Flashcards are a tried and true method of memorizing new information. The pedagogical principal behind flashcards - spaced repetition of new material – is the basis of most language-learning software.
Digital flashcards, the modern version of traditional paper flashcards, are computer programs that ask the student to identify or translate new material at regulated intervals. Most of them allow the creation of a personal database of study material and the ability to keep track of your progress.
Anki On The Go
There are dozens of flashcard programs available, so how do you choose an appropriate one? That depends on how you are going to use it. If you do all your studying at your home computer, almost any flashcard program will do. But if you prefer studying on a variety of devices and at various locations, Anki is a good choice.
Anki can be used for almost any subject. The available databases (referred to as “decks”) range from geography to chemistry, and there are about 20 language categories. The Chinese section has 9 decks of flashcards as of April 2009.
The existing decks can be a starting point, but Anki is most useful if you personalize your decks to your current study material. Flashcards can be almost anything you want – individual words or characters, sentences, audio, and graphics.
Once a deck is created, it can be uploaded to the Anki website where it can be accessed through a personal user name and password. You can use your deck online, or download it to other devices or computers.
Anki lets you keep track of your progress with a number of graphs. They include:
- cards due by date in a per-day and cumulative graph
- interval distribution of cards
- cards added per day
- cards answered per day
If you need more features beyond the basic program, Anki has a plugin system that allows you to add dictionaries, example sentences, periodic reminders, and two-step answers. These are just a few of the plugins currently available, and if you can’t find what you need, you can write your own.
Anki is open-source software available free of charge. It is under active development and has a strong user base. The user interface is well-designed and provides a convenient way to keep track of your study progress. This is one of the better flashcard programs available, and is a useful tool for anyone studying languages.