One of the most interesting features of Anki is that the more you do it, the less you have to do it. Your goal is to continually push back all your cards further and further into some future void. Until you wake up one day fluent, and see 0 reviews due for weeks on end, and ponder whether you should delete the app from existence…
While this day is far away, a more imminent question appears. Do you keep reviewing decks when they get old. More specifically, should you keep reviewing a kanji deck, or a J-E deck once you are already deep into J-J. In J-J, the goal is to remove English from your life completely, yet English will keep popping up for months and years to come through your reviews.
Should you continue to review old material forever, or get rid of it eventually?
If you started studying J-E today, in 3 years do you really want to waste your time reviewing a こんにちは – Hello card?
First, the fact that there is English shouldn’t concern you. You aren’t learning anything new. This isn’t accidentally seeing English while you are in J-J mode. Your flow will not be interrupted.
But more importantly, Anki and its spaced repetition system magic work by continually increasing your intervals. You can expand the amount of time between reviews because that’s how your memory works. So your review streak may look like:
When you finish that 1 year review, and the next time you’ll see it is in 3 years. By then is it necessary anymore?
Maybe not. There is a good chance you have already mastered it. With immersion, you indirectly review your Anki cards hundreds or thousands of times in different scenarios. Even if you don’t ever see it in Anki again, you probably won’t forget it. So why bother?
I find 6 reasons for not deleting old material, and letting it run its course.
1. Memories and Reflection
I’ve talked about how Anki is like time travelling. Reviewing old cards takes you back in time to when you first reviewed those cards. You remember where you were, what you were doing, and what your life was like. It’s a nostalgic trip.
When you are currently frustrated, hitting a hurdle, you lose sight of things and how far you’ve come. Looking back at your progress helps you remember that your Japanese has improved significantly.
2. Deeper understanding of the basics
You review. You understand. You move on. But some of this understanding is shallow. Seeing the basics years later makes you gain new appreciation for it.
3. Fix old hidden mistakes
Sometimes you think you understood something. And since that point have kept that understanding. But when you return to that card months or years later, you realize you were wrong.
4. Fix new mistakes
You learned something correctly. You used it correctly. But over time, it started to evolve into something wrong. Now that you review it at it’s original form, you can fix your current problem.
5. Victory lap
Am I the only one who takes pleasure in seeing high intervals? I have cards now on 18 year intervals. To me that’s nearly never-will-see-again territory. I said the same thing when I reached my first 6 year interval, but here I am…
Catapulting your cards into oblivion feels like a final victory lap. You’ve won. Don’t you want to bask in that moment?
6. Minimal Commitment
Older cards are put on giant intervals. To continue to review an old card, it may take you only a few seconds to keep it gone for decades.
Do you need to keep going?
No, you don’t. If I quit Anki completely today, things wouldn’t change. I haven’t added new cards in a long time. I do reviews maybe once a week now for about 10 minutes at a time. It’s nothing. Sure, I forget stuff. But I forget stuff in my native language.
Eventually you may want to delete the app. If you had been doing it for years, you may have already. I may eventually as well.
But I’m an extreme case. If you are only a few years into it, and are already considering knocking out your first deck, think a little bit about what you would gain vs. what you might lose.
Will you retire Anki?
Have you ever deleted old decks (or Anki entirely) because you feel you don’t need/want to review anymore? Is there a point you feel you will stop?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.