Category Archives: SRS
Since I was a wee kanji learner, I have gone upon the mountains and lo, preached the goodness that was the world of Remembering the Kanji and all the RTK followers would rejoice on high…that is until the Almighty Alicrab appeared and toppled RTK over the hill.
Wanikani is crack where RTK is caffeine, picking off where RTK does and going a step further. I found that after RTK there was a sort of deadening space where you lose a little motivation, but mostly because though you can see soooo many kanji everywhere and understand that gist (which is an awesome feeling) it is sorta a little browbeating to sorta ‘start from scratch’ in terms of getting sounds to the kanji. RTK’s 2nd book supposedly addresses this issue, but never have I really heard any good comments about RTK2, nor have I even been remotely interested in it.
This is ultimately why WaniKani is now my beginner ‘program’ of choice when anyone asks me how to start the reading/writing process. It all began with the Alicrab.
What is the almighty Alicrab you say? Well pictures are worth a thousand words.
Though you can see Tofugu’s own post about WaniKani, I’m here to give you a peak at my thoughts. Even though I have completed RTK1, it might not be completely fair to hear my thoughts on the ease of the program. Worry not however, because I forced about 3 people near me who had relativity no kanji experience to use it as well.
Having been a member of the beta for some time now, I’ve seen a wealthy amount of UI changes, even their blog post is quite outdated, however, the changes are like most site changes, some you like, some you don’t. I’ll admit at least for this sensitive eyeballed person here, the newer color scheme is just a tad bit painful and I do hope that it may change soon, however that said, I still enjoy the overall changes and progression that WaniKani has taken on. I’ve seen the levels progress from 7 to now 33, and things like audio and such add up.
I think my favorite things about the site is the system itself, its cuteness of the Alicrab, and the ease of the layout (where you get to see lots of information to fuel your excitement), where as my most hated thing is the lack of sentences and rigidity during reviews (I’ll explain the review section below), but mostly the color scheme (yeah yeah I know, I might complain about it a little more though. Not to say everyone feels the same, lots of people enjoy the color. As a side note, its not my monitor as I’ve viewed it on several computers and my ipad).
Enough of my general talking, let me get down to business.
Like RTK where there are elements that you use to propel mnemonics, so does WK. If you’re into RTK just a little bit, it would not be hard to convert over at all. Even I, who’ve had those keywords in my head for a long time, was almost painless to switch. There were only a few where I continuously miss them due to RTK, such as 日, however I do not see it being problems for those with no heavy RTK influence.
The Kanji (General)
Kanji are usually given the most appropriate keyword for testing periods (SRS), however there are explanations of more within the kanji’s information…center? I’m not sure where he is pulling his list from, but from what I can tell in my own readings and such, the kanji are all relevant kanji you’ll need to know.
The Kanji (Readings)
The readings for the kanji are broken into two sections, the kanji side and the vocabulary side. For some this may seem like a rather odd thing, and at first I was a little eyebrow raising, however I noticed right away the ingenious behind it. Well Played Good Sir, Well Played. If you’re like me, you can never remember the difference between the words, On’Yomi, or Kon’Yomi, however, and though I still don’t think it matters if I do, WaniKani takes on that responsibility of helping you distinguish between when to say what (in general) without you caring to know still. I might of confused you, but when I give an example below, I will point this out better.
Every kanji has a vocabulary in which it goes into in the WaniKani side of things, and some even get a handful (especially combined with other kanji). This can be a little confusing, as for kanji’s readings in its kanji only side is sometimes different than the vocabulary side, and can be a little mind numbing if you mix them up and get the review wrong. However, the reinforcement of how the reading’s show up is a blessing in disguise, and it helps hit home that the kanji should never be confused with its vocabulary counterpart (even if, it is a single kanji vocab). Okay, maybe you’re worried or confused now, but I’ll show you below in an example. The great thing however is most of the vocabulary I feel is pretty common and useful right out the gate.
WK works on a leveling system. The number of radicals, kanji, and vocabulary differ for each level as well. The radicals do not run out however, due to a lot of them being kanji used in other kanji. This is similar to how RTK worked, and perhaps some people have complained about just slightly, since they have to double test on it, however others feel that it is doubly helpful that way.
The homepage, where all your information is before your eyes, you can easily see where you came from, where you’re at, and where you’re going. The dashboard is useful, with the ability to always return to the home screen, start your lessons, your reviews, drop down boxes to view your Level, Radicals, Kanji, and Vocabulary.
The layout is prone to changes, so rather than describing it, I’ll just tell you stuff that has remained on there pretty much the whole time I’ve been on WK. You get to see 4 levels of mastery and a burned item. Basically the more you answer correctly your items pass through stages until they’re so ‘burned’ into your mind that you’ll never forget them.
Apprentice –> Guru –> Master –> Enlightened –> Burned
I have to admit I miss the images they use to have with the levels, of the demon guy, but the new look is sleek and good too showing a turtle coming out of its egg.
Progression bar on the level for both Radical and Kanji has been there, letting you know how many you need to unlock to move forward. I’ve never paid any attention to this, but its a cool thing to look at if you’re powering towards the next level and need some visual boost to propel forward.
It’s also nice to note that there is a color scheme that matches what the item is. When reviewing, the color of the background changes to help you realize it’s a specific item. For example when you have a kanji and a vocabulary item that is the same, the color will change still. The colors are noted below with the examples.
There has always been a showing of current forum posts and the beta blog for WK, so far as I can remember. There is a forum on the site, but I do not participate in it, but from what I have seen, there are bug reporting places, requests, questions, minecraft information, and of course people talking about Japanese related things like media and what not.
Other things have come and gone on the page, such as now there is a ‘New Unlocks”, “Critical Conditions Items”, like those you miss a lot, and “Burned Items” (last 30 days for the new and burned). Also a when to review now, and a bit from then.
Overall the main points have stayed there, just changes in how it is displayed, with a few tweaks.
Certainly the first thing you do on WK is a lesson. A lesson basically consists of the radical, kanji, vocabulary that you are learning to show up, its breakdown (which is what the item is all about), meaning, and reading. These are able to be viewed outside of the lessons as well, and during reviews. The lesson will generally provide you with a mnemonic to use, however you are free to use your own, you just cannot modify it into the system.
Perhaps a first confusion for many is, if you are given more than one reading. In this case, you only need to input one when reviewing, not both/all.
You do roughly 5 new items before it goes into a mini review, and then back again into the lessons. This is helpful to help re-solidify and I enjoy it a lot. It is one of the reasons that I liked iknow as well, which incorporated a ‘learn, review, test’ SRS mentality.
The second main thing you do on this site (and probably actually the most thing you should be doing) is reviewing. WK is an SRS, and therefore, you have to come back and review. Reviewing is pretty straight forward. The review screen will show you what you’re reviewing (and is color coated depending on the item being vocab, kanji, radical) and some options below it.
- item at top in colored box
- input box
- option to view Hiragana
Once you enter in your answer, a few things happen. The top right stats will change depending on your correctness, as well as the box. If you get it right, your stats stay closer to 100% rightness, if not, it detracts from that and you get a little red box where the input was. Options to relearn about the item is now allowed to be accessed. Most items (vocabulary) have sounds which you can hear when ever, and keyboard shortcuts are highly usable, making it really nice.
If you need to look up information on the item, at first it will only show you what you missed, so that it does not give away other testable aspects of the word, however, you can click to see more information to allow you to see more if you’ve just completely forgot a bout the item in question.
A few people claim that the strictness of the spelling is very off putting, but the system does allow for a handful of mistyped words, however similar meanings aren’t usually accepted. There are ways to ask for this stuff on the forum, but you have to be reasonable to an extent about what you can allow in these types of input tested programs.
When items are right, of course, your box goes green! Yay! You can still view information though, just in case you need a refresher, and you’ll notice that when items are reviewed in completion correctly, they can be upgraded, and if missed in one aspect, possibly downgraded (like you get meaning right but reading wrong).
Example run through!
So when you’re a beginner, the very first thing you’ll see is a radical. Here is a listing of some of the radicals you’ll see right out, 大，十、口、日 Its pretty straight forward. Once you unlock a certain amount of them, then you’ll be able to see a kanji. Here is where we’ll pick up our example.
Kanji! [Pink Background]
上＝じょう＝above, equipped with the radicals that make up this Kanji, writing it is easy, and the mnemonic brought with it :
Meaning: “There’s a toe above ground. Look at it.”
Reading: “The toe sticking up above the ground is just a little thing… You go up to poke it and then you realize that the toe actually belongs to Joseph (じょう) Stalin. Joe doesn’t like people messing with his toes, so you slowly back away.”
There is more information given in general during the lesson, but this is the most important things to bring from it in the long run.
Then later on you’ll run against its single kanji vocabulary form.
Vocabulary [Purple Background]
Meaning: “When a vocab word is a single kanji and alone, it tends to steal the meaning from the kanji. Same goes for this one too. It means above or up.”
Reading: “When a vocab word is a single kanji and doesn’t have okurigana (hiragana attached to the kanji) it usually will use the kun’yomi. Since you learned the on’yomi reading of the kanji, we’ll need to use a mnemonic to learn the reading of this vocabulary word. —- Above you is a huge weight. You’re holding it up and struggling (it’s heavy!). You look up and try to crane your neck to see how much it weighs (うえ), but you can’t see the numbers on the side of it. How long can you hold it above your head like this?”
So as you can see, there will be a few of these you’ll run across and forget which one went to which one. It can be a little frustrating at first I know, but working through these little small things make it all pretty cool in the end, trust me.
As you combine other kanji into your learning, they will combine with other kanji and create even more vocabulary words. Here are some that the above kanji are turned into both within the first level to many later:
and many more.
User Created Tools
A cool thing is that every user has a code to their account that contains some general information, like what’s due, lessons, and so on. People have created handy little extensions and what not to use, and If you get into WK I recommend you check them out. They’re mostly about helping remind you to do your work!
Of those that tried it out for me, only a few complained of frustration of some of the exact input spelling for meanings and readings. All in all, we all agree that WK picks up a huge piece that Heisig doesn’t do very well. Perhaps to me, the absoluteness is what bothers me most, and has always been the case with any language to language. Where there are with no doubt words that equal words, that is not always the case, and without sentence examples and usages, the vocabulary words feel a little detached. So it would be my recommendation to combine the sentence mining method with WK in full force from the beginning! Seeing what I have, I also feel that if you were to complete WK, you should go straight to J-J. There is enough background to switch over easily to monolingual, especially if you sentence mined your way through it.
How to get it
As it stands, WK is in the beta phase, so please email sign up! The great thing about beta is that you get started sooner while still helping mold the product. On another good note, you get a discount when going beyond level 2. Yes WK is a paid product, and you can pay by several methods in several time groups. Those who have Textfugu also receive a discount (not stacked). So get in now to get the discounts! Also, it is not known when WK will be released fully and tit is not known how many full levels, though I have heard whispering of at least 50 levels.
I hope that this was helpful, if you have any further questions, or are participating already and would like to expand, comment below!
One of the programs that I’ve recently started to delve into is called LWT which is short for Learning with Text. LWT is a great open source project created by a really cool guy in 2010. He published his LWT in 2011 as a free, open source project open to the public domain.
So what exactly is Learning with Text do for you? Its basically a supplemental reading program, that helps you dissect what you’re reading, look words up in dictionaries, save meanings and notes on words or phrases in a language you’re trying to learn. As you learn words you have a color ranking system based on how familiar the word is to you, even add audio and a versatile ability to export cards to an srs, such as anki. All of this is done inside the program and can help eliminate constant screen flipping, copying and pasting, and otherwise wasting time with juggling things when you can simply keep it self contained.
You have a few options in getting the program on your computer. For those who do not know about programming, then I recommend the web version hosted by Benny from Fluent in 3 Months. It really is the easiest to get set up with, and will be the specific version that I’m going to post pictures from. For those who do know programming, I recommend you check out the LWT picture up there, just click on it for the link, and you can find all sorts of information on how to get it setup for yourself on LWT’s main site. Plus there is some good information, links, and guides there as well (which I’ll be linking too at the end as well). There are a few more out there, and even a few acquaintances I know are thinking about hosting more Japanese friendly versions, however, Benny’s setup is already up and running and otherwise secure. It’s also absolutely free. Thanks Benny!
A lot of people do like to compare LWT to LingQ and in many ways they are similar. LingQ may have a fancier interface, however they charge you for it. I for one am all about the free and will not be reviewing LingQ.
The following are some YouTube videos that give you a nice picture of its overall features, including one from Benny himself.
If you’re unfamiliar with The Czech Experiment, I recommend you give it a good read. He’s also a language learner who covers lots of good information out there and shares his experiences of learning Czech.
So what are people saying about LWT?
Our buddy Daniel had lots to say as he’s been delving into the program intensely in the last month.
- The biggest pro is that you absolutely have to use this software. It’s so convenient, so essential, so awesome. Being able to use absolutely any text you want to learn makes the process more fun and more relevant to your interests.
- Everything is integrated into one window, the text, the dictionary, and the card creator. This completely takes away the annoyance of window switching. Super effective!!
- This is an extremely customizable tool, especially when it comes to which dictionaries you want to use (yes you can use more than one!)
- Once you go through the text, you can read it without the help of a dictionary or furigana since it’s all inline. This helps make reading a much more fluid experience, and a great confidence booster too.
- This self-contained text factor is especially useful on a device like a Kindle, or if you’re printing out your LWT texts.
- The real icing on the cake is that you can export all your findings to Anki, a tool already well known in the Japanese learning community. The terms, translations, readings, and the sentence you found it in are all included, keeping everything in context.Cons
- Setup can be daunting, even for the technically minded! I would highly recommend using a hosted server, such as this one (http://fi3m.com/lwt), since everything is already set up and working. It is a server based tool, so it only makes sense to use it that way rather than just running locally on your computer.
- There are some particular challenges for Japanese, a language that does not typically use spaces between words. There are various solutions, but personally I leave it at the default setting (remove spaces and treat each word as a character) and then use the feature where I can tell the site where the word begins and ends myself.
KanjiWarrior shared a few of his thoughts on Twitter with me as well.
I like LWT, but one of the drawbacks to me is lack of built-in dictionaries, and lack of support for Asian languages.Also the time associated with preparing a text before you can read it and having to input the definitions.I have a lot more to say about LWT but hard to confine it to 140 characters. I guess I’ll have to blog about it again soon.
Lan (Landorien) also shared some of his experiences with actually trying to set up LWT on his computer.
- installation looks intimidating but is pretty straightforward
- i installed it on my web host and got it working without trouble
- testing is somewhat coarse-grained compared to anki. i haven’t used it much, preferring to export terms to anki
- exporting is easy and creates a useful deck. you’ll probably have to rearrange the card layout to suit your preferences
- default styles make it hard to read especially for Japanese. i have a style sheet on my blog that replaces the text area font with a more readable font and changes the background to a tan colour which makes it a lot easier on the eyes for extended reading.
- editing text while reading is annoying. you get taken to a separate edit view, where you have to scroll down to the spot you wanted to edit, and then when you go back to reading you have to find your spot again. an inline edit would be very helpful
- i had been using mecab to parse the text, setting LWT to remove spaces but not to make each character a separate word. this however required me to edit the text wherever mecab combined two words that should have been split, which especially with names happens fairly regularly. i’ve changed over to setting LWT to make each character a separate word and adding all terms as spanning however many characters are needed. the downside of this is you don’t get an accurate count of known words, but that’s minor
- overall despite some quirks LWT is easy to use and probably the fastest way i’ve found to go through a text, completely understand it, and collect all the words for your SRS
While I agree with some of the issues, pros, and cons, that my fellow users feel, I personally find that there is a lot of pros to the cons. Because I used the already set up site, I did not have to fuss with many settings, and getting started was pretty quick. I will admit though if you’re already well into the reading of Japanese (or any language of that matter), you will be doing a lot of prep work. That is perhaps its only absolutely largest downfall.
In our next blog we’ll go over getting set up and how to use the program, then tips, tricks, and resources to use for LWT. So stick around to get your hands wet! Like/hate this program? Let us know in the comments below what you think about LWT!
Since I first found out about SRS programs, I’ve found that styles can change a lot depending on how you learn, and for the content that you’re learning. What may be good for Bob might not be good for me and so on, however today, due to many requests, I’ll let you see all the various types and styles I’ve tried out that were beneficial, and ones I’m currently using.
I learn really well with visuals and sounds over words. They’re a lot slower to make, but I’m rewarded by a more enjoyable experience. So for starters I’ll show you my cards for Visuals.
Visual Card Layouts
I really only have two, here goes! The first style asks a question about the image (all in Japanese). Never ask a question that isn’t obvious to a middle schooler. You shouldn’t be asking something so difficult, or something obscure in the picture that isn’t pointed out. Arrows, outlining, and coloring should be indicators. Of course it goes without saying, that if your Japanese is more basic, you might need to get help, or simply stick to super easy questions.
As you can see the question about what’s in the picture is obvious. If you have different focal points, you can always use the different indicators like, over there (near question asker), over there (away from asker), or whatever. There is limitless possibilities.
If you noticed in the answer section I have lots of answers. I don’t have to answer those all, rather, if I answer with any of those, its correct. Yeah, that even means if I don’t wanna write the kanji out, I don’t, and I still win.
How I use the card is simple. When presented the question, I verbally say the answer, write it out, hit show answer. If I got it all right, then good, if I messed up any, I hit the 0 (I use anki) I’m strict like that simply because of the variety of correct answers. I could even say, pink and white kittens, or say fluffy well drawn cats, or a drawing of cats, ect, depending on the level of your Japanese. Don’t be afraid to mix it up.
The second style is just a tad bit different and usually is hand in hand with some close deletion. Basically the image is what gets inserted into the missing part of the sentence. So here, there usually is only a few right answers. Same as the other card too, you only want to use images that make sense. Confusing and uncertain cards will only create more issues for you in the end. Just think about a year from now, if you hadn’t seen the card since then, you don’t want to stretch your brain just training to remember which part of the image you’re suppose to be paying attention too.
Often you can use the same image a few times to create some variety. Often you can use the same picture of say a map, and just use the different parts (which saves a lot of time versus making a new map image for each area). Answering this card is like answering any other type of card for me. I simply verbally say and write out the answer.
Do not, and I mean do not use boring images. Use visually appealing images, raunchy images, you name it. Don’t choose some normal girl to describe, use a hottie! Or, use someone so ugly it makes you laugh. (i know cruel right? but hey, you’ll remember how to describe them a lot easier this way than choosing normal looking people).
So that’s the styles I use for my cards. I showed you two really nice looking cards, but a lot of mine have images like this…yeah, I don’t even spend that much time on it, just little doodles really and so long as its to the point and obvious, it works. Don’t worry about being an artist. But I like to do a lot of image searches in google in Japanese, and I always get pertinent images to what I’m trying to make a card for. I’ve had these styles for a while, and they’ve never let me down. It also helps get rid of English from the process of thought.
Both of these styles are not meant to be reversed.
Audio Card Layouts
Since showing an audio card doesn’t really work, I’ll use good old fashion font to show you. I have a few styles of audio cards that I actively use.
Front: *sound, lets say its a Japanese woman going ‘あ’*
This one is simple, hear something, transcribe it, and I usually repeat the audio. I have simple audio to complex, but generally never really long, since I write it out by hand. These sound cards can be reversed.
Open Ended Questions:
Front: 何時ですか？/ *sound file of question*
Back: *The current time*
These types of cards leave a lot of correct answers. Of course, answering in English is…/cough acceptable /cough, but really you should be answering in Japanese instead. Cards like these really help to solidify dates, days, hours, money, counters, description of events/items and so forth. I’ve personally taken out the text because I want to build my ability to hear and respond, since its a harder skill to develop.
The fun things about these is you can ask yourself, what’s your favorite movie, what movie did you see in the last week, describe a show you watched recently, What movie are you looking forward to seeing and why? and so forth. I try to make the cards set up to where I have to think on my feet about something new every time. I also do not grade these cards normally. I grade them on my ability to speak, sure, but I never hit failed button, and I usually never hit the perfect ability. I always answer it with 1 or 2.
I also look up stuff when I look at these cards. I do not feel that is cheating. These decks are held separate from my other ones because the nature usually messes up the whole ‘timing’ to answer things and well I like having statistics. Sure these cards are different and most wont be able to do them, however I feel that it is an awesome set up that really gets you use to answering questions directed to you. If you want to have friends, you have to be able to talk about the things going on around you and how you feel about them. That’s 101, so these cards can help do that, get you there, so you don’t freeze up when someone asks you how you like a show.
Of course, these cards are not meant to be reversed.
Back: *clip of music*
This is similar to style one, except that its to make your singing better. This style was easy to use, and I used it for a long time, but I kinda got tired of it as the clips were small, songs would get jumbled and ultimately I could sing songs around my yard and back easily. It can be reversed. I never used English, and I usually did practice with the song extensively before turning it into cards. Cards were more for review than for learning.
Text Style Layouts
Simple Clozed Deletion:
Front: べっど、きれいに直して。make the bed
Front: べっど、きれいに＃＃＃＃。make the bed
Front: べっど、＃＃＃に直して。make the bed
Front: ＃＃＃、きれいに直して。make the bed
I use a plugin for anki that automatically makes a field on the back of the card that shows the furigana over the kanji. So I save a lot of time not having to worry about that. Since for me, I only make cards that has 1 new concept, I generally never use dictionary definitions since the sentences help me figure it out instead. As you can see for this one sentence I use 4 versions for the simple clozed deletion. I never cloze delete what isn’t obvious.
When reviewing the card I say the sentence, then write out the missing part, sometimes I even write the sentence out. Then I grade it like the normal anki way. I personally find this to be awesome for small sentences. Its my new choice for single sentence absorption. I don’t try to memorize anything, but rather use logic of my knowledge of words and grammar to create these cards. Sound can be used too, even images, you can combine to make a lot of variations of this.
There are already so many examples all over the web now that I don’t think Khatz will mind (if you do let me know plz and I will remove it). I’ve not gotten into the Massive part of it yet, since I still do 1-2 sentences, but I have found as I’m learning more and more that sometimes its harder to get a word to make sense in the context of one sentence, and here is where the Massive comes in handy.I’m going to show you what I do with a fake example, yeah I’m naughty like that, but I don’t know your level of Japanese, so easy it is, 猫！Wiki is a great place to get a lot of words, and reading practice, but you can use any source from anywhere! News articles are also really great as they tend to describe the subject/word multiple times.
Back: 猫 「ねこ」
Many concepts can be covered here, and really I’ve not tweaked the process much since I still use mostly smaller sets of clozed deletion. These cards however get you exposed a lot to reading. And really the more you read the more you’ll get comfortable with reading and the faster you’ll get and so forth and so ON TILL THE WORLD EXPLODES.
So anyhow, there is a style I urge you all to look at if you do like the idea of reading as a form of study. I personally don’t use this method, but I was told by the one who does them that he’s recieved a lot of benifit from them. He called it Literal Translation Looped Reading.
I also deleted my old standard sentence deck, as it became a bore to me, content was too simple, and so forth. You might like it so here goes.
Back: これは何「なに」 What is this?
Back: one[link to RevTK story]
hehe I know right? So simple, so to the point. I didn’t find any other way any easier than anything else so this is the one I used. I also kept my stories on the RevTK site and if I forgot my story, i could simply click on the keyword and it would bring up the page where its story was on. Made it fast and convenient.
So really that’s all that I use and I hope this post was of some use to you guys. I personally use anki/anki mobile, and I’m not afraid of getting rid of cards, and decks, and what not. I’ll post another if I ever figure out that new style I’ve been experimenting with, but I see no point in wasting your time with the rejects, lol. Also, as a side note, I do use color changes and stuff in anki to see things quicker in the longer cards.
Comments, question, you know where to put em!
How to Use a Spaced Repetition System
Though amazingly simple, a lot of people struggle with the srs programs that are out there. It isn’t so much the program itself but rather how to make and review the cards that trip them up. You would think with something like a flash card (having been in our school systems for a long time) would be easy to do, however many struggle with making cards themselves.
Lets cover some tips and rules to follow when making cards, and then tips on reviewing them. (Cards dealing with RTK will be covered in it’s article.)
Making Your Cards
The good ol’ people at SuperMemo have a great list of pointers to follow themselves. A good portion of it is easy to follow and some is just explained rather difficultly I think. But let’s cover some tried and true basics of card making.
- KISS: Keep It Simple, Silly! – It’s very important to remember this. Cards need to have as few words as possible, simple concept, simple layout. Large chunks of information should be broken up into several cards for the best memorization. To much information on a single card, or complex answers will just make trouble.
- If you don’t understand it, you wont learn it - This one is pretty straight forward. First seek to understand it, then try to learn it.
- Fill in the blanks - This is a simple way to create cards with one word answers. Don’t exclude too much information on the question side, so that its obvious what the answer should be.
- A picture is worth a Thousand Words! - If you can use images, then use them. This can help out people who’re better at visuals than words. This is especially true with languages, however, make sure you know what you’re clearly asking for from the photo.
- Make it fun – making boring cards wont always serve you best, using funny/interesting mnemonics will help you remember better.
- Avoid Long Lists – If you’re using numbers, alphabets, names of people who ate cheese burgers Friday afternoon, then you wanna split the question up into several, and let them overlap. It’s okay if one cards question has the answer to another in it. Best to keep it to roughly 3 in a sequence, any more and it can cause memory issues.
- If in Doubt, Throw it Out! - nothing like a stinker card to trip you up and make you hate your srs. Delete is your best friend. Reword cards, edit them, do what you must, but do something rather than let that stinker ruin your drive.
- Personal, Emotional Memories – If you can use personal experiences, or emotional feelings with cards, this can help you remember things better too. For instance, if you remember an embarrassing event that you happen to be able to tie into something you need to learn, you’ll be even more likely to remember it. Using this with mnemonic devices can just up the goodness. (popular in RTK)
- Shorthand – shorthand can help keep cards very simple. No need to write minute when you can write min.
- Repeat it – It’s okay to have several cards for a question if there is a bunch of ways to ask it.
- Reversible – Don’t focus on making your cards work two ways, however, it you can make one easily, it’ll just help solidify the goodness.
Reviewing Your Cards
Here is some really quick tips on reviewing.
- Habitual Practice > Spontaneous Practice: Every day. End of Story. If you don’t do this, you’ll likely find you’ll forget stuff and/or blame the SRS. Sure missing one day here or there wont kill you but the whole point of a SRS is to study just a bit everyday to retain information for the long run. So make it a habit!
- Review First, Add Second: Never push-off reviews for adding in material.
- Review in small chunks: A person’s attention span does not last forever. Everyone varies, like I find 10 mins perfect for me, you may find 5 or 15 better for you. Either way, do not force more than 20 mins of dedicated SRS reviewing on yourself. You’ll cause burnout and you’ll most likely avoid your reviews rather than doing them.
- Make it a ゲームー！(Game): Because I make my reviews last only 10 mins, I also try to fit as many as humanly possible into that time frame. Everyday I try to beat that score. Make things into mini games for fun. Fun lets you learn better too.
- Answer Fast or you Fail!: Because Failing is okay, worry not, however you should not be spending more than 10 seconds answering a card. Because your answers should be simple, answering them in 10 seconds should be even easier. If you’re straining to remember a card, then you need to just let go and hit 0 (or whatever your button for wrong is).
- Study when Alert: Don’t study to late or to early if you’ll be groggy. Your reaction time will be slower, and your brain will probably be to fuzzy. So avoid it if you can, but if it’s the only time you have, try doing some jumping jacks (5-10 will help cause an adrenaline rush) or splashing water on your face.
- Delete/Suspend/Edit: Bad cards are BAD! They will bog you down, destroy your life! (well, or maybe not so much destroy your life, but it will make your life hell doing srs with horribly made cards, or cards filled with boring mundane junk)
- Deck Separation: It might make more sense for you to put all your kanji cards in one deck, and all your sentences in another, or if you do grammar, grammar points in another. It also may make sense for you to put them all in one deck. Either way, make sure whatever it is you do, check each deck out for its set of daily reviews. (anki and smart.fm is very easy to show you which sets need studying. Not sure about other srs programs out there)
Ultimately its up to you to experiment, research, and play around with styles of card making and reviewing that work best for you. While these tips are ones I follow and have brought me lots of success you may find you need to tweak yours a bit too. That’s fine, just remember, Results are what matters.
Also as a side note.
SRS is not made to work overnight.
I cannot tell you how many people I run across that stopped using their SRS because they felt they weren’t learning the information fast enough to suit them. They wanted to be able to review over and over and over and over and over until the information was implanted into their brains, until it was oozing outta their eyeballs!
Sure Anki and Smart.fm have modes that sorta help thrust short-term memory on you, however these things wont necessarily help you in the long run if you’re not committed to that. SRSs are best used when you know you’ll have time. If you’re a procrastinator, this might be a little hard for you. In terms of school, you wont want to enter information for a test the week before its due, but rather the second you learned the information in class. This is true with Japanese studying too.
Say you’re following a course book. When you learn chapter 1, enter information into your SRS that correlates to chapter 1. Don’t wait until you’re on chapter 9 to enter it, or the test is tomorrow. If you’re learning on your own, then SRS should be just fine for you, as you set your own dates for progressing through information. Do it as you go.
Cram modes have their place, but just remember it still takes practice with information to keep it learned for the long run. And the whole point for the SRS is to retain information for the long run in the most effective way possible.
There is a handful of SRS programs available online only. These can be nice if you have reliable internet service or if you have a phone (droid or iphone like) where you can run the app from for on the go.
Many of us were there when Smart.fm was known as Iknow. They’ve come a long way and made some things pretty snazzy too. Some fast action bulletins for the goodness would be:
- create, share, collaborate lists
- graphs to track study information
- follow and be followed by friends (similar to twitter)
- Journals with ability to add media
- multiple features in list learning (srs action plus game)
- Free (can’t beat that yo)
- four ways to study: iknow, brainspeed, dictation, and the recently added Drill (beta)
- connect with other people easily
- make your own lists, use other’s list, and make lists together
- ability to set a “goal mode” so that you can learn items before a specific date (even though long-term mode is best for retention)
- covers a variety of topics from all sorts of languages and such (not just for Japanese learning.)
- ability to be on iphone
- updates and bug fixes regularly
- audio for sentences and words
- graphs to show you your study habits
- few places that allows practice with dictation
- if you hate social networking like sites, this one may bug you a little
- have to be careful with lists, wrong information
- people can see what you’re doing/studying (bugs private people)
- confusing to some in its layout/wordage
All in all, Smart.fm is a fun site to participate in. Signing up is pretty fast and simple, as well as setting yourself up. Here’s a fun vid from the site itself. There are more on youtube that gives you a better idea of how to use it. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.
Another project of AJATT, Surusu is a web only SRS. While I do not use this product myself, I did check it out. There are quite a handful who do use it though. The features of this one is pretty standard:
- 100% Web-based
- Extensive cross-compatibility
- Built-in priority-based rescheduling with capping
- Flexible with media
- Growing and Updated regularly
- Multilingual Unicode support
- incredibly simple layout (no graphic to bog you down)
Not much to report otherwise so go give it a try if you’re interested!
This web based only SRS is actually only currently designed for learners of RTK. This site is also very free and really easy to use.
- based on the Leitner System
- Progress chart
- ability to see where your cards are in the Leitner system, how many are due
- share and keep track of your RTK stories online
- Add/remove cards from deck in multiple ways
- Restudy all failed cards along with your story
- Easy to follow/answer flashcards
- Review summaries of your study session
- IPhone APP
I use to use this system quite a bit in the beginning and still use it for the stories section, however I felt that the spaced system did not work well for me and switched to ANKI where I have much better luck with the SRS. This isn’t a fact though with many people, so worry not! I would recommend this site in a heartbeat for those looking for RTK SRS goodness.
The forum can be filled with lots of trolls and such, so I don’t recommend you spend too much time it, but there is some useful information to be had here and there (like info on RTK Lite).
They also have a new feature called iVocab Shuffle. I’ve not used it myself, but you can find more information on their Labs Tab.
While this part of Anki is meant for Online only, it can also be used to share decks with friends, and sync them between computers. All of the great Anki features are available through the online part, though with a little less graphical frill. Anki online is also available for multiple web outlets including phones! For more information check out their site, as well as my review of Anki itself.
While there are a lot more out there, these ones are some free biggies!
Why SRS Failure = Wins
People really hate failing. I’m not sure if this is a society led thing, or if it’s just normal born into human behavior. Either way its one of the most debilitating behaviors we have when it comes to learning. Learning is all about making mistakes, failing, and then picking up why we failed and turning it into passing, not making mistakes, winning. Not wanting to fail isn’t just limited to language learning either, but of course, this is where it really matters in this blog.
So when a lot of people hear that failing is what an SRS copes with best, a lot of people don’t like it. People don’t want to hear that they’re suppose to fail a bunch, because how does that show elite awesomeness of intelligence if you fail a bunch of cards. Well I’m going to show you why failure in an SRS is perfectly acceptable, and why you definitely shouldn’t be upset about it.
I could probably use a lot of famous sports examples, like Babe Ruth and Micheal Jordan, but I’m not. Rather I’m going to talk about those sneaky darn advertisers. I am a person who absolutely hates watching tv. (Yeah, what a weirdo I am lol) The reason I hate watching television is because there is almost no shows anymore, it’s all commercials. I swear its only4-6 mins of show surrounded by the same amount, if not more of commercials. And not a good variety, but the same darn ones, over and over and over. It’s enough to make me puke on em!
So, keeping this in mind, there was a statistic I read once that for every 47 McDonalds’ signs a person see, you’ll be likely to stop in one. For every 28th Starbucks or so you see, you’re likely to get coffee (apparently coffee had been more popular at the time and maybe still is). I bet every single one of you can sing the current McDonalds’ theme, describe in eerie detail the spokesman yet a good portion of America cannot sing the national anthem. Why? Simply because of exposure! That’s what an SRS is. Exposure. I doubt you sat down at the tele going, “every time I see that commercial I’m going to practice, ba da da ba bah, I’m loving it!” No, at least, not any sane person maybe lol. Instead it weaseled its way into your memory from simply allowing yourself to be exposed to it over and over and over while you Tried Desperately to watch your CSI show.
These big time advertisement companies realized this a long time ago. It hasn’t even worked its way into the daily life of a student though. That’s sad! But apparently everyone cares more about their greasy yummy heart attacks in a box than their cool sleek Japanese speaking skillz.
But think about how many times that commercial had to fail before you could recite it? How many times did it show you Ronald McDonald before you could describe him in detail. Can you describe his friends? How many times did Starbucks get looked over by a book store, or a clothing store before someone went, Oh Coffee! Need Coffee!? Lots. In fact they fail a lot before.
I mean, lets look at the stat from earlier for fun. 47 signs, and this includes billboards, but lets cut them out and just say the signs for the restaurant themselves and you’re doing a road trip past All of Them. I read that there were about 50k now give or take a few thousand. So even if they fail 47 times, and you go once, that’s still over 1k visits man! They had to fail 49k roughly to get that 1k, but hey, sounds like its worth it to me if they make roughly $15 a visit. And of course, that just one person.
I know I’m just number playing with random info off an unreliable web, however the gist is the same. The reality might even be more scary. Either way, approaching your SRS should be the same. The more you fail at a card, the more chances it has to pop up, the more you’ll see it, and the more you’ll remember it. You’re not suppose to be sweating bullets to remember your SRS cards either. That’ll be discussed more in how to use the SRS properly. Just remember, Failing is Okay. In fact, It’s what you’re going to do. I know, its okay *pat pat*.
When I first started out in the first 400 kanji of RTK I must say my failure rate was about 25%. That may seem like a lot, but it just means I got exposed more often to what I didn’t know, which now allows me to have a 98% pass rate on those first 400. Newer cards I’ve done have a worse fail rate of course because I’ve not been exposed to them as much as those first 400 so far. (I stopped in my srs learning to have my baby lol, that is why there is such a distinction.) I’m very strict about what constitutes as a pass/fail and I make myself have very strict timing on my srs. My memory is better because I’m not afraid of failing. I embrace it! Because in the end, all those fails turned into a big whopping Kick Butt Win!
What is an SRS?
If you’re new to studying, or perhaps rather new to better ways to studying, the term SRS might leave you with a few raised brows. For the life of me I cannot understand why SRSs are not implemented into the learning system here in America. In fact, I’m more surprised that through all my school like adventures I’ve never even heard of it until one fateful day roughly a year ago.
The point of an SRS (spaced repetition system) is really simple. Basically it uses the idea that when you first learn something new you generally need to review it more frequently in order to keep remembering it. As time passes you will need to review less in order to retain it. Of course they have a nice little way of explaining why we’re this way: the Spacing Effect.
History of the SRS
Supposedly in 1932 Professor Mace noted that spacing out learning should be effective. It wasn’t until 30 years later that the idea had begun to be incorporated into language learning software first by Pimsleur. A German scientist, Sebastian Leitner, devised the Leitner system in the 1970′s for paper flashcards. You basically used a box system of moving cards around so that harder cards were always reviewed relatively soon and easier cards later on.
Spacing systems were pretty hard to use in the beginning with flash cards because you were usually shifting through thousands of (paper carded) facts! When computers began to hit the scene in the 1980′s this made things a lot easier. Though not everyone agrees on the algorithms for just how to space the cards, research has backed up that spacing in intervals is a useful and more efficient way of learning. If you want to learn more about the algorithms you can find lots of articles on the web.
There are a lot of programs out there deliver. Most of these can be placed on hand-held devices as well as MS, Mac, and Linux. Here is the most popular I’ve come across in the world of Japanese learning. (Web only srs’s like Smart.fm and SuRuSu will be covered in another article)
Anki is a program which makes remembering things easy. Because it is a lot more efficient than traditional study methods, you can either greatly decrease your time spent studying, or greatly increase the amount you learn. Anyone who needs to remember things in their daily life can benefit from Anki. Since it is content-agnostic and supports images, audio, videos and scientific markup (via LaTeX), the possibilities are endless.
- Review anywhere. Anki lets you study on your own computer, online, on your cell phone or other portable devices like an iPod touch.
- Synchronization features let you keep your information across multiple computers.
- Shared decks allow you to divide work between friends, and let teachers push material to many students at once.
- Intelligent scheduler based on the SuperMemo SM2 algorithm.
- Flexible fact/card model that allows you to generate multiple views of information, and input information in the format you wish. You’re not limited to predefined styles.
- Fully extensible, with a large number of plugins already available.
- Optimized for speed, and will handle reviewing decks of 100,000+ cards with no problems.
- Clean, user-friendly interface.
- Open Source
I use Anki myself after a small start with mnemosyne. I really enjoy Anki and found that it was very user friendly and easy to start up. I also liked the community aspect of being able to share cards with other learners of Japanese. There is also a very detailed guide on how to use Anki, not to mention its best feature, Free .
Mnemosyne is another free SRS. Though they may not be superior to other SRSs out there, they’re not to be laughed at due to the large number of data they collect from participants for both short-term and long-term research. Because the study group encompasses people of all ages and backgrounds, and has no commercial bias, they believe they’ll understand the best spaced algorithm and be able to implement it.
These are some of the features of Mnemosyne:
- Efficient scheduling algorithm, so you don’t waste time on things you know well
- Support for languages using different scripts through unicode
- Support for pictures, sounds and html formatting
- Can be integrated with LaTeX to display mathematical formulas
- Support for three-sided cards, e.g. foreign words where you are interested in written form, pronunciation and translation
- Can be run from a USB key
- Can display some basis statistical info on your learning process
- Keeps a detailed record of your entire learning process for analysis
- Your cards can be organised in categories, which can be activated and disactivated to control your learning process
- Clean, deceptively simple user interface, yet fully customizable for advanced users through configuration files and plugins
- Available in several languages
- Support for a large number of import and export formats (text, XML, Supermemo, Memaid, …)
Perhaps just as well-known as Anki, if not more, is the oldie of the SRS world. They got started in 1985 and have since been creating quality work through their program. Of course it’s very similar to the two mentioned above because it is their foundation. They’re also not a free program either. The current up-to-date SuperMemo costs $50! You get a lot though for $50 if you check out their long list of features!
Tell us about your SRS if its different then the three above and why you think it’s best!