Do you wish to study a language using flashcards but require some guidance? If so, this article is for you! Learn the most efficient way to review language flashcards.
Flashcards may be a fantastic tool for learning a language, but you have to use them wisely. I’ll go over some tips for making the most of your flashcards in this post. Let’s make sure you’re making the best use of your time and energy possible.
The following advice is applicable to both paper and digital flashcards.
- 1. Make sure you study both sides of your language flashcards
- 2. Recite the vocabulary in your chosen language aloud
- 3. Every time you review, shuffle your flashcards
- 4. Always carry your flashcards with you
- 5. Repeated daily flashcard reviews will help you master the material
- 6. Use a pattern of spaced repetitions
- 7. Adjust flashcards that you miss too frequently
1. Make sure you study both sides of your language flashcards
It is crucial to complete both sides of your flashcards. What am I referring to here? Each flashcard will have your target language on one side and English (or your native language) on the other.
Make sure that when you review, you:
a) occasionally look at the English word or phrase first and then offer the equivalent in the target language.
b) Every once in a while, you should check the target language before providing the English translation. In other words, alternate between going backward and forwards.
Why is this such a big deal? We frequently discuss active vs. passive vocabulary when discussing language learning. Your active vocabulary consists of terms that are easy for you to recall and utilize.
On the other hand, your passive vocabulary comprises words that you are unable to form on your own but can comprehend in context when they are used by others.
Even in our mother tongues, we all have a greater passive vocabulary. It’s inevitable and normal. However, we normally want our newly learned words to be fully engaged while learning a new language.
And in order to achieve that, we must be able to a) define a foreign term and b) generate the foreign word when asked to do so in our own language.
Simply turn the stack of paper flashcards over and study the other orientation if you’re using them. In Anki, Quizlet, and other flashcard software, you may specify which side of a digital card you want to view first.
2. Recite the vocabulary in your chosen language aloud
Read your answers from your language learning flashcards aloud as you go through them. This makes studying more sensory-engaged. Not only are you hearing and saying the material, but you are also picturing it. Additionally, you will sound better thanks to the increased sensory input for memory.
No matter which method I study my cards, I always speak the words in the target language aloud. You should practice speaking that language, after all.
You should still speak the words aloud when studying a “dead” language, such as Latin. I assure you that it improves reading comprehension and boosts your general confidence in your linguistic abilities.
In addition to the above-mentioned practical advantages, I think that reading the contents of flashcards aloud makes them more entertaining overall.
When people overhear me talking to myself in malls or on public transport, I most definitely get some strange stares. However, they can handle it.
(If speaking aloud to oneself in front of others makes you feel uncomfortable, merely moving your lips might encourage deeper memorizing.)
3. Every time you review, shuffle your flashcards
When studying, it’s best to reorganize your flashcards every so often. Why? Because, you know, your brain shouldn’t automatically link each card’s meaning to the one that came before it.
Believe me, it occurs more frequently than you may imagine. Even irrelevant patterns can be found by our brains in an efficient manner. In any case, this is the reason it’s preferable to only use one word per flashcard.
Therefore, you should switch up the order of your flashcards. If you’re going to utilize paper flashcards, make it a practice to shuffle the deck every time you sit down to review.
A randomization feature is included in flashcard software like Quizlet and StudyBlue. Keep in mind that this is how the spaced repetition program Anki operates by default.
4. Always carry your flashcards with you
You should always travel with your flashcards, which I highly advise. Using an app on your smartphone makes it especially simple to study language flashcards while you’re on the go.
However, I also have paper flashcards with me. Simply gather a few dozen before you go and place them in your pocket or bag. These convenient flashcard organizers are perfect for transporting paper flashcards, even the bulkier ones.
When you begin to carry your flashcards around, you become aware of how much leisure you have. It takes only a minute to learn a few words or phrases. You don’t need to evaluate everything at once, and it doesn’t have to be a huge effort.
In fact, using flashcards while traveling might help you split the content up into more digestible chunks. Additionally, you will use flashcards more consistently if you don’t view them as some sort of weird experience.
5. Repeated daily flashcard reviews will help you master the material
For flashcards to be effective, a frequent review is required. Although it should go without saying, I’ll nonetheless emphasize it here because it’s crucial. When a test is approaching, resist the urge to immediately start pulling out your cards. The key is consistency.
If you keep up with your cards, you won’t need to prepare for exams since you’ll know your target language’s vocabulary inside and out. Not to add that learning words gradually increases the rate of long-term memory. Although it could help you pass an exam, rushing won’t help you learn a language.
Please take note that I did not mention completing each card every day. In fact, I strongly advise against doing this since it is not a wise or effective use of your time and effort, and I’m all for wise language learning.
Keep in mind that this article is about the EFFECTIVE language flashcard review. Additionally, as your collection of cards grows, examining them all daily quickly becomes impractical or impossible.
What cards should you practice with each day, then? This brings up the next tip.
6. Use a pattern of spaced repetitions
All that this implies is that you should have a strategy in place that evenly spreads out your flashcard evaluations. According to studies, breaking up knowledge into smaller chunks over time helps you recall it (that is, spaced repetition).
Which begs the question, how do you use this in your language studies? The goal is to prioritize the study of more recent and/or more challenging cards above those that are older and/or less challenging.
If you consider it, this makes sense. Some words will stick in your memory faster than others, so don’t spend as much time on them. Remember that you should avoid over-studying in order to complete your flashcards as successfully and swiftly as possible.
Paper flashcards with spaced repetition
What you should do if you use paper flashcards is as follows. Have four stacks: one for cards that are entirely new or challenging, one for cards that are somewhat familiar or new, one for cards that you feel comfortable with, and one for extremely simple cards. (You are free to add as many more stacks as you like.)
The newest cards should be reviewed daily, the next newest every other day, the most comfortable cards once a week, and the most straightforward cards once every two weeks. (Vary as necessary.)
After reviewing each card individually each day, choose a future viewing time and place the card in the corresponding stack. Put any cards you miss or have difficulties with on a temporary “trouble” pile.
Once you have finished your other cards for the day, review all of these “problem” cards once again. To review the next day, place all of the “problem” cards in your “new” stack.
Despite appearances, I assure you that this is fairly easy and straightforward once you get the feel of it. It’s important to keep in mind that reviewing EASY cards less frequently than reviewing HARD ones will lead to better overall performance.
How often you should study difficult vs easy flashcards is a matter of debate. If you’re interested in learning more about spaced repetition methods, the Leitner technique is one option.
7. Adjust flashcards that you miss too frequently
Flashcards are frequently created with the idea that their content is fixed in stone. Avoid doing this! For starters, it’s a good idea to revisit older cards and update them as your linguistic proficiency increases.
Beyond this, though, there are instances when a certain flashcard simply does not stick in your mind for whatever reason.
It’s time to adjust a flashcard if you see that it constantly appears in your “trouble” pile and does so more frequently than other cards. After all, if you keep making mistakes, there must be a problem, and the card is sapping your time and energy.
This indicates that you need to change or just make the information on the card more accessible. Put your “trouble” cards aside for further consideration.
How are “trouble” cards modified? Frequently, all it takes is a format change, some word rearrangement, or the addition of a few vibrant colors. (I strongly support the use of vibrant colors on flashcards!)
Occasionally you have to make cuts because you loaded the card with too much information. Try adding mnemonics or other memory aids if you believe the word is the issue.
Do something different with the card, even if it’s only writing all the words in your target language in bright pink. Inject some new information into your mind.
The discussion ends here. These are seven strategies I’ve found helpful for memorizing flashcards (and efficiently). Having read this, you should now put all of these suggestions for reviewing language flashcards into practice.
Launch immediately! The world of language study is a fascinating one, waiting to be discovered.
And here’s an additional piece of advice: if you can, go over your flashcards with a friend as this only really works if you are both taking the same course in the same language. It’s a lot of fun when my spouse and I play Spanish flashcards together!