I thought I’d write about the importance of flashcards, physical flashcards to be exact. Flashcards have been the way to go for many years now, and with apps like Skritter, Pleco, Anki and Cpod’s own flashcard section, the only decision to make is which app to use.
I use both Skritter and Pleco. Both great, great apps. And yet, words can get a little lost in all those lists, editing individual cards can be inconvenient, and there are always those new words and new grammar points that I want to review often over the first few days of learning them. All this is why I continue to make physical flashcards on blank name cards. On the front I write the character, on the back the pinyin and translation along with an example sentence.
To make a physical flashcard, one has to physically write the word, write it well and transcribe a sentence from the cpod dialogue or other source to give an example sentence. The physical act of writing helps imprint the word into my memory. Writing flashcards also helps keep track of how many words I’m learning per day. But I think that the most useful aspect is that each day the 6-12 new words or grammar points are in my pocket or on my desk and so easy to review several times over the day. Technology can help, but the more help the better. And in my experience, using physical flashcards for at least the first 2-3 days and then reviewing them on an app is far more effective.
This doesn’t mean that I will be carrying stacks of cards around with me. Only a few. After an ‘end of week review,’ I can put them away and forget about them for a long while, while still using Pleco and Skritter, and wait for those new words to come up.
Pleco is great for going through words lists, keeping lists organized and SRS, making sure all that vocabulary doesn’t get lost and forgotten inside my head, etc. Skritter is good for SRS and writing. Writing in itself being important in understanding the language on a whole other level, history, culture and of course paving the way for advanced study. But, at least initially, the first few days, physical flashcards still have their use in a world reliant on technology.
(As a side note, for those who didn’t know, Pleco also has a character writing test in Flashcards. You change the test type to Fill-in-the-Blanks. It may actually be better than Skritter for advanced students in that there are not hints available. Skritter is great because it is so effortless. Pleco needs raw mental energy. To get rid of the hints in Skritter you need to turn on Raw Squigs in Settings).
Let me know what you think. And if you have a different method of getting those new words and grammar points locked in your head before the next few words come the following day, I’d love to hear it.