Flashcard Setup

My previous post was vague on how exactly I build my flashcards, and the following comment was left by darren:

I’ve used anki for awhile but i’m still not sure how people are tracking the number or words they know…do you have a deck just of words vs sentences vs mixed that you review to pull the stats? Does the number of vocab include characters and compounds or do you break that out at all? Would be really useful to know how you pull those stats out of anki to show progress etc.

Anki is definitely keeping track of this information, since it has charts which show the # of cards added and first reviewed. 

So maybe someone out there has created an anki plugin that will export the date added and date first reviewed of each card in the deck.  I tried quickly searching for some, but I didn’t find any.  Maybe someone else can answer that question.

However, I use excelt to keep track of how many words I have added and reviewed each month.  Mainly, I am doing this because I was already using excel to help import cards into Anki in the first place.

I carry around a small notebook with me when I know I am going to be doing a lot of practice.  Everytime there is a word I wish I knew how to say in Cantonese, then I write it down in the notebook.  Then when I get back home, I look them up in cantodict.  Also if there is an example sentence which I find memorable, I add that to the card as well. 

Then when I get several of them, I copy paste them into a text file and use Anki’s “File > Import…” menu to import them as a tab-separated file.  I keep the same # of columns in my spreadsheet as I have in my card template:

So, I generate two cards for each word: a Cantonese -> English card and a English -> Cantonese card.  In the previous post, I was actually counting words (2 cards), not cards.

I didn’t start learning Chinese characters until about 1.5 years after I started studying how to speak Cantonese, so my oldest cards don’t actually include characters.  Also, I try to only have 1 new word per “fact” (a fact being the two “front” and “back” cards), so if an example sentence has several new words, I add cards for those words as well (and find new example sentences for them).

As for cards per character versus per compound, I count by compounds.  A single character can be used in so many ways, I personally think it is more motivational for me when I see the number of new words I am learning, not just the number of characters.  I did once have a character deck with one card per character.  But I ended up not really learning the characters and their meanings as well, so I think it’s better to seem them in context.  And for some characters with multiple pronuncations and multiple uses, there is just way too much information per character for a single card.

There are also a lot of great ideas about flashcard setup on the blog Thousand Mile Journey.  He has made several posts on different types of Anki decks, and he links to them from this page:



4 Responses to Flashcard Setup

  1. Eldon says:

    Thanks for the mention! I’ve been wondering for a little while about ways of automating word counting, although I like the idea of just keeping track of everything in a spreadsheet.

    There’s a plug-in for Anki that tots up the number of characters that are active in a deck, so someone with a bit of programming experience might be able to adapt it to give an estimate of how many unique words there are in a deck (which might be useful if you’ve got lots of sentences rather than individual words). Such a plugin would need the dictionary database from CantoDict though to parse the deck.

    I haven’t seen anything for exporting first answered dates either – might be worth disassembling a .anki file. It’s a sqlite3 database (I think) – there are browsers available for that kind of file.

  2. Ben says:

    Oh, you’re right. It never occurred to me to look inside the .anki file before. The “cards” table has a “created” field and a “firstAnswered” field where the dates are stored (not in a user friendly format, but the plugin can take care of that).

    So the records in “cards” can be grouped by “factId”, and then from there grouped by the month of “created” or “firstAnswered” to get a count by month. That would give a count of how many facts were added or first reviewed each month.

    Since everyone’s deck setup is different (some have a card per new word, some have multiple cards per new word, some have multiple new words per card), I don’t think it is feasible to create a single plugin that solves everyone’s questions about how many words they are learning a month.

    edit: to convert the time fields in the anki database, you can use an epoch converter such as those functions described half-way down the page on http://www.epochconverter.com

    • Ben says:

      I wrote this query to find out how many facts were first answered (meaning either of the cards associated with that fact) in each month. For the “added” numbers, just replace “firstAnswered” with the “created” column.

      The sum of the numbers is correct, and the numbers come sort of close to my own, but in some places they vary alot. Perhaps my own records were not accurate enough.

      Although, I did once notice that if I use Anki’s “reschedule” function then the history for that card is erased, so this might also account for discrepancies.

      select first_answered , count(*) as num_facts
      from (
      select factid , substr( date( min( firstAnswered ) , “unixepoch” , “localtime” ) , 0 , 8 ) as first_answered
      from cards
      group by factid
      group by first_answered

  3. wohoksolutions says:

    For anybody coming to this blog 7 years later … I have created some free Cantonese flashcards here: https://www.language-flashcards.com/free-cantonese-flashcards/
    Also highly recommend Anki for anybody who’s looking into language learning in general, great way to learn new things quickly!

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