Learning a Language with Anki through Music and Movies

headphones mixing board(Picture courtesy of Free Digital Photos)

Or, Welcome to the wonderful world of audio splitting and subs2srs.

(I really need to pick shorter titles.)

So continuing with last week’s theme on media I’m going to be talking about a couple of nifty ways you can use Ankiwith media to learn a language.

In case you don’t what Anki is, let me explain. Anki is an SRS, which stands for “spaced repetition system,” and is a really neat flash card system. I know what you’re thinking, flash cards are lame. I thought that too (but used them anyway because, you know, they’re good for you), but then I discovered Anki. You see, paper flash cards are, as Khatzumoto from AJATT says, brute, medieval, and ineffective. If you’re studying something like Remembering the Kanji that’s roughly 2,042 cards. You really want thousands of paper flash cards floating around your house? I didn’t think so. And then how do you know which cards to review each day? How do you know one card needs to be reviewed over another?

See, SRS takes care of the problem for you. That’s the point of spaced repetition. Using an algorithm it spaces out your reviews for you to the point just before you forget them. Gradually you’ll see the flash cards less and less and the information on the cards gets moved into your long term memory. So this system is great for learning anything (medical/science terms, country flags, etc.) not just languages. And while this is pretty dang cool, Anki has several options that make it even cooler. (There are lots of different SRSs, but I prefer Anki.)

Behold! The ability to add pictures, audio and video! Bet your paper flash cards can’t do that, can they! So if you have a word you’re learning and you have audio of that word, you can add it to the back of your flash card. Or you can a picture to the front. Whatever. Make it fun! This is great for learning words and sentences, but what I want to talk about is two very specific ways to use Anki with media.

The first is a method that I have some experience with. It’s learning a song in your target language using Anki. Khatz has a great article on this over here, but I’ll give you my general method. I get a song I like (I mean really like, because you’re going to be listening to it a lot) that I want to sing along with. Currently I’m learning “Klaxon” (クラクション) by immi . I then find the lyrics, in my case the regular Japanese lyrics, the romanji and the English translation. I get the translation so I can understand the gist of the line, rather than just the word for word translation. And get the romanji to double check the pronunciation, since kanji can have multiple pronunciations. I split the song into 15-30 second chunks, usually starting at the line before the one I’m learning and ending at the line after the line I’m learning. This gives me time to get into the song and get my bearings before I have to sing the line I’m using. I do this with a neat program called Audacity.

So I put ONE LINE on each flash card on the front. On the back I have the pronunciation and the line before the one I’m learning, the one I’m learning and the one after for reference, and the media file that plays when I hit the “Show Answer” button.

So my cards usually look like this:




僕[ぼく]に 限[かぎ]ってあるはずがない

‘There’s no limit to what I can do’
(lit. I cannot be restricted)
(media file plays when I hit the show answer button)

Even though I have the translation I go ahead and try to figure it out word for as well. I use a dictionary add on called “Rikaisama” and the Yahoo Japan dictionary. Sometimes I prefer the word for word translation, like on this card here. “I can’t be restricted” sounds stronger than “There’s no limit to what I can do” to me, and I like that.

What happens is that every single line of a song gets turned into a chorus that you hear over and over again. And lines that you find hard will show up more often. I am really, really enjoying this so far. I’ve learned a lot already. I plan to do this with two, maybe three, more songs (Hazy by immi, 野菜シスターズ by AKB48 and 一厘の花 by HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR <- that one is one of the opening songs for the anime “Bleach”). So I suggest you give this a try. There’s also a sort of alternate version using music videos for Spanish here.

So the other method of using Anki and media is learning through video. I have not used this extensively because I found it boring, but I know a few people who really like it. It’s basically where you have a line from a video (movie, TV show, anime, etc.) and the part of the video the line is from, on the front. On the back you have a pronunciation and translation. This is cool because you get to watch a show you like while learning the vocab.

The down side of this is that you’ll have to make your own cards for most things and that can be time consuming. Someone over at the Kanji Koohii (pronounced koh-hee) forums made a program called subs2srs for this. You need the video you want to split and the subtitle files (your target language and translation language). For Japanese this can be a pain to do, because Japanese subtitles are really hard to find. Like I said, I haven’t done this on my own so I have no idea how to do this, but the subs2srs website shows you how.

On the plus side in Anki’s download shared deck menu there are already several premade subs2srs decks available for Japanese. Just search for subs2srs. There’s not a lot, but a few and I’m sure more are coming.

Now both of these methods are really neat and can be really fun, but they might not work for you. They’re not really geared toward short-term learning, especially subs2srs. So it might just be a waste of time. I personally love music, so learning a song with Anki is worth it to me. But if it gets boring stop immediately. The last thing you want to do with either of these methods is bore yourself. They won’t help you at all if you’re bored.

So I hope this has been somewhat helpful and shown you a few new things. As always, the rule is: have fun.

About veronica226

I'm a dedicated Christian learning Japanese to be a missionary and tell people about Jesus! I LOVE to read. I like hiking, swimming, watching thunderstorms and just generally anything outside.
This entry was posted in Input, Japanese, Language, SRS and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Learning a Language with Anki through Music and Movies

  1. Kothe says:

    Very interesting, I hadn’t really considered using Anki like this before. So far I’ve just been using it for basic written vocabulary. Hmm… I think I’ll give it a go with some Turkish rap!

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