Okay, so today’s topic is a bit different than I originally intended. I was going to do a post about how studying is supposed to be fun, not taxing, and then I realized that I have a ton of reviews to do for anime, games, movies, learning tools, etc. As such, today’s review is for Anki, my favorite flash card program.
Back in the day when I was first thinking of reviewing flashcard programs, it was going to be iKnow/Smart.fm vs. Anki, but since iKnow is no longer free, it therefore is no longer worth my time to use and Anki wins the day just for being free.
Flashcards can make life much, much easier for anyone learning Japanese, regardless of what method you go about using. If you study via the academic method, vocab lists are king, and flashcards can be pain to buy or make and quiz yourself on. The input method usually has the most flashcard users, as they rely on repition rather than instruction to give them the bulk of their knowledge, and even output people use them often.
Now, most flashcard software utilizes what is called a space repition system, or SRS. What this does, is it measures how well you know a card and then determines from that when it should show you this card again. For example, let’s say I take this sentence I found for a book review of ICO.
I have a plug-in for Japanese (there’s a ton of plug-ins for this software), so just in case I don’t know the reading for the kanji, the program will automatically insert furigana (kana above the kanji), and it’s usually correct. This next example isn’t a good idea of how it actually looks when you see the flashcard, but you can still see the readings, just not on top.
囚[とら]われの 少女[しょうじょ]を 救[すく]うため、 過酷[かこく]な 運命[うんめい]を 変[か]えるため、 少年[しょうねん]は 霧[きり]の 城[しろ]に 立ち向[たちむ]かう！！
Now, let’s pretend that I don’t know most of the words. I’ll just manually type the words into the “meaning” box and it’ll be good to go!
囚われ – Imprisonment; captive 救う – To help out; to rescue; to save 過酷な – cruel; harsh; rigorous; severe 変える – To change; to alter; to transform; to amend; to vary 霧 = Mist 城 – Castle 立ち向かう – To fight against; to oppose; to face
I can even put a translation into it! This is also done manually, though.
In order to rescue a captive girl, to change a cruel fate, a young boy must have a showdown at the Castle in the Mist!!
Your flashcard will look like this as you make it, just in case I wasn’t clear. The “expression” box is the only thing you see when you review a card. Clicking “show answer” will reveal the rest.
So why is Anki so amazing? First of all, it’s free. I really have no idea why people want to charge a fee for their flashcard programs, but they do. Supermemo, iKnow, and plenty of others are good programs in and of themselves, but they charge you to use them, and since learning a new language already requires you to buy textbooks, or other media, why would you pay for a flashcard system? You could just make your own for the price of a few pieces of paper and scissors!
I don’t do the whole smart phone thing, but it’s available for that as well, and according to the site, you can even use it on your Nintendo DS and PSP if you want.
I also like the amount of customizing you can do for this program. It’s very efficient, and it’s open source. There’s already a ton of pre-made Anki decks out there, too.
So, yes, I definitely recommend this program. Go download it and see for yourself just how amazing it is. I’ll be following this post up with various ways you can use Anki to learn languages within the next few days.