Monday, May 21, 2012

How to export Learning with Texts terms to Anki (the even easier way)

This how-to is for Anki 1. For how to do this with Anki 2, click here.

Getting Learning with Texts (as implemented on Fluent in 3 Months) to play nicely with Anki can seem a little daunting. But at the end of the day, it's not quite as hard as it would seem, and I've put together some step-by-step instructions to prove it.

I've broken the process down into:

  • 5 steps to export from LWT;
  • 5 steps to set up Anki for fill-in-the-blank reviews or, alternatively, 10 steps to set up Anki for recognition reviews (whichever you choose, you'll only need to do this once); and
  • 4 steps to import into Anki.
The whole process shouldn't take more than 10 minutes for the first import, and probably won't take more than 5 minutes for any subsequent imports.

As I was lazy and didn't take any screen shots, these instructions will be easiest to follow if you actually pop open LWT and Anki. In addition, these were made using Chrome 19.0, Anki 1.2.8, and Mac OS X 10.7.4. I didn't check to see if the instructions work on any other configuration, so let me know if I should add any clarifications in that regard.

With all of that out of the way, let's get into the nuts and bolts of this.

The first thing you'll need to do is add a text to LWT and make terms for all the words and expressions you don't know. For more on how to do that, check out my review of Learning with Texts.

Exporting from Learning with Texts. Once you've set out all the terms in your text, it's time to export the terms from Learning with Texts:

  1. On the main page, select "My Terms (Words and Expressions)" or, from the "Learning with Texts" pull-down menu at the top of the page, select "terms".
  2. From the "Language" pull-down menu, select the language of the text you used to create the terms.
  3. If you only want to import the terms from a specific text (and not all your texts in that language), from the "Text" pull-down menu, select the specific text you want to get the terms from.
  4. From the "Status" pull-down menu, select "Learning/-ed [1..5]". This will take out anything you marked as well known or any terms you marked to ignore. There are other options here to play around with if you want to select terms in a different way. (As an aside, this is also a good time to take a quick look at your list to check for stupid mistakes (like having flipped the pronunciation and definition fields for Japanese).)
  5. In the pull-down menu under "Multi Actions", select "Export ALL Terms (Anki)" and save the file some where convenient. If you don't change the default name, the file will be called "lwt_anki_export.txt". (As of this writing, the export feature is not working in all browsers. It seems to work fine in Opera, so you may need to download that to do this.)
Preparing Anki for fill-in-the-blank reviews. The default Anki template from LWT sets up cloze deletion flashcards for you, or, more simply put, fill-in-the-blank flashcards. The question will be the source sentence with the term blanked out together with the meaning of the term, and the answer will be the term itself and its pronunciation, if any. By actually using the template that comes with the LWT distribution, you can save yourself a bit of effort versus the method to accomplish the same thing that can be found on Living in the Middle Kingdom:
  1. Download the most recent version of Learning with Texts from here.
  2. Open the downloaded folder, navigate to the "anki" folder in it, expand "", and then open "LWT.anki". This will take you into the "LWT" deck in Anki.
  3. In Anki, click the "Browse Items" button (the one that looks like a magnifying glass).
  4. Select all and click the "Delete" button (the red X). This will clear out the random sample cards from the LWT deck so that you can add your own cards in.
  5. Close the "Browser" window. This should bring you back to the "LWT" window.
Preparing Anki for recognition reviews. That's all fine and good if you want to use fill-in-the-blank, but my goal is to create automatic recognition of the terms so I can avoid popping open a dictionary when consuming target language content. In addition, I don't like fill-in-the-blank when you've got multiple terms from a single sentence; at least for the first set of reviews, when reviewing term 1, you'll typically see term 2 in the sentence, so the answer will be right there in your head when term 2 comes up next in your reviews.

Accordingly, I set my flashcards up a bit differently. On the question side, I want the term and the example sentence. On the answer side, I want the meaning and the pronunciation (which is needed for the Japanese terms I'm most frequently studying). I try to produce the answer without looking at the sentence (and always score accordingly), but if I fail to do so I'll look at the sentence to see if I can't figure it out with the added help of context.

We'll have to wade through Anki's underbelly a bit to accomplish this, which should also give you an idea of just how much you can customize Anki's review patterns:

  1. Go to your "Decks" page, click the "Create" button, and select a name for your new deck.
  2. From the "Settings" menu, select "Deck Properties…".
  3. In the "Deck Properties" window, click the "Add" button.
  4. In the "Add Model" window, select "Add: Japanese" and click OK. (Don't worry if you're not studying Japanese.)
  5. In the "Deck Properties" window's "Models" field, select "Japanese" and click "Edit".
  6. In the "Model Properties" window's "Card Templates" field, select "Recognition" and click "Card Layout".
  7. Select the "Fields" tab in the "Card Layout" window, click "Add" and in the name field write "Example Sentence".
  8. In the "Fields" tab, use the "Up" and "Down" buttons to rearrange the order of the fields as follows: "Expression", "Meaning", "Reading", and "Example Sentence".
  9. Select the "Card Templates" tab, add "{{Example Sentence}}" on a new line under "{{Expression}}" in the "Question" field.
  10. Close the "Card Layout" window, the "Model Properties" window, and the "Deck Properties" window. This should bring you back to your deck's window.
Importing into Anki. The process of finally getting the actual terms into Anki is pretty simple:
  1. From the main "Anki" window, select the deck into which you want to import and press the "Open" button to the right of it. (If you just followed either of the preparation instructions above, you're already where you need to be.)
  2. From the "File" menu, select "Import".
  3. Select the file you exported from LWT and click "Import".
Repeat these three steps whenever you want to import additional cards from an LWT export file.

And now all that's left to do is getting those reviews done in Anki.


  1. Many thanks for doing this, that apparently took a good bit of work and I know that a lot of people will appreciate it since LWT has gotten fairly popular and, of course, everyone loves Anki.

    If you felt up to it, a compromise between taking screenshots and doing nothing would be to do a video on it, just record yourself performing the process once and upload it, shouldn't take too much time and it should be sufficient to show people how it's done.

    Again, excellent work.


  2. This article definitely is a great piece of work. The information is really useful.

  3. Good, I started to use Anki and it will be helpfull. Thank you for these tips it should make my learning faster.

  4. Thanks for a very good article on importing and exporting with Anki.  I know many language learners that love building their Anki decks, but never utilize the import and export. This article really helps with that.

    Some flashcard sites also allow you to download their decks for Anki. My own site also allows it, as well as a few other formats.