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Kicking the flashcard habit?

I think like most language learners, I’m a diligent Anki hoarder. But lately, I’ve come to think of Anki like Rogaine, i.e. I’m only using it because I’m afraid of what would happen if I go off of it. Not to say it hasn’t been beneficial–it definitely served me well as a beginner. But all the work that goes into growing and studying a towering stack of cards feels increasingly like a chore, and I wonder if that time would be better spent, say, reading another Chinese article or listening to another CP lesson.

Has anyone gone off Anki or flashcards in general? Is it a huge mistake?

I am interested by some answers here too actually, not sure how many words upper inter is going to stack up. For me though, I made a list for each of the levels on CP, intermediate, upper intermediate, etc. When I finished the 120 intermediate lessons I stopped listening completely, therefore the flashcards stopped. Now I just do that a little everyday plus the upper intermediate flashcards, Once I started getting into upper intermediate levels the intermediate flashcards started getting easier as the words came up a lot more frequently. Hoping for the same after the jump up to advanced, then I assume you are going to be pretty more on the way as you will be able to watch tv and probably read books with a lot more ease, which are in essence the best possible flashcards.

I have been also feeling the same lately about my flashcards as the decks are getting so large it’s a little out of hand. In the last year I have been dividing my flashcards by the month so for an example all the CPod lessons I study during the month I will put them in a deck with the name of that month. I do feel that flashcards are necessary to cement some less used vocabulary into your long term memory, but I feel like there may be better methods to achieve the same result. I have slowly been migrating to using Skritter more as I am trying to focus on my reading/writing but this also has the side effect of allowing me to review the same vocabulary. Later on once I know more characters I want to read a lot more chinese material as I think this might be a better way to remember words and their context/uses without relying on flashcards.

I read these two articles a while ago about this very subject, it might be worth a look:

Although I have anki on my desktop at home , I rarely use it especially for mandarin. I tried using it to learn hiragana and I found it unproductive. I learned much quicker by listening and reading on lingq. That being said, whatever works for you. I don’t bother with flashcards at all really, never got into it after my experience learning hiragana. I find listening reading and writing the most productive exercises. But then again people may say I’m archaic with my practice but it works for me.

These links are great food for thought–a sort of middle ground between stubborning clinging to an old, unwieldy Anki deck and totally nuking it. But it sort of begs the question: If you streamline your deck–deleting all the entries you rarely use and keeping the entries you regularly use–is there any point in still studying it? Because wouldn’t seeing those words out in the world be enough to keep your memories fresh?

I’ve ultimately decided to put my Anki deck on hiatus so I could devote more time to reading and listening. I guess time will tell if that was a mistake.

@psamet , Re: " If you streamline your deck–deleting all the entries you rarely use and keeping the entries you regularly use–is there any point in still studying it? " I’m not sure how Anki works, but with most SRS systems if you have demonstrated that you know a word fairly well you would seldom see it. If you rarely see those words and you get rid of the leeches (words that take up inordinate time relative to their usefulness) then you would be left with a set of words that are both relevant and not yet mastered.

I think it takes constant pruning to make vocabulary lists remain useful or relevant. Credit to John Pasden for encouraging that.

One thing worth considering is that with flashcards the word is usually represented by its translation. I suppose you could have a picture based prompt or representation of the “answer” but at the moment only Rosetta Stone comes to mind as something designed with this in mind as a pure immersion experience. Even Rosetta Stone has its detractors (slow, boring, etc. and to me seems not as “meaningful” as listening to a dialog on CPod about a topic about which I am interested. ) so how do we learn new words in their natural context, with the appropriate nuances and attendant collocations? I would say we can do it by reading. Nowadays I am struggling to break the habit of looking up words in a text before even finishing the selection. This habit is the dark side of the ease with with technology has made referring to dictionaries possible. For whatever reason, I never got into the habit of hitting the pause button when listening to audio to look up an unfamiliar word, and many times I have figured out the general sense of the word just from the context or perhaps recalled it from murky memory by the end of the audio clip.

So I guess there is life after flashcards, but maybe the best way to find an alternative is to continue finding new reading selections with overlapping vocabulary for reinforcement. If you really want to be cutting edge maybe there is a function in Baidu to see what words are trending in media and then search for current articles containing those words. You could also refer to the (regrettably infrequent) media lessons on CPod, and other sites with a current events and social phenomena focus such as The Chairman’s Bao.

I think the chairman’s bao is a resource that I will try to utilize more often, reading these words in context is a fantastic way to help keep things interesting and memorable. Sadly I don’t think that my reading level is good enough to easily make it through any of the articles.

I tried using Lync in the past but couldn’t get into it. As I’m starting to study characters more I can really see the usefulness, I think I will start it up again in the new year.

I will still use anki to review my CPod vocabulary for now but like I said earlier, I think using skritter to learn the characters is a valuable resource as you move into higher levels.

I find it helps to read The Chairman’s Bao through Pleco’s web reader. But I hear they are releasing their own app soon too.

I gotta check out chairman bao, I just recently heard people speak of this on quora as well.

I’m not gonna lie, linq has a pretty steep learning curve. And you have to get used to the word spacing sometimes, its not perfect so sometimes the words in the dictionary won’t make sense if you can’t distinguish the word spacing on your own. For the most part it does this well for the user. For the price, I would say its worth it, and I really don’t use it as much as I should. It’s really what you make of it, because it gives you the ability to import any text (with or without audio) and read it with the dictionary, saving your “links” that you can automatically change to flashcards if thats a part of your method. All while keeping track of your “known words” so you can see your progress.

Apparently you can almost do this exact same thing on a kindle paperwhite, minus the keeping track of your known words and the audio. I don’t know how true this is, but apparently you can set your dictionary to chinese ( by buying a chinese dictionary that has this specific function for kindle) and highlight unknown words while you read and see the definition on the fly and save words for future reference. The only thing I wonder about, if this is all true, is similar to the problem on lingq, how well does the dictionary recognize the word boundaries? If you can adjust it on your own, and this works with any pdf or text file, then the kindle is looking real good. I know this works for english on it but I am unsure how well it works for languages like chinese and japanese, that typically have no spaces.