There are many different methods and tools that can help you in your language learning to make it more efficient; one such tool which I use a lot is flashcards.
In fact, I use them so much that I was asked this question: “Don’t you have weeks when you’re sick of them?”
Yes, absolutely! Reviewing flashcards can be tedious especially if there are a lot of cards to review and the answers aren’t coming easily. This is why I recommend that they’re just one of the many tools in your arsenal.
Having said that, flashcards are convenient and effective. Let’s see why!
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Use flashcards to take advantage of spaced repetition
There are plenty of flashcard apps on the market and the good ones use spaced repetition.
What is it? It’s simply the process of learning something then being tested on it at increasing time intervals.
If you get it right, you’ll see the information less often; if you get it wrong, you’ll see the information more often.
Using spaced repetition to learn vocabulary is incredibly effective. If you’re asking yourself how to memorize vocabulary words in an efficient way, this is the answer.
It’s also convenient because the app is on your phone and your phone is usually within arm’s reach. As I said, there are a lot of flashcards apps out there but I find that Anki flashcards are the best.
I do recommend Anki and if you’re wondering how to get the most out of Anki flashcards, watch the video below (and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos on language learning!).
Three steps to use flashcards more effectively
To be honest, I used to get quite bored studying flashcards but I’ve learned a few tricks that can make the experience less painful.
First and foremost, you need to commit.
If you decide to study with flashcards you have to keep in mind that this is not an activity that you are going to do once or twice and then move on. The true power of flashcards comes with consistency.
As a matter of fact, flashcards will only work if you review them every day, no exceptions.
You have to create a habit that’s bullet-proof, something you can do every day, no matter the weather, your mood, or how busy you are.
On the other hand, it’s very tempting to jump in and over-commit. Please don’t do that! You will only burn yourself out. The solution to building a bullet-proof habit is to be realistic.
- Step one: figure out, on average, how much time you have per day to dedicate to flashcards
- Step two: find out, on average, how many cards you can review in this time (if you’re using Anki flashcards, you can see this in the stats)
- Step three: the hard part. Set an easy goal, one you can stick with for months on end because the key to flashcards is using them consistently
As you can see, I keep repeating the words ‘on average’ because achieving success with flashcards is all about averages. And if you want to learn how to be better at memorization, here’s everything you need to know on how to make the most of memorization techniques.
Using flashcards: this is how it works
Let’s see make it more clear with an example.
Say you have 30 minutes a day, and in 30 minutes you can review 100 cards.
(Side note here: when I say review “x” number of cards, I don’t mean new cards. There are some tricks for learning new words but again, that’s another topic).
We said that, in theory, you can review 100 cards a day. An easy goal would be reviewing 70 cards, at most; and, if you are just beginning, I would recommend you do only half of that.
Since you need to be consistent, it’s better, especially in the beginning when you’re still trying to create this new habit of reviewing flashcards every day, to figure out the bare minimum you can do easily and stick to that amount.
Spaced repetition systems only work if we are extremely consistent for long periods of time. If you do only 70% and you miss a day, you can still recover, review the cards from the previous day and catch up.
But if you don’t incorporate a buffer for emergencies or if you often miss a few days in a row, you’ll get frustrated and the system won’t work.
Language learning is all about consistency
In case I haven’t said this enough, the key to using flashcards is consistency and regularity.
Some days, you’ll have a lot of energy and you’ll be sorely tempted to study more new cards. Resist this urge. Other days, you’ll be lethargic and barely be able to finish. This is when you just have to grit your teeth and get it done.
Keep in mind that learning a language is not a sprint but a marathon, pace yourself and you will succeed!
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About the writer of this article:
Lucas Bighetti is a co-founder of LanguageBoost, he speaks 16 languages and shares the best language learning methods he has created and used over the years through videos and blogs. He is the creator of our learning methodology and is the main author of all our courses.
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