When Do You Stop Adding New Cards To Anki?

Anki grows with time. Add cards and watch it amass size. More cards means more total knowledge you have deeply absorbed in your memory. But after acquiring enough, there must be a point that you never need to add a new Anki card again. Does that moment exist, and when?

When Do You Stop Adding New Cards To Anki

Difficulty in adding new cards

As your deck expands, so does your Japanese ability. The more you learn, the less you don’t know, and the harder it is to find new material. There was a time, at my peak of Japanese “insanity,” where I was adding 30-50 cards a day, every day, for several months. Now my deck in 2016 maybe sees a few new cards a month.

Gotten lazy?

No, but I can’t find new words I want to add.

Of course there are probably tens of thousands of words and phrases (if not more) that I don’t know. But for several years, I have abided by the following 5 rules for adding new cards that allows me to sanely keep that “study” element in my enjoyment of Japanese media.

1. The unknown word must come naturally from something I’m engaging in. This assures me that there is value in learning it. No dictionary or word list scavenging for new words.

2. It must be something that I can’t figure out from the context of what I’m reading. If I get it from context, it means that I’ll get it from context next time (even better than this time), and it isn’t worth the effort of looking it up.

3. It must come from something I’m reading (and now specifically, reading from my iPhone). This allows for minimal effort to look it up/make an Anki card.

4. It must be something I’m interested in or think I will need to know

5. It must not interrupt the flow of what I’m doing, so if I’m very engaged in reading something, it’s not going to get in there.

These 5 rules have allowed me to continue studying new material without ever feeling like I was tired of studying. Then again, sometimes even if all 5 are met, I may just look up the word, and not bother adding it. This causes streaks of months where I won’t add any cards at all.

Why keep Anki at all? Once you are fluent, can’t studying be finished?

When Do You Stop Adding New Cards To Anki 2

So 11 years in and I still sometimes add new cards. I’m still reviewing cards. By normal standards, I don’t need to do anything to understand 99% of what I encounter.

So why continue? Because it requires the smallest amount of commitment to continue to grow.

It may come down to personality. Why do some adults continue to look up new words in their native language no matter how old they get? Why do people continue to expand their knowledge till they die. To me, this continued growth is rewarding, and worth that commitment.

Almost all your natural growth in the much higher levels (65+) will be gained without Anki (just continuing to read and listen to Japanese native media). But I occasionally like to add a little language fertilizer to the mix and adding new words allows me to do that.

So is there an end to new words in Anki?

Depends on who you are and what you want to do.

How about an end to Anki reviews?

For me, now, not likely. A minute or so a day is my daily Japanese teeth brushing for long term memory lapse cavity prevention. It also acts as a brain booster game. But then again, let’s talk in a few more years, as I may have dropped it completely by then.

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


When Do You Stop Adding New Cards To Anki? — 11 Comments

  1. This post inspired me to do another round of new cards tonight. I haven’t decided yet at what point, if any, I’ll stop adding cards to anki. I actually kind of enjoy using an SRS every day (although of course when reviews get out of hand, it becomes unfun), I know some people really, really hate it (despite recognizing its value). This may be the single biggest difference between those who continue to use anki life-long and those who eventually choose to set it aside.

    • Yeah, I mean as you get higher level it’s the ultimate “minor down time” savior. Waiting for a train, on line, or some other slightly unpleasant waiting task where you have nothing to do, and only have a few minutes. It’s absolutely perfect.

      We’ll see if in the near future I come up with a “the end” post, but for now it’s still here to stay.

  2. Is it bad that I can usually guess what articles the links go to? I imagine one day I’ll stop adding cards. Though I’m pretty new to the concept, just adding cards for knowledge gaps in the One Deck. It’ll be years before I’ll be at this point though.

    • A true fan!

      I think it definitely becomes a personal choice on how you want to continue the relationship with Anki.

  3. For a while I thought I would never stop adding cards because it used to be such a boon to my studying. Then it was going to be until I finish the one deck. There’s 5000 cards left on it, but at this point the value I get from them has decreased so much that by now doing other things does more for my progress.

    • Don’t feel any guilt in having to finish it. The One Deck’s purpose was originally just to introduce people to J-J, but that purpose has faded away since the main Jalup deck series was released. Follow your feeling on the matter.

  4. Hi to Adam and all JALUP users! I have a little doubt for anyone who would kindly help me :)

    I started studying years ago for some months (RtK – Genki 1-2 and part of an intermediate book) but then I went through an Anki burnout.

    Now That I’ve restarded on october-november, I’ve decided to go easy with Anki, I’ve ended reading my third light-novel and I’m going to start the fourth tomorrow.

    I’ve added some sentences to Anki, with words exclusively mined from the books I’ve read. Now I have 3000 cards in my Anki deck, because I still remember many words from when I studied the first time, and other words just stick by means of reading.

    My doubt is if it’s better to add even those words, many of which are really common or just obvious from kanji (both reading and meaning)?

    I know you Adam started with Anki when you were already past the beginner stage, so I wonder if you added even those kind of words, or only those you felt you needed to have in Anki to prevent forgetting them?

    * I just went through a frequency list of 3500 words just to have an idea of where I am now, and I already know most of them but I wonder if it’s better to still have them into Anki and just spam the “easy” key. Or must I just “ignore” them and add them eventually if I encounter them in native media and I notice that I’ve forgot them.

    Sorry for the long question and the bad english!

    • I had a similar experience. I added all those words into a separate deck and just powered through them all in a week (500 words I already knew) and just kept up with reviews ever since, now I get 2-3 reviews a day from it and I am glad I did that because now it is basically effortless to keep up with them.

    • I would argue that if you know them naturally, then wait with creating cards. If you forget them later, then you can create the cards then – otherwise, you saved yourself the time to make the cards, which can be better spent on other cards that you don’t already know :)

    • Jesper’s comment reflects on what my experience was, and how I handled it. The only exception I might make is if you know the word, but not the kanji. Or you know the word, but not in the specific way it is being used in your current example.

      • Thank you all for your answers! I’ll do it that way then.. In fact I’m already doing it, to add words to reinforce kanji knowledge, particularly to reinforce onyomi :p thank you again and thank to Adam for your website, it helps me enormously!

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