Susan
A question for Anki users

I am wondering: for how long you tend to use Anki when you are learning a language?  Also, you have changed the way that you use it as you have gained more experience with it?  I am trying to decide if it is time for me to let this daily habit go and perhaps only do it weekly or stop using it entirely.  Have any of you used it longer than 3 years and found that to be helpful enough that you would do so again if you were learning another language?  Or is it´s value really in getting the more common words?

I have been using ANKI daily for almost 3 years now and am gradually getting less enthused about it.  I now have a lot of words that it is not going to show me again for more than 5 years.  With many of the words that it is showing me more frequently,  I now realize that they are the words that are very uncommon in the language that I put in ANKI when I did not realize how uncommon they were.

I think ANKI was very useful in the beginning.  One change that I did make after a few months of using it was to change which language I put on the front of the card vs. which language I put on the back.   

I learned over time that just putting the word of the target language on the front of the card and being able to recognize it and know the definition in my own language was not as helpful for learning to actually SPEAK the language.  It worked better to put the word or concept in my own language on the front so I had to come up with the word in my target language.  It is harder the second way but is what is needed to be able to use the word actively instead of just recognize it when reading or listening. 

May 18, 2018 1:40 PM
Comments · 6

I've used Anki off & on since 2009, and currently am using it every day to build basic vocabulary in Arabic, for continuous improvement in advanced Spanish, and to practice Catalan verb conjugations. I spend 30-60 minutes per day and switch between languages to avoid burning out on any one deck. I recommend Anki to all my ESL students -- for studying phrasal verbs if nothing else -- but I do also spend at least an hour showing them how to use it effectively.

Cards that aren't going to be shown for 5 years have supposedly been learned, which should be a good thing. If you want to see them again sooner, that can be changed in the Browser.

There's no need to manually create separate "forward" and "reverse" Notes for each translation, you can create two (or more) Cards based on each Note and Anki will mix it up for you. I find this both very challenging and helpful, particularly for learning how to read and write Arabic. My "reverse" cards force me to type in the Arabic translation of the English word (via a Type: input Field) so I've been able to master the writing system and the Arabic keyboard in less than a month of daily practice.

Also, my Cards are modified with custom HTML and CSS, including buttons for WordReference and Forvo lookup. I find the basic card format too dry and flat, and I think adding some color and style makes them less visually boring so I stick with it longer than I would otherwise.


May 18, 2018
I think you’ve got it figured out. 

First of all, the best use of flashcards is for learning to read a writing system, since flashcards are written — and we read them.

As far as vocabulary, a lot depends on the relationship between your target language and the languages you already know. If they’re closely related, flashcards are not really necessary, although they may be helpful in the beginning. For example, more than half of English words are actually from French / Latin, so if you’re learning French, just use flashcards for the most common words that are different, and you should be able to recognize most of the less common words as borrowings from Latin. Your time would be much better spent working on phonology (essential for recognizing borrowed words in the spoken language), grammar, and using authentic materials.

For a non-related language, flashcards are a big asset in the beginning. Flashcards work without context, which is good because the beginner wouldn’t understand the context anyhow, since you’re starting from zero. However, after you’ve gotten the most common vocabulary under control, you should start to rely more on an integrated, multi-competency approach.

If we’re spending 5 minutes a year reviewing a word that we have no reasonable expectation of needing at all during the next 12 months, it seems one’s efforts could be better focused elsewhere.

Just remember — you could know every single word in every language on Earth and not understand a thing. Have you met Mr Google Translate? Yesterday, I ran a short Chinese phrase through Google. The phrase had a common misspelling, and the translation was totally off-the wall.
May 18, 2018
I’ve been using Anki for almost one year now. It is the effective way for me  to learn vocabulary. I always put a new word in my native language on the front of the card and the new word in a target language on the back of the card and I always write them both in the context which is relevant to me, usually with a few phrases and examples including most frequent prepositions or grammar constructions. When learning and revising the new word I have to come up with as many phrases and uses as possible in the target language. This is only one part of learning. Then I need to use them by putting into practice, which is its active use when speaking. If I manage to use them I am sure that I will remember them for long. The bad thing is that the number of cards has increased significantly and I can’t find enough time to revise all on a daily basis or put them all into practice. This would be replaced by listening to anything, watching movies, videos or reading a lot on a daily basis. 
May 18, 2018
Susan, as though you answered the question yourself. I as well as you have used Anki over three years. No so zealously, mere 453 of 1024 days for building English vocabulary, but it still takes 3,3 minutes per day at average, not counting of adding cards (I do it myself, when I met a concept unknown to me). Even assuming this, the process takes minutes. By the way I added 1013 cards and the last, but not least is "dog eat dog". Here I need some bolster point to assess how I moved. I have tested my vocab on http://testyourvocab.com, and three years ago it was 4400 words, today it's 6350 words. It is a level of five-years-old native speaker. So I'm in the very beginning, herewith am the lazy one. Of course, I understand, and I approached to this line, that a lot of reading in a target language without any dictionary, except English-English one, is a method which is not worse than Anki, but I'm affraid of that it will take more time. I read dozens of books in Russian, and my vocabulary is estimated in over 70000 words, but in English I read only four chapters of one book, and some comment on this forum.
May 18, 2018
I've never heard Anki before, so I'm interneted in it. That's exactly what I wanted to know.
May 18, 2018
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