This is a guest post written by Ethan, who graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in International Affairs in 2012. He currently lives in Spain, and has previously lived in Germany and Brazil, where he started teaching English with RealLife. His favorite things to do when he has some freetime and money are travelling, learning new languages and rock climbing.
Grammar can be pretty difficult, but once you learn the structures of a language, it just becomes habit. But you always, always, always need to be learning new vocabulary – no matter your level in a language.
Even native speakers can learn new vocabulary!
So what can you do?
In my old language classes (I’ve formally taken German and Spanish), the teachers used to have us make flashcards. Well, it works ok. But lugging around a big deck of cards is inconvenient. I’ve just never liked flashcards, and when I got to college I stopped using them all together.
But then a friend recommended a tool that has changed my language learning all together. It makes it so much easier to memorize all the new vocabulary that you encounter day in and day out when learning a new language.
This awesome tool is called Anki, and the best part is that it’s FREE.
What is Anki?
Anki is a flashcard program for your computer and smart phone. But it’s SO much better than traditional flashcards.
First of all, it’s an application, so it’s easy to use anytime anywhere. No messing with paper and rubber bands.
Next, it works with your memory. What I mean by this is that you don’t just study your cards. It uses a memory recall system to tell you when to study; it shows you each card depending on how well you know it.
Learning Languages with Anki
But I’ve found that Anki is also perfect for language learning.
You can download decks that other people have already made for the language you’re learning, or you can simply make your own. I prefer the latter, as I can customize it to what I’m currently learning. But if you’re just starting out learning a new language, the former can be very useful as you can download vocabulary and grammar decks with pictures and audio (I did this in order to learn the Russian Cyrillic alphabet).
I also highly recommend that you download Anki on your computer and your smartphone (if you have one) so that you can use it anywhere. Keep in mind that Anki is free on your computer and Android, but you have to pay for the app on mobile Apple devices.
If you want more specifics on how to use Anki, check out this article.
How I use Anki
English is my native language, but I also speak Spanish, Portuguese, German, and French at varying levels. So, as you can imagine, that’s a lot of vocabulary, expressions, and idioms to remember! And Anki works perfectly for all of them.
I have a deck for each language. I tend to keep a journal with new vocabulary that I encounter in my day-to-day. Right now I’m living in Spain, so I mostly use this journal for new things that I learn in Spanish.
I use all sorts of different real life resources to learn languages, such as reading books or the news, listening to music, watching TV, and of course talking to people. When doing any of these, I highlight new vocabulary or write it down, and then later, I put it in Anki so that I can continue studying.
For me, it works best using Anki on my phone, because anytime that I have 10 or more words to study, it alerts me, and I study them anytime that I have a few minutes. It even estimates how long you’ll need to review!
Anki is one of the best tools in my arsenal of English learning resources. It’s a fun and easy way to remember new vocabulary and any serious language learner should not be without it!
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