Learn Chinese Faster And More Effectively With Spaced Repetition Software

Nothing can be more frustrating than forgetting what you’ve learned and having to learn something again. This can be especially true with learning a foreign language. Spaced repetition software like Anki solves this problem by making it easy to remember. Since using Anki on a regular basis, I’ve noticed a dramatic improvement in my retention. Spend even as little as 30 minutes a day on Anki, and it’s enough to boost your Chinese vocabulary. Finding time to review may seem difficult, but you only need half an hour.

What Is Spaced Repetition?

A German psychologist once performed research to find the optimal way of remembering information. He discovered spacing reviews was better than reviewing material many times in one session.

Anki’s design is based on this concept. It displays new content sooner and more often compared to content you know well. Each time Anki displays a flashcard, you rate how easy or difficult it was to recall the word or definition. Based on your response, Anki will present the card again right before you forget. Easy cards take longer to reappear in your queue. Difficult cards are displayed sooner.

This design optimizes your study time compared to reviewing every flashcard for each review. It’s much easier to manage your studying as the number of cards grows.

Research has proven that testing yourself is more effective than rereading material several times. Self testing is the only way to know if you remember what you’ve learned.

How To Use Anki To Learn More Chinese Characters and Vocabulary

Before adding a word in Anki, learn the character or vocabulary word. Although this seems obvious, it can be easy to start adding words before learning them. To understand how to use a word will provide you with a better chance of remembering it later.

When creating the card, include an example word or sentence to learn the item in its context. The nice thing about Anki is that it’s highly customizable. You can create whatever fields you want displayed on your flashcards. Different sets of cards can also be created. For example, you can create a set for Chinese vocabulary and one for characters.

When creating cards in Anki, create them so you can study them in both directions. In other words, create one card for the word and definition and another card for the reverse. Anki makes it easy so you only need to enter content once, and it will generate both cards.


Figure1: An example of a forward and reverse card in Anki. Both cards are created from one entry.


Figure 2: After checking the answer, you rate how difficult or easy it was to remember. Anki will show the card sooner or later based on your rating.

Once you’ve created your cards, you’ll need to review them on a regular basis. Make it a daily habit to spend at least 30 minutes for review. You might think you’re too busy, but consider time spent commuting on a bus or train. Or what about moments waiting in line or for someone to arrive? Those are the best times to review your Anki cards on your phone. You’ll be able to turn wasted minutes into useful study time anywhere. These minutes may seem insignificant, but they add up over the course of a day. Why not have a quick study session while you wait?

Anki is even more powerful when combined with the mnemonic technique. If you want to learn more about how to use mnemonics for learning Chinese characters, read my post here.

Although it’s tempting to rely on Anki, it shouldn’t be your only tool for studying Chinese. It’s just as important to practice reading, speaking, and writing Chinese to gain fluency. Think of Anki as just one of many tools you can use in your Chinese language studies.

Check out the Resources page for an Anki card template and guides to help you get started.

Helpful links for more information:

Download Anki: http://ankisrs.net/

Access Anki user manual: http://ankisrs.net/docs/manual.html

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