Category Archives: Japanese

Holidailies 9: Flashcarding, how I play the game

Last time I talked about how I create my flashcards and I also talked a bit about why I think it’s useful. This time I’ll talk about the other aspect of it, how I play the flashcard game. There are multiple ways of learning with flashcards and I will talk about a few of them here.

Just remember that even though I assume you have a foreign word on one side and the translation on the other side you can also use this for other things than learning languages. This is just to keep it all simple.

1. Sight reading.

This is my most used technique. This basically means that you repeat the flashcards as often as it needs that you read the foreign word and no longer need to think to know the translation. Sight reading is one of the reasons why I can quite quickly pick up a language by reading because you can grasp a lot of context of a sentence if you can understand the key words. It’s not a lot of use knowing a word if you can’t sight read it easily (barring of course words that are just plain difficult no matter if you’re native or foreign, those don’t count).

To make sure you don’t need to keep repeating the words that you already know you can always put the words you had wrong to the end of your stack and keep repeating them until you have them right or until you have just one card left in your hand. Then repeat again with the full stack, just to check if you really know them all.

When learning Japanese I use this for the first couple of rounds, so that I can make the connection between the kana and the sound of the kana.

DSCN0369<- not the way I actually do it since you can too easily cheat by checking which cards you’ve already had, but I didn’t want this point to be boring. Also, you can see both sides of the cards here.

2. Writing until your hands bleed

A bit dramatic but it gets the point across. This part is where you only look at the translated side of the card and write down the foreign words. And you repeat this until you’re absolutely sure you know all the word. The technique is largely the same as above, only that you don’t just check if you can come up with the word, you write the foreign word down before you check and then see if you spelled it right.


Here you can see how I do this. Because hiragana are only small I fold the lines back over so I can’t look at my last round of practising when I can’t come up with the right kana. This stops me from cheating and using a lot of paper when not needed.

A regular session of practising for me starts with sight reading the kana I already know, then I run through them the other way around and write them all. Only when that is finished I start a new set of cards. Remember to always learn new words in sets of 5 to 15. Otherwise there are too many new ones and it gets really hard to keep track of them all. If you keep the sets small it is a lot easier to make all the practised words add up.

Well, that’s it. Those are my 2 ways of practising a language.

Learn on!


DSCN0380 <- my folder with practise sheets and flash cards.


Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Holidailies, Japanese, learning, tutorial


Holidailies 8: Flashcarding, not as dirty as it sounds, rather useful even

So, apart from having totally too many things to do anyway, I recently decided that I should do some more… Yes, insane idea, I am aware of it, but it has been a long time coming:

I’m learning Japanese, and I’m mainly focusing on the reading/writing aspect of it. Which is totally cool and okay, if it weren’t so damn difficult. To be able to read Japanese you don’t just need to learn words, you need to learn whole new scripts. Which is both the fun and the hard part of it.

Japanese will be my 5th language. My first language is Dutch and I learned English, German and French in high school. My German and French is rusty though I can understand some bits of it still. My English… well, you can see how crap that has gotten over the years… kidding 😉

I’ve had a long interest in Japanese, back from the days that I got to know subbed anime and picked up words from there and later when I got into manga and was sad that I couldn’t pick up on some of the more interesting word jokes in it. But for the past year or so Japanese has been a language I’ve been surrounded with each day (mostly by music) and I found it time to finally take the plunge and learn it.

What I will be sharing today is the technique I used back in high school to learn foreign words, but it also works really well to learn other things. I learned part of the periodic table and salts for Chemistry on it, for one. It works really well when you need to “translate” one thing into the next, even if that is a chemical element to it’s symbols and electrons.


you need:

DSCN0353– thick paper to make cards
– pen
– paper to practice on

1) Make the thick paper into decent sized cards, I cut my index cards into two to get them to the right size. The right size is somewhere between where you can easily hold and shuffle them and where you can fit what you need on the card.


2) Practice what you need until you’re sure you can write it without errors. Here you can see me trying the first 5 kana of hiragana to make sure I get them right on the cards. Plus, always repeat to yourself what the word/thing you’re trying to learn means. So while writing the A kana I kept softly repeating to myself that is was the A. This really helps with trying to remember the words.

On one side you write the thing you want to learn (the kana in this case):


On the other side you write the translation if it. Here you can see I wrote the romaji letters on the other side. For learning full words I would write both the romaji and the translation, just to be sure I don’t mess up.


And honestly, that is all you need to get started with flashcarding. I’ve used it a lot in the past and today I upped my sight reading ability of hiragana to 25. I learned 10 (well 5 with their respective dakuten) this morning in an hour.

This is all you need to get started with your flashcarding. I will do another post soon that will show some of the ways that I actually learn with flashcards, because some ways are more effective for some cases than others.

Learn on!



Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Holidailies, Japanese, learning, tutorial