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Apr 14, 2012

Lighten the Load

I grew up in a rural area in Florida, which meant that I had my fair share of menial outdoor labor - such as taking a wheelbarrow around the yard and loading it up with storm debris after a hurricane. What does this have to do with learning Japanese? Well you might think of Anki as a wheelbarrow. Your sentence gathering efforts are much like my debris gathering efforts - you “walk” through media until you find something, stop to add it to the barrow, and then you keep going.

As you continue on, the wheelbarrow gradually fills and becomes harder and harder to lift - you find yourself spending longer and longer doing reviews. What should you do? Stop adding to your stack of “debris” and focus on continuing to walk with your load (no new sentences, just reviews)? Keep adding and put more and more energy into keeping moving (keep reviewing, keep adding sentences)? What would you do if you were literally pushing a wheelbarrow? You'd dump it out, then start adding again. So do the same with Anki.

Unlike with a wheelbarrow, your sentences aren't just debris that needs to be moved from one place to another, so it's harder to imagine getting rid of your effort. I've compared sentences to gold nuggets before, and in truth both metaphors work. But no matter how valuable your sentences are, they'll still continue to grow in weight until you can't budge the wheelbarrow. So how do you “dump” Anki without wasting all of your hard work? Simple – pick out the sentences you don't want anymore.

If you want to continue with metaphors, then imagine that your sentences start out as gold nuggets. They're extremely valuable and you want to hold them close, look at them often (Anki reviews!), and never forget them. As time passes, the nugget stops looking like gold. What you once held onto so dearly is now nothing more than a pebble to you - it's boring, old, mundane. So why keep it? Throw it out! We need that room for more gold!

Okay, enough metaphors for now. What it all means is that you should suspend or delete sentences that no longer feel valuable to you. As you progress in your journey through Japanese, you'll no doubt find that your sentences overlap, or that your earliest sentences cover vocabulary that is so common you couldn't possibly forget it. So take those sentences and get rid of them. Cut down on unnecessary reviewing so that you can focus on adding new sentences and enjoying yourself with Japanese media.

If you need help figuring out what you should get rid of, then pay attention to how you react to a sentence. If you can't even finish reading it before you pass it (because you've seen it so many times), then you probably don't need it anymore. Or if you find yourself putting off reviewing because of a sentence, or groaning and wanting to quit when you encounter a sentence, then you should throw it out. Remember, the most important thing is to keep moving and never lose contact with Japanese - so lighten the load and make it easier on yourself.

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1 comment:

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