Biscuit: mobile app to recall, learn, explore vocabulary words

Innovative technology allows students to absorb new vocabulary

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”

-Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) Austrian-British philosopher

Have you ever found a word you don’t know, jumped to your dictionary, tried to remember the spelling, typed it in, gotten the definition and promptly forgotten it? For avid language lovers and learners alike, this frustrating process is all too familiar. That’s why Brent Warner from EdTechTV poses these questions in his professional YouTube review of Biscuit, a mobile app for English language learners and word mavens.

As Brent describes, the app works simultaneously with other apps–simply highlight the word of interest and Biscuit pops up a banner on the top of the screen with its definition. Tap the notification to view the word, modify the definition and sort it by viewing the sidebar. Under the settings tab, students can choose a variety of languages to translate from, making the tool accessible to English language learners from several backgrounds.

Other tech-savvy components should appeal to English language learners. For instance, you can set up “Word Reminders” that send push notifications of certain words to jog their memories. You can also indicate how familiar they are with particular words through highlighting, dimming and sorting. Moreover, Biscuit contains an “Image to Text” feature–though like Brent, I have yet to find it in the actual app itself. “Image to Text” allows users to snap pictures of books and other publications and the app will extract the words captured in the photo and present them in list format.


For students adept with technology, Biscuit serves as a powerful, flexible modern tool for learning self-chosen vocabulary words. After all, the site asserts that Biscuit is “faster than a dictionary [and] easier to use than traditional flashcards of word lists.” I also see students pulling out their phones while reading newspapers, magazines and menus to store new words in order to learn them later. By creating an efficient, approachable mobile app, Biscuit has the power to generate persistent and effective vocabulary learning.

Another great thing? Biscuit can be found for free in the Apple iTunes store or Android app store. I’m adding it to the recommended resources list for my international graduate students.

What tools do you use to learn new vocabulary? What other mobile apps help you and your students learn?

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