I've been looking forward to writing this Clozemaster Review, because I tried it and thought that it was a exciting and fun way to learn languages.
So when Mike, the founder, approached me and asked if I'd be interested in publishing a review, I knew I didn't have to think a long time to jump on the opportunity.
You might ask, why another spaced repetition method? There are so many spaced repetition applications already out there for both web and mobile.
In the past I’ve heralded Memrise as an excellent choice in terms of convenience and usability and Anki for the more creative and independent learners who wanted more flexibility on each card.
However, now there’s a new serious player in the game. It’s called Clozemaster, based on the name for the type of test that the service revolves around.
What is “Cloze” – From Wikipedia:
A cloze test (also cloze deletion test) is an exercise, test, or assessment consisting of a portion of text with certain words removed (cloze text), where the participant is asked to replace the missing words.
Cloze tests require the ability to understand context and vocabulary in order to identify the correct words or type of words that belong in the deleted passages of a text. This exercise is commonly administered for the assessment of native and second language learning and instruction.
This was possible in Anki, if you were feeling creative – however it would take a lot of work to manually add the cards, and the quality of community-created decks were a bit hit and miss, then on top of that the user experience or ease of use was definitely subpar to other services.
What initially excited me about Clozemaster when I discovered the site about a year ago was the idea that everything had a context. After painfully learning over 1000 Russian words in their stand-alone form I quickly understood how limiting and – let’s be honest – terrible this approach was.
It might work better in non-inflected languages, but Russian has so many forms for each word that learning one in their infinitive or nominative form is almost useless. In fact, sometimes it can be hard to even recognise the different forms as the same word!
The idea of learning in context was something that I picked up sometime a year or two ago.
It’s funny, as a naive new language learner I assumed if I just learnt enough words I would be able to magically piece them together as sentences.
What an abrupt awakening I had from that delusion. While it is true that words will definitely help you, often you need to learn a framework or a reference for each sentence you want to convey before you can ‘swap’ in the words you’ve learnt to vary your language.
Also, if you don’t learn in context you end up creating new sentences or expressions that would sound very unnatural to a native speaker. Not just based on the choice of words, but also the structure and word order.
The other aspect of Clozemaster is that it's designed in a retro 8bit-way, which reminds me of my old Amiga games back in the 90's. It has an extremely intuitive and snappy interface, that makes it rather addicting to keep going through new sentences to add to your collection.
I've mentioned gamification before, and this time it's really well executed. After every round, you get this nice jingle and you're straight on to the next section – if you want to.
It's incredibly important that the learning feels fun and exciting, and I think Clozemaster does a great job with that here.
Here's an example of the dashboard when you log in to Clozemaster:
I like this, because it puts some context to your language learning so you're not just mindlessly slaving through an endless amount of sentences or cards – but you actually have some progress and statistics to tell you exactly how well you are doing in your language project.
Motivational Gamification and Community
This is a big plus for Clozemaster. First of all it feels like you're playing a game, with the cute 8-bit graphics and sound effects.
Secondly you're playing against other people on the leaderboards. This has already proven extremely motivational for many people in other, similar apps.
The last thing is that the application is extremely fast, so if you're keen you can really get through a lot of tests in a short period of time.
Main Game Screen
Clozemaster has two main ways of playing. You can either use multiple choice, or type your answers for double points!
I strongly prefer writing my own answers, as it helps to build muscle memory and helps me learn how to spell in the languages that I'm learning.
However, when I'm playing it on my phone I will use the multiple choice option usually as I'm really not a fan of typing on a phone – it's too slow for me.
Once you have answered a test, you'll be given a variety of options to enhance your learning experience.
- Checkmark: I know this word – don't ask me about it again
- Cross: I have no clue about this word anymore, reset my progress.
- Ignore: I don't want to learn this
- Flag: Report error or sentence for anything else
These options help personalise the corpus to what is relevant for you and is a crowd-sourced way of constantly improving it.
For example a few of my Russian sentences had me tested for people's names, like “Tom” which is obviously a complete waste of time. I flagged up the sentence and it was swiftly removed from the corpus.
Likewise there are also sentences which you would just never say. This could be sentences with strong language, or sentences like “My brother is….” as I don't have a brother it's not really that relevant. Another example from when I was writing this clozemaster review was the sentence “What's up, dawg?” whilst a contemporary sentence nonetheless, I doubt I will EVER be saying this in Russian – so I quickly ignored it.
The checkmark allows you to tell Clozemaster that you're very comfortable in this word, and to not spend any time reviewing it in the near future.
This way you can also quickly bring Clozemaster up to scratch in your level, if you're an intermediate or advanced learner.
Clozemaster works with fully customisable spaced repetition time periods. The standard is 5 minutes, 1 day, 10 days, 30 days and 180 days but you can change these to suit your liking if you get the PRO upgrade.
It's probably worth testing and I'd guess if your success rate at reviews is lower than say, 80% then you might have to reduce the amount of time between reviews.
Languages you can learn with Clozemaster
Clozemaster features a staggering number of languages – over 50 of them, and within those languages an even more staggering amount of sentences. There's simply too many language combinations for me to list in this clozemaster review, so be sure to go and check it out on the site.
One interesting idea you can do with the large list of languages is triangulation. If you're learning a new language, you can use one of your other languages as the FROM language and improve in both at the same time.
Naturally you can also use your native language. As with most language learning services expect the most amount of sentences for the biggest languages.
As a side note it also features a limited selection of obscure languages like Piemontese, Scottish Gaelic, Galician and Breton – and more!
The corpus is generated from actual language used, which has two distinct advantages.
- You're learning what people say or write, naturally. No textbook language, or overly simplified examples just for the sake of teaching the language.
- The sentences will be extremely practical.
There are a few weaknesses with this approach also, which are not overwhelming in any way but deserve to be mentioned.
One problem is that some of the sentences are extremely idiomatic, to the point where it's hard to even guess what the correct answer should be. This can cause some frustration, as you try and translate to the target language.
The second problem is that because the sentences are not humanly curated, some of them are way too specific or just plain weird. Again, this is not a massive problem as you can quickly ignore these and never see them again.
I recently ignored sentences that had some strong language in them, as I would not be using it personally. I also ignored some sentences with names in it, which I discussed previously in this article.
The audio is machine-generated text-to-speech, which does the job similarly to Duolingo, but it's not amazing by any definition. It's a small sacrifice for me, but it has to be noted that you're not going to get professionally voice acted sentences with Clozemaster.
Though, to be fair I think the text-to-speech is performing really well in Russian, but of course not a replacement for real human pronunciation.
This is a REALLY cool function. You can search within the corpus, and add sentences with this word to your existing queue. This allows you to prioritise sentences with the words you want to focus on, or perhaps learn words you acquired from other sources better.
Here's an example with a russian word that I just can't seem to get into my active vocabulary. I sort of understand it, but I don't seem to use it, so it makes sense to prioritise it and add it to my queue.
Clozemaster features both iOS and Android applications, and since I only have an iPhone I was only able to test that. However, from my limited testing it is as good as the desktop version with no glaringly missing features. In fact, I was surprised as to how similar the desktop and mobile version of this app was, which is a great achievement from the developer.
I also liked the option to have a reminder sent daily. I get it straight to my Apple watch so there's no risk of me missing it.
The base product, including tons of language pairs as well as hundreds of thousands of sentences with audio is free. This means you actually don't have to spend a dime to learn a language with Clozemaster.
However, they do offer a PRO version which comes with a range of snazzy features at a great price. Here is a list of what you currently get if you sign up.
With PRO you get access to the following cool features, as well as supporting the development of the app itself:
- Grammar Training
- Cloze Listening
- Additional Configuration
- Advanced Statistics
- ‘Favorite Sentence'-feature
Annoyed with those pesky verbs of motion in Russian? Can't seem to get the articles right in German? Well, Clozemaster PRO features grammar training that helps you master specific grammar concepts.
This is extremely valuable, as the grammar is often what holds people back when advancing from beginner to intermediate stages in a language. And verbs of motion are just impossible, so I definitely need more practice on this grammar section.
If you're keen on upgrading to Clozemaster Pro you can get 25% off PRO with the discount code ACTUALFLUENCY .
Clozemaster Review Conclusion
- Fun, fast and enjoyable to learn languages with
- Free for most features
- Many languages to choose from
- Sentences are real and practical
- Many ways to customize learning experience
- Text-to-speech audio
- Corpus is generated, which means you will have to filter it as you learn
There is no doubt that spaced repetition tools like Clozemaster are best part of a balanced language learning strategy. You won't become fluent in any language just by using flash cards.
However, I do believe this software to be a great tool to have in your arsenal, and its addictive gameplay and accountability will definitely have you learning more words than with other methods.
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Update May 2018: I've been using Clozemaster for a few months now, and overall I really like it. It's good fun to use, and the points and graphics are quite addictive.
The main negatives I've experienced is that the corpus is very natural and slangy, which is a bit of a double-edged sword for a learner. The good thing is that exposes you to some flexibility in the language, making you possibly more creative and more understanding of the language actually spoken.
The negative is that you'll get a lot of tests wrong, as you simply have no idea what word the question is looking for. With spaced repetition it shouldn't matter much, but expect a lot of ‘real' language as you progress with Cloze.
There are also some swear words and names being used as tested words (which is pointless.) However, overall I stand by my 4/5 original rating, and with the wide array of free usages it has great value for money also.
Full Disclaimer: This is a sponsored clozemaster review. Sponsored reviews are evaluated and judged just like any other review, but the author or product owner has paid to be have this post featured on Actual Fluency.
Clozemaster had absolutely zero influence on this article, and was only given a preview of it to make sure nothing inaccurate was said. No amendments were made after writing it.
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