Is Anki Worth It?
Is Anki worth it? There are some people who absolutely would say “I hate Anki” and think it’s a waste of time. I understand Anki’s challenges, but I confess that I’m actually not part of the Anki hater camp. I’ll tell you why.
I’m an Anki lover, and believe that it is very useful because it has demonstrated its worth to me over the past several years. Thanks to Anki, I’ve been able to learn 3 languages, as well as taught others including my kids how to learn languages using it.
Nevertheless, I’m not so naive to think that Anki will work for everyone. I just think that some Anki haters may not actually be using Anki correctly. Or they may not know all of Anki’s features that could help them. Or maybe some Anki haters just don’t know the strategies for overcoming the challenges that can come up.
I hate Anki! Anki doesn’t work for me. What Can I Do to Make Anki more Useful?
In this article, I want to help those of you who feel that you hate Anki and it doesn’t work for you. I have a number of tips and suggestions so you can overcome Anki’s cons and limitations.
I have actually used these techniques myself and they have worked for me. Hopeful they can work for you too.
What are Anki’s Disadvantages & How to Overcome Them?
Here are 4 of Anki’s main disadvantages and limitations. We will also give suggestions for you can deal with them so you can use Anki effectively.
Problem #1: Anki is Too Complicated
Some learners who encounter Anki for the first time feel that Anki is too complicated. Anki has several features so you can customize your flashcards completely. This can both be a weakness and a strength.
In general, if you want to use Anki well, it does help to have at least some basic technical knowledge, like how to generally use a computer and smartphone. Anki is usually not great for language learners who don’t like using technology at all or are total technology newbies.
Also, if you find that Anki is too complicated, you can search for a number of free Anki tutorials and resources that can teach you how to use Anki effectively. A useful, initial resource is the free and in-depth official Anki manual, which is available on the official Anki website. You can access the Anki Manual here: https://docs.ankiweb.net/#/
Another way to get started with Anki quickly and easily is to use premade language learning decks. This can make it much simpler for you because you don’t need to learn how to format flashcards, create flashcards and assemble all of the language info. You simply download and install a premade Anki deck, and you can simply just focus on studying the flashcards and learning the language.
At Speakada, we actually have a number of premade Anki flashcards that can help you get started learning a language right away. Check them out here: www.speakada.com
Problem #2: Anki Reviews Can Be Too Much & Overwhelming
Other Anki users may come across this dreaded problem where they realize this: “I’ve fallen behind on my Anki reviews! What do I do?”
This usually occurs when you’ve already learned some new cards in the past, but you’ve let days or even weeks go by without reviewing those cards.
Anki automatically will pile up those reviews. So, when you return back to Anki and are ready to study your flashcards again, you might discover that you have hundreds or even thousands of flashcards that you need to review! This can be very daunting and demotivating.
I have encountered this issue myself a number of times, especially after a long vacation or after periods of being busy with work and life. You may have had other priorities in your life, other thann studying languages and reviewing your Anki cards. This is totally normal.
These are some suggestions for how to overcome this challenge:
One recommendation is to stop learning new cards, and simply focus on revising all of the pending review cards until they are all done. There’s actually an Anki setting where you can focus on reviews of past cards, rather than learning new cards.
A good aim would be to ensure that you’ve reviewed all or most of those pending reviews, until you start learning new cards again. The reason you want to do this is so that you can make your past reviews more manageable. If you start studying new flashcards again while you have a massive pile of pending reviews, then your pending reviews will just keep getting bigger and bigger, and you may never catch up.
If you want to reduce your large pile of pending reviews, then a good strategy would be to have a daily goal of reducing those cards. You could break down your pending reviews by having a target review goal per day. For example, if you have 1,000 flashcards that are pending for review, you could break this up into 100 flashcards per day. Aim to review 100 per day, and after just 10 days, you will be caught up.
Of course, you could adjust the daily review goal according to your motivation and available time. Change it to 200 flashcard review per day if you have more time and motivation, or cut it back to just 50 per day or less if you are overwhelmed and stretched for time.
Another technique to reduce the amount of flashcards pending review is to suspend cards that you know very well already or you don’t want to learn anymore. You could adopt this strategy on an ongoing basis or during those times when lots of pending reviews have piled up. If you suspend unnecessary cards, then this will help make your pending reviews more manageable.
A nice rule of thumb is to suspend cards that already have spacings of 1 year or more. Since you have already memorized these flashcards for 1 year, then they are already in your long-term memory and it’s unlikely that you’ll need to do more reviews of this in future.
Problem #3: Anki is Boring
Some language learners who have used Anki complain that it is just too boring! This is big issue that many language learners have and I can understand why you might be wondering if Anki is worth it. I actually agree that there are times when creating Anki flashcards and reviewing them can be dull and tedious.
However, there are a number of strategies to overcome this. The majority of the time the problem is not so much that Anki is boring. The bigger problem is that the flashcards that you have created and are studying are boring.
One strategy to overcome Anki boredom is to personalize your flashcards. This makes your flashcards more meaningful, and hence, you will automatically get more motivated about those cards. There are two potential ways to personalize your Anki language flashcards.
Firstly, you could personalize your Anki flashcards by learning only words that are relevant to you. Create Anki flashcards for things you actually care about.
For example, if you are focused on learning business language, then create cards related to your work. If you are a film buff, then focus on adding and studying Anki flashcards that you come across from movies. If you love reading, then only add words from books that you have actually read in the target language.
Another way to personalize your flashcards is to add custom notes to your Anki flashcards. If you come across a flashcard that is difficult or boring, you could make it more interesting, by adding a personal reminder of someone or something that you care about. For instance, if you are learning the word “mother” in your target language, you could add a note of your actual mother’s name to the flashcard. Then, you will associate your actual mother to the foreign word of “mother”, and this will have much more personal significance.
Besides personalization, you could also consider adding multimedia to your flashcards to make them more appealing and attractive to your brain. Don’t just use text if you are bored with seeing text-filled flashcards. Take your flashcards to the next level by adding multimedia like audios, images and even animated, moving gifs. Not only will these make your cards more interesting, but they can actually improve your memory of the flashcards because you’re stimulating more of your senses.
One more strategy to beat the feeling of Anki boredom is to lessen the amount of new cards you add, and reduce the daily amount you study. This can make your study load more manageable. Lessening your cards also makes your Anki reviews more “bite-sized” so they don’t feel as burdensome, and your daily Anki study time will feel like a breeze.
This can leave you more time to actually just interact with content in the language such as books, movies, TV series and songs. This can be a better balance, and give you more motivation to use Anki as you find words and grammar from real interactions with the language.
Problem #4: Anki has Limitations for Advanced Language Learners
You can’t just rely on Anki as your sole language learning tool when you are an advanced learner. Otherwise, you will find Anki useless and you’ll hate it.
In general, beginner and intermediate language learners tend to spend more time using Anki so that they can learn and memorize the foundational core of a language. There are a lot of basic words, grammar and pronunciation that beginner and intermediate learners need to master before they are fluent. Anki can help them memorize all of that common foundation in the language.
However, at the more advanced language stages, you may find Anki to be less useful. At the advanced level, you’ll spend much more time actually enjoying content in your target language. You’ll encounter difficult words less and less, because you would already know all the most frequently used words, grammar and other language features.
Also, when you do come across new or challenging language features as an advanced learner, you’ll be able to pick them up quickly and more naturally. That’s because advanced learners can use the context of the sentence and the similarities to other words they already know. So, it may not be worth it to create Anki flashcards regularly as an advanced learner.
It may be worth it to just accept that Anki is limited for more advanced languages learners. This is not necessarily a bad thing because the ultimate goal is to learn a language and then to actually live the language.
The ultimate goal is not to be reliant on Anki. Although the role of Anki for language learning may not be as prominent at the advanced levels as it was at the beginning, it does mean that you have reached a level of fluency in a language where you no longer need Anki as much.
Nevertheless, there could still be some uses for Anki at the advanced or fluent level. For advanced learners, Anki may still be useful for learning rare words or technical jargon that may not come up frequently enough to be memorized from listening and reading alone.
You might also want to use Anki when you just keep forgetting a certain word, and you want to use spaced repetition flashcards to get it into your memory. Anki can therefore be a great memory tool for these specific purposes at the advanced level.
The Bottom Line: Is Anki a Waste of Time or Is Anki Really Useful?
So is there a point to use Anki for language learning, even if there are limitations that are annoying?
Yes. Anki has so many benefits in propelling our memories. There is already a lot of research and case studies that prove that Anki and its spaced repetition algorithm can help with your language learning.
However, it should be noted that Anki is more suited to language learners who are comfortable with using technology, and who are at the beginner to intermediate stages. Anki is also suitable for those learners who are willing to adapt and customize their flashcards and learning strategy as challenges present themselves.
While Anki can be an effective study tool, at the end of the day, Anki is not the be all and end all when it comes to language learning. You don’t learn a language so that you can use Anki.
Rather, it’s the other way around. You use Anki to learn a language.
So, it’s important to remember that especially as you use Anki more and more. There’s no point hating it if it doesn’t work for you. If you find yourself posing the question “Is Anki worth it?”, you need to look at the end goal and what works best for you to learn a language. Rather, try and adapt it to your needs. If the suggested strategies above don’t work for you, then you can simply set Anki aside, and find something else that does work for you so you can learn your target language better.