I have started a new Anki deck… and I am not using anymore the one I started on the very first day of my learning Japanese. I have realised that my Anki deck was not fitting my goals anymore.
When I created my deck, I had in mind a strategy to learn vocabulary as thoroughly as possible. As a result, each note was attached to three types of cards which were supposed to reflect all the way you handle vocabulary in real life:
(in Anki, a note is where you enter the information you want to learn, a card is how you want Anki to test you using this information)
- Either you want to use this word yourself: Show English, Answer Japanese
- Or you read this word: Show Japanese, Answer pronunciation and English
- Or you hear this word: Play audio through the plugin “Awesome TTS”, answer English.
I thought that this was the best way to learn vocabulary through Anki. In any case, it is a very thorough way, and I don’t regret having used this method for so long. The problem is that it was time-consuming and as soon as I got synonyms and homonyms, it became most distressful and discouraging. I never had problems with recognising Kanji and say both the meaning and the pronunciation. But the two other directions became more and more difficult as I was adding more and more words to my deck. I used hints to help me and studying my Anki deck did become a little easier, but my efforts did not prevent me from skipping days and days of study.
And then, I realised that my Anki deck, in its original form, did not fit my goals. My main goal is to be able to read novels in Japanese. Additionally, I would like to watch films without subtitles, have a basic communication level, write my journal in Japanese and so on. But my main goal is to read, and if I use Anki to reach my goal, I only need to study Anki in one direction: show me the word written in Japanese, I will tell its pronunciation and its meaning.
As for improving the listening and writing skills, I think that these goals should be achieved outside of Anki, through constant practice. I usually know the words used in daily conversation (in films or drama), I just don’t recognise them when I hear them, or the person speaks too fast. I also know the words I want to use when writing, I just forgot the kanji. These two problems are more likely to be resolved through a lot of listening and writing than through Anki.
I don’t know if I could have changed my old deck easily to keep only one direction (one type of cards), but I wanted to start a new deck anyway. I lose the possibility to say how many words I know and I will certainly have to create notes that already existed in my previous deck… but this is nothing compared to the motivation, energy and hope for the future a new deck brings me!
Creating notes does not take me much time because I don’t need to add any hints or things like that. The words I add are mostly the ones I found while reading the news or a novel. They are of course words that I didn’t know but also words whose meaning I knew but I could not pronounce them. I know that knowing the meaning is enough to read, but I am mortified whenever I come across a word that I cannot pronounce, so…
The greatest benefit of this new method is that I am saving an incredible amount of time and energy that I can use to learn more words. Before, I feel that I was stagnating, using my energy to recognise words in the three directions mentioned above, struggling and not willing to add new words to an already daunting deck. Now the only direction I am studying is by far the easiest one for me. I feel confident in adding a lot of words and studying new words every day. If I go on like this, I will be reading Soseki in no time!!! 😄
Last but not least, it also makes Anki more fun. I am happy to study my deck because it is rewarding and does not take me too much time.
We all know that we need to adjust our learning methods to fit our goals, but it is easy to forget it in the course of our journey and to end up accumulate learning methods that may be great in themselves but are not fit for our purpose. So, from time to time, it is vital to compare our goals with the methods we are using to see if they fit. If they don’t, we might go on studying and studying without getting nearer to our goals…