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Flashcard systems

February 17, 2012

I’m sure I’ve never spent as much time thinking about flashcards or other vocabulary learning systems as I have this week. As I concluded yesterday, I can personally only see the point in trying to take in large quantities of new vocabulary at a time in a structured way at the early stages of learning a language, so for me right now that means I’m only making the attempt with Russian.

For my other languages I’m proceeding much as I do in English – reading and talking as much as I can, and when I come across new words ascertaining their meaning from context and/or dictionaries etc, and then when convenient writing them down for the benefit that gives me. I figure if I need them, they’ll come up again or will be memorable enough to stick. Basically I’m being lazy, and justifying it, but I’m also being realistic for myself.

Still, I certainly am at that early stage with Russian, and thus want a system beyond just writing the words down once (which I’m also doing). When offline, I’m using the set of Vis-Ed flashcards I mentioned on Saturday night, but I’ve seen so much about how helpful some of the computer-based systems can be that I’ve been briefly looking into some of those too. Anki is highly recommended, from what I’ve seen, but requires downloading the program to one’s computer, and neither of our decrepit machines is really up to new software right now, so I’ve dismissed it for the time being. (There is some online access to one’s decks that I found, but it still seems to require setting up from the downloaded program.) I already had a Quizlet account, and the website certainly works and has plenty of functionality, but I’ve been finding it a bit awkward to use, and therefore don’t generally feel called back to do more.

Memrise LogoMy father sent me an article the other day about Memrise, so I’ve been trying that out and enjoying the process quite a bit. I am learning new words and phrases, but more importantly, it’s sent me back to the book I’m using to work on the grammar a bit more, which then helps me to understand the spellings and usages I’m coming across in the shared Russian introductory lists. I haven’t tried adding any cards/lists of my own, so can’t comment on that, but the system of learning and being tested on the words and phrases is a lot more comfortable and enjoyable than the Quizlet version. It also recognises when one is close to spelling something right, and gives the chance to redo it correctly, rather than just marking it as wrong. The multiple choice questions do often allow one to ‘cheat’ slightly (e.g. the phrase to identify is “we live” and there is only one card beginning “Мы…” (“we…”), but I don’t mind that at this stage when the pronouns are also pretty new to me. As I said, the fact that it’s encouraging me to learn, think about and use the grammar that I think is the greatest benefit. The vocab is also useful, but secondary for me.

  1. Thanks for the pingback! I think flashcards are the work horse of learning a language, especially when one is not immersed in the language. Little children are adorable, so adults sit in front of them and say, “Look at the ball! The ball! A pretty ball! Here’s the ball!” For adults like me, no one has that kind of patience, so the cards do the trick: I speak! You speak! He/she speaks!

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