How to Learn Chinese with Anki

Two weeks ago I suggested that you find tools to help you study in the small moments of life. One of our clients, Pawel suggested a great program called Anki. Anki is a memory aid that helps people learn material from law to languages. Anki can be used on your PC, Mac, Android or iphone device.

Why Anki?

Anki is a pretty neat tool that helps you remember the material you have learned. Anki presents material based on active recall testing and spaced repetition. Active recall testing is simply trying to remember the translation to a character, which is a much better way to learn new words than repeating them to yourself over and over. Spaced repetition is the idea of repeating material over time. Research shows that we’re more likely to remember material if we study it a few times over a long period of time.

How to download a deck of flashcards into Anki

Anki breaks down material into “decks” of flashcards. To get started, download and install Anki onto your computer. You then need to download and install a deck. In brief, you click on the Get Shared button on the bottom left of the screen. It will load a webpage that lists decks. Select Chinese, which will load this web page. You can select any of the decks. Click Info to learn more about each deck. If you are just getting started, I recommend the deck called Mandarin Chinese – Very Basic. This deck has the traditional, simplified and pinyin as well as a sound file of the word. Click Download and save the file on your computer.  Go back to Anki and click Import File. Select the file you just downloaded and click Open. The deck will now load.

Now you can study

Click the name of the deck you want to study. Click Study Now and the program will introduce vocabulary. The program will test you in one of two ways:

1. It will show you just the simplified and traditional version of the character. You must then decide if you know the sound and English translation of the character.

2. It will show you the or the character with the pinyin and the sound. You must then decide if you know the English translation.

Once you decide click Show Answer.  Based on how well you did, select one of three options:

  • Again means you didn’t know the word and need to continue to review the word.
  • Good means you know the word, but not extremely well.
  • Easy means you know the word very well. You will not review this word for several days.

Try it out and tell us what you think.