Episode 67: Let's Talk About Flashcards


29 April 2024

30 mins 8 secs

Season 4

Your Hosts

About this Episode

We've probably all used flashcards at one time or another to memorize vocabulary in our new languages, and I'm sure we've all hated them or at least been bored by them. Many, many language learners, coaches, and teachers bluntly tell us to stop using flashcards because they don't work. But that's simply false. It's a narrative built on the assumption that everyone uses flashcards in one very basic and prescriptive way, namely, a single word on one side in your target language, and that word translated to your native language on the other side. This isn't the only way to use flashcards, though. It's just the way we've all learned somwhere in our educational journeys. Most of the criticisms against flashcards that I find in language learning spaces only address the limitations of this basic flashcard method. They don't apply to more dynamic ways of creating and using flashcards.

So that's what I'm talking about today. Flashcards can be used very effectively as a complement to your language routine and study time. They can be one tool in your toolbox that helps you make great progress and jump forward into new levels. This goes for other methods we use for language learning, as well. Being flexible and creative in how we use various language learning methods can counteract many of the limitations to the prescriptive ways we've learned. Also, we have to consider the expectations that we place on language learning tools. If we expect one single resource or method to teach us a language to high levels, then we're probably going to be very disappointed. Using multiple tools in conjunction with one another, as I share today, will bring about great progress. Flashcards can absolutely be one of those tools that really boosts your language skills.

In this episode I share some of the most frequently stated criticisms of flashcards for learning a foreign language, the reasons people boldly claim that everyone should stop using flashcards, and I give recommendations based on my own experience for how to better use flashcards to counteract these claims. I'm not presenting anything new here. All the thoughts I give are recommendations I received from language learners before me, but now that I've used them to effectively progress both of my main target languages, even at an upper-intermediate level, I can say without a doubt that effective use of flashcards has been an integral piece to the best season of my language journey so far.

Resources mentioned in this episode:
Anki flashcard app
Lingua for reading practice at all levels
Reverso translation site for context
Linguee translation site for context
Forvo for pronunciation
iTalki to find a teacher or tutor for conversation practice

Where to find me:
Love, Joy, and Languages Blog
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Instagram: @love.joyandlanguages
X (Twitter): @LoveJoy_Lang