Sunday, May 12, 2013

Get Anki (and burn your flashcards)

Do you use flashcards to learn and memorise things like vocabulary and individual kanji? Isn't it annoying how you can never keep track of what you know well and what you need more practice on? Don't you find it irritating how, as you add more cards to your pile, it just becomes an unmanageable mess? And then your mum spills her coffee all over them and you have to start from square one?!

Well.. if you're sitting there thinking, "Hmm.. Yep, that sounds like me!", I'd like to introduce you to a revolutionary piece of software called Anki

Don't burn your flashcards just yet!

Flashcards are still quite popular even today and there are a couple of reasons why:

1) You don't need a computer or any electronic device to be able to use them.
2) You can design them completely the way you like and have totally creative freedom.
3) You don't need to worry about your data being lost if your PC dies or you forget your password. 
4) It's the good-ole fashioned way and if it ain't broke don't fix it!
If you want to make your own flashcards with a few pens and a pad of paper or some card, that's great! All that writing practice will definitely pay off!

- But what if you just don't have the time to sit down and write out each individual flashcard?

- What if you're not entirely sure how to best structure a flashcard?

- What if you don't know where to get the information to put on the flashcards in the first place?

At least in terms of kanji and kana, there are a number of ready-made flashcard packs available to buy at fairly reasonable prices. Since all the information is on each card and it has examples too, the price is great for your what you get. 

But what is Anki?  Flashcards of the 21st century!

Now, I love paper-based flashcards as much as the next person, but you end up having to go through all of them, even when you might already know a large proportion of them quite well. Going through all of your flashcards like that wastes a lot of time - and that's time you could be using to do something else!

What electronic flashcard software (and Anki in particular) does is group your flashcards into what you know, what you sort of know, what you vaguely know, and what you don't know at all. Based on how well you tell the software you remembered the contents of a certain flashcard, it will put it into one of a number of "piles". 

For example, if one comes up and you tell Anki that you know it, it won’t show you that card again for a while. However, if you tell Anki you don’t know it, it will show you again very soon to give you an opportunity to brush up on it. By default, it will show you cards you don’t know well again before the end of each session.

After a couple of days, it'll get you to review that flashcard you said you knew perfectly well. If you still tell Anki you know it perfectly well, Anki will put even more time between now and the next time you see that flashcard. The whole point of this system is that your time is limited and valuable, and therefore you should spend it in the most efficient way. What's the point of going over content you already know when there's other content that you aren't sure about? 

Your time is limited and valuable!

Clearly, you can't learn Japanese just by using flashcards or Anki because mastering a language involves actually using it and practising it. Real language use doesn't involve clicking "Yes" or "No" to whether you know something, but software like this can really help you to learn kanji and vocabulary. 

Personally, I think creating your own deck is the best way to use Anki but if you don't the patience or time to do that, there's a huge database of shared flashcard decks that have been put together by other people and the best part is..

The database is built-in and it's FREE!

Anki is 100% free, no hidden charges, no subscription fees, no ninjas in your garage 

So why not give it a go? It's available for pretty much every operating system I've ever heard of and if you don't like it.. well just delete it from your hard drive and there's no hard feelings ;)

The little "download" doesn't work.. it's just an image!
Just click here if you'd like to download and see for yourself how good Anki is!

If you have any questions regarding Anki or other learning aids, feel free to leave question in the comments box below!

Until next time...

BYE ;]

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