I’ve finally given up on SuperMemo, the beefed up flashcard program I’ve been using for vocabulary acquisition. After having used it for a few months, I had become accustomed to its idiosyncrasies, if not having fallen in love with them. However, I was poking around in the forums at How To Learn Any Language, and came across a thread about SuperMemo alternatives. In it, there was a link to Anki – and there, I found true love (at least in regards to a piece of spaced repetition software).
Anki does everything that I used in SuperMemo. What it doesn’t do is cause me to pull out what little hair I have. Whereas SuperMemo was bloated beyond belief, with menus, sub-menus, and sub-sub-menus (I’m serious), Anki is pure simplicity. You add cards; you repeat them, grading how you did on remembering the answers; and Anki does the rest. There’s some basic customization available in the cards, such as bold, italics, and underlining, but there aren’t complex template registries; there are no branches; there are no leeches; in short, most of the “extra” stuff that’s in SuperMemo isn’t in Anki, and the program is better because of it.
Anki also has a quite useful feature that SuperMemo doesn’t have: you can sync up your data with an online version of the program. This will solve a problem I’ve had for a while now: how do I handle vocabulary that I want to put into SuperMemo when I can’t access SuperMemo? Between classes at the university, I often read foreign language articles. When I see vocabulary that I don’t know, I typically want to record it and learn it. However, not being able to access SuperMemo from home, I’ve been, up until now, saving the sentences and vocabulary into a Google Docs file, and then transferring them into SuperMemo at home. In essence, I’ve been doubling my work. Being able to add stuff into the online version and have it all sync up at home solves this problem wonderfully. By the way, even the online aspect of the program is free; it isn’t subscription based or anything like that.
My experiences with SuperMemo (and now Anki) highlight an important aspect of language learning: the tools you use. If you don’t like the tools you’re using, your language learning will suffer from it, guaranteed. I know that I’ve slacked on entering vocabulary lately, specifically because I’ve grown to dislike the clunky SuperMemo so much.
A new age has arrived. The age of Anki. Bye, SuperMemo. I won’t miss you.