Anki – Flashcards Revolutionized

A screencap of Anki in action

So I’m learning Japanese again, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post,and while I’ll nail down the specifics of all the tools I’m using to study, I wanted to focus on the most important tool, one that has been around for ages, and until recently, never needed a facelift. The humble flashcard. Everyone’s used them at some point to memorize information, or to test their knowledge on any given number of subjects. However, in the grand scheme of things, their potential has been largely forgotten; another minor tool in a sea of similar learning techniques.

Anki has changed all this. Anki is a web and app based program that has updated the flashcard. After creating an account and downloading the app to your smartdevice, you are given the ability to create your own flashcards. You can input text, images, and sound into your flashcards. Flashcards are stored in ‘decks’ which you can access from the main page. In addition to making your own, there exists an Anki community where you can search for others’ decks, or upload your own.

Anki also has a built in programming where, initially, you are slowly introduced to the first of 20 flashcards. Buttons on the interface allow you to set the virtual card at the back, middle, or near the front of your deck, depending on your familiarity, and need to re-expose yourself to it. Over the course of your daily use with Anki, older cards that you still stuggle with appear more frequently, until you feel confident; afterwards they show up much less often. You can tailor your level of saturation by raising or lowering the number of new cards and review cards you interact with in each daily session.

Anki also keeps track of your progress through statistics, which you can scrutinize through bar graphs and the like.

This is what I needed all those years ago when I first started studying Japanese. I was able to download a deck of the most widely used kanji (complicated Japanese pictographics), as well as downloading another individuals personal Japanese sentence deck, which he built through studying several popular Japanese instructional textbooks. Later I’ll write more about what I think Anki can help with, beyond using it as a language assist, and what other tools and techniques compliment the program.


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