Archive for the ‘Anki’ Category

Using Anki in Language Classes

February 1, 2008

facebook-languages2.jpgI’m planning on starting Yiddish classes again in a few weeks. I tried that a few months ago, but it didn’t work out so well, mostly because not enough students showed up (the class started with about two people, then one, then none). Hopefully I’ll be able to get a better response this time. They’ll be on Sundays, and several people have said they’re interested. This time, I hope, the students will be more committed (and not absent) than last time. (I know some of them personally already, so there may be justification here for hope.)

Another problem with last time (in my mind) was that, well, it’s hard to learn a language, and especially absorb vocabulary, on an hour-and-a-half a week. That way, either people can’t keep up, or I can’t put in nearly as much vocabulary as I’d like. Fortunately, a potential solution has presented itself since then, namely, my dear friend Mr. Anki. Amazingly, I won’t be the first to use Anki in a Yiddish class.

There are a couple ways I can think of that Anki would improve my class. Firstly, I’d be able to introduce far more vocabulary than otherwise with the expectation that the class will actually be able to retain it. Secondly, it can provide a way for the class to partially learn the vocabulary before class so that we can concentrate in class on how to use the vocabulary and building conversational skills. Thirdly, Anki comes with an audio feature so that I can include a sound file of each vocabulary item being pronounced on the flashcard. This may obviate the need to use transliteration, which would be a great help in maintaining the connection of each word to its representation in ייִדישע אותיות (Yiddish letters).

Speaking of Anki, you may be wondering how my own Anki experiences are going. Well, I now have 2136 cards in my Russian deck, and 511 in my Yiddish deck. (These numbers aren’t as big as they seem, since Anki stores Production (English → Russian) and Recognition (Russian → English) as two different cards. Some day I’ll explain how my Yiddish deck can have an odd number of cards.) A couple weeks ago, I was getting 200+ cards a day on Russian, which was too much, so I quit adding cards for a while and now it’s down to less than 50 a day. A couple days ago I started adding again, and am now up to word 1550 in my frequency word list. (See previous posts for an explanation of all this.)

In other news on the language aquisition front, I went to a Spanish language meetup the other night where I had a 2½-hour-long conversation (in Spanish)language-proficiency-chart.jpg with a native Spanish speaker from Colombia! Given that I can do this, I guess it’s a little silly to only be giving myself one star on my language proficiency chart. I orginally wanted to up that to two when I finished Pimseur, but my progress there has been mysteriously (and happily) slowed recently, and I’ve been making up the differences with various Podcasts and other methods, so I guess it’s time to give myself two stars. Yay!

Julie’s Spanish Progress and Google Ranking, Etc.

January 2, 2008

My lovely wife and I have been trying to study Spanish together for a couple months now. (She’d studied it for years in high school, but, like most high school students in most subjects, and especially language, she’s retained little of what she learned, and in any case was probably never able to hold a conversation. In fact, now after a short while of studying with me she’s able to hold a more fluent conversation in Spanish than she ever was then, though I’m sure she has yet to relearn lots of vocabulary and grammar that she once knew.) Although we’d wanted to keep abreast of each other’s progress in Pimsleur Spanish, she’s been lagging the past few weeks. This is partially due to her not sharing my psychotic drive to learn languages, and partially because I have an Ipod, which is (somewhat) conducive to listening to these lessons, while she has a Shuffle, which isn’t. (It’s difficult to go to a specific place in a lesson, and you can’t see how far along you are.) I’d switch with her, except I need the Ipod to listen to various Podcasts, which I couldn’t listen to with the Shuffle, and which also serve to slow down my Pimsleur progress.

So we came up with a new system for motivating her: every day she finishes a Spanish Pimsleur lesson, I’m not allowed to listen to a lesson the next day. For whatever reason, this system has so far worked beautifully. It drives her competitive spirit better than simply trying to outdo me by conventional means. (I think there is some game-theoretical terminology for differentiating games in which you can affect another player’s moves from ones in which you cannot, but I can’t remember what it is. Can anyone help me out here?) However, even if she listens to a lesson a day, it’ll still be a few weeks till she catches up. But no matter.

For anyone whom I’ve convinced to use Anki, note that the web site has changed servers. I’ve updated the link.

I’ve been thinking of using Anki as a mandatory part of my upcoming Yiddish class, which I’d like to start maybe in February. That is, students would have to use Anki to make sure that vocabulary that gets taught in one class gets stuck in their heads by then next class. I’m currently teaching Yiddish to kids at the Workmen’s Circle, but as they only have class one a week or so, and are not overly motivated, it’s very difficult to get anything to stick.

Factoid: Not only is Julie’s blog the first hit on Google when you search for “byuralistke” ((female) office worker), but it seems that all 529 (as of now) hits are related to her blog: she has single-handedly planted this word on the Internet! In comparison, the word “byuralist”, the masculine version of the word, gets only 3 hits. Meanwhile, ביוראַליסטקע, the same word written with Yiddish letters, still gets no hits. (Of course, with this post I will have planted ביוראַליסטקע and added to the hits of the other words — such is the observer effect of the blogosphere!)

I’ve met a new Russian language exchange buddy through Meetup. His name is Edward. We’ve met a couple times at the Yugntruf office. Unfortunately, my Russian is still not at a point where I can naturally, say, make plans over the phone in Russian. When we speak in Russian, it is more deliberate; our “default” language is (sigh) English. My Russian has definitely improved, I think, these past few weeks. I really hope I’ll be able to get to a comfortable conversational level in the next months.

My Languages rankingThat is, incidentally, my criterion for reaching three-star level on the Facebook “Languages” app. Even though it’s a just a silly Facebook trick, I take that ranking seriously as a rough way to keep track of my progress through my various languages. Here’s my current ranking:
 Once I finish Pimsleur Spanish, I’ll give myself another star there. Also, I’m looking to upgrade my German to three stars in the not-too-distant future.