Cards vs. Cloze vs. Dictation vs. Multiple choice

Hello all,

How do you guys choose which review method to use when? Do you use all 4 of them and just randomly decide when to use which, or do you have a specific method for when to choose each method? Or perhaps you only use one method and stick with it?

In all my past language learning endeavors, I have always used the PRODUCTION method instead of the RECOGNITION method; that is, on the front of my flashcards I’ve always put English, and made myself recall/produce the foreign vocabulary word from memory. However, LingQ focuses on recognition, and therefore I am giving this method a try to see what happens. Any comments / suggestions welcome!

(By the way, I am fluent in Spanish, which I feel is an important factor in deciding how to best learn Portuguese, the language that I am using LingQ for)

Michael King

When I do flash cards I prefer to see all the info on the front so I can go through them faster. I have never found that scratching my brain to remember the meaning did much for me other than slow me down. There are too many new words to go through them all in any case. Dictation is great with phrases, especially to train my listening comprehension, spelling and pronunciation. I find that I often don’t hear correctly, and dictation sure corrects you in a hurry. I find I needn’t do hundreds to get the benefit. A sampling does fine, as a “quality control” activity. But it is up to you. To each his/her own. Good luck/

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I looked at all the options when I joined LingQ six months ago and very early on decided that I only liked the multiple choice option. I have been using it exclusively and I usually am able to get all 25 correct. This is because I have previously read and listened to the text. I use the quick flash method for most words. That is, I don’t stop to think about them, I choose the meaning that my brain knows is correct. When I am not sure, only then, I stop to consider. Afterwards, when I have been through all the words four times, I will read and listen to the text again to see if I now understand the text. I can usually get the gist quite well.

Yo no uso ningún sistema de tarjetas en Lingq. Alguna vez he estudiado tarjetas, o bien con frases o con elementos básicos de vocabulario. Normalmente solo pare reconocimiento, no producción.
Mi sistema básico de estudio es simplemente leer y escuchar todo lo que puedo. Una vez pasado el nivel inicial, ni siquiera suelo releer. Simplemente sigo adelante con nuevo material. Cuando consigo cierta seguridad comienzo a conversar.

En todo caso, suerte en Lingq. El portugués es una bella lengua.

Anyway, I did use Lingq flashcards for a time when I started here. My favorite ones were multiple choice. In general, I much prefer flashcards with sentences, rather than isolated words.

For several months I concentrated on learning individual words, now I am also concentrating on sentences and individual words within the sentences.

I was very partial to flashcards and cloze. I didn’t stress out on SRS because it was just a quick review. I ignored the SRS reviews and all my LingQs added up quick and now I don’t use them anymore. Hardly.

Are any of you the same way, and just don’t use the SRS? Am I doing myself an injustice by not doing reviews? I know the philosophy of “do what you love” is strong here, but if it really is proven to work and be effective, I don’t mind forcing myself to do them, and eventually I’ll enjoy doing it.

This is how it works for me:

I usually do not do flashcards or revision, I just read or listen.

Every now and then I become geeky and do lots of flashcards or Gold List sentences or whatever tickles my fancy. I find that these things then work brilliantly, but only because I am enjoying them. Once my ‘addiction’ to whatever method/sytem I am using has died down, I revert to listening and reading.

In my opinion, I feel that SRS is key… This way you have a system for keeping track of words that you no longer are able to recall (even if you are indeed able to recognize the word), and can subsequently retrain these words for you to be able to produce them when necessary. Personally I like production/recall flashcards (native language → target language, or description of the word in the target language → word in the target language), as this will force you to continually have to know how to produce the word when you need to call upon it when speaking. Yes, re-reading / re-listening will keep the word fresh in your mind, but will only ensure that it is there for RECOGNITION, and not necessarily for RECALL. My goal for a language is not only to be able to RECOGNIZE words, but to also be able to RECALL them, which is where SRS comes in for me, because there’s no way I’ll get enough speaking practice to be able to practice RECALLING all learnt words, but with SRS I can ensure that I do get to recall all words possible. This is what I feel is missing in the LingQ flashcards. i.e. a way to work on RECALL as opposed to RECOGNITION.

I agree with you about the distinction between recognition and recall. I now recognise several thousand words of Russian when I read them and even when I hear them, but my recall is probably in the few hundreds. I have been working on recall by writing out sentences in both English and Russian and then by repeated listening I then test myself by covering the Russian and translating from English into Russian. I can now recall about 300 sentences. I am not sure flashcards would be as effective as the method I am using, because they are more effective for me in enforcing the meaning of words and phrases in Russian.

I welcome those who come to me; I will not chase those who leave me.

I am not interested in “flashy” techniques. I just read or listen.

Your method is not mutually exclusive from the flashcard method; I basically use your same method, but using ANKI. On the front of my cards, I have a phrase written in english, and on the back of my cards I have the phrase translated into my target language.

This is how I am. I am able to recognize many words, but only recall a fraction. This is a result of having a passive understanding in the language. I want to be able to recall words easier and form sentences to make the words part of my active vocabulary.

I notice even after just reading and listening, I am able to recall words, and some words are now part of my active vocabulary. Perhaps it was because I was actively trying hard to remember these words in my brain since they were so common, but less common words, my brain just glances over them and doesn’t try as hard.

Do you think SRS can help convert passive vocabulary into active?

100 %… there’s no way it can’t convert it into active vocabulary, given that you are forcing yourself to recall the word from your native language (english) into your target language. If you aren’t able to convert it into active memory, then you will simply get the flashcard wrong and thus will be forced to continue studying the flashcard until you get it right, and thus you will have converted it into active memory

Multiple choice is the only thing that works for me

Yeah, I am just like you. I never do flashcards and never miss it.

I just don’t believe we can get significant help by “flashing” words and phrases to our brain.
To me, a language is a vast accumulation of connected concepts. I don’t believe in any “isolated” approach.

As I see it, flashcards are essentially an association aid, like “cat” with that animal, “house” with a house, etc.
But these simple concepts that can be quickly associated are the easiest things in learning a language.
They will come to you one way or another even if you try hard not to learn them, as long as you keep at it.
The difficulty lies with the more subtle and “connected” aspects of vocabulary, for which flashcards don’t help much.
How would you learn the difference between “which” and “that” as a relative pronoun through flashcards?
This type of more complex and subtle things are what takes the bulk of your time, not “dog”, “cat” or “house”.

For such advanced part of vocabulary, I believe reading and listening to good texts is the only way that helps me.
Even conversations don’t help that much because people don’t talk in advanced concepts and expressions.
Advanced concepts and high end constructs are only found in texts, nowhere else.

Maybe these advanced stuff is not always necessary or essential, but I think they are the key to serious learning.
If you struggle with advanced constructs, simple stuff like “I go to school” becomes a piece of cake in no time.
But if you only concentrate on isolated words and “My name is xxx”, you’ll never be exposed to the real thing.

So that’s my theory. The best SRS and flashcards are the vast tracts of writing already available out there.
Broad reading gives you the broad exposure to the good stuff, in the best kind of naturally spaced repetition.


I might start doing flashcards for harder words that can’t be learned through encountering them, because they are too rare. I also might start doing SRS and flashcards for common phrases and just memorize those for the sake of simply having phrases to fall back on.

I believe reading and listening to good texts is the only way that helps me.

I am on the same boat. My “SRS” involves reading the whole texts. I start out by reading and LingQing the new text, and I read the entire thing again in a few hours or in the evening, then I review it in the morning. Each time I read, I listen as well. Maybe this is why I don’t see the benefits of flashcards, because I’m doing a strange variation.

How would you learn the difference between “which” and “that” as a relative pronoun through flashcards?

Exactly. This is why I believe in context learning, not learning individual words.

Sure. If you have the energy, it’s always good to try the major tools available out there to decide whether it might work for you. In my case, I neither have the belief in its efficacy nor the will power to do it even if I believed in it, so I can’t bring myself to try it.

As for your whole text SRS, it sounds more like a text memorization method than flashcards.

But whatever it is, good luck to you, and it’d be interesting to hear about what you have found out and how you feel about it after a few months of trial.