This is a post from my old blog, from 2011. It’s part of a series of resurrected older posts that I still think are useful for language learning. This post is almost identical to the original.
Something I’ve been trying recently is a variant on what SuperMemo calls ‘incremental reading’, and which I arbitrarily name ‘L2IR’ (second language incremental reading). Essentially, rather than simply adding sentences to my SRS ‘blind’ (i.e. there’s no extra information in the card anywhere about the context), I’ve been using an extra field to copy-pasta the passage it came from.
The passage is shown on the answer side of the card. Thus, when I’ve answered said card, I might, if I’m in the mood for studying, try reading the entire passage at the bottom. I might then find that there’s a ‘sweet spot’ sentence or phrase ready for making a new card out of – a collection of words wherein there’s just one new piece of information (be it a character, a word, a piece of grammar… whatever).
The new card also includes the complete passage so that (eventually) most of my the cards have context included. This means that there is no shortage of opportunities for adding extra cards whenever I like – and because I’m selective about the passages I add to my SRS, it never takes long to find something I have immediate interest in.
I might have a sudden and inexplicable interest in the Australian city Darwin, so I dive straight into the Chinese Wikipedia article and find the introduction:
This passage is just the right length, by the way – I can skim/read the entire thing in under a minute – easy to not procrastinate over, methinks. Anyway, in this particular passage I can immediately see that I’m not too sure about the phrases 屬於熱帶氣候 or 唯一經歷過戰爭 (although I can read all the characters just fine). So, there are two new flashcards:
A: Jyutping/passage/relevant definitions (pasted in from an online dictionary)
A: Jyutping/passage/relevant definitions
Later – two days, two weeks or two months later, whenever – I might notice that there are more phrases in the passage or the dictionary definitions that I’m on the cusp of understanding, in which case the process can be repeated. For the above passage, I would expect to come up with at least 20 useful, efficient, interesting flashcards. Sometimes I’ll even go for items I can’t figure out on my own and suspend the cards right away, to wait for an opportune moment to ask a native speaker for further explanation.
What else does it do for you?
Other advantages are that this format lets you practice reading extended prose – something that simple sentence cards will never let you do, because pressure rises exponentially with question card length. This way, there’s no stress in reading longer pieces of text, because you’re not grading yourself on it. It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes – so long as you can read the fragment you’re interested in, it’s go go go.
Further Dry Remarks
I’ve been doing the whole process manually until now, making gratuitous use of ctrl-c and ctrl-v; once you’ve got to grips with keyboard shortcuts it doesn’t take too long, maybe about 10-15 seconds (at most) per new card.
Currently I’m at ~1400 flashcards from about four months of using this deck and my reading ability is now much better than before. Anyone else tried anything similar?