Flashcards and SRS

Hey folks,

Just wondering how many long-term users of LingQ also use a separate SRS like Anki. I used to do Anki, and I think it’s helpful in the beginning to power through basic vocab and grammar structures so you can start getting into content, but I’m not so sure after that. I see on some sites people talking about SRS with 10,000 entries or 20,000 entries. Numbers like that just seem crazy to me, although I guess it works for some people.

I also remember a video where Steve talked about Random Repetition System or something like that :-), meaning just reading and listening because you’ll encounter the most common vocabulary often enough anyway.

I have a friend who’s starting to learn Japanese, but I’m not sure whether I should advise starting with Anki or not. How many people use SRS when starting into a new language?

I like Anki, but I am just not studious enough to use it regularly. I think I would learn a lot more if I did.

I found that too. I’d go through spurts of using it, and even make my own decks, but then I wouldn’t use it for a couple weeks and the reviews would go through the roof.

But for someone who isn’t using LingQ, I think it’d be helpful. With LingQ, and being able to review yellow words before a lesson, or check their meaning during a lesson, I’m not sure it’s necessary to SRS vocab. It seems like Steve is right - if you spend enough time on LingQ, you’ll see all the most common words frequently enough to learn them.

Personally, I found making SRS decks of grammatical patterns very helpful. I tended to do more of those sorts of decks rather than vocabulary-oriented ones.

I’ve used Anki and other SRS systems on and off, but increasingly off… it often feels like a “better than nothing” activity for me, and my time could be better spent reading and listening. Nowadays I just use LingQ as a giant Random Repetition System, moving LingQs up and down the Unknown-Known scale as I come across them in my reading. This way I’m always encountering words in context, and I have much more incentive to learn the words than if I encountered them on their own.

I would recommend that your friend start with SRS as those sort of systems are good at getting the basic vocabulary into your head. It’s really rewarding in the beginning because most of the words you are practicing you are thinking “Excellent! That’s a useful word!” … but later on you find yourself thinking “How often am I going to need that word!!”.

From my experience, SRS works well for beginners. At this level, there are just not enough materials to do RRS.

I have also tried pure RRS with no deliberate effort to learn the vocabulary when I was at intermediate level (with about 10000-20000 known words). It did not work well for me. The new words just couldn’t stick. I then started SRS-ing, and my vocabulary increased dramatically.

My take is that you need a hybrid of SRS and RRS. More SRS from the beginning and gradually increase the RRS portion as you progress. Eventually you will reach a point (somewhere at high-intermediate level) that you can throw away any kind of SRS or flashcarding and absorb new vocabulary naturally through RRS.

To answer your question, I believe you need to deliberately learn your vocabulary at the beginner’s level. SRS is one way (and probably the most efficiently way).

@Bortrun “How many people use SRS when starting into a new language?”

When I started new languages, it was before anyone had thought about SRS or Anki. When I returned to some of those languages here on Lingq, I experimented with Lingq’s srs system, with Anki, with Memrise, with Cram and with a couple of others. In the period of about a month they all went from being exciting to being tedious, so their usefulness in remembering vocabulary was minimal.

Whether Anki will help your friend will depend on your friend and your friend’s style of learning. You are wiser in these matters than I am, so I hesitate even to say this, but I would strive very hard to make any of my recommendations for learning a language to NOT sound like a commandment.

How does the Chinese proverb go? There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same. And there are what?, maybe a dozen major separate ways to learn languages, going from Kato Lomb’s method through the method of Listening-Reading, to methods of just listening, to the Lingq method, to the grammar-translation method, and so on. And to go along with them, there are lots of ways to learn vocabulary.

Personally, I don’t study vocabulary per se at all, so Lingq’s method works best for me.

Edited to correct ‘andy’ to ‘any’ and ‘Lingq’s system’ to ‘Lingq’s srs system.’

I think as Anki is really useful as long as you use it in a non-boring way.

Here´s a boring card:

front - der Baum
back - the tree

Personally, I prefer to copy and paste “good sentences” - sentences that are funny, i+1 (only or two unknown words), facts that I´d like to memorize, epic quotes (“You want a guarantee? Buy a toaster!”), song lyrics, interesting words…etc.
When I hear a “good” sentence in a movie/TV-series, I directly record it into Anki.


I can’t be arsched reading entire sentences when I go through flashcards. I just do the boring cards.

Thanks for the thoughts everyone.

I’m a novice. I did really well with 60 colorful Tuttle Flashcards for Kids to learn my first words. But when I bought the smaller, black and white flashcard deck to learn more vocabulary, I lost interest.

I’ve dabbled with Quizlet, LingQ, Anki, Memrise, half a dozen smart phone flashcard apps, making my own flashcards with pictures, flashcards from websites like Talk To Me In Korean, e-books of vocabulary, 2000 Essential Word book, and a dozen ways of making my own on notecards. Nothing has stuck. I am encouraged to read about people who have used SRS to increase their vocabulary. There are words I must have seen 100 times by now, but I still hesitate when trying to write them in Hangul or use in conversation. I expose myself to Korean words every day, but I am just not organized about it, circling back to review the same words in an organized manner.

Still, I live in hope that some day I will find a rhythm for using flashcards that will work.

I think we all hate the idea of devoting a lot of time and getting little results. The fact that you are questioning using Anki flashcards probably means you’ve grown beyond them and can just use extensive reading to replace having to use flashcards.

I am jealous of your advanced skill, Botrun. :slight_smile:

I don’t really use SRS for Japanese anymore, and it was never my primary mode of study. I’m thinking about a friend who’s starting out.

You can do extensive reading almost from the very beginning, provided that you can find appropriately simple material. If you are just flashcarding words, it’s unlikely to work well. At the very least, the words need to be in a sentence, so you have context and can also absorb some grammar. And it’s even better if the sentences come from content that you have studied before.

But flashcarding, no matter how good you make your cards, is not a substitute for actual content. They’re an aid, not a primary form of study.