ANKI is a learning tool, a neat little flashcard program designed to help your memory. It shows you a number of flashcards (either designed by you or shared with someone else) and then shows them to you again at intervals dependant on how well did you remember the card the previous time (this is basad on self-assessment, so the only person you can cheat is yourself). As I said, it’s neat and tidy and handles many different scripts/mathematical notations very well. You can download it for free from here.
Now, ANKI, while simple, comes with a bucketload of options. There are many ways to use it, so I thought I would fish for your input on how to use it more effectively. But first a word from my (limited) experience.
My decks: currently I have five. Two are converted (by the way of .csv files) from Internet dictionaries I once made (Lezgi – English, ca. 1600 items; Persian – Polish, ca. 5600 items), three others (French, Armenian, Irish) I’ve made from scratch. Armenian and French go into Polish, while the Irish one has answers in English and follows closely the book I’m using (“Learning Irish”) with tags for each lesson and whatnot.
My experience (some bullet points):
- Decks made by others are hardly usable, unless extensively tagged and/or following a particular resource.
- Tagging is tiresome only if you have a big unorganised deck to begin with. If you work steadily (eg. adding new cards from one source at a time) it is very simple and fast.
- “Cram” is a very useful option for learning (as opposed to retaining) vocabulary ‘quick-and-dirty’ style.
- For a large deck (esp. imported dictionary) randomizing cards shown is a must. “Show according to time added” is good for working through a textbook lesson-by-lesson (don’t increase the number of new cards/day too much, else you will be outpaced).
- It is essential to avoid one-to-one mapping (words usually have more than one meaning and all meanings of a particular word don’t match 100% between any pair of languages) and to provide more than just one “equivalent” word.
- On the other hand, in my experience, overloading the backsides with lot of context, example sentences etc., doesn’t work too well – quite often I don’t take time to read them, plain and simple. A better solution (for me) is to put the example sentences on separate cards (or maybe create a tag/deck for phrases).
- It is important to randomize the order of reviews as much as possible. Otherwise you’ll be remembering not the words, but their sequence.
- It is best to pick a realistic (ie. low) number of new cards/day. It will prove to be too high anyway, when you have a busy week. Remember that it is better to do something everyday than to do a lot on Monday and nothing for the rest of the week. Don’t assume you’ll have more time than 15-20 mins/day – for me that means 140-180 cards, but see below.
- After a while, especially when working with unfamiliar (designed for learning as opposed to retaining vocabulary) deck, the reviews will heap up considerably. While working my decks I have everyday, on the average, twice as many reviews as new cards (up to 40 reviews / 20 new). If all my decks were as challenging as Irish or Armenian (which I’m learning) I wouldn’t have managed – my pace with French (retention) or Lezgi (not very serious) is two-three times faster.
That would be it for now, I’m curious to hear your opinions / comments / insights.