The Secret Tool for Memorizing New Vocabulary

easy-English-vocabularyDo you ever learn a new word in English and then a few minutes later you find that you’ve already forgotten it?

I know it’s frustrating, but don’t let it get you down (disappoint you)! Everyone experiences this when learning a new language.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There is a great resource called Anki that you can download on your computer or smartphone.

Anki is an interactive flashcard program. People generally make flashcards with small pieces of paper as a study tool. You write something on one side and the definition on the other side.

Flashcards can be very useful for learning a new language: you write a word in English on the front and on the back you write the definition or the translation into your native language.

So, what makes Anki better than normal flashcards and why should you download it as soon as you finish reading?

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This article will explain to you:

  • Why Anki is going to be your new favorite app for learning English
  • How to use Anki, and
  • What make it so effective.

Anki: The Secret Vocabulary Memorizing Tool

Anki is a program for studying that makes remembering things easier. It is more efficient than other ways of studying, so you can decrease the amount of time you spend studying and increase the amount that you learn. Anki makes learning vocabulary easier, more fun, and more intuitive.

Anki allows you to review anywhere. It is available on your computer, online, on Android/iPhone and on tablets, plus you can synchronize and have the same decks everywhere. The iPhone version is paid, but it’s well worth it (if you find it too expensive, try this)

Personally, I use it on my phone because of the convenience of it; anytime I have five minutes to spare, I pull out my phone and review vocabulary. Also, anytime I learn a new word, I can add it right to Anki. No more frustration at forgetting the word you just learned!

Another great feature is that you can share the study decks that you make on Anki. You can distribute them with friends and colleagues so everyone can easily build their vocabulary together! And you can download decks that other people have made on Ankiweb (I’ll talk more about that later).

When you use Anki, you tell it how well you know each card. If a word or phrase is easy, you won’t be tested on it again for a few days. But if you still think it’s hard, Anki asks you again in a couple minutes. Through this, you are forced to repeat a word or phrase until it is engraved in you brain (you’ve learned it well).

Anki also allows you to attach photos or audio files to each flash card, which can help you remember tougher words (especially if you’re a visual learner) and improve your pronunciation. You can choose to record audio as well, so you can record your own voice.

Now let’s explore the different ways that you can use Anki to better your English.

Improving Your Vocabulary Made Easy

  1. When you first download Anki, the only deck you will see will be default. Click Create Deck (computer) or Create Filtered Deck (Android)
  2. Name it and click Add (computer) or the “+” (Android).
  3. Fill in the front side with a new word or phrase (I like to include an example, too), and the back side with the definition or translation. Don’t worry about the other options right now; you can play with them later.

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I love using Anki on my Android phone because anytime I learn a new word or expression, I can add it right away. Doing this can substantially increase the amount of vocabulary that you acquire and remember.

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How to Use a Deck

  1. To start out, I recommend making at least 20 cards (it helps if you keep a vocabulary journal).  I use the “Basic and reversed card” option, because this requires me to study the card both ways, that is, I have to see the word and give the definition, then the next day I have to see the definition and get the word. This guarantees you will both be able to understand the word and use it when you speak.
  2. Click the Study Now button to start practicing.
  3. You will see the word and you need to guess the definition and then click Show Answer. If you got it wrong click Again. If you were correct, but you had to think a lot to remember, click Hard. Click Good or Easy if you remembered it quickly.
  4. You will finish the deck once you remember all the words
  5. Anki only lets you do 20 cards per day (but you can change the setting). For most people, 20 to 40 is a good number because otherwise it becomes difficult to remember them all. The more cards, the more time to study, which I understand you might not have.  After a few days, you’ll be reviewing old words with the new words, so eventually, if you use Anki daily, you’ll just have a few new words each day.
  6. If you want to change any of the settings, click Options after finishing the deck.

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You Don’t Have to Do the Hard Work

Anki has a database with thousands of pre-made decks made by other users, which you can use in addition to your personal deck.

First you will have to download Anki on your computer and make an Ankiweb account (don’t worry you can transfer the deck to your phone later).

On the main page click Get Shared, which will take you to Anki’s website. You’ll see there are a variety of languages and subjects that you can study. But for now we’re going to focus on English.

There are about a thousand decks that you can download, including many for specific languages. In the search box to the right type in what you are looking for. Some examples are beginner, advanced, vocabulary, or TOEFL. There are a lot of options and you can try multiple decks to see which ones work the best for your needs. Some even come with audio or pictures.

You’ll then want to sync these cards

Synching to Ankiweb

To sync the decks from your computer to your Ankiweb account go to Tools –> Maintenance –> Full Sync. You need to do this to keep Anki the same on all of your devices (computer, smart phone, and tablet).

Make sure you are also signed into your Ankiweb account on your phone. Also, remember you have to sync on your phone or tablet after to get the decks.

Improve Your Vocabulary Even More With Audio and Photos

Using audio is a great way to improve your pronunciation and listening comprehension. If you have some pronunciation audio files you can attach them to a card when you make it. Or you can attach audio that reminds you of the definition (like a sound or maybe a song that uses an expression in English). You can also record audio if you want to say the word or say something to remind yourself of the definition.

You can attach photos in the same way that you attach sounds. Studies have shown that when learning a language it’s more effective to relate words to images than to a translation.

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Tips and Recommendations to Make Anki a Better Tool for You

Now that you know how Anki functions, follow these suggestions to get the most out of (maximize) using it.

  1. Although it’s easier to download pre-made decks, you should make your own, too. Every time you read or hear a new word or expression (for example from RealLife Radio) write it down and add it to your personal English deck. Through this you will grow your own unique vocabulary and you’ll be sounding more like a native speaker every day!
  2. Download decks with audio, and then record your own voice. When looking at a flashcard click More and then click Record Own Voice (or press Shift+V). By doing this you can compare a native speaker’s pronunciation to your own.
  3. Don’t translate. If your English is at a high enough level, rather than translate to your own language, use a photo and/or definition to help you remember the word. You can even put a picture on the Front of the card and the word or expression on the back. If you stop translating your brain will have to start thinking in English.
  4. Check your statistics. On your smartphone you can look at your statistics in the menu and see a ton of info about your studying, for example, the times of day you study best!

In Conclusion

Anki is an awesome language-learning tool. It is quick, easy, and effective. You are guaranteed to learn and memorize vocabulary easier by using Anki.

Go download it now. You only have to commit a few minutes a day (and I know you are on your computer anyway, so make it time well spent). Download it on your smartphone or tablet and study on the bus, in line at the bank, or while on your coffee break at work—any free moment is a chance to better your English with Anki!

Now you have no excuse not to build your vocabulary. Make English part of your daily life now!

If you liked this article don’t forget to share it. We would love to know what you think in the comment box down below.

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37 Comments

  1. Marcelo on February 3, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Indeed Anki is a great software and tool to help you learn vocabulary and it does what is says, I use it myself but not the way it is intended for, it may sound a little weird, but I’ll explain what I’m talking about.

    I don’t like memorizing words or full sentences by flipping over cards and trying to guess their meanings, I like to use Anki to revise pages I have visited before by adding the links there so that I have the opportunity to read all the text again and acquire more and more vocabulary, I also use it to listen podcasts and watch videos again.

    Great tip Ethan!
    All the best for you!
    Marcelo

  2. Ethan on February 4, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Hey Marcelo,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

    Your method also sounds like a great way to practice languages. I may have to try it myself. Another person told me to try this program on the internet called Quizlet, it seems great to me, check it out http://quizlet.com/ !!

  3. […] vocabulary building, Duolingo pairs perfectly with Anki (a free vocabulary learning program). So let’s start out by looking at Duolingo before we see how […]

  4. Elton on March 18, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Thank you Ethan!
    I’m gonna use this to memorize phrasal verbs. Cuz I have a difficulty to do this and I dunno why!

    • Ethan on March 18, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      Yo Elton, what’s up?
      I’m really glad that you found my article useful! I would also recommend quizlet.com to you if you need help with memorizing those pesky phrasal verbs. Have a good night!

      Ethan

  5. […] Se quiser saber mais, leia nosso artigo sobre o Anki. […]

  6. IELTS Singapore on April 30, 2013 at 5:10 am

    Thanks for this post. I’m an English teacher (I teach IELTS in Singapore) and I’m in the midst of implementing the use of Anki with my students. As an English learner yourself, do you think there are other ways (more advanced) to use Anki than just merely Vocabulary memorization? I’m doing some research on different ways to use it.

    Thanks.

    • Ethan on April 30, 2013 at 10:57 am

      Glad to hear that! I recommend you check out Quizlet.com as well. It’s a great resource, similar to Anki, but it also has games that help with memorization.

  7. Laercio Leitzke on June 7, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Muito bom. Muy bueno. Very Good, Sehr Shein…

  8. Real Life English: Happiness Idioms on June 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    […] to take your learning even further? Then remember to put these expressions in Anki to help you memorize them and start using them every day. Don’t have Anki? Learn more about […]

  9. Gustavo Rocha on June 26, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Heel goed, Ethan! 😀

  10. Adriano Monecchi on July 10, 2013 at 11:24 am

    I usually use my phone's note app to help me memorize almost everything, including new vocabulary and english grammar related stuff, but Anki will certainly save me a lot of time. After this tip, efficiency & organization will be my "words of the day"! Thanks for sharing Ethan Zinho!

  11. Fun and Simple English: Learning with Music on August 2, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    […] that you learn? Well, once you’re done tearing apart (deeply analyzing) the entire song, you can put everything in Anki, and “study” it every day until it becomes a part of […]

  12. Real Life English: Body Idioms on August 14, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    […] you want to know the best and most efficient way to learn these expressions? Use the amazing vocabulary tool, Anki. Your vocabulary will never be the […]

  13. ??? ??????? ??? ???? on September 3, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    I liked the program and this is the first time I use it but I do not know how Can I record my voice In order to correct pronunciation with the audio recordings in the program. Thanks for your efforts.

  14. Combination pharmacy scale and pill counter on September 10, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Really great blog – although I do not know English well is a subject interests me.

    In Poland we do not have such a well-developed blogs –
    Sorry for the mistakes, but I have a bad English

    • Ethan on September 11, 2013 at 4:33 am

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed. Just keep reading and practicing and your English will get better!

  15. ?. ?. ????? ??????? on December 21, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    very much

  16. […] a lot of free apps that are designed towards English learners, and there are also other apps, like Anki, which is for memorizing new vocabulary that you learn. And if you start doing this it’s going to […]

  17. 4 Quick Tips for Better Memorization on February 3, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    […] the first one, and my favorite, is called Anki. Anki works with your brain to help you memorize things. It does this using spaced […]

  18. ??? on February 22, 2014 at 6:45 am

    Excellent!^^

  19. Nigina on March 28, 2014 at 7:07 am

    I’m already downloading it))

  20. Mohammad Kassem on June 26, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Thank you fop this simple & direct explanation of Anki. I am trying to study French ,I hope your explanation will help me a lot . My best regards to all of you.

    • Ethan on March 4, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      I’m studying French, too. It does help a lot! 😀

  21. […] El que seria la propera cosa que és una cosa per fer als moments convenients és llegir. Intento llegir cada dia abans d’anar a dormir i així també vaig anotant el vocabulari que no sé. No el busco al moment perquè si no m’avorrí massa. Però ho anoto i desprès ho busco i desprès ho poso al Anki per estudiar més tard. L’Anki està molt bé perquè necesites cinc minuts per repassar el vocabulari i treballa amb la teva ment, amb la teva memorització. Tinc un article que vaig escriure sobre l’Anki que pots llegir aquí. […]

  22. […] The next thing to do in your convenient moments would be reading. I try to read every day before going to bed, and that way I also note down new vocabulary that I don’t know. I don’t look for it at that moment because if I did I’d get too bored. But I note it down and after I look it up and then I put it in Anki to study later. Anki is great because you only need five minutes to review the vocab and it works with your mind, with your memorization. I have an article that I wrote about Anki that you can read here. […]

  23. […] a rich vocabulary can greatly increase your perceived fluency, so learn and memorize several of these useful synonyms and your English will be that much more […]

  24. jamon on October 19, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Just want to say your article is as amazing.
    The clearness in your post is just great and i
    can assume you’re an expert on this subject. Fine with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the rewarding work.

    • Ethan on March 4, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      Thank you! I hope you are enjoying all of our content and it’s helping you improve your English 🙂

  25. […] The excellent thing about Anki is it’s so simple. You can download it to your computer and there is also an application for iPhone and Android. You can review new vocabulary anytime you have a short break, like when you’re having a coffee, while you’re waiting for a friend at a restaurant, or while you’re stuck in traffic. Learn more about Anki here. […]

  26. […] Below, I wanted to share with you some more example, so you can start using this expression and make it a part of your active vocabulary right away. If you need help remembering this and other new terms, check this out. […]

  27. […] to use Anki or another memorization app to help you remember all your […]

  28. […] to use Anki or another memorization app to help you remember all your […]

  29. Rodrigo on August 27, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Thanks for all this guys! Amazing tips to enrich our vocabulary!

    • Ethan on August 28, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      You’re welcome, Rodrigo! I hope it will help you 🙂

  30. Rodrigo on August 27, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Thanks for all this guys! Amazing tips to enrich our vocabulary!

    • Ethan on August 28, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      You’re welcome, Rodrigo! I hope it will help you 🙂

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