I’m halfway through my Greek Duolingo tree with the intent of reading on LingQ next but the one thing that is continuously slowing my progress is Anki. I’ve taken two days away and now have 300 words to review with the addition of 200 new ones added before my time off. I am wondering if it would be simply more beneficial to complete the beginner course before attempting to solidify the vocabulary? My current approach of doing both in tandem seems to be rather inefficient.
I’m also not sure how well Greek vocabulary can be learned without context compared to other easier languages. My intention of using Anki was only ever to learn the top 1-2k words because these are the words I wish to become active as I intend to speak in a few months.
I used Anki for a while but it is a progress break. I find that it’s more effective to just read a lot. With Anki you end up learning some words but forgetting others no matter how much you rehearse them. I suspect that overall it’s just a waste of time even if you do learn some words. Also it’s a problem that if you don’t use Anki for a day or two words for review accumulate and in the end it becomes a nightmare to go through them. I bought a white board and now if there is a word I just can’t “get through my skull” I write it on it. Occasionally a list of related vocabulary goes on that whiteboard such as “sentence”, “adverb”, “adjective”, “conjunction” … etc.
To me Anki is such a waste of time. That’s not language, it’s rote learning and it doesn’t work long term. It’s not possible to drill thousands and thousands of cards regularly. Just get your exposure in natural contexts. Language is something we engage with, not something to tick off a list and then move on to something else like we’ve completed a task.
The thing is, with just listening, reading and watching, you don’t have lists you can check off. You don’t feel the improvement linearly, it comes over time in many multiples of words acquired.
For example, what i mean is -
I LingQ every day. I currently have 8000 defined words which i don’t know. I can’t work my way through them one by one, or a few every day. It’s pointless. What happens is, all of a sudden i’ll be reading and i’ll move a couple of dozen words to known. Depending on the subject of the material, one can move hundreds of words to well known in very short periods of time.
According to my stats, I have so far moved 110 unknown words to ‘known’ just today. Yesterday, i moved 266. In the last 7 days i’ve moved 1063. This doesn’t mean that I learned 1000+ words in a week. It just means that words i’ve been reading for a while have suddenly become clear to me all at once in their relevant contexts.
Learning words from Anki never provides enough context. And who wants to sit behind some flashcard numbing their mind when you can learn better from reading ?
Reading gives context, background info, character involvement, subvocalisation, internal visualisation of the scene using senses (which makes the words stick better) and interaction with exciting and engaging pieces of work/stories/articles etc. It is much, much superior to Anki and you’ll find anyone with exceptionally high levels in any language are people who read a lot almost without exception.
To be fair, you don’t have to use Anki just for words in isolation - you can use it for ‘fill in the blank’ cards as well, which is useful for things like getting you to generate the correct inflected form of a word, in the context of a whole sentence.
‘context’ doesn’t necessarily mean a sentence, or even a paragraph. When it comes to the BEST way to learn words Anki can never, ever replace reading/watching/speaking/listening to native content.
Well, I can still draw from native content to make the flashcards. But I suspect that we are just different in how useful we find it. I mostly used Anki to learn Portuguese, and I mostly used LingQ to learn Dutch. I think I am better at reading Dutch than I am at speaking it, whereas I’m probably more balanced between those skills in Portuguese … plus I would also need to have a year-long romance with a native Dutch speaker who doesn’t also speak English to make a truly fair comparison, and I’m not sure if such people exist
Anki can be useful for some things but for me, there are also significant drawbacks. I have learned every word, expression and grammar pattern in Russian in a context that is true for me at the moment I am learning it. I do not use flash cards because I don’t try to specifically memorize anything. Instead, I look up a word/phrase only once and then use it in contexts that are meaningful to me. Since I created the contexts, I use them to understand – NOT memorize and NOT translate – new phrases/words. Interestingly, I have no trouble learning – that is, understanding and being able to use – the words that have written in such sentences.
On LingQ, I use the “cloze” review because this enables me to learn and practice many words within a context with each review (that is, all the words around the missing one). One can create these on Anki too but – and it’s a big BUT – it is very time-consuming. For me, it’s too time-consuming. I discovered that the process of creating a useful “cloze” prompt IS very effective when I first tested Anki but then realized that doing so was itself the critical part. That is, after I created the context, I understood the word/phrase. I can do this by hand – faster, and more effectively – by writing out sentences that use the new phrases/patterns that I want to learn right now.
In fact, writing out the sentences by hand is more effective than creating them on Anki because it creates a muscle memory of how the letters are formed. (This is especially important where the alphabet/writing system is different from your native language as Russian is for me.) In addition, I am sounding out the words in my head as I write them by hand, something that does not happen when typing on the computer. Educators have found that writing by hand is more effective for children than typing on a computer; their knowledge of the words and ability to use them creatively is superior when they write by hand. Language learners should note this important finding.
Computers are convenient, to be sure, but when one is first learning a new language, it is extremely beneficial to write by hand in order to create those additional neurological pathways in your brain for how the letters are formed and words are spelled. It’s not necessary to do this for everything – it’s too overwhelming as you gain a lot of vocabulary – but I would (and have) done it for really important – basic – words/phrases that I want to USE right now. Thus, writing by hand (and saying out loud what you’ve written), is for me, much more effective to solidify common, essential words/patterns in Russian. I thus view context-based learning as key to learning ANY language. It is not only how children learn their own native language, but it is also the way we learn new vocabulary throughout our life. Trying to memorize vocabulary lists is not an effective way of being able to understand and use new words/patterns. In short, do what is effective for you at your given stage of language learning. What is most effective to solidify basic patterns and vocabulary is not the same as what is needed at later stages nor is it the same for every person.
Tailor your own approach to what YOU find motivating.