I think flash cards get a bad name. They stir up images of the old days of writing on two sides of a physical piece of paper, with vocabulary on one side, and the meaning on the other. To prepare for a test you would summon a horde of flash cards. Because of this history, when you see something like we do here by teaching Japanese solely through flash cards, some people get confused or look down on them.
“C’mon, they’re just flash cards! Is that it?”
“Flash card” is the terminology used, but these days, they take on a whole new role. It’s not just about reviewing lists of words anymore.
Flash cards are textbooks.
People often ask if they need to go through textbooks while going through the Jalup decks. I have to remind them that the decks are the textbooks.
Japanese textbooks usually are presented in the following format:
1. Teach and explain a concept(s)
2. Provide a few examples of the concepts to clarify them
3. Repeat teaching a few times for new concepts
4. Give review activities/exercises at the end of a section, going over what you learned
5. Return to step 1
6. After several repeats, have a much larger review of all the material
Flash card decks, if done properly, do the same thing, and also shine in a few additional ways:
1. Teach and explain concepts, in very simple form, as to not provide too much information or overwhelm
2. The example is the front of the card. Other examples come in when later cards use what has already been taught
3. The teaching comes in every single new card. It’s not grouped together into lists or sections. One thing at a time
4. Your review activity and exercises are spread out over time through SRS
5. Return to step 1, after every single card
6. There is no need for a much larger review
Notice the similarities ?
How about some more positives?
– If you glued together 500 flash cards, you’d have a textbook. The information is the same, it’s just presented in a different way.
– How, when and how much you learn and review is already all set up for you.
Some textbook love?
There are plenty of people that enjoy textbooks. They like having a book in their hands and the traditional full setup that it gives. Or they like the new online textbook style a lot of sites now offer. If you like textbooks, continue using them. I’ll still always have fondness for the Genki series I completed many years ago.
However, flash cards are not second class. They help a different type of learner. Maybe if they had a better, catchier name, people would rethink them. “Information explosions?” “Knowledge infusions?” I don’t know, but before you are about to put flash cards down, think about what they can actually do.
What’s your preference?
Do you like textbook structure? Do you like flash card and deck learning structure? Or do you like both?