As students, we all try different things to help speed up the learning process. One thing that has helped many successful Japanese learners is the usage of ANKI. 

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What is SRS?

Students all alike can sometimes experience a rutt or a bit of a brain fog when studying. They say that one of the best ways to learn is to use the SPACED REPETITION SYSTEM (SRS). It’s a learning technique where the learner/student reviews what they’ve learned at increasingly spaced out intervals to help the brain remember things long term. This is why when you are learning a different language, you tend to remember very casual vocabulary and grammar points because you tend to use this in conversation more often. SRS helps you remember better as it forces your mind to encounter the information you’re trying to learn over and over again in different time frames to help you permanently remember it–you’re pretty much engaging your brain in active recall as this method is based on repetition in different frequencies.

Getting started with Anki What is Anki?

For people who want to apply SRS to their Japanese studies, ANKI is the perfect tool to use. The word “暗記 (あんき:anki)” itself means “memorization” in Japanese and is one of the most popular SRS tools out there. What is Anki though? Anki is a type of software that you can download online–it’s pretty much a digital flashcard app that applies the SRS method into its program.

To summarize how the program works, it cycles through your flashcards and shows you a mix of different flashcard content at different frequencies. When using it to learn Japanese, words/phrases/kanji that you’re already familiar with can be set to appear every other day while new or difficult to remember points can be set to appear every 15 minutes–it is highly customizable! It pretty much works as how you would use a normal flashcard–you have the main word or phrase you would like to “test yourself” in remembering and the other side will have the description, meaning, or use of what you have in the front. It’s a great way to have the concept of reviewing and memorizing without needing the help of someone else.

How do I get Anki?

Computer Installation: You can download it for free on PC and Mac devices. All you need to do is to download the program from the official website (https://apps.ankiweb.net/).

  • Browser: In the case that you’re not ready to commit to the software or you plan on traveling without your home computer/laptop but still want to keep studying, you can make an account on the web browser version of Anki (https://ankiweb.net/about).
  • Mobile Phone: It is free for Android phone users and can be found under the name “AnkiDroid”. You can also download the iOS version called “AnkiMobile Flashcards” but it will unfortunately set you back £23.99 (It’s worth it though!).
  • DIY flashcards: Get some index cards, punch a hole through one of the upper right or left side of the cards, run some yarn/thread through it and there you go! Some Japanese stores like DAISO sell blank cards that are joined together by a metal ring at the upper right corner–these are perfect for anki flashcards. You can also find them online by searching for “Japanese Kanji Flashcards”. Just make sure to apply the SRS method while studying and you’re all set!

How to set up Anki

After downloading it and setting it up on your computer/mobile, the next few steps are quite straight-forward.

Download sets available online.

AnkiWeb has an amazing collection of Anki sets/decks made by other people and have uploaded it online. Just go on AnkiWeb, sign-in, look for the blue button labeled “Search”, and type in the topic you would like to do a search on. It is so easy to look for ready made Japanese language decks on anki but here’s a link to help you out! (https://ankiweb.net/shared/decks/japanese). This is a gold mine for students who have a specific topic they would like to learn but don’t have the time to set it all up! Just download and use. The best part about it is how you can still customise decks you have downloaded online!

Here are a few decks that will definitely be useful for Japanese learners:
Japanese Core 2000 Step 01 Listening Sentence Vocab + Images (https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/114060567)
All in One Kanji Deck (Heisig’s RTK Order, 6th edition) (https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/1862058740)
All in One Kanji Deck (https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/798002504)

Make or set-up your own anki cards.

It is highly advisable to do this as you can customize cards to your needs and your own learning style. To do this and start from scratch, simply go to “File”, then click “New” in the Anki menu. From there, you will be able to create and add new cards to your collection. This can be done in 3 easy steps.
Choose “Add” from the main menu, then select the card type (like Basic—Optional Reversed Card).
In the “Front” box, write your question (or the word/kanji/grammar point you’re trying to remember). On the “Back” form, you’ll need to add the answer (or the word in the front box’s meaning/usage).
Click “Add” at the bottom to add the card to your deck.
**The “Add Reverse” form gives you the option of switching the “Answers” to “Questions”

This is perfect for memorizing anything, really. Vocabulary, kanji, grammar points, phrases–you name it. As you can create different decks, you can pretty much organize the contents of your anki depending on your needs–by difficulty, by topic, by social situation… you name it!

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Tips for using Anki to learn Japanese

Use it as often as you can!

Studying should be considered a habit and part of your daily routine as Anki is a great tool for learning Japanese but it will only work if you use it! Use it while on the toilet, use it while you’re on public transportation… AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN. Anki deletes inactive accounts as well so it’ll be a shame to lose all that work!

Customize your flashcards to the fullest.

You can download so many more add-ins to make learning using Anki better. Here are a few good ideas to help.

  • Add images
  • Add sentence examples
  • Add the definition/usage
  • Add audio add-ons

This eradicates the need of going to another source to review pronunciation. You can use the following:
AwesomeTTS (https://ankiatts.appspot.com/)
Forvo (https://forvo.com/)
MIA Japanese (https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/278530045)
Make it fun!
Life Drain – Acts as a timer for answering questions
(https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/715575551)
AnkiStrategy – Turn it into a strategy game! (https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/1494320602)

Do not rely on Anki alone. As you are learning a new language, there are many aspects that you will need to learn and Anki alone will not suffice. Do some research, read books, listen to videos, and experiment!

Use Anki as a second step to learning. It’s best to study the word outside of Anki before putting it on there. Having a good understanding of the word/kanji/phrase before trying to memorize it is better as you want it in your long term memory!