If you’re one of the many people trying to learn a new language, you know how difficult it is to remember a bunch of vocabulary words. There are tons of different apps and methods out there for learning new vocabulary, but the most useful and practical memorization tool I’ve ever used is Anki.
What is Anki?
Anki is a powerful flashcard app designed to help you memorize just about anything. It can be used to make flashcards for learning a language, memorizing terms for a science test, or remembering mathematical formulae. Anki is packed with features and options that can be optimized to fit any preference or study schedule.
One of Anki’s best features is that it can be synchronized across devices. With apps available for any computer or mobile device, you can start studying flash cards on your computer at home and pick up right where you left off any time you have a few spare minutes throughout the day with your phone. This article is not meant to be a full walkthrough of Anki’s capabilities, but you can visit Anki’s website to read about more details and amazing features.
How Anki Works
Anki is designed to help you memorize terms by spaced repetition. Each time Anki shows you a flashcard, it asks you how difficult it was to recall. The easier you tell Anki the card was to recall, the longer Anki will wait to show you that card again in the future. The more difficult the card was to recall, the sooner Anki will bring it up for review again.
You can change Anki’s settings to review cards more or less often if you like, but the default settings have always worked great in my experience. If you forget a term, you can always tell Anki to review it again when it asks how difficult it was. You can always count on Anki to review each card again eventually, so you don’t have to worry about scheduling reviews or forgetting terms that you learned in the past. Just keep reviewing your cards every day and leave the rest to Anki!
But I already use Quizlet!
Already made a bunch of flashcards on Quizlet? Quizlet is great too, but it doesn’t have all the options and features that Anki has—most importantly, built-in spaced repetition. If you want to switch from Quizlet to Anki or use your flashcards on both apps, you can easily move flashcards to Anki without making them all over again. Simply export flashcard decks from Quizlet and import them to a new Anki deck!
How I Use Anki for Vocabulary
I like to keep things simple, so I put all of my flashcards in one big deck for each language or subject. As I study and come across new words and phrases that I want to remember, I add them to the deck. Since Anki reviews cards by spaced repetition, not by topic or deck, it doesn’t matter if you have one deck or twenty. All the cards that need to be reviewed each day are due on that day, no matter what deck they are in or how you prefer to categorize them.
In other flashcard apps like Quizlet, it’s usually sensible to build a relatively small deck for each chapter or unit of a subject, but one of the main reasons for using Anki is to continue to review everything and keep it memorized long term, not just to cram in the chapter or unit you are learning right now. So, while you could create many small decks in Anki too, that will just give you multiple decks to review every day for each subject rather than one big deck for each subject, which can cause a lot of clutter and feel overwhelming. The fewer decks you have to come back to each day, the easier it will be to keep up and stay consistent.
A tactic I employ to ensure thorough memorization of terms is creating two versions of each card. For example, when I add flashcards to my Korean deck, I create an English-Korean card and a Korean-English card. Sometimes I can easily remember the English translation of a Korean word, but I struggle to remember the Korean translation of an English word. By creating two versions of each flashcard, I ensure that I can more easily bring to mind each word that I learn in either language. Since both versions of each flashcard are already in the same big deck, Anki will review each word both ways each time it comes up.
Finally, try not to skip a review day with Anki. If you have a few small decks, catching up the next day might be easy, but when you have multiple decks and hundreds or thousands of flashcards, missing a day can really cause things to pile up! If you find that you have too many flashcards to review in one day, you can change the “Maximum reviews/day” setting in the “Reviews” tab of the options menu. And don’t forget to sync your account when you add new cards or finish a study session!
- Download the Anki app for your computer here: https://apps.ankiweb.net/
- Sign up and use AnkiWeb in your browser here: https://ankiweb.net/about
- Get AnkiDroid for your Android phone here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ichi2.anki
As you’ll see for yourself, Anki is a powerful app with tons of great options and features. There is so much more that could be said about Anki, but exploring all of its options and features would take us far beyond the scope of this post. I hope you’ll find Anki as helpful as I have on your own educational journey.
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