The SRS Chronicles

It's evolution, baby!

It’s evolution, baby!

Another big change I made over the summer was in regards to my SRS. In fact, not one card from pre-summer was left over by the end of the season. This hasn’t been just a change of format, but also a change of attitude towards SRS and where it fits into my language learning journey. In no particular order, here are a few things that I did:

Started using MCD and Cloze formats exclusively

Using mass context cloze deletion and regular cloze cards both have the same purposes in my deck: to get me to produce only Japanese as the answer, and to make said answer as straightforward and simple as possible. (For those that I have not heard of cloze before, it’s basically a fancy word for fill-in-the-blank.)

With LWT, my cards consist of being shown the sentence with the new word blanked out, and the definition of the new word (usually bilingual). The definition cannot contain the new word, and I often give myself some form of hint on the question portion, if for no other reason than the fact that there could be half a dozen potential “correct” answers based on the definition and context.

With manually created cloze cards, typically stemming from language exchanges, it will usually be the sentence in Japanese with a certain part blanked out, along with an English translation or some sort of hint as to what could be going in said blank.

In both cases, the point is that it makes me have to produce Japanese rather than just passively kinda sorta recognizing terms and moving on to the next card. I’ve found that since making this change, even when I watch subbed anime with the one and only Animom, words that I’ve learned recently will pop right out.

Stopped using pre-made content

JLPT word lists, 常用漢字(じょうよう・かんじ) lists, grammar point lists… all this “list” type stuff has been erased from my deck. I think this piece of advice I came across on one of my Internet journeys sums it up best:

“Content and vocabulary selection beyond the most common 300-500 words should be dictated by subject matter interest. (One of) the most pertinent questions will be “What will you spend your time doing with this language?” – From The Four Hour Work Week

Whether you use SRS, LWT, tadoku, language exchanges or a mix of the above, I think it’s still more useful and more rewarding to base what vocabulary you study on what your interests are. Even though I think it’s useful, and even essential to go through grammar books to be aware of certain vocab and grammar, studying and focusing on vocab based on what you find to be engaging will be far more motivating than another dialogue of スミスです. With premade decks I would spend way too much time trying to drill words into my head that I may very well never need to know to enjoy the native material I’m interested in. By using tools like LWT, I know every word in my deck is something I’m spending time learning because it’s relevant to what I want to understand.

Added dynamic links to cards

One positive thing I discovered when messing around with pre-made decks (some of them not even about Japanese, more on that in a future post) was about customizing Anki cards. Namely, creating dynamic links. With a bit of HTML, you can type up the code once and it appears on every card for that format. For example, on all my LWT cards, I have it so that I can look up the kanji breakdown on tangorin, in case I’ve forgotten the meaning of the characters in the compound. This can be super useful for looking up extra info on an as-needed basis, and even paste it back into the card itself if you want to. It’s really helped me create some super useful cards, and in a very efficient way, so if you’re comfortable with some basic HTML, I highly recommend trying it out.

Reduced daily targets

Previously, SRS reviews took up the vast majority of my study time. With my job, travel time, responsibilities at home, etc, it would often literally take from morning to night to complete the reviews. Some of that was simply because I tried to do too many reps + new cards in one day. I was aiming really high with reps, and attaining that goal daily, but the cost was I was missing out on exposure to other forms of media, something I’ve come to see as essential for truly getting new vocab so sink in. Even now that I have more time to study these days, I cut my daily Anki target right in half, and have been able to enjoy a wide variety of media because of it.

Put everything into one deck

At one point, I had multiple Anki decks for everything from LWT to standard list vocab, kanji, or even non-Japanese materials. This led to reviews feeling like they were never completed. I’d finish one deck for the day only to have to go on to the next, and the next… And then trying to balance out different daily targets for each deck… It was far from efficient. So then I decided no system but the one-deck system would work. If something was important enough to learn, then it could find a place in my overall new/review limits. It was actually this sort of thinking that led me to make many of these aforementioned changes, as I was quickly discovering that many of these sets of cards were not so worthwhile at the moment afterall… Now I can confidently tackle just a single deck for the day, with all of its assorted contents being relevant and useful, and have a great sense of accomplished seeing the “You’re Finished!” screen each day.

The dawn of a new day!

The dawn of a new day!

If I keep doing what I’ve always done, I’ll keep getting what I’ve always got.” This quote has been a guiding force for all these changes, and has been the reason that I still continue to feel a sense a progress on the long journey to mastering Japanese. Just the fact that I can try out new techniques, methods, and materials makes me feel like I’m getting somewhere, one step at a time.


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  • Read More or Die! 2011

    _2011 End Results_
    Total read for Tadoku:
    __433.3 pages!__
    Placement: 115/188
    October 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 97/120
    End Tally: 59.2
    July 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 86/142
    End Tally: 195.6
    April 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 62/106
    End Tally: 154.5
    January 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 84/99
    End Tally: 24
    August 2010 Contest:
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    End Tally: 160

  • Read Or Die 2013

    Goal: 600
    Total: 906.26
    blew my goal outta the water!

    March 2-Week:
    Goal: 125

    Goal: 250
    Total: 314

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