Dust off the old flashcards. . .again

Today was supposed to be full of traipsing around our local Renaissance Faire  with good friends of ours until mysterious abdominal pains derailed those plans. They have been going on since very early Saturday morning making me fuzzy headed and lethargic. With it being the weekend and not having a dedicated primary care physician on call I have decided to be stubborn and hope it clears up on its own.

So with all of this extra time for today I have decided to lock down my Spanish studying. Step one: Flashcards! Anki vs Paper and what am I even going to use them for?


On Duolingo I have “conquered” the Spanish tree AKA finished all of the given topics at least once. 61 golden topics. I am still a little fuzzy on any tense past the present tense. By fuzzy I mean I can recognize it when I see it written but there is no hope of me saying it on command. During periods of being laid up on the sofa not wanting to do more than breathe I realized that if I were stuck going to a hospital outside of my comfy English speaking bubble I wouldn’t be able to get far at all without desperate gesturing.

“Me duele el estómago.” I’ve got that down. How much does my stomach hurt. Uhhhh. . .mucho?  Ok got that guess too after consulting Google Translate. But that would be as far as I would be able to get.

Using Duolingo is fun. It feels like I accomplished something when I turn a topic golden again after reviewing it. But I know I will not become fluent with it alone. I’ve got to make this language journey a little more personal. I’ve actually gotta work at it. Cue the flashcards.

I have two routes I can take for flashcards. Anyone who has spent any amount of time looking up tips and tricks about language learning will have stumbled upon several references to Anki flashcards. Anki is a powerful spaced repetition flashcard program that through the power of algorithms determines for you when you should review a given card and tracks your progress over time. As with any study tactic there are a few skeptics and some straight up haters out there all with valid reasons of their own.

Route number two is decidedly less fun and sci-ency. The old paper flashcard. No batteries needed, no programming required beyond a pen or pencil and I can keep some in my pocket or purse and whip them out when a cell phone would be inconvenient (or dead).

I have used Anki in the past for various vocab words. I never used any of the thousands of user generated shared decks, nor did I throw fancy pictures or soundbites onto my cards in concern for the lack of memory on my phone. I would add words as I learned them, review, add more, review, wash rinse and repeat. It would go on daily for a few weeks until I either got too busy with work, became involved with a shiny new video game or just could no bring myself to do any reviews that day. There would be times where over two hundred cards would be due for review and I would become burnt out and overwhelmed within moments.

Anki is a wonderful program for the right person. I am not that person. I am not as obsessed with stats as I am with getting out there and speaking. A large database is not going to help me put sentences together. That is where I feel conventional flash cards can serve me better. Aside from the whole memory issue (phone, not me) and battery life (which my phone has less and less of every day) I can make a few dozen cards on paper, study them until I feel like I got my studying worth, set them aside and come back to them without them judging me for my absence. Less about the numbers, more about me and what I need.

So, what am I going to put on these little memory helpers? Well I know I want to talk about the past because there is only so much I can say about what is going on at this present moment. I still remember from my high school French classes the verb ending charts my teacher would drill us with. Some form of this but in French of course. Twelve years later you can give me an infinitive French verb and I can still conjugate it with style, not that I know exactly what I am saying but I can at least know I am saying it about/to you versus myself or them.

So my process will be the following today: Make flashcards for the imperfect past tense endings in Spanish, study them, write them down on my handy dandy $3 frame turned whiteboard, and hop on Duolingo and do a few drills under the past imperfect topic. Then, when I am brave enough, write some sentences of my own. Eh, screw the brave enough part. I need to stop being scared and start making some mistakes, which is a blog entry all of its own for another time.


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