Of all the various websites and programs out there to help you learning Chinese, Anki is probably the most important one. There are numerous programs to handle vocabulary learning, but in my experience, none of them are as versatile and dynamic as Anki.
This article is not about why you should use spaced repetition software in the first place (you really should, read about it here), but about Anki itself. Anki, a friendly, intelligent spaced learning system (official website)
More about spaced repetition on Hacking Chinese
- Diversify how you study Chinese to learn more
- When spaced repetition fails, and what to do about it
- Should you focus on learning Chinese words or phrases?
- About cheating, spaced repetition and learning Chinese
- Three ways to improve the way you review Chinese characters
- Flashcard overflow: About card models and review directions
- If you think spaced repetition software is a panacea you are wrong
- Is your flashcard deck too big for your own good?
- Towards a more sensible way of learning to write Chinese
- You can't learn Chinese characters by rote
- Measuring your language learning is a double-edged sword
- Answer buttons and how to use SRS to study Chinese
- Chinese vocabulary in your pocket
- Dealing with tricky vocabulary: Killing leeches
- Spaced repetition isn't rote learning
- Anki, the best of spaced repetition software
- Spaced repetition software and why you should use it
Anki Here’s a short summary of what you can do with the program (it’s all free and open source):
- Review all words with less effort
- Synchronise your words with any other device
- Study your words online on any public computer
- Download decks created by other learners
- Customise with extra plugins and features
- Customise flashcards, including pictures, sound, etc.
In essence, this is what most programs will allow you to do, with the exception of synchronising and studying online. The online feature is one of the major strengths in Anki, because it doesn’t matter where you are, you can still review for five minutes if you have the time to spare. However, there are two things that make Anki better than any other program I’ve tried.
It is more versatile than any other program I’ve tried
Other programs may have functions Anki lack (such as creating flashcards directly from dictionaries or automatically adding sentences), but no other program beats Anki when it comes to versatility. You can use it for anything you like, you can customise anything you like and if you aren’t a programming maven yourself, there will be others who might have already written the plugin providing the extra features you require.
Anki is under constant development and has an active community
Since there are so many other people using Anki, there is plenty of material shared for free. This includes decks for your favourite textbooks, plugins that provide extra functions and so on. Bugs (which are very rare indeed) are fixed quickly and new versions keep coming out, making the program slightly better for each version.
Anki compared to other programs
I’m not going to do a proper comparison with other programs, simply because it would take too much time. The important thing is that you’re using spaced repetition software (see the article about why). I’ve introduced Anki and spaced repetition software to so many people I’ve lost count and I intend to keep on doing so. Which particular program you choose to use it up to you.
Tips and tricks for how to learn Chinese directly in your inbox
I've been learning and teaching Chinese for more than a decade. My goal is to help you find a way of learning that works for you. Sign up to my newsletter for a 7-day crash course in how to learn, as well as weekly ideas for how to improve your learning!