3 Flashcard Types To Speed Up Anki Flashcard Creation
Note 8/19/2022: This is an older blog post containing information about using the Anki software to create flashcards for language learning.
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Today, I wanted to show you 3 new types of flashcards that I’ve been using lately to learn Spanish, along with a new flashcard model for Anki that will let you create these new flashcards really quickly.
I’ll start by showing you what the cards look like, and then I’ll show you how to make them using the new card model.
(And before we do THAT, a quick note about why this is useful: it lets me make more flashcards faster, so I can learn more with each sentence. It’s a more efficient and faster route to fluency.)
An example sentence and some old flashcard examples
Let’s start by introducing you to an example sentence, and some typical new word/word form flashcards (i.e., flashcards you’d make if you just read Fluent Forever – nothing new here):
La mujer sacudió el polvo de las alfombras.
The woman shook the dust from the rugs.
Let’s say we’re learning the verb: sacudió (shook). Let’s also say that we HAVEN’T yet learned the infinitive form of the verb, sacudir (to shake). And let’s also say that we found this cool definition for sacudir in our Spanish monolingual dictionary:
Sacudir: Mover a una persona o una cosa de un lado a otro con brusquedad
To shake: Move a person or a thing from one side to another (side) with brusqueness.
Now let’s look at some flashcards. I made a quick video walkthrough (attached right below this text), followed by a detailed description (with pictures) of all of the available flashcards I’d make for this particular word. Feel free to watch the video, read the description, or do both.
For these flashcards, we want to incorporate that definition. Spanish is a really nice language for incorporating definitions into your flashcards because there are so many cognates (mover – to move, persona – person, otro – other, brusquedad – brusqueness). Even if you don’t have a huge active vocabulary in the language, you can start using a monolingual dictionary relatively early to make new word cards like these:
Or, you could easily turn this into a conjugation exercise if you wanted to, by adding the infinitive and perhaps instructions on which case to switch to. That turns this into a word form card (preterite, or el pretérito, is one form of the past tense in Spanish):
New word form, production card, front side
You can go either way; they’re both good choices. I’d personally go for the first option – the new word card – most of the time, unless I’m specifically having a lot of trouble remembering how to conjugate in the past tense and want to focus my attention on that, rather than just memorize the right word to fill in the blank.
There’s one more flashcard you’d typically want, which is the comprehension card:
Comprehension card, front side
You’ll want this card regardless of whether you chose the word form route or the new word route. You want to think of ANY example of sacudió (shook) to get this card correct, and on the back, you’d have your reassembled woman–shook–rugs sentence as one possible example.
None of this is new so far. It’s just a fleshed-out example of the stuff that’s already on the site and in the book. So, with that out of the way, let’s get to some new stuff.
New flashcards #1 and #2: Root form flashcards
Earlier, we said that we didn’t know the infinitive of our verb, sacudir (to shake). So what if we made a couple of new flashcards to learn that?
New flashcard #1: Root form, production card
New root form, production card (front side)
New root form, production card (back side)
This card forces you to look at a context in which you’d use a particular word (e.g. sacudió – shook), and to think about that word’s root form (e.g. the infinitive sacudir – to shake). Practically, this card strengthens the connections between the infinitive form of a verb and a conjugated form since, generally, you’re going to think about both forms before you hit the ‘Show Answer’ button, which is going to build connections between those two forms.
New flashcard #2: Root form, comprehension card
New root form, comprehension card (back side)
This card functions as a pure vocabulary exercise. You need to think about what sacudir means and, when possible, think of any example of that word – used in a conjugated form or not – in a sentence.
New flashcard #3: The definition card
For the last few months, I’ve been making a ton of Spanish flashcards with definitions on them, just like the first examples in this article. I like definitions because they add a lot of specificity to each word I learn, they introduce me to lots of new vocabulary, and they do a nice job of connecting old words to my new words.
But in practice, I’ve found that I look at those definitions pretty rarely once I’ve seen a card 2–3 times. That’s unfortunate since those definitions have so much good language in them. So, what if I forced myself to look at them more often?
Introducing the definition card:
New definition card (front side)
New definition card (back side)
I’ve been using these for a week or so, and I love them with all my heart. I’m in the process of shifting as many of my old cards over to this new model as I can because it’s connecting all my old vocabulary to tons of juicy vocabulary that was already sitting on my flashcards.
Let me show you how to make ‘em.
A new card model for creating these cards
2. Unzip it and double-click on the file ‘New Definition_Root Form Card Model.apkg.’ Anki will open up and it’ll import a new deck with 5 cards in it, entitled ‘New Definition/Root Form Card Model’:
3. Now that the deck is imported, you’ve installed the model. If you want, you can delete that deck now without losing the new model flashcard type. (Click on the gear button to the right of the deck and select ‘Delete.’)
4. To add a new card with this model, select the ‘Add’ button up top.
5. Click on the button to the right of ‘Type’ (in this pic, it says ‘Basic,’ but it may say something different for you if you’ve been making cards recently):
6. Select ‘2. Syntax and other stuff + Definition’ and click ‘Choose’:
7. Fill in your card. Once again, I have a video tutorial of this, followed by a written description. Watch it, read the description, or do both as desired.
Here’s what your fields would look like if you wanted to create the same flashcards we have up top for sacudió:
What each field does:
Back (word): This is the word you’re learning
Text (example): This is a fill-in-the-blank sentence
Extra front (or definition): Put your definition here. This stuff shows up in red underneath your fill-in-the-blank sentence, like this:
Always back: I put the full sentence here (without the blank), along with any additional supporting information I might want, like conjugation charts or noun genders.
Recording of sentence: If I have a recording of the sentence (or even just a recording of the word I’m learning, sacudió), then I’ll put that recording here.
Root form (test comprehension if here): If you put the infinitive/root form here (sacudir), it will create this card, asking you to remember what sacudir means (if it’s blank, you won’t create that card):
Test root form (production)?: If you put ANYTHING here (for instance, ‘X’), then it will create this card:
Reverse? (back on front): If you put ANYTHING here (for instance, ‘X’), then it will create this card, asking you to remember what sacudió means:
DefinitionTest?: If you put a definition here, then it will create a new card and put that definition onto that card, like this:
Saved: I just use this field as a copy/paste area if I see some sentences I want to learn later, after I’m done getting what I want to get out of this particular sentence.
How to fill out these flashcards quickly
Here’s my workflow for filling in these fields as rapidly as possible, assuming I’ve already done a multi-search for my word. I have my sentence ready, and I have a definition I want to use. Also, note that I use keyboard shortcuts for all of my Copies (Control/Command-C), Pastes (Control/Command-V), and Cuts (Control/Command-X), which saves a few seconds per flashcard.
1. Copy the example sentence.
2. Paste it into ‘Always Back.’
3. Paste it again into ‘Text (Example).’
4. In the ‘Text (Example)’ field, double-click on the word you’re learning to select it. Cut it, and type __ to blank it out.
5. Paste the word into ‘Back (Word).’
6. Copy the definition, making sure you understand >80% of it [using Google Translate if necessary].
7. Paste into ‘Extra Front (or Definition).’
8. Paste again into ‘DefinitionTest?’
9. Edit either of those definitions if needed. Sometimes a definition makes the answer just too obvious when it’s coupled with an example sentence, so you might remove some words from the ‘Extra Front (or Definition)’ field. Sometimes you want to add 2–3 definitions to the ‘DefinitionTest?’ field so you can see a fuller picture of the word. Experiment. When in doubt, paste both definitions verbatim and don’t edit anything.
10. Drop a recording of the sentence into ‘Recording of Sentence’ if you have one.
11. If you want to add Root Form tests, then copy the root form (usually available in one of the tabs of a multi-search).
12. Paste into ‘Root Form (Test Comprehension if here).’
13. Type an ‘X’ in both the ‘Test Root Form (Production)?’ field and the ‘Reverse? (Back on front)’ fields, assuming you want those flashcards.
14. Click ‘Add Card’ or hit Command/Control-Enter to create all your cards.
(15. If you’re still using the sentence, copy it from the ‘Always Back’ field and then jump back to step 3.)
Make your flashcards faster
If you want to save yourself ~30–60 minutes of time making your first Anki flashcards, then check out our shop, which has a number of resources you can use to speed up the process. You’ll also find other ready-to-use Anki flashcards in various languages here.
Don’t forget that we now also have our Fluent Forever mobile app for flashcard-aided language learning. It doesn’t use Anki but can be way faster.
And as a final note, find out how best to review and retain vocabulary with these 11 pro tips for the fastest way to learn a language.[shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="28313910"]