Are you Setting a Dangerous Daily Flash Card Goal?
Choosing an amount of new flash cards to learn daily looks like a simple task. You start off with the total number you want to complete from a deck or decks. You decide when you want to finish it by. You divide one by the other, and you get your daily goal count. In the Jalup app, I even provide you an automated tool to set this up for you.
All ready to go? Maybe. How high does your daily number look? It may not seem significant, but this number can predict whether you will burn out or successfully continue in the long run.
A deceptive beginning
Assume you are starting fresh or from a somewhat low/manageable daily reviews count. Take Jalup Beginner with its 1,000 cards. Here are some possible outcomes you consider:
33 cards/day = finished in ~1 month
11 cards/day = finished in ~3 months
5 cards/day = finished in ~6.75 months
Then you also have Intermediate, Advanced, Expert, Hero, and Master. 6,000 total cards ahead of you (more if you plan on doing Kana Conqueror or Kanji Kingdom). 33 is looking quite appealing. With that, it will take you only half a year to finish everything. How amazing would that be?
Your first several days to weeks go fine. Then the reviews come in hard. Hundreds of reviews due a day that just won’t go away. This is a hard pace to keep up for a beginner, and you struggle immensely even though you just started Jalup Beginner. Before the reviews pile in, a pace of 33/day seems doable (and maybe even easy). But everyone soon realizes this is definitely not the case.
Slow and steady is a cliche used to death, but for good reason
On the Jalup app tutorial, I recommend between 5-15 new cards a day. This pace will take you between 2~6 months to finish 1,000 cards. Your first reaction may be “that’s too long!” Your second reaction is what to do with the rest of your time after doing those 5 cards.
1. Review your due cards (don’t be tempted to learn more new cards after this)
2. Spend time enjoying native Japanese material
#2 is what cements everything that you are learning. This is what keeps you motivated. #1 gives you access to immersion. #2 gets you fluent. A lot of people think adding new cards and reviewing is the “study” time and “immersion” is the bonus play time. But immersion is just as important as the studying.
Other people are studying, 30, 50 or even 100 new cards a day!
You know looking at what other people are doing is bad. Especially when it comes to people studying Japanese on the internet and bragging about it on forums and YouTube videos. Who knows what their situation is like. Who knows how long they were able to keep up that pace. For every story of a successful power-leveler pulling off this pace, there are many more who burned out along the way.
Highly risky, highly prone to failure, and not necessary. The Jalup decks weren’t intended to be a race to finish 6,000 cards. Too much information too fast is not your path to victory.
You might be thinking, “but Adam, didn’t you once say you learned like 30-50 cards a day?” Yes, and no. Over very short bursts of time (a few weeks or a month here and there), I was intense. But if you average it out over the years, not so much. More importantly, I was in a very specific situation that allowed me to do this. And as someone pointed out to me, you have to be crazy to do what I did. This is not a “I did it so you can/should as well.” That is often unrealistic and can be harmful.
I am not discouraging fast paces or power-leveling. It can be an amazing study speed for the right person. But I want you to remember something truly important.
5 Cards a day is powerful
To finish Jalup Beginner through Master (6,000 cards), at 5 cards a day, it would take you 1,200 days or around 3.25 years.
Take that in for a second. At this realistic pace that you are likely to continue, in 3.25 years your Japanese is going to be pretty damn good. You will not stress yourself out, will decrease your chance of failure, and can avoid the lows that a fast pace produces.
It gets even better though. Your speed at learning new cards will absolutely increase. Choosing 5 cards/day as a beginner is misleading. Most people get through Advanced, Expert, Hero, and Master at a much faster pace than Beginner and Intermediate. This isn’t because they are putting in more time. It’s because in the time it takes you to learn 5 daily cards now, you can turn up to 10 in a year. On top of things getting easier, your motivation rises as you get better and you enjoy real native media.
Slow down to speed up
Give it a try. You may find yourself fluent before you know it.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
Great article Adam. Burnout is dangerous. It seems to me that most people believe that Anki is how you learn Japanese. I know for a fact that many people have learned a language simply by watching things in their target language, never even touching Anki. Anki just primes our mind so we can learn more quickly. My personal feeling is that Anki is simply a supplement to increase the speed of our language acquisition. For example, I was playing a game lately and making my own cards for it but it really wasn’t the cards that cemented anything, it was the constant repetition in the immersion. The cards helped set a foundation.
I hear many people talking about massive reviews and how stressful it is. I highly encourage you to listen to Adam (unless you can handle power leveling) and take it slow and steady and fill all of that extra time with what truly brings fluency; huge amounts of immersion :D
I was in danger of failing until I changed everything and filled my time with what I found enjoyable, which is Japanese media.
You can do it everyone! Thanks for the awesome article Adam.
Well said Andrew.
You pretty much need some kind of base before going into immersion. Whether that’s Anki, Jalup, physical textbooks, lessons, one of the million apps out there, you need something that will create your early foundation that allows you to get to immersion. Once you get there, that’s what becomes important, as your base (and the need to expand on it) fades away.
I’m really happy to hear that you were able to get to this point where you can enjoy what is going to help your Japanese the most now.
Thanks a lot! Yah, I absolutely love having large sections in shows that are completely understandable, reading large sections that are as well, and understanding J-J definitions. It’s all thanks to starting Jalup 2.5 years ago; beginning with your Anki decks, becoming far to obsessed with Anki, and then putting it in its place and getting mass amounts of immersion as you suggest. I actually think the motivation articles and a couple of user comments were the biggest help though. My favorite article is the Japanese payoff point and the comments in it. Hugely motivatiing. I actually think I’m getting that for listening immersion to some degree now. I just need to increase my vocab more. Reading I slacked on because of anki obsession, but now I’m doing tons more (along with an audiobook reading to reduce building an accent in my head).
Anyways, enough rambling.
Thanks a ton Adam and said users.
Agreed this article is right on point and something I have spent a lot of time thinking about this year, especially recently. Doing Jalup Advanced the last couple months I did something I had yet to do all year, take my time. I did 10 cards a day, every day. No more no less. I spent any extra time on immersion, usually at least 30 minutes sometimes up to 2 hours on top of reviews.
It made me realize how amazing it is to add cards at the same pace. Every day I get 50-65 cards due from advanced. It is so even. Never a big surprise 200+ review day on the worst day possible.
Earlier in my studies I did a lot more cramming. In particular doing Intermediate I set a hardcore pace of 25 a day. It was brutal. I enjoyed (many days) it but I could never sustain it. I would have 200-300 review days. Looking back that was the worst time to try that as well, moving to J-J. Luckily it didn’t burn me out, I did fine. But I WAY prefer the pace I have now.
That’s such an excellent point. Creating that steady routine makes life so much easier and allows you to know what to expect daily. It only takes one day of seeing 300 reviews to create a dangerous crash.
A constant 10/day that you can enjoy and isn’t stressing you out is perfect.
How about a feature that calculates your reviews and warns you if you hit a dangerous amount?
I belive AnkiDroid has a predictive due review feature. This is in contrast to Desktop and iOS where it just looks at the amount of cards that are due on any given day without factoring in your likely pass/fail rate. I don’t think there’s any reason you couldn’t have the AnkiDroid feature on these devices but nobody’s got round to programming it.
See https://github.com/ankidroid/Anki-Android/issues/3619 for more details. I believe you access predictive reviews by going to ‘advanced statistics’ on the settings. I don’t own Ankidroid so I can’t say for sure.
Interesting. I may try something like this in the future.
For the most part I agree with what you wrote here, Adam.
But I just can’t recommend going slow with Kanji. There is not only the burn-out due to being too fast and having too much, but also the slow burnout by the feeling to face an neverending amount of Kanji cards… I chose the 65/day route for RTK, after failing a few times at slower paces. Spending a whole year staring at Kanji cards everyday would have driven me crazy, without feeling any progress.
Important note: That time with 65 Kanji/day was hell. Worth it. But hell.
Ooo good point. When I was doing rtk I also went as high as 50 a day. Speed is a little more doable with kanji only. I think I cleared them all in about two months. If you are doing jalup beginner at the same time though that would be way too much. If you do just kanji though that speed could work for some people.
It definitely will depend on the person. Pulling off 65 kanji a day is very admirable.
i recently bought the maximum package (nearly finished the begginer because i bought it before).
At intermediate package, as the deck are divided on part, i think to learn 250 card each month with 10 new cards per day (25 days) and a small cooldown with no new card to finish the month (depending one month but take 5 to 6 days except february)and jump to the next part.
4 month for 1 deck (20 month for finish all jalup)
@Adam, what did you think about it ?
Sounds like a great, balanced pace to me :)