When I said previously that I studied the Korean language for a summer in Seoul, Korea, that wasn't the first time I had done that.  In fact, that was the sixth time.  Every summer from 2007 to 2013 (except for 2010) I studied Korean in Seoul.  Of course, memorizing vocabulary was one of many things I had to do, and I had wanted a program that would help in that area.  In 2009 I started using Anki.

Anki is basically a flashcard program which uses active recall testing and spaced repetition to help a user memorize something.  According to the User Manual, active recall testing
means being asked a question and trying to remember an answer.  This is in contrast to passive study, where we read, watch or listen to something without pausing to consider if we know the answer. Research has shown that active recall testing is far more effective at building strong memories than passive study.
Regrading spaced repetition, the manual also states:
The spacing effect was reported by a German psychologist in 1885. He observed that we tend to remember things more effectively if we spread reviews out over time, instead of studying multiple times in one session. Since the 1930s there have been a number of proposals for utilizing the spacing effect to improve learning, in what has come to be called spaced repetition.
There are two basic components to Anki.  One is the software/app that you can download.  It's available for Windows, Mac, Linux/BSD, iOS, and Android.  All versions are free, except for iOS devices ($24.99), interesting enough.  Once you download the software or app and install it, you start by creating your first deck.

Once you create a deck, you can start studying the deck with Anki.  The program gives you the "front" side of a "flashcard" and asks you for the "back" side, the answer.  You do not input the answer anywhere -- just hit the "Show Answer" button.  When learning a new card, three rating buttons appear at the bottom.  You press the button based on how well you learned the card.  If you didn't know the answer, or had the wrong answer, press "Again," and you will see the card again in about 1 minute.  If you knew the answer, or if you weren't 100% sure you had the answer, press "Good" and you will see the card again in 10 minutes.  If you knew the answer immediately, press "Easy," and you won't see the card again for at least 4 days.

If you a reviewing a card you previously learned, you will see four rating buttons instead of three.  Check the manual for more details learning and reviewing cards.  You can also check the progress of learning a deck.

If you don't want to create your own decks, you can use decks that other users have shared.  This is the "Web 2.0" component of Anki, appropriately called Ankiweb.  Of course, you will have to register for an account (which is free), and afterwards, you will eventually see the page shown in the image below.

Click on the "Get Shared Decks" to download other users' decks.  A lot of the decks deal with language learning, but there are also decks related to Science, Geography, Mathematics, Music, and so forth.  You can write reviews about the shared decks that you've used, if you wish.  I've obviously liked Anki, and I think it helped me pass those Korean language classes.  After last summer I had decided to stop attending Sogang University, so if I have the time (yeah, right), I hope to continue studying on my own, using Anki among other things.


  1. Your directions are so specific! I feel like I could actually use Anki after reading your post!

    I think something like this would be super helpful and beneficial for our current ESOL students. So many of them struggle with everyday words and vocabulary, and the fact that you as a teacher have used it to help you with your Korean means that it must be a program worth looking into! I'll have to share this with my ESOL teacher at my school! Thanks!

  2. Cate, that was kind of you to say that, but I actually skipped a number of steps, in the interest of not making the post too long.

    As far as I know, there aren't language restrictions in filling out the cards. (In other words, you can type in whatever language you need, as long has you have the proper keyboard(s) installed on your computer.) This will be good for ESOL students, who come from a variety of places.