For learning on the road BYKI offers several options. The most basic one is printing any of the lists on paper. But if you have a mobile device, things get even better. Supported platforms are palm and windows mobile. The pocket version of BYKI allows you to bring any of the lists with you on the road. And although not all modes from the desktop version are available on the mobile device, the scoring system and sounds are still there.

There is little to dislike about BYKI, the only thing I would like to see changed is the size of the images. They are limited to a small size. Bigger image support would extend the possibilities of the software to more topics, for example, geography and art.

Natalia Levchenko
Editor rating:

Review summary

Pros

  • Choose from 74 languages
  • Easy to use
  • Keeps track of words learned
  • Mobile version for Palm an Windows Mobile (deluxe only)
  • Make your own lists (deluxe only)

Cons

  • Only small images allowed
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