The five bag flash card technique
There are lots of ways to practice Arabic using digital flashcards. I’ve already written a post about the power of Quizlet to challenge you to revisit, and ultimately retain the language that you’re learning in class. Another favourite tool of mine is Anki. This has the added advantage of allowing you to prioritise certain cards and decide when you review them again, if ever. I like this feature. After all, what’s the point in wasting time reviewing things that you already know really well. As Paul Nation noted in ‘Learning Vocabulary in another language’ (CUP 2013), the best time to review something in order to build lasting memory traces, is when you are just at the point of forgetting it. Anki facilitates this process very well.
Sometimes, however, being something of a Luddite, I also really value good old fashioned paper flashcards. There’s something about actually holding the pieces of card, turning them over and sorting them out into different piles that appeals to my technosceptic sensibilities. Recently I’ve been experimenting with a technique which I’m calling the Five Bag Flashcard technique. As you might imagine 🙂 you need five bags and some flashcards in order to make it happen. Here’s a picture of my bags.
It works like this:-
- I take some small slips of card and I write something that I’m trying to learn in Arabic on each slip. I write the English translation on the other side
- I put all the slips into bag 1.
- I go through all the slips in bag 1, looking at the Arabic script and trying to say what it is in English. If I know what it is in English it moves to bag 2. If not it stays in bag 1.
- I go through all the slips in bag 2, looking at the English and trying to remember the Arabic translation. If I get it right it moves to bag 3. If it get it wrong it stays in bag 2.
- I go through all the words in bag 3, looking at the English and trying to write the Arabic on a separate piece of paper. If I get it right first time, it moves to bag 5. If I get it right after a bit of practice it moves to bag 4
- I go through all the words in bag 4, looking at the English and trying to write the Arabic on a separate piece of paper. If I get it right first time, it moves to bag 5. If I get it wrong it stays in bag 4
Sound’s complicated right? Well it is a bit, but I’ve quickly got used to it and, because I’m carrying the bags around with me all the time, it’s becoming part of my daily routine. In fact I’m using it as a bit of a break between all the other jobs I have to do in a day. I think that constantly having to make all these decisions about the words is finally helping me to learn to write in Arabic. What do you think? Would it work for you?