Flash cards. Building your “stack.” You probably have big numbers in mind. But how many flash cards do you want to study? How many do you actually need? No one studies Japanese to have a large deck of cards. It’s a byproduct of working hard.
However, one day everyone eventually gets around to asking themselves:
“When is enough?”
“When can I stop counting?”
“When can I say I’m done with flash cards?”
The magic number. Learn 10,000 flash cards, and you are fluent. This is a pretty widespread idea, for a few reasons. It’s a nice large number. It’s been a number shared and discussed since the early Anki days. And it feels like it matches the old 10,000 hours to mastery concept.
However, contrary to what you might think, it’s not actually something I’ve really pressed here on this site. I think the closest thing I’ve come to talking about this is the “over 9000 Anki cards” joke on the level guide. My longstanding message has been that you keep going until you are satisfied, adding cards until you’ve decided you feel good enough.
But Adam, you’re obsessed with flash cards…?
My personal deck has 13263 cards. That’s a lot. But when you look at the spread of new cards added to this deck since I started adding cards in 2007, a different picture is painted.
2007-2010: 12,356 cards (Avg: 3089 new cards a year)
2011-2017: 907 cards (Avg: 130 new cards a year)
2011: 259 cards
2012: 240 cards
2013: 0 cards
2014: 73 card
2015: 309 cards
2016: 6 cards
2017: 20 cards
I was finished for the most part with new flash cards in 2011. I haven’t added a new card in about 8 months. I don’t plan on adding anything else again. This doesn’t mean the learning has stopped. It just changed.
There are plenty of people who have much larger decks than me. That’s great if you felt the continual gains and desire to keep going. But even for the most hardcore of flash card counters, it eventually stops becoming a numbers game. Numbers don’t define your ability, and the better you get, the less you measure.
How far will you go?
Your target card number is personal, but something that is worth sharing. In the comments below:
1. If you used flash cards for years, and have stopped learning new cards, what number did you get up to?
2. If you are still learning new flash cards, what number do you plan on going to?
I’m 13263, and proud of it.
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