Hi Everyone, George from Refold here with a new series about SRS (spaced repetition systems) that aren’t Anki. We all know that Anki is great! It’s free, open source, has a huge community, great premade decks, and lots of support, but it’s not perfect for everyone. There are many excellent SRS options out there that aren’t Anki. So let’s dive into our first review in this series — Clozemaster!
Likes and Dislikes!
Before we jump too much further into the review, I’d like to explain what Clozemaster is.
Clozemaster is a Freemium app available on iOS, Android, and Web. When you open Clozemaster, the first thing you’re greeted with is its retro arcade-style UI. Once you make an account and sign in, you’re free to use the app.
As implied by the name, clozes (the adult friendly way of saying fill in the blank exercises) are the main technique used to drill thousands of words and sentences into your head.
The default “card” is a fill in the blank (or cloze) with an option to type in the missing word, or select it from multiple choice boxes.
Fluency Fast Track!
The thousands of example sentences featured in Clozemaster are from Tatobea. There are two options to navigate their massive (and I mean MASSIVE) sentence bank:
- Fluency Fast Track
Fluency Fast Track is an organized deck where each target word only appears once per deck (each target word has just one sentence in the deck). If you are familiar with the language, this is great to ensure you make swift progress and don’t over-review. However, if you have no experience in the language, this deck might be overwhelming.
The Frequency Decks are different from the Fluency Fast Track deck. In them, each word can appear in up to 10 different sentences. For many, this is overkill. To balance the extremes of these two tracks, Clozemaster themselves recommend using the Frequency Decks to learn the first 100 words at a bare minimum, potentially up to the first few hundred for more distant languages.
Once you’ve mastered those words, you should switch to the Fluency Fast track. Unfortunately, Clozemaster sentences are not consistently i+1 (with one uknown per sentence). Their premade decks generally target the easiest word in the sentence. However, I’ve seen really easy words appear in hard sentences, so their system isn’t perfect.
There are other decks, but only for premium subscribers. Clozemaster calls these “Cloze-Collections”. If you’re subbed to the premium version of Clozemaster, you can make and share decks, use other people’s shared decks, or make a private deck. In the screenshot below, you can see an attempt at importing Refold’s JP1K as a private deck. Unfortunately, due to the difficulties in deck creation, I never added any sentences.
What are the Premium Features?
Clozemaster doesn’t really have a lot of premium features worth writing home about, they give a way a lot for free. The following is a list of paid features:
- Can listen to sentences in decks as a form of immersion material.
- Can do listening only quizzes.
- Can change the voices used in the TTS audio.
- Can change the review algorithm.
- Access to special decks for tests such as the JLPT or HSK tests.
- Grammar trainer decks for more popular languages.
- Custom or shared decks. Import your own words, or select from the community supplied wordlists.
- Can customize lengths of review sessions.
- Unlimited mode for reviews.
- Can use the mobile app offline.
Are the Premium Features Worth the Cost?
Yes and no. If you’re on a budget, I don’t think they’re worth the cost because many of the premium features are things that are already doable on Anki and a dream. The core of the app is usable on the free version. The pro version costs 8 USD/MO, 60 USD/year, or 140 USD/Lifetime*.
The paid version is great, but if you’re on a budget, that cash is better spent elsewhere. At the same price for the monthly subscription to Clozemaster you could get a subscription to LingQ on the half a year plan, which is much better in the long run at the same price point.
The splurge may be worth it if you wait for a sale or steep discount, only go for lifetime access, and are into gamification and ease of use. The gamification and low friction to use the app can be very appealing to a subset of language learners.
*At the time of writing this review, Clozemaster has been known to reduce the price to 60-80 USD for lifetime, if you hold off for deals, or just wait a few weeks after joining you should get emailed a code to reduce the cost to nearly nothing.
Features I wish it had.
Clozemaster mostly has all the features I desire in a language learning app, however, I feel like it isn’t as customizable in “card” presentation as I would like. Particularly with Chinese and Japanese, there is no way to get furigana, bopomofo, or jyutping on the front of the card. For more commonly learned languages, it would be nice to have human voices instead of text-to-speech.
The custom decks are nice in theory, but it is so painful to actually import your own sentences (not just words) that it isn’t convenient to do. I’m not sure that it could replace Anki when it comes to mining words or sentences. I wish it had better support for custom decks.
Clozemaster is definitely an app I’d recommend, especially to people who aren’t super tech-savvy or don’t want to spend time creating their own decks. It’s also a great option for people who just don’t want to get behind Anki, or who need more carrots and sticks to go with the “boring” part of Refolding, like flashcards.
Clozemaster truly feels like playing an arcade game, and it’s quite fun to do your daily reviews on it. I’m addicted to fun metrics and stats. I think it is a great option for people who just don’t want to get behind Anki, or who need more carrots and sticks to go with the “boring” part of Refolding, like flashcards.