*Note I have a review of popular Anki decks and the different way they convey information in this post, if you want to scroll directly to that, go ahead.*
After about a week of using a Core2000 deck with Anki, I’m seriously thinking of using another deck, or a slightly modified system. The inherent problem with learning any vocabulary is always, always, always, CONTEXT.
I’m finding that the flashcard method of “See word in English”, then “try to remember Japanese word” is a matter of memory, and has nothing to do with context. Also i’m finding that for many words, when I see the Japanese word alone, I have a difficult time reading it. But when the word is in a sentence, I find it a less difficult to remember, because I can garner the meaning from what’s written around it.
I’m not an efficiency freak, but learning words in a bubble never really helped anyone, and it gets frustrating when I cannot remember a word because by itself I have no roots to connect it to. But with programs like Anki there major issues.
1. MULTIPLE DECKS
Anki is a very technical, user-unfriendly program. Add to that, there are a host of driven, smart folk out there, who are technically savvy and did us the laudable duty of creating decks for us to use and download from the Anki servers. But the problem is, I have no idea which decks are the most efficient to use. I say this because the formatting for so many decks (with the same information ) is so different, that starting a new deck is like starting over the Core2000 process completely.
Why is this such an issue for me?
Let’s say there are three people John, Jack and Jane. Each have an Anki deck with the Core 2000 sentences.
1. John might upload a deck that focuses on reading sentences that HE customized to make life easier for you. So the core 2000 sentences are all jumbled up from step 1 to step 10 because of the rearrangement. I’ve noticed this feels like “blind vocabulary learning” because I figured they are arranged into steps for a reason, because in some way the vocabulary is connected. I’ve noticed that pretty much all of step 3 has to deal with dense words involving municipal terms (politics, government, etc). So if i switch from what I am using now (the original sort of Core 2000 program) I will be learning the words in a new order, with less original connectivity.
2. Jack might upload a deck that focuses on learning sentences in the original order of the Core2000 (step1 to 10). But his deck shows you entire sentences in Hiragana, with no Kanji, so you have to figure out what Kanji the keyword is. This of course, defeats the purpose (for some people) of seeing the Kanji and learning it. So when I got a deck like this, again it completely changes the ENTIRE approach of how you study. Reading from Hiragana to Kanji is a different beast, possibly slower, possibly with a different kind of retention. What made matters worse, some sentences were written nicely, meaning I saw the Kanji word, then the sentence it was in. This allowed me to read it quickly and revise it quickly if I forgot. But then if the next 20 sentences have the keyword in hiragana, it isn’t as easily recognizable, or easy to read.
3. Jane uploads the original program that deals with learning the word, then learning the word in a sentence. But the way Jane’s deck is setup is more old school, painfully slow and you find that you aren’t remembering anything because you keep seeing flashcards and not sentences.
What does this mean really?
It means that if you aren’t liking your current deck, and you aren’t very good at modifying how it displays information in Anki the way you want, you might want to try a new deck. This is where my problem comes in.
Switching means you basically lose all your progress is what you have “studied to maturity” so far. This for me creates a bit of tense frustration because if I’ve studied 600 words to maturity(meaning I can remember them pretty easily) on a previous deck A, when I use a new deck B, and then I will have to “re-study” the same words to maturity on that deck, which wastes a lot of time, especially as the numbers of words increase.
See the idea is to just pick one deck (or good series of decks) and run with it/them to the end of Core2000, but midway you might find a deck that lets you move faster and possibly retain more. I’ve always found that flashcards annoy me because i’d rather learn how to read a sentence than a ton of individual words floating in the ether. I’m still at the midpoint I think of Step 3, and i’m trying to see how I can make what i’m doing more efficient. The idea right now is to read sentences, not constantly fail at reading random flashcards.
I believe i’ve already written about mental fatigue and trying to balance your learning with your regular immersion time. If what you are learning isn’t efficient and a bit boring what it means is that you will get drained more, be less enthusiastic, and have far less energy/patience/belief in the “small stuff” which is reading manga, watching TV and so on. I like to feel that i’m moving forward each day.
My issue is an issue that I guess more “hardcore learners” seem to have. A lot of packaged systems are good, but are quite slow, repetitive and can be quite boring. Today when I was doing some Anki reps, I saw the flashcard for 減る (heru -diminsh, decrease) come up several times, I had no idea why, and I had yet to see a sentence with heru in it. This annoyed me, because if I show a Japanese person the word “bulwark” over and over, they will have a hard time remembering it unless its in a sentence.
So this is what i’ve discovered with the deck i’m using now… that (at least presently) i’m seeing more flashcards with one word than actual sentences. I’m going to keep modifying how the stuff is displayed until it works for me but this is taking a lot of trial and error. This or I am quite inept at using Anki. Either way, the fact that I’m going through these decks and seeing the difference can hopefully help someone figure where they want to go.
DECKS I’VE CHECKED OUT SO FAR
Smartfm Core Japanese decks – (what i’m currently using)
These are based on the original Smart.fm program which is now called Iknow.jp. This is the one i’m using currently. It has all the steps from 1 to 10, with good descriptions of the goals of each step. These set of decks don’t deviate at all from the original program and as such still have some of the issues of the original.
my take – I find the idea of using the original system a bit romantic, because I feel there is a reason stuff was ordered the way it was. It feels a bit slow, especially through the harder steps, but I think I will at least try to go to step 5 (halfway) before giving up on the program. I don’t think its the system, but rather my impatience that is affecting me with this one. But it definitely has some major organizational issues. Some decks have examples sentences that are incredibly dense with too may new vocabulary words relative to your target vocabulary word. This can cause frustration for new learners who don’t possess a basic vocabulary, because you will essentially have no idea what the sentence is saying, target word or otherwise. However, the sentences appear to be “cyclical” and reappear with slight modifications. Which means at some point, each vocabulary word will be taught to you, and you can then read the entire sentence. What I don’t know is how long this process takes. I am assuming that each sentence introduced in a step, will also introduce each of the words in that sentence in the same step, so that by the end of the step, even the horribly dense sentences will be readable. If that is not the case, then it will be a rough road for many new Japanese learners. I am using this system because it is linear, and I know what sentences I’m at, and so on. A fat deck (for now) is too loose an arrangement of terms to make me feel like i’m achieving anything. When I complete each deck after a few days, I feel better than staring at a huge pileup of unviewed items might take months to complete. This is why I know they made “steps” because people like measurable progress. Will keep posting on this as time passes.
Core 2k/ 6k series – these were created by Nukemarine, a passionate learner of Japanese. These are the core2000 ordered based on Kanji Odyssey 2001 (another program) and organized by someone named Cerego who then made sure these sentences had the least number of new words per sentences, thus creating an optimal i+1 environment.
my take – I found it a bit tricky to get the media working for these decks. Also the deck labeling is a bit confusing, which can cause some confusion depending on how you set your goals. For example, the Core 2k is broken up into several decks.
Core 2k/6k Vocabulary – Beginner ( Core 2k steps 1-2)
Core 2k/6k Vocabulary – Basic pt.1 (Core 2k steps 3-10 first 800 sentences mixed)
Core 2k/6k Vocabulary – Basic pt.2 (Core 2k steps 3-10 second 800 sentences mixed)
What I found when I saw these lists in the Anki download menu, they were confusing and felt jumbled. It would have made life easier if Nukemarine had named the decks a little differently. But for me, a person who didn’t know anything about Core2000 who was researching how to learn the different steps, organizing this system felt VERY technical initially, even confusing, mostly because the naming of the decks seem to cause some issues when trying to sync media and ultimately left me frazzled after a while. I am sure the “optimal i+1” learning environment works, but as I said I want to try and operate sequentially in steps until at least step 5 to see if the vocabulary words and sentences also have a sequential relationship, which seems to be the case.
Core 2000 Vocabulary deck – Nukemarine
This deck is setup for reading and dictation cards. So they show the sentence with the keyword in Kanji or Hiragana and you hear the audio and sometimes see a picture.
my take – After seeing this deck with all the other decks out there, I took a look at it. This seems to be a reading only deck. But when I INITIALLY started to try and figure out a system to do Core2000, if felt like over kill because of all the different decks, different optimizations and what not. What’s great about the deck is that it’s organized into each step. So you can customize your study options to revise a particular step or series of steps. Many decks I checked didn’t have labels to study different decks, which is pretty lame. So I feel this will be a good revision deck.
Core2000 and 6000 vocabulary and sentences
This is a 6000 fact deck including Smart.fm’s core 2000 and core 6000. It uses the spreadsheets from RevTK forums modified to link correctly to the media files. You must get the media files separately.
It has separate fields for Vocabulary and example sentences, so it works for people using the sentence method or vocab methods.
The deck only has Vocab cards made with Kanji word on the front and reading, meaning, and example sentence with audio on the back. This can easily be changed to other card styles
my take – I didn’t like this deck so much. You see a word, then in the answer hear the meaning and have a sentence example. I think this is a sort of inverse approach to learning in context, and I really can’t imagine staring at words all day THEN reading the sentence as opposed to reading the sentence and learning the word. I doubt I will be using this one for any reason.
This deck contains all the words and sentences from core 2000 and 6000. Words and sentences are in the same fact so they can be included in the same card.
The deck has recently undergone a major tidy-up / re-write. As well as the core words and sentences, there is additional vocabulary (~ 20,000 in total) taken from the the words listed as common by Jim Breen’s Edict.
my take – I am not even attempting this. With all the easy access to information we have today, I think the idea of overkill is pretty serious (at least for me), I am not sure if downloading a deck with 20,000 sentences is helpful or harmful. Since I am trying to learn 2,000, then eventually 6,000 I feel that going up in incremental steps might be better, but I think that depends on your taste. Personally if would feel bad if I saw 17555 sentences remaining on my list each time i opened Anki : p
This is a consolidated deck of 3,585 Japanese vocabulary words and sentences, based on dictionary data created by Jack Halpern’s CJK Dictionary Institute (the content providers for the Smart.fm/iKnow Core series). The material in this deck contains words and sentences that are *not* part of the Core 2K and 6K series, as opposed to the “Japanese Core 10,000 with audio” deck that is a super-set of Core 2K, 6K, and 10K material.
The deck also contains audio, in part from the wonderful and highly-recommended Japanese Sensei Deluxe app, produced by Cole Zhu LLC and available at the iTunes Store.
my take – Same sort of vibe with the CorePlus. I’m glad there are fat, consolidated decks out there with all the stuff you need to learn, but a part of my Learning DNA bothers me when I’m presented with a massive obstacle too early. I might grab a deck like this later on, when I am down with the core2000 and core6000 and just need sentences to skim through on top of whatever else i’m doing in the future. So if this deck doesn’t intimidate you, the learner, then grab it by all means.
After messing around with Anki i’ve found that the best decks are:
1. Easily customizable based on the information they contain
2. Have labels that allow you to jump to different sections of your choosing.
3. Require no extra work to enable media support.
4. Have pictures and audio versus just audio.
Other than that, your choices are relative. Again I just like efficiency in some way versus a tooth-grinding process. But whatever the case there is no escaping learning words one by one, no matter how good the system is. I feel I prefer some sort of relation in what I am learning (i.e maybe words relating to farming in a group, words relating to politics in a group,et c)
So I will stick to what i’m using for now, attempt to see how well I can customize some parts of it, and push forward to hit step five, and my first 1000 sentences!