Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Words of wisdom from the not-so-wise

Don't slack on your SRS reps.

I really can't emphasize this enough, especially having fallen into the rather nasty pitfall of having seriously slacked during the last week (or perhaps two weeks?) of my RTK studies. I was left with a considerably hefty backlog of cards (almost up to the 500 mark), which was bad enough - but I quickly realized that the bigger problem here was that Anki was seriously behind on new cards.
To be fair, even if I had kept up with my reps, the new cards would have piled up anyway due to the pace I was learning new kanji and the rate at which Anki introduces new cards (I believe it is 30 by default, which I've since bumped up to 50), but regardless, Anki spreads these new cards throughout your total backlog... if that makes sense. Say you have 100 cards to review, 30 of which are new cards... you'd have to get through all 100 of those review cards to complete the 30 new ones. This may not sound so bad until you've worked your way up to a 500 card stack, and you're seeing new cards at a rate of one every 20 cards; unless you seriously sit down and plow through that backlog, you'll be reviewing new cards at a dismal rate = not good.

So I certainly made a mistake there, but really, it could be far worse. This is a learning process through and through, and I'm still discovering what works and what doesn't work. The good news is that I've made some serious progress in my backlog, and if all goes well I should be all caught up by tomorrow - phew.

Still, I have a good chunk of kanji to go before I'll feel comfortable and ready with the sentence phase. Part of me wants to jump in and start as soon as possible, but then I comb through a typical Japanese sentence and struggle to recall the meaning of half of the kanji and... well, it's the humbling kind of whack in the head I need to drag me back to Earth. Oh, I'll be there soon, that I'm sure of! But for the time being, I know that my time is better spent with the kanji.

Oh, and I just learned the other day that Heisig himself recommends having the mnemonic story on the question side of the card. Well, crap! It sort of feels like cheating in a way, but at the same time, I can see how this could be every bit as effective as "hiding" the story and working by memory - which is exhausting. Indeed, I've found that I can go through about 100 at a time now, having the story on the question side, rather than the 50 maximum that I was able to manage without it. And best of all, I find this far more fun. Time will tell how effective this will ultimately be, but I can say with confidence that in the short term, this is juuuust fine.

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