Sixty Vocab: unfathomably slow way to learn a new language

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George Tinari
October 18, 2014 8:30 AM
Sixty Vocab: unfathomably slow way to learn a new language
Sixty Vocab screenshot

Sixty Vocab is a tool for learning foreign languages that incorporates a mixture of study sessions and games to help train your brain. Its purpose is not to learn the entire language, but rather just the most common vocabulary words so it's easy to build sentences on your own given the words you retain. The supported languages are English, Spanish, Italian, French, German and Portuguese. It's free for iPhone.

Upon starting Sixty Vocab for the first time, I encountered a serious problem: performance. After creating an account, the app goes through a 4-step process of accessing its offline mode and essentially gathering up all the words. To my shock, this took north of 15 minutes. I waited and waited, then waited some more. At certain points just when I was ready to quit the app and deem it dysfunctional, the progress bar would move a tad more.

The wait-time is simply unacceptable. I could understand 30 seconds, even a minute, but 15 minutes is just so wildly absurd. The app needs to come out with an update that fixes this problem immediately because I don't know a single person that's willing to wait 15 minutes for any app to launch. I could have brewed myself a cup of coffee and gotten a chicken sandwich at Wendy's in that time.

Sixty Vocab screenshot

I did eventually get to Sixty Vocab's Home screen though so to say it doesn't work at all would be false. The Home screen is comprised of four main categories: Study, Play, Stats and Settings. You're unable to play if you don't study first - literally though, the app won't allow you - so get studying.

Choose to study either all words or a specific category of words like verbs. The empty categories I couldn't get to work so those appear to be the only two options. After that, the words get broken down into smaller groups of 50 as well as levels of Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Tapping any group just reveals a list of fifty words and their translations.

At the very beginning, I identified myself as an English speaker and I chose to learn Italian. There doesn't appear to be an easy way to switch between various languages other than to go into the Menu and tap "Set Languages" and wait another glorious 15 minutes for the new language tools to load. This is another downfall of the app; it should be much easier (and quicker) to switch between languages.

Finally, when you're done studying that one language, tap Play on the Home screen to view an English word and guess the correct translation in the language you chose. The Play aspect of Sixty Vocab is the only genuinely enjoyable and polished part of the entire app. The Stats section lets you view game results in various time frames.

Sixty Vocab screenshot

Playing the games in Sixty Vocab was fun, but alas that's where the amusement ends. Everything else had me on a scale ranging from disappointed to on the verge of pulling my hair out. The preposterous amount of time the app took to load a single language is a deal breaker. Even that out of the way, I don't see any reason to download Sixty Vocab over better apps like Duolingo, which is also free and far more functional.
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