Time Traveling With Anki

You probably know that Anki has the uncanny ability to help you learn Japanese. But did you also know of its second function? The ability to transport you through time?

Time Traveling With Anki

Whenever you grade yourself on an Anki card, you choose how far in the future you want it to appear again based on your current ability to remember it. You probably just click one of the 4 choices, without really thinking or caring about whether it’ll reappear hours, days, weeks, or months later. But something begins to change once cards get into the years. Not only does it feel incredibly empowering to throttle flash cards that far into the future, but it is a great moment to bring you into that future.

For example, you just blasted a card 3 years into the future. That’s 3 full years you will never see that card again. When it finally makes its return, just imagine where you’ll be. Your Japanese ability will probably be excellent (who knows, maybe even fluent). Maybe you’ll be living in Japan, or working your dream job using Japanese. The possibilities are endless. By dealing with these future transmissions, every day, you gain a better sense over time.

Time Traveling With Anki 2

It works even better in reverse. I often get cards that return that I haven’t seen in several years. Reviewing cards that you originally connected with on some deeper level come back with memories attached. Reviewing a 5 year old card may flash you back in time to where you were and what you were doing when you first encountered it. I have hundreds if not thousands of cards connected to all kinds of memories of living in Japan. Pictures aren’t the only thing that can bring you back in time. Anki is a nostalgia goldmine.

When the intervals start going up, things get even more intense. I send many cards 15 years into the future. 15 years! Just imagine what I’ll be doing then.

And you thought you were just reviewing flash cards!

Have you ever had any time (past or future) reflections with Anki? Share a story!

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


Time Traveling With Anki — 7 Comments

  1. I haven’t been using anki long enough to experience this yet. I have experienced where I’ll come across a card that I haven’t seen for 6 months or so, and as soon as I see it I remember how fuzzy it was and then when I start reading it, it will just click in my mind even though I haven’t seen that exact same card for months.

  2. I haven’t been using Anki long enough for the intervals to get this long (actually, I have the intervals hidden, so I don’t even know, lol), but I noticed that whenever I get a card that I added like a year ago or so, I can’t help but think: “…I seriously thought that was difficult back then?”

    Now here’s hoping that a year from I’ll feel the same way about cards I’m adding now.

    • The great thing about Anki is eventually that is the way you’ll feel about every last card in the deck, no matter how large.

  3. I’ve been using a different SRS for going on about 3 years now. I’ve felt this specific feeling several times… especially when I break a record for longest delay like I did a few days ago (4.8 years before I see that card again!) or when I see a card from the first couple of months. Incidentally, the really old ones tend to be the ones poised to break records. I look back as I breeze through most of those old cards and wonder what was ever so hard about this that I made a flashcard… or I’ll be reminded of the days when I had trouble parsing the slang and dialectic speech in the Dragonball manga. They were the good old days, but they were also the shitty old days. I remember them fondly, but I’m glad I’ve made the progress I have and I can’t wait to see where I am 4.8 years from now when I see that most distant card again. I’ll probably have added another 10,000 flashcards by then! I’ll probably have read tens of thousands more pages by then… might have a family, too.

    I discovered the time machine property of SRS some time ago… including the fact that I have flashcards that I’ll only see 3-4 more times in my natural life if I chose to keep it going that long.

    • I also wonder how long people will continue using Anki for. When you’ve used it for a long time, It’s such a minor time commitment for such great returns, and it’s perfect for waiting downtime (when you have a few minutes in line somewhere). I’ve been at it for 8+ years now, but I often wonder if I’ll still be using it in another 10 years.

      I guess if you continue with it long enough eventually you’ll reach the point where cards are pushed off past your life span haha.

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