Flashcards are a powerful tool when trying to commit things to memory. Recently I’ve had a renewed interest in building my German vocabulary base. After reviewing my daily productivity, I decided that I had some time where I could fit in quick, two-minute sessions of flash-card review.
anki-logoMost of the tools and commands used when working with next-generation sequencing data typically take several minutes to complete, even a simple line count . . . thus, a good opportunity for review while waiting.

When looking for a digital solution, I’ve found the desktop application Anki. By all accounts, Anki is one of the best spaced-repetition systems available. Briefly, the algorithm itself spaces how often you view a card based on the SM2 algorithm, which spaces out cards farther and farther each time you answer them properly. Once you truly know a card, you will see it only very rarely, instead focusing on other words that give you trouble.  There were ready-made German flashcard decks available, featuring full image cues and audio cues, so I dove right in and gave it a try.

What I Like:

It is extremely easy to pick up an already-built vocabulary deck, and most of them seem to be extremely well put together. For German, I downloaded nearly 1,000 words with image and audio pronunciation. I immediately found that the system is extremely intuitive and simple.

The next major benefit is that there is a desktop application, web-based application, and a free android app. All three of these sync up among themselves, so any progress you make on one automatically transfers to the others. I found on days that I can’t find a few minutes here and there to run some cards, I can do it at home on my laptop through the website, or whenever I have a free second on my phone. It is extremely convenient.

It’s also important to note that it is not just a language learning tool, but that it can be used for really anything. There are physics, math, and chemistry decks—a whole host of premade decks. I fully intend on building some for my upcoming biochemistry classes in the fall.

What I Don’t Like:

There really isn’t much that I dislike about this program. If I had to lodge any complaints, I’d say that it can be a little prone to error if the user is dishonest with themselves about the relative ease of answering the cards. The platform works by rating each card and how difficult you found answering it. If you are not 100 percent honest from day one, it can lead to many cards stumping you later on. But this is more of a user issue than the program.

My Recommendation:

If you are looking to commit anything to memory, I highly recommend trying out Anki. Within a week, I can honestly say I have a pretty firm handle on 200+ German words that I previously did not know. I am throughly enjoying the platform and really feel that I am making progress toward my goal.