For the first several years of my studies, Anki was one of my best friends in the world.
I used it to memorize thousands of Spanish words in my free time, to make cool Vietnamese flashcards, to fly through the Joyo Kanji, to burn JLPT vocab lists my brain, and to memorize lines of Japanese TV shows and anime.
Later in my studies, I came to see smart flashcards — spaced repetition systems (SRS), to be exact — like Anki a bit differently. Although I think they're great for the confidence and psychological comfort they give you, I don't think they are the be-all-end-all for language learning. And they almost certainly should be phased out once you reach more advanced levels in the language.
I'll save all that for another article, however. I'll just assume you are using Anki and hopefully in a productive way.
When Should I Hit the "Good" / "Again" Button In Anki?
Here's the simple answer:
Almost every single time.
SRS fanatics are probably going to hate me for saying that, as in many ways it breaks the SRS algorithm. If you're learning new content in Japanese, and that content's context value is high, then interacting with more of that content which is not too far above your level is more effective "review" than flashcards.
Here's a simpler answer to the question, though:
Use of the "good" and "again" buttons will differ based on flashcard decks, study goals, and contextual factors.
Below you'll see how I used to do it when I still used SRS as my primary method of vocab acquisition and review.
It Depends How Lazy I Feel
For example, I used to have my original, gigantic deck of Japanese vocabulary flashcards. This beast had thousands of flashcards in it:
On the front side of the card, I (almost always) had a Japanese sentence that included a keyword that I was trying to memorize.
Here's a card that I made after I encountered the word こぶ in this Japanese manga that explains NLP (awesome):
For this particular card, I didn't have an English translation of the sentence, because you don't really need them if you're at a sufficiently advanced level of proficiency:
For all of you extra-studious kids out there, he's an English translation, furigana, and romaji:
ひじ に こぶ を つくって あかく はれています
hiji ni kobu wo tsukete akaku hareteimasu
(He) got a lump on his elbow, and it's red and swollen.
Here are some different situations in which I used to hit the "good" button in Anki, telling the SRS program that I know this word and I can go a little longer without seeing it again:
- If I'm feeling lazy, then as long as I know the meaning and reading of the target vocabulary word.
- If I'm feeling a little less lazy, then as long I know the meaning and reading of the entire sentence in Japanese.
- If I have lots of time, and I'm feeling extra motivated, then as long as I know the meaning and reading of the entire sentence in Japanese, and I feel that I am able to use this word in speech and writing. This does not apply to words that I do not particularly care about being able to use in writing, such as technical language that I do not encounter very often.
It Depends How Much Time I Have
Sometimes, I had hundreds of flashcards that I needed to get through in a relatively short about of time. Since I absolutely MUST do all of my review flashcards every day, this sometimes means moving much faster though flashcards then I probably should be.
By telling Anki that a card is "Good," you're acknowledging that you understand the card, but you're not necessarily throwing the card into some long-term memory abyss. You will see that card again, and when you do, you might think, "I have no idea what this word/sentence means." At that point, you can just hit "Again," and the card will go back into your "Young" cards that show up frequently.
For example, I sometimes would fly through my Spanish flashcards, because it was usually the last deck that I did, and, as you can see, I had a lot of decks:
At the end of going through all of those words, I was so tired, and I just wanted to get the studying over with. So usually, I just hit "Good," "Good," "Good" for almost every card:
A lot of the cards I definitely could use in sentences, but usually I only understood the meaning of sentences I hit "good" for. If I wascompletely off at guessing the meaning of a card, though, then I'd probably hit "Again."
I Don't Know When You Should Hit the "Good" Button
Every person has a different study groove. So what works for me personally won't necessarily work for you.
I figured out what kind of approach to Anki flashcards worked for me over a very long period of time. Around when I quit using Anki, the program was telling me that I'd spent 1056 hours studying flashcards, and this does not even include all of the (many) decks that I had deleted by that point:
Memorizing every flashcard is less important than reviewing the flashcards every day.
I can't stress that enough.
Ideally, we want to give a lot of focus and attention to every single flashcard, but this is only a good thing to do if we are still able to consistently study the flashcards every day over a long period of time. If you find that cards are taking you too long to review every day, then maybe you should lower the number of new cards you're studying and be a little more liberal with the "Good" button.
Good luck in your studies!
p.s. You can learn tons of Japanese at NativShark.