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What is Anki and Why does it Work? — 2 Comments

  1. My opinion on Anki has gone through a roller-coaster over my Japanese studies, but I can say that at level ~35-40 that I only have respect and thankfulness for the app and SRS in general, and I would not be this far in Japanese (or at least this fast) without it. While it’s not really my favorite part of the day (I’d rather immerse), it is easy to see it’s usefulness- definitely with the JALUP deck, and EXTREMELY useful for any Kanji review.

    I love that it lets me review those words I suck at much more often than the words I don’t – so while I sigh when half of my reviews are words I’m not good at, I have to remember that it’s because the other 80% of my deck I’m good at and that it intentionally biases towards my weaknesses. I think it’s this fact that can make Anki frustrating to some.

    I like Anki a LOT better now that I don’t grade myself so hard. I used to be extremely strict early on, when I made my own decks and then when I first started using the JALUP ones. I would mark so much stuff as failed (even if it was because the word just slipped form my mind), and my reviews were HUGE. Thanks to some comments on here I have moved towards a style where I only fail those cards I don’t remember the meaning of, and mark cards where I forgot or had trouble with the reading as “hard”. This has been an excellent strategy that is paying off because many readings I find I just need time to learn, or more words that have kanji using the same readings. A great example for me is that I never got the reading for 疑問 until the word 疑惑 showed up in my deck, now they’re both easy readings for me.

    But as most people who have used Anki for a while know, Anki is not the end all and be all. Anki is not a substitute for immersion. And in fact, the more you immerse, the easier Anki gets. We have to think of Anki as a launchpad into understanding Japanese. It will help us learn and maintain vocabulary, grammar, and kanji – but we only get to see nuances when we immerse.

    TL;DR アンキは最高!

  2. Honestly, Anki never worked particularly well for me. I’d fail words for several consecutive days, they’d eventually stick for a few iterations, maybe a month, then drop off again. This despite numerous experiments in card formats and tweaks to the scheduling algorithm and so on. Inevitably, usually around the 1000-card point, I’d hit what I came to call a “cascade failure” — my retention rate would plummet and I’d end up putting in increasingly more time for increasingly less benefit.

    I don’t want to disparage Anki, which is a fantastic piece of software! I also don’t want to disparage SRS systems in general or discourage anyone from using them, they are unquestionably immensely valuable for a lot of people, maybe even the vast majority. I just want to let anyone who may find themselves in my situation know that this kind of vocabulary drilling is not necessary. People can and do achieve high levels of proficiency in second languages without it.

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