jump to navigation

Migration To Anki April 25, 2008

Posted by Edwin in French, Spanish, SRS, Vocabulary.

I have finally migrated my SRS to Anki.

Many language learners seem to be already using this cool flashcard tool. I myself tried it back in January, but I didn’t find the ease of using it. The program requires you to rate your answer before it sets the next time interval for review. JMemorize does not give you many decisions to make. You either get the answer right or wrong. One drawback of Jmemorize is that you have to finish all the lower-level cards first before you can do the higher-level ones. So I would end up getting stuck with hundreds of new words while seeing my familiar words getting expired and cannot do anything about them.

I tried moving to the LingQ flashcard for a few weeks. It is not an SRS, but I found it very convenient when I finished reading an article, I could pull out and flashcard the list of newly saved words right away. But later they added a new feature that would auto-increment the word status after every flashcard session. This was not what I desired, so I had to look for another program.

I decided to give Anki a second chance. After going through the tutorial videos created by the author, I gained more understanding of the tool. I have been using it for more than a week, and I begin to love it.

Here are some nice features of Anki that I like. Its import utility is very agile. I can simply copy-and-paste my vocabulary list right out of LingQ to a text editor and save it as a text file. Anki can parse it with no problem. Another nice thing is that I can suspend any card I like, so I won’t get stuck with a pile of difficult cards at any time.

Then of course there are some features that I hope Anki would have. It is not straight-forward to figure out the current level of a given card. It gives you some statistics but it never displays the level. On the other hand, JMemorize gives a clear layout of all the card levels. Another nice-to-have is a 2-stage display of the question, like what LingQ has done. It shows the word to you at first. If you cannot get it, it will show you the example sentence. In Anki, I find a bit tired of making decision of determining how ‘right’ I get an answer. With the 2-stage question display feature, it gives me another indicator to determine my familiarity with the word. Or better still if it could determine for me. It would be nice if Anki can take more of the decision-making off me.

As of today, I have imported to Anki 1195 out of my 2223 words from my French vocabulary list. One tip of migrating a massive list of vocabulary from one SRS to another is to import the easy and familiar cards first. I extracted my level-4 words from LingQ and import them to Anki. It only took me only 10-20 minutes to get through about 400 of them, and I won’t see them again until a few days later. Then I did my level-3 and level 2 words, which took a bit longer. I then gradually insert the level-1 words. My level-1 contains unfamiliar but infrequent words, so there is no urgency to learn them right away. Here is my current flashcard schedule.

I have also started (or restarted) my Spanish study about 3 weeks ago. I have 618 words so far, and here is my flashcard schedule:

Some people don’t like SRS or another kind of flashcard systems. I used to be one of them. I thought I could ‘absorb’ the new words naturally. But then at one point in time, I experienced the benefits of deliberately learning words, and I could see the immediate improvement I gained. Of course, it could turn into a stressful excerise, but this is why SRS comes in. The beauty of SRS is that you can review your words at your own pace. You don’t have to go through all of them at any time. You won’t lose any word because the system keeps track of them. It is a wonderful tool to build up your long-term memory.



1. Riad - April 25, 2008

Hello Edwin,

this is Riad, the creator of jMemorize. I just wanted to point out that jMemorize 1.3 gives you more control over the exact order in which cards appear in learn sessions. You can set a slider between ‘learn all cards ordered by their level’ and ‘100% randomess’.

This allows you to completly ignore the card level while learning or learn 70% of the cards by their level with 30% randomly shuffled into that ordered sequence, or to learn in any other combination that suits your style.

By the way, Anki looks nice too. Anyway, have fun.


2. Edwin - April 26, 2008

Hi Riad,
I think randomizing is good, but not as good as being able to suspend particular difficult or seemingly useless words, and resume them later on.

I hope you will consider implementing the 2-stage questioning feature in your future release.

Again, I want to congratulate you and thank you for developing this wonderful tool.

3. Victoria - April 27, 2008

Hi Edwin,

Glad to see you’re enjoying Anki. I too seemed to catch on to the new Anki craze a little later than some other bloggers, but now it has become pivotal to my language study. I like the way I can put in new vocabulary when I have the time (eg weekends) then use it very easily and quickly to make use of spare five or ten minute breaks in the week, when I wouldn’t have time to sit down with cards or books.

Can relate on the not wanting to have to choose between the buttons all the time, but I’m not sure how it would figure out how well you remembered something unless you told it. I guess there’s only so much work we can take out of language study!

4. Edwin - April 28, 2008

The ‘completely forgot’ and ‘made a mistake’ options are straight forward. The other 3 options are harder to choose.

If the 2-stage questioning feature is implemented, we can label a word as ‘easy’ if we don’t need to see the sample sentence, and ‘about right’ if we do need to see it.

5. Ramses - April 28, 2008

I love SRS and Anki in particular. As I have a flat fee mobile internet plan I use it while commuting, which just rocks. As for the grading system; you’ll get used to it after a while. At first I hated it, now I love it.

Great thing that you picked up Spanish. Please share your progress on this blog.

6. Edwin - April 28, 2008

Yes, Ramses. For sure I will talk about my Spanish progress, especially my ‘RR’ progress.

One thing I found out immediately was that there are tons of Spanish learning bloggers out there, compared to almost none for French. This is quite encouraging.

7. Philip H - May 23, 2008

Hi, Edwin,

I’ve been searching high and low and have had a hard time finding Anki study decks for French and Spanish vocabulary and verbs. I can piece them together myself but that is very time consuming.

Would you be willing to post your decks or alternately an importable text file or Excel spreadsheet?

Best regards,

8. Edwin - May 25, 2008

Hi Philip,
I can give away my decks, but I am not sure if it is beneficial to you to study them out of context. It is just like studying the dictionaries. I have mine for last year posted up in my ‘projects’ session. Take a like and let me know if you still want them.

9. eduFire » Blogs - June 19, 2008

[…] basketball. The author of Tower of Confusion definitely fits the bill. Check out recent posts on Migration to Anki and Shadowing Alone. Good […]

10. Hooper - July 28, 2008

What are you talking about?
You don’t have to do all of the lower level cards first in Jmemorize.
You can do any category that you choose withing a given Jmemorize file. For instance, I’m studying French. I organize my flash cards by chapters and sub-chapter sections. So, I can drill whichever chapter or section thereof that I want.

11. Hooper - July 28, 2008


Anki, while it looks quite nice, only seems to have the option of having one big deck for a given set of flash cards. I don’t care for that at all. I have well over 3000 French flash cards. If I couldn’t organize them by chapters (or whatever) within a single set of cards, it would drive me nuts.

12. Edwin - July 28, 2008

Hi Hooper,
I have never thought of categorizing them into chapters. Perhaps this is a good idea. But what if a common word appears in more than on chapters? In this case, you need to use tags. Anki supports tags.


13. Doctor K - November 9, 2008

I have tried a lot of mnemonic stuff like this, just like Vtrain, Fullrecall, Train your brain, Mnemosyne, WinFlash Scholar, jMemorize, Granule, Memory Wizard, Studyprof Flashcard, …, and now I choose Anki. But I wish Anki could have an improvement of recording and playing sound. This is a very important function to me!

14. FlashReviewLuv - February 18, 2009

I think, if no one has mentioned it, that the decision making that Anki allows give it felxiblity for all kinds of uses. Not everyone wants to add the second stage to a question (or hint), and not everyone even uses it for language. I use it for science. The hint would be a nice feature that anki could implement in the future for sure… but just coming at it from another perspective.

15. Hooper - June 25, 2009


I figured out the tag thing some time ago. I’ve migrated from Jmemorize over to Anki. The features that forced my hand are sound (I’ve used a combination of Audacity sound editor w/ my Pimsleur CDs and the Acapela text-to-voice synthesizer to make sound files for every one of my thousands of French flash cards) and the ability to have flash card models with more than 2 sides. When my cards show in reverse, only the sound plays (instead of the written back of the card.) I find that quite useful in that it helps with aural comprehension.

Now, if I can just figure out how to get Latex math equations to work on Anki (I can’t find an explanation anywhere) then I’ll be really onto something.

Mixam - January 24, 2010

Hooper forgot to click reply to your specific post, so I’m posting this again in direct response to you in the hopes that you checked the notify me of follow up comments via email option. Please see my other post. Sorry everyone else for the double post.


16. Mixam - January 24, 2010

Hooper, I’m just starting up with Anki and I like the idea you have of using the audio clips in your flashcards. I’m also using Pimsleur and I was thinking of doing the same thing. However if you have already done this, perhaps you could share your Anki files with me. You can reach me by email at dr_hank69 at hotmail dot com

Or if anyone else has already made up a file with the Pimsleur vocabulary, especially if you have added the audio files, I would appreciate if you could email me.


Hooper - January 25, 2010

@Mixam – I only have Anki audio-flash cards for Pimsleur French level 2, units 8 – 15. Prior to that, I was using Jemorize. I’m only half way through level 2, because the way that I use Pimsleur–over learning audio flash cards and supplementary materials–is a lot slower than the lesson-per-day pace intended by the publishers of Pimsleur.

Mixam - January 25, 2010

I’m also in level 2 although I’m not as far as you yet. I’m also not doing a lesson a day, I sometimes spend several times going through the same lesson, and depending on my schedule, sometimes I take several days to finish a lesson. On the other hand sometimes there are a few lessons in a row that I find fairly easy so I do sometimes do more than one lesson per day. I really wish Pimsleur had included a written transcript of the lessons, which would help a lot with learning the grammar. Now that I’m learning the grammar in class, and on my own it actually makes understanding some things in Pimsleur a lot easier. If you wouldn’t mind emailing me what you have so far I would really appreciate it, and once I see how exactly you are doing it, I would like to go back and do the same thing for the previous lessons so that I have all the vocab and phrases I’ve learned from Pimsleur in Anki. My email is in my last post if you wish to email me. Thanks for your helpful suggestion of the program to use to capture audio regardless.


17. Hooper - January 26, 2010

@Mixam – I have written transcripts through Level 2, unit 15. I write out the transcripts as I do the lessons, which, combined with ripping audio and making flash cards, is what slows down the pace of my studies.

I’ll upload my flash cards (including the Jmemorize ones, which can be converted to Anki by simply using a text editor’s find and replace feature to change them from comma separated to semicolon separated) to Rapidshare. I believe that the size of the media files precludes emailing. Of course, you’d have to add the audio to the Jmemorize cards. However, if you don’t want to have to go through all of the Pimsleur lessons to do so, you could just use a text-to-voice synthesizer. The best online one known to me is Acapela. It has several French voices. Usually, if a particular phrase sounds dodgy in one voice, you can get better results with another.

There are quite a few extra grammar examples mixed in with my cards. You can simply disable the tags for the ones you don’t want to use.

The thing that you will want to pay attention to in making your own cards is the Card Templates. I have two models. One for general use, and another for verb conjugations (because I only wanted to hear the infinitive on the question side of the reverse cards, as opposed to hearing the entire conjugation.)

Here is an example of the (Forward) Card Template scheme for my general French cards.

Name: Forward

Question: %(Front)s

Answer: %(Back)s


The reverse cards have a different template (a big reason why I switched to Anki.)

Name: Reverse

Question: %(soundonly)s */This forces aural comprehension

Answer: %(Back)s


18. Mixam - January 26, 2010

Thanks Hooper, this will be very useful to me. Its a shame I hadn’t discovered Anki when I first started learning French. I went back to the start of Pimsleur to begin adding in all the vocab and a few of the phrases as well. I started last night using Audacity (thanks for that btw) and once I figured out how to run it, I started clipping along and I finished lesson 1 and 2. Actually I started doing up a transcript as well, but after about halfway through lesson one, it was getting a bit tedious. I think I stopped at around don don par par pardon 🙂

Kudos to you for persevering, I always thought the lack of a written transcript was the biggest problem with Pimsleur. The transcripts would be a big help to me while I am trying to find a specific audio clip of a phrase. Thank you also for your example card template, I was trying to figure out how to do that. I’m sure there is probably a help file online that explains it, but I have yet to find it. I look forward to receiving the links to your work. I’ll be sure to send you back a copy when I finish adding in the audio.

Also if you are looking for audio of real French speakers, the guy who posted here http://groups.google.com/group/ankisrs/browse_thread/thread/0767fd5e3b11759b?pli=1 linked to a good resource for single words and his post is interesting too, an automated way to add audio to words. It requires a bit of programming, but it would be a fairly simple to do. As for phrases, I think I’m a bit lucky there as all I would need is a good voice recorder. I’m currently living in Paris, and I know a few French people who would probably be willing to say some phrases into a recorder for me.

Thanks for all your help,

Hooper - January 26, 2010

@Mixam – I will upload that stuff sometime today. I’m rather busy at the moment or I’d do it right now.

Regarding Audacity, I probably should have mentioned that you have to download LAME and tell Audacity where it is in order to export .MP3s. Also, you can export them in a low bit mono format to save space. Here’s a couple of other tips for making audio flash cards with Audacity.

1. Zoom in on the graphical representation of the sound file. This way you can easily highlight the section you want to export.

2. Once you highlight a particular word or phrase (IMHO, phrases are better. They force you to comprehend… well, phrases, which, when spoken by a native French speaker, don’t always sound like the individual words) press SHIFT + “e” to export the clip to an .MP3. I usually just name them 1, 2, 3, etc… You only need them long enough to attach them to the flash cards (of course, if you even plan on exporting Anki’s media files, you might want to give them logical names.)

3. place a folder on your desktop and have Audacity put all of the .MP3s in it. That way they are easy to find and easy to get rid of.

I’d also highly recommend downloading XemiComputers Pocket Voice Recorder. It’s free, and it’s absolutely perfect for checking your responses against audio flash cards. Every time you record yourself, it’s a discrete clip. So, when you review your response, you don’t have to rewind it. When you press play, it automatically plays the last recording. You can scroll though previous recordings too (though I’ve never had reason to do so.)

One more tip: If you ever endeavor to write your own transcripts, switch your word processor (I use Open Office Writer… but that’s just me) to spell checking with the French dictionary. I’m sure that you can do the same thing with M$ Word.

Mixam - January 26, 2010

For Audacity, I don’t know why, but I did not need lame. Perhaps that is because I’m running Ubuntu Linux, so maybe it was pre-bundled or something. I didn’t mess with the bit rate or mono because I don’t really know audacity well, so I just used what worked. What bit rate do you use in conjunction with mono?

1) I figured this out last night, though it took a while to do so, and it works great

2) Thanks for shift + e I didn’t know of that key comand. As for logical naming, I’ve just been naming them Pimsleur French I Lesson 01.001, 01.002 etc I have been capturing the large phrases that they usually introduce at the beginning of each lesson, and any phrases that seemed especially useful in addition to all the words themselves.

3) Have them on the desktop already and wasn’t sure if I could delete them yet. I thought I could, but I hadn’t double checked that yet. So once they are attached to the cards I can delete them right? I saw an option somewhere in Audacity to delete the file after it was added, but I left that off because I was worried it might delete a file I don’t want it to 🙂

The XemiComputers program seens like a good idea. I never thought to do that, and pretty much forgot that what you think you are saying and what you are saying are sometimes not the same. I hope there is an equivalent program for on Android, I’m planning on getting an Android phone and putting Anki on it so I can practice on the go. It would also be useful for when I have a friend record a phrase for me 🙂

I used to use open office when I was on Windows and I’m pretty sure it is included in my Ubuntu installation so that’s good. I was just using the equivalent of notepad to write it up at first, but the French dictionary would be very useful. Especially since learning from Pimsleur doesn’t exactly make you the spelling bee champ!

Thanks again for all your help,

19. Florian - November 28, 2010


I was using jMemorize so far but since it is not developed for a long time now I think it might be nice to change – however I have already several thousands of flashcards in jMemorize.

What is the best way to convert the cards from jMemorize to Anki???

Thanks for any help!


20. jocuri bile colorate - January 5, 2012

Migration To Anki Tower of Confusion has been put into my own favorites. I can not wait to read even more about this topic.

21. Richard Damian - March 18, 2012

I am really encouraged to give Anki a serious try. I have been following its 2.0 alpha build for quite a while.

Have been a Supermemo user for at least 8 years. Like most people, I am impressed by its power, but its insanely poor interface and lack of up to date documentation have doomed it for me.

I used Supermemo for learning Dutch and refreshing my German. I will use Anki to learn Norwegian (bokmal).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: