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[Swap language order] (iOS/Android)

How to make your target language appear first

Tess Yang avatar
Written by Tess Yang
Updated over a week ago

This article will cover:

  • How to choose whether you hear Target or Base Language audio first

  • Whether it makes a difference, one way or the other

  • Three ways you can approach Glossika sentences


Note: This feature is currently only available on iOS. It will come to Android and Web at a future date.


If you don't care about the details and just want our recommendation:

  • When learning new sentences, do base language → target language

  • When reviewing sentences, do target language → base language

How to swap your language order

By default, Glossika presents learning items in a specific sequence

  • First you hear a sentence in your base language (BL)

  • There's a small pause, giving you a moment to try translating the sentence

  • Next you hear the same sentence in your target language (TL)

  • There's a small pause, giving you a moment to reflect

  • The process repeats

The idea is that you hear an idea, then observe the structures your target language uses to express that same idea. It's kind of an exploratory process. We like this sequence because of two reasons:

1. Beginners can simply take the language in without any stress whatsoever

2. More advanced learners can try independently building the TL sentence before seeing the translation

Some learners, however, might wish to do exactly the opposite! They want to hear their TL first and test whether they understand what they hear.

To hear your TL before you hear your BL:

1. Open a session (either Learn New Items or Review)

2. Click the settings "cog" icon in the top-right corner of the screen

3. Click the "Switch Order" icon, shown below

4. We'll now switch the order of your audio recordings from BL>TL to TL>BL, or vice versa.

Does it really matter which language I hear first?

Yes and no. Many people have succeeded with each approach. This is ultimately a quite small factor that will be overshadowed by your other habits: how consistent you are, what other resources you use, how often you actually use your language (reading, conversing, etc), and so forth.

If we want to get really picky, though, there is a difference between learning TL>BL and BL>TL. It has to do with the concepts of recognition and recall:

  • Recognition — you see new knowledge (target language word) and follow the breadcrumbs back to old knowledge (native language word)

  • Cued recall — you start with old knowledge (native language word) and, after getting a nudge in the right direction, reach for old knowledge (target language word)

  • Free recall — you start with old knowledge (native language word), and then try to independently recall the new knowledge (target language word) without any hints

These distinctions are important to make because it's easier to recognize information than it is to produce information. This is true even in our native languages! Everybody understands more words than they can actively use. For example, if you hear the word beryllium, you'll probably be able to guess that it's a kind of metal or an element, but it's likely not a word you'd confidently use yourself (unless you're a chemist).

This in mind, if you learn only TL>BL, you might find that there are many words which you understand when they pop up, but which you can't remember when speaking. You'll experience a frustrating "tip of the tongue" sensation where you know that you know the word, but you can't remember it.

Three approaches to using Glossika

This in mind, we can rank the difficulty of Glossika exercises as follows:

  • Easiest (copying) — At first, just listen. Don't worry about understanding anything. Hear your base language, hear your target language, observe what you can, and then move on. Your goal isn't to remember anything. You're simply taking in information and giving your brain a "first introduction" to a sentence.

  • Harder (recognition) — After you've seen a sentence a few times, try swapping the order and doing Glossika with TL audio first. Doing so will quickly tell you which words/structures have taken root in your memory (the ones you understand!) and which ones you should give a bit more attention to (the ones you can't recognize).

  • Hardest (free recall) — Once you reach a point where you pretty much effortlessly understand the TL sentences you hear, it's time to move on from recognition to production. Switch the order back to BL>TL. Pause after each BL audio and try to translate the sentence by yourself before listening to the TL audio. If you can translate the entire sentence independently, that's great! If not, again, give a little attention to the words you find you can't remember.

Ultimately, each of these three approaches focuses on different things. Neither of them are necessarily better than the other ones. Decide which one is right for you based on (a) your goals and (b) how well you know the sentences you are practicing.

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