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. 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.