Your life is already controlled by algorithms, so why add another one for Greek and Hebrew? In a word: efficiency. Anki beats other apps because of spaced repetition. That is, Anki asks you to review vocab items at just the right time to kick them into your long-term memory. Thus, you review each item less over time, not wasting time on what you already know well. Plus, it’s free!
Here are some tips to get the most out of Anki:
Think LONG term
Anki isn’t great for cramming for tomorrow’s Greek exam. But Anki is fantastic because you can learn your biblical languages this year, and for life. There are only so many words in the Greek NT, so you can realistically get the most of them into Anki. Eventually, you can maintain most of the NT vocabulary with 15 minutes a day or less. (Or all, if you are really ambitious.)
But this means you need to plan now for what your deck will look like in 10 weeks’, 10 months’, and 10 years’ time. Take some time to get your decks and cards sorted now.
Use it properly
Anki is great if you use it properly. I’m no expert, but I’ve been using Anki for a few years– so here are my tips for getting the most out of Anki:
First, have one folder per language, and chuck all your cards into it – don’t worry, the algorithm will make sure you review the right cards at the right time. If you have lots of subfolders, you’ll miss out on the efficiency of Anki.
So aim to add vocab from the LSS spreadsheets into your own Anki deck each week. It’s quick once you learn how.
(If you are really ambitious, try creating your own cards for even deeper learning.)
Over time, you’ll work out how you prefer to populate your deck with vocab you didn’t learn in Greek 1 + 2. Thus, after College, you might slowly go through books of the NT and pop new vocab into your Anki deck.
Second, a big part of spaced-repetition learning is atomisation. This basically means one piece of info per card. Sometimes you need a bunch of info on one card (e.g., the principle parts of a Greek verb). So, atomise the info in your cards: one card asks for one piece of info. If you have more than one item per card, you may not learn the harder bits.
A third counter-intuitive tip is to force yourself to go from Greek to English and English to Greek. Initially, this is a bit more work, but you’ll know the languages much better if you translate in both directions.
Last, there is Anki’s leech feature. Basically, if you get the same card wrong over and over, Anki figures it’s not an efficient use of your time. It marks it as a leech and (depending on your settings) suspends it. It’s disheartening to have the leech notification pop up, but comb through those leeches regularly, and create new cards with new memory hooks. After all, the old card wasn’t working.
Explore the Settings
If Anki is for you, take some time to get across the details of the program. Here is their own user guide. This post isn’t getting techy, but a bit of time learning to customise cards means you can make them work for your style. Want to record your voice pronouncing the cards? Anki can do that. Want to add images to help with recall? Yep. What to experiment with cloze passages (gap-fill) that ask you to supply a Greek word in a Greek sentence? You got it. Want an extra slot on your default card that shows you extra lexical info after you reveal the card? Nice. Gestures on your phone to do reviews? Now you’re talking.
If you use the English to Greek/Hebrew option, make each English side unique. Otherwise, you might not know which Greek/Hebrew word your English side is asking you to recall. (Does the card for ‘ask’ want αἰτέω or ἐρωτάω?).
Make Anki Work for You
The final tip is to get creative with how Anki can work for you. A cool feature is Anki’s Add-ons. Some of these serve to gamify the app, making it more fun. My personal fav is Pokemanki, which turns your decks into Pokémon that grow and evolve with your deck). Others add-ons will auto-reveal the card if you take too long.
Other add-ons can give you extra info about your decks – I have one that shows me how many reviews I have due tomorrow.
Other add-ons will be game-changers for your work-life balance. I love Move Reviews from Weekends and Holidays. Anki requires you to revise your vocab every day, which is hard to maintain during busy seasons (and it’s scary when reviews start to pile up!). This add-on reschedules cards due on weekends to weekdays, which gives you back those precious days off.
This is deck for a non-biblical language that I’ve had for 3 years. I have about 12,000 cards in it, but spend only 15 minutes a day reviewing them.
Editor: One Greek lecturer says it becomes even less than that.
Anki takes a bit of work – but it’s worth it! Because Anki decides what you need to revise, it takes the guesswork out of memorisation and takes the stress out of learning. You’ll be surprised how a little revision each day will go a long way. It’s a powerful tool that can help you efficiently and fun-ly develop your languages this year, and maintain them for years to come.