Friday, 3 May 2013

Anki, how to set it up to learn Japanese

Even though I believe using handmade flashcards is a better idea for kana (hiragana and katakana) and to learn separate kanji so you can practice writing them, I think it is a good idea for sentences and compound kanji and to learn to quickly sight read them.
You can find a post on handmade flashcards here: Learning strategy: Flashcards

Anki, how to set it up to learn Japanese

What is Anki?
Anki is a spaced repetition program. It gives you cards from the deck of flashcards depending on how well you know the card. The ones you don't know well you get often and the ones you do know well you only get once every couple of days. This way you can learn new cards and still get older cards in the set at other times. The plus side to this in comparison to handmade flashcards is that it will do this for you, it would be a lot more work if you'd do this by hand.

How does Anki work?
It uses digital flashcards and when you practice you get three options, the first is to get the card back within 1 minute, the second within 10 minutes and the third after a day (or more days). If you get the card wrong or if you didn't feel like you really knew it you can click on 1 minute, if you know it decently but need more practice you click 10 minutes, if you know the card well you click on the day option. The day option will make sure that you don't see the card again until the next day, at which point Anki lets you practice again.

What do you need for Anki to practice Japanese?
- Anki for computer (to create the cards and to practice) [windows and mac versions]
- Japanese keyboard on your computer (see: guide to set up Japanese keyboard on windows(W7/Vista & XP) and mac)
- Japanese support package for Anki

- Ankidroid (Anki for on the android, it's free, it's not created by the same people but they do work together)
- AnkiWeb to synchronise your decks or to practice on non-android platforms.

(Anki for on the iphone is NOT free)

 Tips for working with Anki:
- If you have an android phone, get the android app, I personally find it easier to practice on that than to practice behind my computer.
- If you don't have an android phone, use the ankiweb page, which is a page where you can practice your decks away from your computer.
- To connect your computer to your android versions, also get an ankiweb account, you need this to synchronise the computer program and the app so you can use 1 deck to practice and it even keeps track of your daily practice.

Step 1. Install Anki on your computer, while this is going, sign up for AnkiWeb if you like.
Step 2. Install Japanese support package for Anki, this enables automatic furigana with your kanji and gives you a new set of anki cards to use. It is easier to install this addon than to figure it all out on your own. You can install this at Tools > Add-ons > Browse & Install, there you fill out the code on the Japanese support page.
Step 3. Make sure your Japanese keyboard works and read this page on IME tips for Japanese. Some of these will become really handy when filling out your cards like tip 8 and tip 12.
Step 4. Time to actually start your Japanese deck. First you click on Create Deck at the bottom of your screen:
As you can see I have separate decks for both the study books I use and even do sub-categories in there. This is so I know where I'm going in the practice.
 A pop-up will come up and you fill out the name for your deck:

I named the deck that I use for this guide simply Kanji. To get to the deck, click on the name:

Step 5. Now you get to the new deck screen and to add cards you click "add":
You then come to a new screen. Click on the button next to type and set it to Japanese:

Then, click on Fields and order the fields like below:
That is that part of the set-up done.

Step 6. Now it's time to set up so that your cards will be able to do this:
The top card gives you the kanji (which is called expression in the last step's images) and asks both reading and meaning. The bottom one gives you the meaning and asks both kanji and reading. As I spoke about in my post on kanji, there is no use to just give the meaning since there are multiple kanji all with the same meaning.
So to study Japanese we need 2 sets of card types, the first one shows kanji and asks reading and meaning and the second type gives meaning and asks kanji and reading. The first I call recognition and the second one reverse.
To get to to menu where we can take care of that you click on "Cards" (next to "Fields").
This is what my cards coding looks like. The only thing you need to worry about is to change the first and last block on the left to look like my coding. Then click on the + sign in the right hand top corner and fill out the coding of the first and last block on the left for the other card. (Click on the images to see a bigger image to read the coding better)

Step 7. From here on it's easy. Go back to the Add screen and start filling out your words. I'll use the examples from above.
The good thing about the Japanese support addon is that as soon as you fill out the kanji or hiragana in the top it will automatically fill out the reading box for you. If this is not the reading you want you can just take out the wrong hiragana and fill out the right one. This is what happened after I only filled out the kanji in the top:
Ignore my red bar and show duplicates, this is because I already have the card in a different deck.
And then fill out the meaning and click on "Add" and you've got your first card:

You can now add more cards to the deck but I'll show what happens after this. To get out of the card adding screen you click on Close.

Step 8. This brings you to the deck screen again, where you now see 2 cards in the deck. This is because we have the recognition and the reverse cards, these are counted as 2 cards even though it is just 1 word.
You can now see 3 different rows. The first is the amount of new cards, the second is the amount of cards you are still learning but that you've already seen at least once, the last one is the amount of cards that you already know (triggered by clicking the 3 days button on the list) in the screens below.

Those are the two types of cards you'll get. And that is it, basically.

From here on out you add more cards and start practising. There are some options you can fill out for the amount of new cards you'll get each day and things like that, but I'm not going into those right now, you can look at those yourself and fiddle with them in your own time.

As a side note: You can use pre-created decks for different books and study methods, though I advise against using them as you will only learn words and not the actual other content in the different study books. That is just my own opinion and you're you, so you have to decide for yourself.

That is it. That is how you can set up Anki in a way that is useful for learning Japanese.
Have you used Anki or a program like that before? Do you have tips for other students on how to use Anki better or things like that?

Study on!