Monday, December 24, 2012

Using Learning with Texts with Anki 2, part 1: What you need to know before you get started

This post is part of a five-part series on using Learning with Texts (as implemented on Fluent in 3 Months) with Anki 2.

  1. What you need to know before you get started
  2. How to export LWT terms for Anki
  3. How to import LWT terms into Anki as simple flashcards
  4. How to import LWT terms into Anki using LWT's fill-in-the-blank Anki template
  5. How to import LWT terms into Anki using your own custom set-up
And if you're still using Anki 1, learn how to export LWT terms to Anki 1 here.

If you're a language learner and you still haven't discovered Learning with Texts and Anki, you've been missing out on two of the greatest tools you have at your disposal. Learning with Texts, or LWT, is "a foreign-language reading interface" that lets you copy and paste into its system any foreign-language text you want to read, indicate which words in that text you don't know, look up those words, and save the words, their translations, and other data to a list of terms that you need to learn. Anki is a memorization tool that uses spaced repetition to help you learn just about anything, including, of course, vocabulary.

Well, golly gee… wouldn't it be awesome if you could get that nice list of things to memorize that LWT prepares for you into Anki, a tool that will help you memorize them?

Of course it would, and of course you can, but doing so is quite a few clicks long of being a one-click process. What's more, the process isn't exactly easy to figure out, but I've explored the underbelly of Anki 2 so you don't have to. The other posts in this series will layout the step-by-step instructions to get your LWT terms into Anki, but before we jump into the process let me lay out a few things that you should know before you get started.

Let's start with the overall process. You'll begin with a text in your target language that you want to read. You'll then need to get that text into LWT and look up the terms you don't know, a process I go over in my review of LWT. Once you've got the terms into LWT, the next step is exporting them, which you'll have to do each time you want to export terms. The next post in this series will cover how to do that.

The last three posts in this series will cover three different ways to import into Anki the terms you exported from LWT, and you'll only need to pick one based on how you want to learn the terms. The first way will get you the digital equivalent of simple two-sided flashcards with a term on one side and that term's translation on the other; this way requires no set-up at all, but it doesn't take full advantage of all of the data exported by LWT. The second way uses an Anki template provided by LWT that creates fill-in-the-blank reviews; the set-up required is minimal and it takes advantage of all data exported by LWT, but the method might not be how you want to review. The third way will show you how to customize your reviews of LWT terms, using the set-up that I use for Japanese as an example; customized set-ups take the most time to put together, but the advantage is that they let you study how you want to.

After you've imported the LWT terms into Anki, all that's left to do is to use Anki as normal to learn them.

Setting up importing (if necessary) and exporting and importing generally won't take much time at all; 10 or 15 minutes for an initial set-up, and probably just a couple minutes for the exporting/importing process, should be sufficient. Typically the only thing that might need more time is your custom set-up, depending on how exactly you want to do it.

The last thing you should know before we jump into the actual how-to in the next post is a few points on Anki terminology, namely, the difference between a note, a card, and a note type.

A card is basically the same thing as a paper flashcard: it's a question and answer pair.

A note, on the other hand, is a grouping of related pieces of information that can be made into cards. For example, a foreign-language term, its translation, and its pronunciation could be one note. The data exported by LWT consists of notes.

A note type is what tells Anki how to take a note and make it into a card. This is how Anki knows to put, for example, the foreign-language term on one side and its translation and pronunciation on the other. Anki comes with a number of default note types, which we'll make use of to import for simple two-sided flashcards, and we'll use another note type provided by LWT for the second import method. And the customization part of the third import method is actually making your own customized note type for LWT terms.

And that's about all you'll need to know before we actually start the process of getting terms from LWT to Anki. Tune in next post where we'll start with the process of exporting terms from LWT!

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