Building And Maintaining Your Anki Wall

Learning Japanese is like building a wall out of bricks. You’ve already laid the foundations (learning katakana and hiragana). You’ve spent hours researching various methods on wall building (this website and others). You’ve purchased all the equipment (textbooks, Anki, other programs, and native materials). You are ready to start building.

building wall

It’s time to get your hands dirty and start sweating a little. As you know all too well, your Japanese wall isn’t going to build itself. Filled with motivation and enthusiasm, you start diligently building – brick after brick, sentence after sentence, kanji after kanji. Nothing can stop you. This wall building stuff isn’t so hard after all!

But, like many Japanese learners that have come before you, somehow it has all gone wrong. Very wrong. You are tired and worn out. Things just aren’t sticking. You keep forgetting things. You’re spending all your time trying to relearn what you already knew and barely have time for new progress.

You start to have days where you don’t study Japanese at all. The Japanese-free days turn into Japanese-free weeks. All hope has faded. Despair sets in and now your Japanese brick wall looks something like this:



When you build a brick wall it will look nice and shiny and new . . . for a while. But if neglected, it will begin to weaken, crack, crumble and eventually fall down.

cracked wallA brick wall requires periodic maintenance in the same way as your Japanese does.

Your Japanese brick wall is massive.

It’s starting to get small cracks everywhere. Some are bigger than others. And it’s hard to know exactly where you should start your repair work.

Sure, writing out all the kanji you know everyday may have been fine back when you knew twenty. But when you know 1000? I hope you have enough time left for your sentence reviews and immersion…

People who learn Japanese the traditional way have to make educated guesses on what part of their wall needs repairing first. But hey, you are going reasonably well so far right? Your wall is coming along nicely, it has a few nice neat rows of bricks and you’ve had no troubles reapplying cement to the bricks that have come loose.

So what’s the problem?

Everyone has a limited supply of cement (time). And when your cute little wall starts to look more like this,

Photo by Garrett Hubbard

you’re never going to have enough cement to coat the whole thing.

Enter: Anki, the brick wall maintenance manager.

No more guess work, no more thinking, Anki tells you exactly what part of your wall is starting to crumble at any given time. It allows you to focus on applying cement only to bricks that need it, instead of smearing it randomly in a hope that you covered all the bricks that may have become loose.

This random smearing method often results in a thin layer of cement covering lots of different bricks, which may do the job for now. But you will find the bricks will be in need of repair more often. This means less time for the more enjoyable parts of Japanese study – movies, drama, manga.

great wall

If you are starting to become overwhelmed, don’t wait until your Japanese wall has come crashing down. Let Anki do the thinking for you. Or, if you’re already using Anki and are getting discouraged when you get reviews wrong, don’t feel down. You have successfully found a small weak point in your Japanese brick wall that you can start to repair, and you will end up with a solid strong wall that will stand the test of time.

Written by: Nayr

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Anki day and night. Building my Japanese one brick at a time.

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Building And Maintaining Your Anki Wall — 8 Comments

  1. I love Anki! It’s been the single most important tool for me in terms of being able to power level to where I’m at today.

  2. If the cement isn’t mixed properly it won’t be able to hold the bricks in place. Which is my torture-the-metaphor way of saying that for Anki to be effective it may be necessary to tweak the settings somewhat. The defaults seem to work well for Adshap and ブドウブドウ and probably most other people, but they weren’t working for me, at least not as well as I would have liked. So, after the conversation in the second link I turned the interval modifier down and started using the “hard” button a lot more often. And, perhaps most significantly, after I finish my reviews I go to the “review forgotten cards” (under custom study) several times over the rest of the day and loop through all the cards I’ve missed over the two previous days until I can answer each correctly with no hesitation. Eventually I may be less obsessive about maintaining every brick, but I’m currently in what still feels like early days of the full monolingual transition and when every brick is supporting the weight of many others I really don’t want any coming loose.

    Anyway, all I’m suggesting is that people be willing to experiment with Anki’s settings and customize it to best fit their personal goals, mental strengths and weakness.

    • I’m happy I read your post! I finish RTK tomorrow (only 20 cards left)! Soon I will be on my journey to learning real japanese. I never thought of messing with the interval modifier too much. I’m aiming for 1,000 J-E cards and 10,000 J-J cards. By following your logic I will end up studying more in the beginning but re-learning a lot less down the road.

      • Congratulations on finishing RTK, and I’m glad you found this helpful! You may discover that you don’t need to change the interval modifier as much as I did, most people seem to manage a good retention rate with the default settings. But I figure it’s always good to know that options exist, if you find you’re having difficulty recalling cards (especially mature ones) there’s something you can do about it.

    • This might help some people.

      I use average ease to determine interval modifiers.

      Starting ease is set at 250% and avg ease can be found in statistics window.

      My RTK deck was at 229% 2 months ago, while my sentence deck was at an average of 240%.
      After dividing avg ease by baseline (250), I’ve determined my modifiers to be 91% and 96%, respectively.
      225% is probably the lowest you can go… so 229% = always pressing hard/fail

      Anki uses something similar to the sm2 algorithm and based on my calculations normal interval multipliers range from 1.65x to 1.96x to 2.03x.

      However, the anki formula multiplies the interval multiplier by the interval modifier.

      E.g. ‘good at 90%. (0.9 x 1.96), assuming ease of 250%.
      The final interval is 1.76x.

      Use (Interval^8) to determine if the percentage seems practical.
      8 is a random number representing how many times you’ve passed it.

  3. I use the default intervals and they are working ok for me. Anki really is saving my life. I’m currently at 750 cards on RTK, looking forward to finishing it to start with sentences.
    And even on the days when I am completely tired and lacking motivation I open Anki, and get through what I have on the day. Anki is saving my life.

    • I am sure there comes a time when your wall is so solidly well built that for the most part it will hold it self up. (I didnt use anki to learn english.) At this point you can build it however you like. I haven’t reached that point yet. But even when I do I will probably still do my anki reviews even if I am not adding new cards. The reviews would be so easy It wouldn’t take more than a few mins anyhow. So yeah, I think you can maintain your wall through extended reading, provided you have a solid wall to back it up.

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