I’ve been asked a couple of times to outline how I use Anki for studying Chinese. I’ve so far held off because I’ve been experimenting (also known as playing) and wasn’t sure I’d found the way that works best for me. Truth be told, Anki works just fine as it is and I need to stop searching for the best set-up and get on with the studying. So here it is, my guide to Anki.
Flashcards in Anki are organised into decks. I keep two decks, one for vocabulary and another for Mandarin phrases. For the vocabulary deck I use the default Mandarin model, but for the phrases I had to create my own simple model, Mandarin on one side, English on the other.
Whenever I study a new Chinese lesson, I create a text file containing all the vocabulary for that lesson. I also create a file of example sentences or key phrases. I then import these into Anki and delete any duplicates. My deck preferences are set to show me 10 new cards a day and I have set myself a study session limit of 15 minutes. This tends to make the study sessions bearable and still cover new vocabulary on a regular basis.
By syncing my Anki deck to the server I am able to run Anki on my laptop at work. This is ideal as it means I can spend 15 minutes each morning (or lunch break) running through vocabulary. For anyone looking for a source of vocabulary, I am more than happy to share my deck keys.
Anki cards support audio and pictures however, bulk import of facts which include audio has proved ellusive. I just can’t get it to work. There was a time when I took the time to hand-craft each card and include an audio sample but it just takes too long. Until I can find a way to reliably import audio for each card, I’ll stick to text only.
Anki has the ability to tag facts as you import them. I’ve been tagging my vocabulary with lesson numbers (for words added from ChinesePod, I use the lesson ID). The aim of this was to study the vocabulary before completing the expansion exercises. However, I haven’t been able to get this working well and is often more trouble than it is worth.
So, in conclusion, keep it simple. Anki is a great tool and the ability to sync between installations is a real god-send for those of us that are forever working on different computers. Focus on the study and let Anki do the heavy lifting. Don’t spend a long time tweaking all the options and investigating hidden features, your time is far better spent running through the vocabulary.
Anki can be downloaded from here: http://ichi2.net/anki/
My deck key (vocab): 5953491e98925fdd [update Aug 2011: this deck is no longer available]
My deck key (phrases): e3a21b20de9c4420 [update Aug 2011: this deck is no longer available]
Do you have any advice or tips for using Anki? I would love to hear them and I’m sure others would also benefit. Feel free to post deck keys in the comments so that we can build up a list of good sources of study material. I’d also be happy to try and answer any Anki related questions you may have.