Why Picture Flashcards?

After we completed edition 0.2 of the Picture Hebrew Flashcards, I sent several decks to Hebrew professors around the country to gage interest in the product. One excitedly wrote back with this endorsement: “Yes, I think students need to have access to this type of tool. Some are very visual and would learn faster with such a tool.” This is a good point that some students are visual learners while others are not. But there is good reason to believe that picture flashcards are the best tool for all learning styles in memorizing vocabulary.


Reading is Visualizing

Amy Vander Deen, who researches second-language acquisition, explains that fluent readers process written words as images: “Studies have shown that fluent readers process words as a single chunk — we see words as an image rather than a collection of individual letters. We only think about the letters when we are sounding out an unfamiliar word or questioning how to spell a word. Beginning readers process character-based writing systems, like Chinese, and alphabet-based writing systems, like English, differently. Fluent readers process them the same way — we see them both as images.”

Fluent reading is an automatic process of seeing words and visualizing the meaning. Hebrew-English flashcards take students on a translation detour to arrive at meaning. A common approach trains students to go from the Hebrew word to a mnemonic to an English gloss before constructing the image, as represented below:

These mental gymnastics make it impossible to develop any sense of reading fluency. In contrast, picture flashcards train students to make immediate connections for Hebrew words. Thus, from day 1 of Hebrew class, students can build language skills that will develop directly into fluent reading.


Picture Superiority Effect

Many studies claim that people are more likely to remember pictures than words. A recent study (Meijs et al. 2016) provides the most conclusive case yet for the picture superiority effect.

This experiment tested children aged 5 to 16, and measured the delayed recall of nameable objects. They first presented the objects through one of three different modes: as pictures, as audio, or as text. Their results show that pictures have the greatest effect on recognition. What is striking is that this effect only increases with age.

A lot of people think of pictures as childish. However, the picture superiority effect is strongest on adults. This is why we encourage more college and seminary professors to assign and quiz students on our Picture Hebrew Flashcards. It is the best vocabulary tool on the market.


Dual-Coding Theory

There is a well-worn theory that explains why pictures are so effective: dual-coding theory (Paivio, 1971). Put simply, Paivio stated that humans have two processing systems: visual (pictures) and auditory (spoken words). Kirschner & Neelen (2017) clearly articulate how this theory applies to vocabulary acquisition: “In our brain, written and spoken words only get coded once, however images of words get coded TWICE, first visually, then verbally. . . . Images leave double and thus stronger traces in our brains.” Picture Hebrew Flashcards can uniquely promise long-term vocabulary retention.


Picture Hebrew Flashcard App

We are thrilled to announce that we are creating an app for the Picture Hebrew Flashcards. The app will enable us to provide affordable flashcards to anyone in the world. We will also be able to code the flashcards (100+ frequency) to match the vocabulary order of any Hebrew grammar.

The app will not only make our flashcards more accessible but also more efficient and effective. More efficient, because we will link each entry from the 88-page English Companion PDF directly to each card. More effective, because according to dual-coding theory, our visual system codes both pictures and text as images. Currently, the physical flashcards have a picture on one side and text on the other. Without audio, this setup overwhelms the visual processing system.

The brain only codes a picture twice when it is paired with audio. Right now, our 570 mp3 files must be stored on a computer or phone, disconnected from the physical cards. Our app will combine audio and visual input for powerful, memorable learning. Finally, users will be able to conveniently listen to a native Israeli while viewing the pictures any time, any place–with the tap of a finger.