The Wrath of Anki / La Cólera de Anki


This week I didn’t reach my goal.

On three days this week, I failed to learn 25 phrases.

And I had so many cards to review (285 each day!) that I couldn’t keep up.

So this week I won’t learn any new phrases.  I will simply revise in order to reduce the number of cards I need to review each day.

If you use Anki, you know what I mean.


Español no es mi primer idiomal.  Si he cometido un error, ¿podira me corregir?

Esta semana, no seguía mi objetivo.

En tres días, no lograba hacer aprender 25 frases.

Y yo tenía tantas tarjetas repasar (¡285 al día!) que no podía seguirle el ritmo.

Así que esta semana no voy aprender nuevos frases.  Yo voy sencillamente repasar para reducir el número de tarjetas que tengo que repasar al día.

Si usted usa Anki, sabe lo que quiero decir.

Preferiría ir más lento y terminar mi tarea que desanimarse y darse por vencido.


The_Flirtation by Eugen de Blaas

A friend of mine is a professional translator.  She speaks English, French and Hebrew, and she was kind enough to pass on some advice that her French teacher had given her.   Which is…

“Learning a language should be like a slight flirtation.  As soon as things get serious, it’s not fun anymore.”

Progress Report

I managed to successfully learn 25 phrases (12.5 from Spanish to English, and the same 12.5 from English to Spanish) every day this week.  With some simple sentences I can figure out the meaning of a new word because I know the other words in the sentence.

According to Anki, I’ve learnt 986 phrases (493 both ways) in nine weeks.

It’s like way cool.

Picture Books for Adults


When I was a child learning to read, my parents didn’t hand me Hamlet and expect me to figure it out for myself.  They gave me picture books.  Very simple sentences with pictures to illustrate them.

If only they made those books for adults, about things that might be interesting for adults, instead of dogs playing with balls.

And if only they made them in the language that you are trying to learn, so you could gain vocabulary the same way you did as a child.

Well, I’m happy to say that they do.

But they’re not called Picture Books for Adults.  They’re disguised as articles in respectable newspapers and called things like El mundo en amarillo (The world in yellow).  They’re collections of great photographs with captions that describe what you’re looking at.  For example, the caption for the picture above reads:  Una modelo desfila con un diseño de Salinas collection durante la semana de la moda de Río de Janeiro, Brasil. 10 de abril de 2014.

They’re a great way to learn vocabulary while keeping up with current affairs, and if you memorise the sentences, you’ll learn how to use your new words in context too.

Progress Report

I’ve managed to meet my new target of learning 12 new phrases each day, translating from Spanish to English and vice versa.   I know almost 500 phrases now, and as my vocabulary grows it’s getting easier, and even a little bit fun.

Double Translation


I happened to be reading about Queen Elizabeth I this week.  I was surprised to learn she was fluent in Latin and Greek, and that her tutor favoured a method called “double translation”[1].  I didn’t know what “double translation” was, so I googled it.

It turns out that double translation is as old as the hills, almost.  It was Cicero’s preferred method of learning a language over 2,000 years ago.

It works like this.

  1. The student translates a passage into the language they are learning.
  2. The teacher corrects the student’s translation.
  3. After a break of at least an hour, the student then re-translates the passage from the foreign language back into their mother tongue.
  4. The student then compares this second translation with the original passage.

Now, until that point, I’d only been memorising Spanish phrases and translating them into English.  So I decided to try translating the same phrases from English back into Spanish.  And the results were surprising.  In a bad way.

Although I am progressing nicely translating Spanish phrases into English, or in other words, understanding Spanish, I really sucked at translating English phrases into Spanish.  I was speaking “broken Spanish”, getting verb cases wrong and omitting small words like “en” and “de”.

I really want to speak Spanish properly.

Now, I don’t have a teacher.  I only have a phrasebook with audio recordings, a dictionary and an Anki deck.  But I can still use the double translation method.  After all, my Anki deck immediately gives me the correct translation of the phrases I am learning.

All I have to do is memorise the phrasebook from Spanish to English, and from English to Spanish.  This will double the amount of cards in my Anki deck to 3,000.

I have an immovable deadline – I plan to sit the DELE B1 exam on 22 November.  To meet this deadline, I will have to increase the number of phrases I learn per day from 10 to 25.

I started doing this, this week, and am very happy to report that it seems to be working very well.  At the moment, I feel very confident, despite my increased workload.  Learning 10 phrases a day was taking me about 15 minutes, learning 25 phrases a day is taking me about 30 minutes.

I’ve had a few minor successes this week – I had a look at the sample paper for the DELE A1 exam, and am confident that I could pass the exam if I sat for it today.  Also, I had a quick look at El Pais on the web and could read a lot of the headlines.

[1]  Antonia Fraser, The lives of the Kings and Queens of England, pge @@