Some “final” thoughts on SRS and sentence mining

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At the beginning of January I did a post on my new years resolutions and I touched on the frustrations I experienced in using Anki. I don’t want to talk about my frustrations till you are sick of hearing about it. That is not my intention with this post.

A few days after I made that post, I discovered an article by Jeff Bern (jeffben.com) that I’ve found myself nodding to and agreeing with for the most part – well to be truthful just about the entire article.

I don’t think I could have explained my frustrations any better and that’s why I provide a link to that article here:
Is An SRS Really Worth The Effort?

I also quote this from Jeff’s post:

” When you eliminate the SRS and don’t have the almost superhuman power that it bestows upon you, you’re forced to look more closely at what you want out of the language and what you can do on a daily basis without forgetting everything. What I like about this is that it leads you to interact with the things that will be most helpful. Namely, material that is easier. Or interact with the material in a way that will let you remember more of it, like repeated reading and listening. ”

It made me think of my childhood and how I learned and developed my ability in languages (both Afrikaans and English, some Sotho (an African language) and a bit of dabbling in Spanish when I was about fourteen). It made me think too about my general studies at school or university or at any other time in my life and I realised that I’ve never ever used flashcards for ANY studies EVER in my life. (If my parents showed me a picture book when I was a toddler let’s not count that because I definitely can’t actually remember any of that. ;) )

The point I’m making is I never ever used it to boost my long-term memory or ingrain any facts into my head – not for any subject field and most definitely not for languages.

When I first heard about SRS and sentence mining I was honestly skeptical for these exact same reasons. It didn’t feel like a natural method of studying to me but a lot of people had very positive experiences with it so I decided to give it a go. You can read some of the thougths and questions I had at the time here: How to sentence mine and SRS for Mandarin? That is the question. Reflecting now – if I’m honest – I think that I was in fact trying to convince myself of its effectiveness as a method even though deep down I knew it didn’t feel right as a study method to me. It never felt natural to me.

Will I use SRS again? My answer at this moment in time is – unlikely that I would want to. I might have to look at Yearlyglot.com’s website again and read these two posts specifically.
Why I don’t use flashcards (and you shouldn’t either)
8 ways to learn a language without using flashcards

Some final thougths:
If you are enjoying SRS – fantastic – then I say continue as long as you are enjoying it :) . I am not trying to discourage you. This is just me sharing my final thoughts on the method in this post as you might wonder why I’ve changed my mind about this method.

If you can’t gel with it like me, then you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. :)

If however you have any interesting insights and links to share with me, then please do. I would be most grateful too.

Update: My first comment in the thread below is an really an extension of this post. In addition I supply two additional links that I feel touches on this subject (written by Olle of hackingchinese.com). I think some or most of what he says applies – whether it is sentence mining, learning new characters or just learning new words or phrases. They are good articles – enjoy.

You can’t learn Chinese characters by rote

Spaced repetition isn’t rote learning

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