Weeks #7 and #8 Progress Reports

on Mar 11, 2015

Not much has changed from the last Progress Report. The wheels are still off the bus, but now in the middle of Week #8, I’m working to get the wheels back on.

Since there’s not too much interesting to report, let’s talk a little about Flashcards and Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS). If you spend much time in the language learning blog community, you’re probably tired of hearing about SRS, but it’s not often you hear real numbers from someone using SRS. It just so happens that I ran my entire Flashcard list last week so I now know my progress numbers.

In my DianHua Dictionary bookmarks, I have some 3,500 entries consisting of individual characters, words, phrases, and sentences.  850 of these Flashcards have appeared in my SRS queue. In reviewing all 850 Flashcards last week, I answered about 800 correctly.

Correctly…that word may be a bit too vague so let’s define it:

Quick recognition of character with both a correct English Definition and correct Pronunciation with proper Tones.

So when I ran my Flashcard list, I noted Flashcards as incorrect even if I had an incorrect tone on a single character from a sentence.

Now why are these numbers significant? They’re significant because the total number of Flashcards has surpassed the level at which it is practical to study the entire list in one sitting. I don’t recall how long this run through took me, but I do know I was interrupted several times trying to make it through the list. Even if I could somehow make it through every card in 1 second, that’s a 15 minute process. Keep in mind, though, that many of my entries are sentences, and I’m listening to the audio for the Flashcard when I turn the card. A 3 second per card average is probably closer to reality which puts the process at 45 minutes.

Alright, so 45 minutes. That’s not bad, right? Actually, it is bad because you only see each Flashcard 1 time. How are you going to learn new or challenging Flashcards with only 1 exposure in a 45 minute study session?

With SRS, I study 50-100 Flashcards per day maximum, and I’m able to retain these 800 known Flashcards and continue adding new Flashcards on just 10-20 minutes per day on average.

I found this video in a Twitter post from Hacking Chinese, and it does a great job of visually demonstrating the benefits of SRS over other forms of knowledge acquisition:

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that it’s a good idea to use SRS for studying Chinese characters. If not, don’t worry. I’ll probably try again next week.

Anyway, I’m back on track a bit with my studies this week. Hopefully I can keep all of my distractions at bay and keep moving forward.