The Power of 0
What is the most powerful number in learning Japanese?
Zero is the number you see when you’ve finished your flash card reviews for the day. The number that says to you “you’ve kicked ass today and are on track for fluency.”
In the beginning, 0 is simple. You start at zero. First you add new cards. Then you have those cards to review. You review those cards until you have no more cards left to review. You continue this process just fine for the first several weeks or months.
Your daily reviews due number grow steadily. Nothing too crazy. 20 a day, 40 a day, 60 a day. You continually review everything down to 0.
Then you skip one day. You were sick, or tired, or busy. Your reviews are now 100 the next day. Then you skip another day, now they are 175. You want to continue learning new material, so even though you have 175 reviews, and used to only add new cards after you got your reviews down to 0, you continue learning new cards anyway.
Most people start to feel overwhelmed once their daily reviews due reaches between 250-400. Above 400, and it can feel insurmountable.
There’s plenty of available strategy
1. Figuring out what review number pushes you over the edge.
2. Catching up on reviews slow or fast.
3. Being aware that you reviews decrease with time.
1. Temporarily stop adding new cards until your reviews reach 0.
2. Artificially set a limit on your daily reviews that allows you to reach 0.
3. Delete/suspend your decks
4. Start over
All this is fine, but I feel like this makes the quest for 0 out to be something evil and to be avoided at all costs. But 0 is something special.
Which sounds easier?
1. Get your reviews down from 500 to 400.
2. Get your reviews down from 100 to 0.
Too easy a choice? How about?
1. Get your reviews down from 700 to 600.
2. Get your reviews down from 200 to 0.
Which is going to be more satisfying. Which is going to be more motivating? Which is going to inspire you with hope?
Is 0 just a number?
At this point, you often start to hear the following:
“Don’t let numbers control you!”
“Don’t let Anki control you!”
Easy to say. But in life we live around and by numbers. We make important decisions around numbers. Our motivation and dreams are based around numbers. Pushing off numbers as something to be ignored is unnatural.
So is it so bad that we crave 0, and seeing it can bring such satisfaction?
No. Because 0 is good. 0 is your personal Japanese coach. It creates a powerful habit within you. It gets you to study consistently every day. It tells you when and how often to study. It is strict when you start slacking. It keeps you on track and always moving forward. 0 creates order out of chaos.
Blah blah I’m at 500 reviews, and I don’t care
When you are at 500, is this positive view going to help? Maybe not. But a few things to keep in mind before you curse the existence of online flash cards.
● Everyone misses days and has their reviews at 500+ at multiple points on their Japanese journey.
● You can recover and reach 0 again.
● It will feel sooooooooo good.
● The people that recover are the strongest Japanese learners, because it’s tough, and tough forges fluency.
If it takes you days or weeks to get back to 0, it will be worth it. No time has been wasted.
How has 0 influenced your Japanese studying?
Have you harnessed it’s power? Or are you currently in the midst of a seemingly unending struggle?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
I currently have 840 reviews due across 5 different decks. 473 of them are handwritten kanji reviews. It’s going to be a long haul, but I’ve been chipping away at them. It’ll feel really good when I get it down to 0. I’ve recovered from worse, so I know I can make it through this time. I”ve been focusing on getting through the decks that have less due reviews first so that I don’t have to worry about them in the face of the larger decks.
Just when I’m getting down to 200 (from 500) I skip days and I’m back up there. But I’m determined to get to zero! Thanks for the inspiration.
A couple of months ago, I had about 600 reviews after missing over a week due to being at a conference. Chipping away is the easiest way to go, after four days, I got it back down to zero. A lot of those 600 were cards that I knew well, and they got sent far into the future after a single review. Within a week, I was back down to the 150 or so reviews per day that I was doing at the time (20 new cards a day). I think the key thing is to not add any new cards until you are back to normal review levels. Also, it helps to do it in chunks through the day. It is easier to get through that pile if you do 50 in the morning, 50 during the day, then maybe 200 at night. Same process can be a good idea for regular reviewing too. ;)
Right now I’m looking at 537 due Japanese-Reviews :<
My will is not quite broken, but I really don't find the Energy to get them down while studying and reviewing University-Flashcards.
It sure is hard to maintain several things at once. :D
Anyone got a increase Max-HP-Potion?
Hah, how well timed this is. I’m behind about 3 days on reviews – it’s been a bit of a tumultuous month.
Still, I’ve found the best thing for me to do is to limit each of my decks to 100 reviews. That feels very manageable, and in addition I don’t spend as much time on the cards as usual. I feel like the payoff in terms of making catching up on reviews a manageable task is worth any forgotten cards which will be picked up by anki later.
I work through all 100 reviews, and if I still have time/stamina left I often just up the max review number by 50 to give me more reviews, and so on. I can often get through about 200 a day per deck doing this, which I’d find extremely difficult if I just set the max at 200.
(Thanks for the prompt to get my butt in gear with this today!)
I just knocked out a 3000+ review buildup that I’d been working on for the past week. Feels good to have it back down again.
That’s definitely something to be proud of. Good job, mate :’)
Wow, you are my hero!
3000! that’s amazing! My buildup of 500 feels like absolutely nothing now haha (And I mean that in a positive way!)
This got more replies than I thought it would so I guess I’ll show what my review count and review time look like: https://i.cubeupload.com/LDMXZN.png
I guess it was more like two weeks. I started adding new cards yesterday since that’s when I finished off the backlog. Massive review buildups are nothing to fear! They’re just annoying. The real bad thing about them is knowing you could be better now if you hadn’t neglected them. In a weird counter-intuitive way I’d almost recommend going through a crazy large review buildup at some point. It makes 200 reviews in a day feel very light. (For reference, I had some 190 reviews + 25 new cards today, and it went by extremely fast in comparison to most days the past couple weeks) Though the cost to your Japanese ability probably isn’t worth it.
I haven’t really done any japanese related studies for the past few months and while compared to a lot of people here I still didn’t have a huge backlog (maybe 600-700?) for me it was a lot. I’ve caught up with most of it, did all the sentences and now today I’m at 175 kanji left to review. The reason I am happy about this, is because in the past, everytime I have stopped japanese for X or Y reason, I would just reset my decks. But now, since Jalup NEXT doesn’t allow that (or at least I don’t know how, thankfully), I have actually gone through the reviews. It’s a pain in the ass; the sentences were easy since I’ve done these many times but the kanji, wow there’s a LOT that I am grading as wrong haha. Anyways I’m proud that for once instead of giving up and starting over for the Xth time, I decided to catch up and not lose all of my progress. Hopefully I won’t need to do this again but if I do, I know that I need to do those reviews, NOT restart. Here’s to a better japanese future, only 2-3 days left of catching up!