You Hate Studying Japanese With Anki: Now What?

You’re following the method on this site and other sites that revolve around Anki, the supreme online flash card and memory program. You’ve used it for weeks, maybe even months. You understand the benefits, why it is so popular, and you know that it is a great tool. But you face a troubling problem, and one that you feel guilty about:

You hate using Anki.

You gave it a chance. A lengthy chance. You are just as motivated and put in just as much time as anyone else. But you can’t bare the thought of using Anki anymore. Maybe you feel it isn’t worth the effort. Maybe you don’t feel the need to continue. Maybe you just really hate reviews.

Have you tried to make it more fun with enhancements like adding graphics and audio? Have tried to understand how Anki gets easier the more you use it? Even after countless attempts to change the way you use and approach Anki, are you still suffering?

The solution to this problem is simple:

Stop using Anki

This site focuses significantly on Anki usage, and constantly praises it as one of the most efficient and effective tools out there for learning Japanese as fast and awesomely as possible. This doesn’t matter. What matters is that you continue to enjoy studying Japanese. That’s it.

Continuing to use an efficient tool that you hate is inefficient

Let’s assume:

Anki (Method 1) = 90% study efficiency
Something else (Method 2) = 70% study efficiency

Normally, you would steer towards the more efficient study method. Who doesn’t want to learn Japanese faster? But a method you use that you don’t like will never achieve it’s true study efficiency. It will drop significantly because:

1. You won’t use it consistently
2. You won’t be in a good mood/mind set while using it
3. You will start zoning out and being distracted much more easily

So for someone who dislikes Anki that continues using it, the above numbers will probably look more like:

Anki (Method 1) = 50% study efficiency
Something else (Method 2) = 70% study efficiency

If you really enjoy the other method, you will achieve its true efficiency, and the choice of what to do becomes clear.

Just Let go.

Really. Learning Japanese is about creating your own strategy guide.

Yes, I and many others have used Anki to massive success. But I always enjoyed it, and was using it at its true 90% efficiency. You may be different, and there is nothing wrong with that. Stop worrying that you won’t learn Japanese that fast if you move onto something else.

The fastest way to learn Japanese isn’t necessarily using the best method, but using the best method that you personally enjoy.

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Were any of you able to fix what caused you to dislike Anki? How did you do it? Or have you decided to move from Anki onto something else? What did you replace Anki with as your new best method?



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Adam

Adam

Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.

Comments

You Hate Studying Japanese With Anki: Now What? — 49 Comments

  1. I personally could not get into Anki. I tried for about a year, also using it as a tool to keep up with course work at university, but I hated it. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe because the decks I was studying were so big and they seemed to never end. Maybe not. I don’t know.

    A few months ago I started using http://www.memrise.com, which is a website that also lets you study with SRS. The reason I think memrise works better for me, is because the decks are already divided, and more importantly: the leaderboard. I am a competitive person, and seeing my friends study, and getting points, makes me want to study just as much. It also helps that the website is visually very appealing, and that the ‘mems’ you use to learn vocab and kanji are very entertaining.

    The only big downsides for me are that if you’re using premade decks (courses), you can’t alter the entries. You can post to the course forum, but you can’t change things on your own. The other downside is that I think memrise makes you study more than anki. The repetition is less spaced. For some words, that is a good thing, but for others it’s completely unnecessary.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. Anki and I have been fighting for nearly a year now and I am just ready to let it go. I don’t actually hate Anki. I hate Ankidroid for how buggy it is and I just don’t have frequent enough access to a computer. I do use memrise but it is no replacement. I tried surusu but it has some weird copy/paste problems with my device. I am open to suggestions but for now I am just going to keep plugging along and not sweat the supposed lost efficiency.

  3. I finally realized Anki is just not for me when I stopped from my extensive and intensive reading process to work on reviewing my RTK deck with Anki (out of guilt) one day. Just 10 minutes was torture, and I had set the goal for 30 minutes. I felt like, “I could be reading right now!”

  4. I keep and keep trying to go back to Anki. I find the best way to do it is do 3 minute spurts. You finish one spurt and you realize that was really short so it’s easy to do another one. But at the end of the month, I have maybe spent a total of 2 hours max doing Anki, so, not at all.

    What I did like about Anki though was creating the cards. I felt that just creating the cards helped me review things and help look out for easy phrases I wanted to remember and whatnot. So I created a blog to replace Anki and that’s been helping a lot.

    • Same thing here. I loved creating cards the most. Then I realized I can just blog in place of that, which I started a side blog for (http://nihongo-notebook.blogspot.com/search/label/findings). The most I’ve ever gained from Anki is how much I put into making decks. I essentially used it as a notebook.

      Also, what I found is that through the process of making cards, I didn’t really need to review the decks. I knew the expressions already because of all the hard word that went into studying them and then the re-exposure to them in my immersion environment. So, there was no motivation to review.

      • Thank you! I’ve just started a blog. I’ve already remembered some new words and idioms from just writing and reading my post once.

    • That’s a great idea to make a blog to keep track of new words/concepts! I might have to give that a try. I always had the same feeling that I was getting the most out of creating the cards, and tended to dread the actual reviewing.

  5. I’ve been struggling for 3 months. Anki is a nightmare for me. I would sit down at my computer ans go on Anki to see 600 reviews plus 10 new cards. And then I would close the window and watch a drama. Anki is just too boring for me. Anki alsp doesn’t work for me because I remember the other day when I was doing my reviews and forgot the word for fall/autumn. And it kept happening in the past too.

    Sadly, I have not found any replacements yet.

    • It’s natural to forget the cards you learn. That is part of the learning process, so when you fail a card, instead of thinking “I shouldn’t have failed that card, Anki doesn’t work” just recognize that you are going to fail many if not most cards multiple times before they eventually stick. In order to remember something we need to activate the memory multiple times on different days. That’s how our brains decide what’s important enough to commit to our long term memory. It’s good to fail a card because that means you are one step closer to permanently remembering it!

    • Missing 秋 is perfectly normal:
      – The kanji is hard because it is exceptional: both the 火 and the 禾 usually appear on the left of their kanji, so it’s hard to remember which one goes where;
      – The reading is hard to remember because there’s basically a single very specific word with that reading, meaning you probably have a single card with that Kanji being read like that;
      – The meaning is hard to remember for the same reason again.

      All put together, this is a TERRIBLE word one which to try to condemn your Anki progress. Just how many other words did you learn just fine with it? Sure, they weren’t glamorous words like 秋, but they were honest hard working words that get a lot more mileage and that help you a lot more day by day than 秋, which is the kind of word that would be lucky to be used 10 times in a year (on my part, at least).

      • I would argue that 秋 is not a hard word to learn if you come across it naturally. For me, I easily learned the seasons and recognized their kanji after playing so much Harvest Moon. I don’t deny that anki is an amazing tool, but if you’re struggling with simple words like this, you haven’t been immersing yourself enough or been giving yourself enough variety to immerse yourself into. When you have an emotional connection to a word, it sticks better, then anki reinforces it so that you don’t forget. That’s why it’s recommended to make your own decks with personal sentences from your immersion environment rather than use a premade deck. Likewise, your immersion environment will show you that word again and again. I can track many of the words and expressions I learned in Japanese back to where Iearned them because it was personal.

        • I guess I should first of all thank you for trying to help me, so thank you for that.
          However, I made my comment regarding 秋 being hard to learn from the point of view of someone with Skrwitch’s Anki experience (or at least, what I think my point of view was back then) rather than my own.

          As it turns out, the great majority of my current new Anki cards come straight from immersion material, with the occasional dictionary card if I find one I like. That is NOT to say, however, that I would recommend someone with significantly less Anki experience to do the same. It’s actually not been THAT long ago since my J-J started actually moving rather than just trudging, and I don’t think someone who hasn’t reached such a stage can actually make Anki cards from native materials efficiently enough for it to be the best study method.

          “When you have an emotional connection to a word, it sticks better”
          Yeah, sure. There are plenty of words that I know thanks to that, but even more for which that is false. And I mean, are you really going to develop strong emotional connections to every single word? And is that an efficient way to learn the language?

          Just last week I finally started my second Japanese novel level experience (I’m phrasing it like this because it’s actually a story posted online rather than a book). It had actually been quite a while since the first (I read 時をかける少女 way back in January, but in the meantime I’d been focusing on my listening (and that whole “finish writing the thesis” business, I guess)), and my reading is way more fluid now (I actually managed to unintentionally read all the way from 11pm till around 5am one day), which made me realize that extensive reading is actually the best way to learn some words that are hard to grasp from their dictionary definitions (a good class of examples are the 副詞), but it still seems to me that Anki is the best tool to use to make sure that that knowledge actually stays in place.

          • Yeah, I know you’re just trying to reach out to the original poster through that person’s experience with Anki, not from your own. I’m just pointing out that it doesn’t even have to be that way.

            That’s kind of the point of the immersion method. To learn from native materials from the beginning and on. Those native materials are your emotional connection. It doesn’t take any extra effort to make an emotional connection. It wouldn’t be the immersion method if you’re only using anki. I know learning from native materials is totally efficient from my own experience.

            Congrats! Actually, that just happened for me this summer as well. Last winter I finally finished my first novel, which took three months (-_-). But this summer, I’ve improved so much, I finished my second novel in under two weeks, and am working on my third right now. It’s so exciting to finally be able to dive into novels.

            Obviously, Anki works for you, so no reason for you to leave it. I’ve been completely fine without it. I can also make J-J cards just fine. I just don’t feel the need. I use a J-J dictionary now whenever I study intensively. I also do extensive immersion.

            • “I know learning from native materials is totally efficient from my own experience.”

              I don’t like feeling like I’m being pedantic, but “efficiency” measures how methods compare with each other in trying to achieve fixed results, so saying that your method is “totally efficient” is effectively saying that your method is the best there is (and in fact the best there will ever be). I don’t think you are trying to say this, but to me it is what the words you are using mean.

              So when I say that I think Anki is the most efficient, what I mean is that I think it allows you to learn significantly more content in the same amount of time.
              More specifically, the speed at which I can create cards from the dictionary far surpasses the speed at which I can create cards from native materials. Nowadays my J-J is good enough I can create cards from native materials at a rate I find acceptable for my daily goals, but that was definitely not the case 6 months ago.

              But this is all really very far afield from the simple point I was trying to make, really. My point was that failing some words (and much less words like 秋 which, like I pointed out, is an odd duck of sorts) is not in itself a reason to conclude that Anki doesn’t work for you. I’m not saying that no such reasons exist, merely that this alone is far from one of them. Rather, to me at least, this seems like an instance of expecting Anki to work in a way different than the way it actually does. That’s all.

            • I understand what you mean. By “totally” I meant, “is definitely” not “is the most”. It’s one efficient method. One still has to be weary of using sentences from a dictionary without having seen it from a native resource, as that’s learning the word unnaturally which could lead to unnatural application of the word (for instance, perhaps the word isn’t really used much or doesn’t fit your personality). That’s why one’s immersion environment is really important so that they learn how to apply those words and expressions naturally.

              Yes, but my point is also that by applying a better immersion environment, one can avoid failing those simple words. It doesn’t mean one has to give up anki. They both can work to reinforce those words.

            • “It’s one efficient method.”
              I still don’t think efficiency is the word you want to use here, because like I said efficiency is something that should be evaluated by comparison with the available competing methods. What I think you really want to say is that you can definitely make it work, and maybe add that it is a method with which you feel very comfortable, especially compared to methods using Anki.

              And I’m pointing that it seems to me that that comfort probably comes at the cost of a significant decrease in speed in your progress. Personally I judge the occasional discomfort that Anki causes me (e.g. in these last two days I had an unusual schedule that forced me to do my Anki reviews in a clearly sub optimal and uncomfortable schedule), and punctuated with occasional moments of “did I really just read all of that?”, to be “paid for” by the speed with which it brought to “reading world levels”, which to me always seemed like a turning point of sorts (the year before I moved to the US for my PhD I (somewhat incidentally) read something like 40+ 300+ pages books in English in a six/seven month span, and “dragging myself if necessary” to the point where I could emulate something akin to that experience in Japanese has always seemed to me the method that maximizes the kind of fun that I actually want to be having with the language).

              I don’t necessarily recommend everyone to follow do the same exact method, because different people have different tolerances to discomfort and that affects how good a method actually is for them (which is of course the main moral of Adshap’s post). But what I do recommend anyone is that they take the speediest method they can endure until they reach a level they truly enjoy (i.e. one where they are having some of the kind of fun in Japanese that motivated them to learn it in the first place rather than just the abstract fun of learning a language).

              “One still has to be weary of using sentences from a dictionary without having seen it from a native resource,”
              Accepting this for the moment, the question would then be whether this problem is enough to offset the benefits gained from simply moving at a faster rate in the number of words you learn (particularly in a language like Japanese where you’ll often be able to guess the reading and meaning of a word if you already know enough other words using the same Kanji). But your point misses something very important: a J-J dictionary is itself a form of native resource, and in fact it is the single most important such resource there is. Making dictionary cards (particularly from definitions themselves) is actually a great way to raise your ability to use the dicitionary itself, which is the main obstacle to actually doing J-J properly.

              And I’ll reiterate that 秋 isn’t really a simple word, it’s an odd duck. Let’s see if I can explain why this time.
              For instance, let’s take 無防備, a word I learned the other day essentially by looking at it. Obviously the reason this was enough to learn it is that I already knew by then what the 無 does along with words like 準備 and 防衛. But the cool thing is that now knowing 無防備 helps me remember 準備 and 防衛 better too. Now, you could retort that learning 無防備 first and without any previous knowledge of the others would be hard, and I’d point out that in that case it would be 準備 and 防衛 that would end up being easier to learn. The moral here is that the work you spend in words like these should be viewed as shared by all those words, so the relevant quantity to consider is the average amount of work spent on each one.
              By comparison, exactly what (useful) words become easier to learn by first learning 秋? Or what words make 秋 easier to learn?

              If you put things in these terms, then you actually see that 秋 does in fact take more work to learn than your average everyday word.

            • “What I think you really want to say is that you can definitely make it work, and maybe add that it is a method with which you feel very comfortable, especially compared to methods using Anki.”

              Comfortable is a weak word which demeans the user, saying that because he or she is not strong enough, he or she cannot handle the other method. However, for me, that is not the case. It is simply because I see absolutely no need for anki. I have been learning Japanese just fine and am loving what I can do with my Japanese every day. So, rather than comforting, you should say that not everyone feels the need to progress at the same intensity as people who use anki. At the same time, yeah, there are people who just cannot handle its intensity (staying consistent) or might just find it extremely boring. There’s a variety of different reasons anki might not be right for somebody. I was never able to stay consistent with anki myself, but it’s not the reason why I left it. I just came to a realization that I didn’t really need it because I’ve come so far with only using it on occasion.

              I do not believe anki is efficient on its own without an immersion environment. If you really are looking to use the most efficient method out there, a combination of anki and a really good immersion environment provides that. Yes, a J-J dictionary is a native resource. However, it will not tell you whether the word is more commonly used or not. Though, if you’re only looking to increase your understanding, not your application of Japanese, I suppose that’s fine. However, Anki alone will not produce native Japanese, and you know that. That’s why you don’t just look at a dictionary, and you yourself read novels, etc. right?

              By that method, yes, 秋 seems more difficult. Oh, and I would agree. Skrwitch has only been working on Anki for 3 months, and a few failures, especially when the kanji itself is an odd combo of components, doesn’t mean anki isn’t for him. However, there’s also no reason that 秋 should be difficult to read, and that’s the fault of relying only on anki.

            • Oh, and I know it may seem like I’m overlooking your main point from the original post and am keeping trying to reinforce my own points and argue yours, so I’m sorry for that frustration. I could just end it, but there are also points within your back-up points that I feel like addressing so I keep responding. I hope that it hasn’t led to too much frustration for you. I do understand your main point.

            • Oh, I also mentioned that I chose not to stick with Anki because I didn’t feel the need for it, but it’s also because I see it as a waste of my time concerning my priorities. We only live so long, and if you’re not enjoying the method that you’re using, you’re wasting your own life. Like Adshap said, he loves using Anki. Some people simply don’t. You mentioned that if people can endure Anki and use it until they reach the level of enjoying Japanese, and I agree, that would be worth it because one’s Japanese would increase faster so that you can enjoy books, television, etc. However, some people intend on using Anki for the rest of their lives. That’s just not simply for me.

            • Sorry for the excessive comments. I’m just going to say, go ahead and make your final comment if you want. I’m just going to stop here and not respond, because I know this could go on for a long time, but I don’t want to keep up with it. Comments have run out of indenting space too…

              Thanks for your time.

            • I don’t have too much left to say.
              (edit: which is to say, this post is only about as long as the longest of yours, rather than the longest of mine. I really should learn how to write online without producing mini lectures…)

              My main point and the thing I wanted to stress is that failing some words repeatedly is simply insufficient to conclude that Anki doesn’t work for you. I think that this is pretty much an objective fact and that to think otherwise is a misunderstanding of how Anki is actually supposed to work.

              On the other hand, you are trying (or so it seems to me) to strengthen your resolve that ditching Anki is the right thing for you to do, and this is something I don’t feel qualified to really discuss, because it depends on your subjective feelings towards Anki, and I don’t really have access to those.
              What I can say is that even at reading levels I don’t think immersion beats immersion+Anki for someone who feels they can do either.

              And I’ll just finish by making a few points on this:
              ” However, some people intend on using Anki for the rest of their lives. That’s just not simply for me.”
              – One thing to be noted is that one only adds Anki cards at a heavy pace for so long. Once that stops reviews go down drastically. I’d definitely not describe my relation with Anki as love, and even the term “like” would be a qualified one, but Adshap posted somewhere his current rate of Anki reviews, and it was roughly something I feel I could deal with while drinking my morning coffee on weekends. I’d hardly call that an unbearable burden.
              – There’s nothing stopping anyone from ditching Anki once they reach a point at which they feel it is no longer beneficial, and I’m certainly going to leave that possibility open as I go forward.

          • Hum… extra post because I didn’t read the first of your responses.

            I’m sorry if you felt insulted, but I did not use the word “comforting”, which I do consider demeaning, I used the word “comfortable”, which I don’t. I tend to select which words to use very carefully, and when I say “comfortable”, I say it because I mean it. For instance, I’m comfortable with Anki, but I’d hardly call it comforting.

            One of the most important things when using ANY method is to get used to it and to feel comfortable that it is working the way you want it. For instance, I feel that the efficiency I get from Anki these days is significantly superior to what it was even as recently as 3 months ago. Were I to suddenly change to some other method, even one that is somehow superior across the board, I’d still expect to get less out of it than I get from Anki until the point where I actually became comfortable with the new method.

            Or to put another way: Japanese isn’t the only thing any of us have been learning. We’ve also been learning our respective methods of learning it.

            Or to put it even simpler terms: take any RPG where you can improve your weapons. A lower base stats weapon that you improved a lot will beat an higher base stats weapon that you didn’t improve at all.

    • (This is not supposed to sound angry to the original poster. Simply their post reminded me of this.)

      This is another reason I don’t like Anki. It separates out words. Sometimes, at the beginning, and even later, you need other words to help you learn the new ones. The best thing for seasons would be to learn them together. 春、夏、秋、冬. But with Anki it might be 春…. lots of unrelated words… 冬… more unrelated words… And if you keep failing 秋,then it separates itself more and more as the other words get longer review times. Eventually you lose the context and 秋 starts to look like a lone character when really, if you just put all these words together, it’s obvious it’s fall because you have context. So at the beginning, I think it’s good to make vocabulary lists and not to separate the words out on Anki. Take the time to learn your vegetables, your body parts, the rooms in a house, the seasons and it’s weather. Vocab lists are not the enemy.

      It’s kind of like using Heisig to learn hiragana and katakana. What kind of story can you make out of の? I don’t get it. Just create a quick deck of flashcards and you should have them learned in a day to 3 days really. Stories will just slow you down.

      • “It’s kind of like using Heisig to learn hiragana and katakana. What kind of story can you make out of の? I don’t get it. Just create a quick deck of flashcards and you should have them learned in a day to 3 days really. Stories will just slow you down.”

        Actually no, the stories do not slow you down at all. I learned the Kana via the Heisig’s method (with his book “Remembering the Kana”). He promises 3 hours worth of study for each of the syllabaries, and that’s what I got (plus anki reviews, of course).
        In fact, the stories work pretty much like they do for the Kanji, so doing the Kana that way actually has the advantage of warming you up to doing Kanji the Heisig way.

        • That’s so strange how brains can work so differently. I took a glimpse at the Heisig online and just seeing that the character う can be remembered as “a tale of two cities” is just strange to me. う is う for me and I never saw it as anything else. I wonder if it would make sense for someone unfamiliar with the roman alphabet to say that the “y” is like a dangling man so “why would he dangle like that?” Would it be worth it for that person to create stories for the roman alphabet.

          • “character う can be remembered as “a tale of two cities” is just strange to me”
            It’s strange to me too (even more because as a non native English speaker all I know about “a tale of two cities” is that it is some classic book that is read in school). Not all of his stories are winners, but you can work your way around those (just like you do with the kanji). Ultimately it is the method itself that counts.

            “う is う for me and I never saw it as anything else”
            I know how that feels. Back when I first decided to learn Japanese on my own, and was still trying to figure out how, I was just going to learn the ひらがな the old fashioned way: repeat repeat repeat repeat repeat repeat…. And indeed I learned my first four like that: ひ、ら、が and な, and I think あ、え、い、お、う too. And I’d probably have gone and learned them all like that if I hadn’t stumbled into something better while googling for study methods shortly after (don’t really remember details by now).
            Anyway, the point is that because of that, I never managed (or felt the need) to attach stories to any of those kana. But my impression was that I dealt with the others faster thanks to the stories than I would have via brute force.

            “Would it be worth it for that person to create stories for the roman alphabet.”
            Probably, though the thing is that there really aren’t that many characters in the roman alphabet anyway, so the pay back of any systematic method versus brute force is much smaller.

            • I know I compared katakana and hiragana to the roman alphabet in that, since there were so few of them, it might as well be learned like the roman alphabet. Except that I’m no longer 2 years old so I get to learn those systems in three hours rather than how we learn our alphabet as a native speaker.

              But in the end, I do understand putting some stories together for kanji. The first time I encountered 謎 (なぞ、puzzle) it was easy to remember since getting lost (迷う、まよう)in words (言)is basically what a puzzle/riddle is. So I can see the benefit, at least, of putting parts of a kanji together. But Heisig as a whole always felt strange.

              In any case, thank you for your responses and for this very interesting conversation. It has been very enlightening.

        • It’s not necessary to create stories to learn the kana. Don’t forget that you had to pay for that Heisig book (unless you downloaded it). I learned the kana in three days by making a chart and copying down Japanese from books while saying aloud what I was writing, then referring to a chart when I didn’t know how to pronounce it. Completely free and time efficient.

          • I’m not saying you need stories to learn the kana, I’m pointing out that they can definitely be made to work (since kure thought instead they got in the way), and in my opinion faster than the other methods, making them the most efficient method I know.
            I’ll agree that the time saved in learning the Kana themselves is not that much (in absolute terms, that is), but, like I was pointing out, doing it that way also gives you a head start (and a confidence boost) when starting RTK, and I found that to be useful.

    • Wanikani is brilliant! Although I guess it’s not really the same thing as Anki…, but it uses a SRS for kanji and vocab learning with zero boredom whatsoever.

  6. THIS!! I both love and hate anki! I’m never on my computer enough to justify it, I had an iphone when I first started using it and the price of the iphone app is INSANE! Part of my android switch consideration was ankidroid but that didn’t last long either!

    First I tried premade decks but without context/being inside someone else’s brain I just couldn’t do it! Then I made my own but I’m too much of a perfectionist!

    It just became a chore and that little red icon kept going up and up and up and argggg!
    I’ve never tried memrise but I did use http://quizlet.com/ but had the same problem with decks as above I liked their ability to export your flashcards in different formats though. Meant I could print of vocab lists :)

    It got to the point where my frustration at not having a decent Anki on iphone I even wrote my own javascript app to emulate it! https://github.com/apricot13/hAnki/ ! I plan to resurrect the project soon, its my last hope at an srs but it probably wont have as many statistics :(

  7. I’ve been trying a different method recently (using paper flash cards) that has been more enjoyable. There is a more detailed description on my blog, but the general idea is to have multiple levels that you bring the flash cards through as you get them right. For example, you have 5 levels and review no more than once a day. Each time you get a card right, you move it to the next level and each time you get it wrong you move it back to the first. Once it has been through all of the levels you get rid of it. The nice thing has been that the reviews don’t build up like with an SRS, so I find it less stressful. And oftentimes just creating the card is enough to remember the new word pretty well.

  8. As a 3+ years Anki user I’ll add my opinion. I think Anki is great and it really helps me remember an insane amount of information with a minimum of hassle.
    In the beginning I struggled (RTK phase) and of course I’ve had my ups and downs over the years but as you reach above starting levels it becomes more and more like just reading random stuff in Japanese. Thankfully the review rate goes down if/when you stop adding cards so my RTK(1+parts of 3) is about 4 a day, very manageable.
    I add sentences on my laptop (at work, on lunch break) and review them on my iPhone app mostly while commuting. For me it was worth every penny to buy the app AND a chance to give something back to the creator Damien Elmes.
    You can choose to look at Anki as a life long ball & chain OR like a tiny sidekick on your shoulder making things easier for you and whom you’d miss if not there.
    So to any beginners of Anki out there, keep it up, it gets better!

  9. I’ve been using Anki for about three years, and overall I really like it. At its best it’s almost magical, I’ll see a word in a book and will just know it without it feeling like I ever studied it, although of course I did.

    That said, it really feels like I could be using it better. My stats tend to be pretty low, in the 75% range and even lower for mature cards. The flip side of the “just knowing” experience is I’ll often come across a word and look it up only to realize it’s something that’s been in my deck forever but that I didn’t recognize outside that one context. Sometimes I’ll find myself in a situation where I have 20 or so failed cards that I just keep looping through, because by the time I get back to each one I’ve already forgotten the answer.

    Maybe this is a topic for a different post, but I’d be interesting in hearing how people are getting the most from Anki. Things like how many cards do you add per day, what do you do after you’ve “failed” a card, do you delete cards that aren’t sticking easily on the assumption that you’ll meet those words again somewhere else (ajatt’s approach) or have you found techniques for dealing with difficult cards? Anki has lots of knobs to tweak, what settings have worked for you? Of course I know there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but maybe someone out there has thought of something that hasn’t occurred to me yet.

    (And just to head off any possible misunderstanding, I am not suggesting that people who disliked Anki were just using it wrong! I’m just curious about how people who do like Anki are using it.)

    • Ok, here are some stats for you
      Main deck (kana+kanji+JE+JJ)
      ~8100 (~400+~2000+~1400+~4000)
      Age: 1y 4m
      Overall correct rate: ~92% (mature ~89.5%)
      Reviews: 250-300/day
      New cards: 17/day

      MCD deck (still somewhat experimental)
      ~1100
      Age: 2m
      Overall correct rate: ~94%
      Reviews: ~100/day (still a little fluid)
      New cards: 21/day

      For the longest time I hadn’t been doing anything about difficult cards, actually. I’d had Anki set not to suspend leeches, but recently I’ve decided to try to tackle them, so I first cleared the leech tag, and then set Anki back to suspending them. The plan is that when a card becomes a leech again I try to identify the word that’s causing the the difficulty and just add another card using the same word to the deck.
      Based on my past experience I’m expecting this to pretty much solve the problem, as many cards that bothered me at some time stopped doing so once I got other cards using the troublesome words.

      • Thanks, this was helpful. Anki “out of the box” is designed for a ~90% retention rate and ~ 20 new cards today and you’re basically in those ranges with your main deck (though impressively at the high end of them!) I know that stats aren’t the goal, but they are a useful diagnostic and I think the diagnosis they’re reporting is that my memory is just kind of lousy. This doesn’t exactly come as a huge shock to me. But the interval modifier exists for a reason, sounds like I should turn it down and add fewer cards per day to balance out the increase in number of reviews/time spent.

        In RPG terms, I guess I just have a low base stat for memory, I’ve been using Anki as a sword that’s actually a bit too heavy, and I could actually do more damage with something lighter.

        Thanks again!

  10. I don’t really like Anki either. I know using it on a tablet device helps avoid the old Carpal Tunnel syndrome but I don’t have a tablet (sue me I’m poor ;)
    Moreover I just like traditional flash cards better because I like paper. I know this sounds crazy but paper flash cards have always worked well for me.

    • “I don’t really like Anki either. I know using it on a tablet device helps avoid the old Carpal Tunnel syndrome but I don’t have a tablet (sue me I’m poor ;)”

      Great point. Having used Anki on my laptop, my cell phone and my tablet, the tablet is definitely the one I choose. Yet another reason why I love my Surface Pro…

      • All Anki needs is some voice recognition software, where it judges, answers and automatically places the correct interval solely based on you just reading the sentence out loud.

        • Yes, voice recognition is the only thing I miss from when I was using my cheap pirate copy of Rossetta Stone (don’t blame me, blame my older sister and the Chinese guy she bought it from). Sometimes I open it up to practise pronounciation but it just feels to much like wasting my time, because I could read something else aloud and actually learn something at the same time.

  11. Anki for me worked remarkably well (now it is helping me to study German), but the biggest danger for me is to overuse it. 100 reviews a day is doable, anything more becomes an obligation and eventually a nuisance. So as a method to slowly build up vocabulary over time (not more than 10 new cards a day), it is perfect. Preferably adding some extra things as reading or watching, so you also notice in practice your progress and it reminds you why you are doing it. Using Anki almost exclusively to build up a huge vocabulary quickly, can crowd out fun things and took away motivation.

    As another person remarked, better see it as ‘a tiny sidekick on your shoulder making things easier’, rather than the one and only tool that will get you there (unless you accept that it will consume a lot of not-so-fun time on a daily basis)

    • Any specific suggestions for efficient ways to use Anki to learn German? I’ve no direct interest in it myself, but I have a good friend who wants to start learning it soon and I’ve been trying to sell her on Anki.

      But since my Anki routines (300 reviews a day on my main deck only) are way above what I think she would be willing to put up with I’m quite interested in the habits of someone who uses Anki at a lower pace, as well as any insights you might have that work specially well for German.

  12. My approach to German and Anki’s role in it: First, I took one course to get the basic grammar down. The next step is building up vocabulary and I found a book in a store which covers a thematic vocabulary of 5000 words, with (and this is vital for me) example sentences in my language and German. The sentence method from All Japanese All The Time. In the beginning I used Text to Speech software to hear the sentences and I checked if I understood them. Now, I actually study it pure textual in both directions (something they say you shouldn’t do, but I don’t see the harm in going from one Germanic language to another). So 5-10 new sentences a day means 1500 a year and you can calculate how many years it will take you to build up a decent vocabulary:). On a daily basis I try to read a German website (the “immersion” part).

  13. I guess I have a hatelove for Anki. I find reviewing boring most of the time, but it helps me to remember words better, so I review when I’m on the toilet or when I have to wait and have nothing better to do. I also enjoy putting sentences in, but unfortunately that alone does not make the words stick, so I have to review for that.
    I get almost never all the reviews done, but I do as much as I can, because I always say to myself that even 1 is better than 0.

  14. I’ve just deleted my Anki deck… it feels funny; 6250 Japanese cards, 2000 German cards, 14 months of work — gone.

    It feels funny… but I hardly think I’ll regret it when I get back to uni in September. It also feels liberating, and it frees some time that I can rather spend improving my listening comprehension (Japanese) and production (both).

    Thanks for the advice, Eric and Adshap. :)

    • Can be liberating! The work is not really gone if you actually reviewed those cards… and even making them is a learning process. Anki works so well, after a while you are fluent and don’t need it any more!

  15. Agreed. Don’t use Anki if you hate it. But it’s like Facebook, or Twitter, or some other fantastic tool. Don’t use it if you don’t like it. But if you don’t like it, you are probably using it wrong. I think Anki is such a powerful tool that I would never recommend anyone abandon it without thinking about WHY they don’t like it.

    Like with Twitter: someone pointed out to me that you can use Twitter is to ask people for advice on travel and language learning issues, it became clear why I should use it. Back when all I saw was “just ate lunch” and “finals stinks” tweets from my friends in real life, I didn’t get it.

    Anki is the same. I used single word vocab cards with English on the back and it was boring. Later, I was converted to “10k sentences” by AJATT and deleted all 6000+ vocab cards. Four years later, I still use Anki for Japanese sentence reviews. Lately I’ve been downloading decks made by other people where they’ve put in the audio from DeathNote and stuff like that. It takes no work at all to browse those reviews. If I get bored with the cards, I delete them. If I don’t want to use Anki, I don’t for days or weeks at a time, and read books and watch dramas instead.

    I always come back to Anki for what it is best at: memorizing things. Memorize a poem? Learn Kobun through memorizing sentences? Learn new words through sentences? Anki.

    Without Anki, I couldn’t have learned kanji. Period.

  16. Today I abandon Anki for vocab. It’s just not for me, I procrastinate over it and I procrastinate while doing it. I’m 187 cards into my J-J bridge deck after starting months ago, since then I’ve moved to Japan and found a job! I’ve also noticed I can’t actually recall words that I “know” in real conversation – which kind of defeats the point. I’m going to try reading and maybe using Learning With Texts with the time I would previously spend on vocab cards.

    I do like it for RTK though, so I’ll continue using it for that.

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