An alternative to traditional flashcards.
Flashcards are an extremely useful tool for memorizing new words and building one's vocabulary. Besides traditional (paper) flashcards, there are several flashcard applications and programs that can be freely downloaded from the Internet.
For those of you who use a PC, or a laptop, or a notebook, I would like to show an alternative method based on the same principle, which is probably more handy than traditional flashcards, and certainly faster to build up.
All you need is a spreadsheet; for Windows users the best choice is Excel, but any other spreadsheet should work well.
Beware that the written explanation might seem complicated, but the whole process is, in fact, very simple. I added some screenshots, for an easier comprehension.
① The first step is obviously to type in one column the words or sentences you want to rehearse, and in a second column the relevant translation. This is the only part that takes time, but you'll need to do this only once. The columns should be large enough to contain the sentences (you can shape them conveniently). Each row counts as a single flashcard.
In my illustrated examples you'll see Welsh and English, but in your case it will be Italian and English (or whatever other languages you are studying).
After typing all the words or sentences, you must place a randomized number in the fourth column of the first row of words/sentences (red arrow, coumn D in my example). Actually, you can place it in the first row of any free column, the fourth usually being more convenient.
You can obtain the randomized number by typing in the cell the following function: =RAND() and hitting the Enter key. You should obtain a long decimal number that begins with 0, such as 0.19876543 (or something like that).
Beware that if you are using Excel in a different language, the function syntax may be different, e.g. in the Italian version of Excel it is =CASUALE() , so you might wish to refer to you own Excel guide.
Also users of other types of spreadsheets should refer to their own software manual for the randomized number function.
② Once the first randomized number is there, you must copy and paste it in all the cells below, so that each row has its own randomized number. Now you should have something like this:
Note that the copied and pasted numbers are all different, as they are automatically generated at random.
At this point, it is a good thing to save your file!
③ Now what you need to do is to select the whole block, including both the text and the numbers. Take care not to leave unselected any row of the list.
As the block is selected, use the 'Sort' facility.
In Excel, you can find it on the 'Data' tab, in the 'Sort & Filter' group.
When you click on 'Sort', you can choose by which column your block should be sorted; you want to sort the block by the randomized number column (column D in my example).
This operation will randomize the order of the rows, as if you were shuffling traditional flashcards.
④ Now open a Notepad window (or a window of any other simple text editor you have), shape it conveniently, and position it so to overlap (cover) the right column.
You can now start translating the entries in the left colum, typing them in the Notepad window. Every 20 rows or so you'll need to scroll down the spreadsheet window, to display the following rows.
⑤ Once you have finished translating, simply slide the Notepad window to the left, so to reveal the right column and check how well you did.
Save the file (if you have not already saved it).
Each time you open the file again, the numbers in the right column will be automatically generated (i.e. they change randomly); this also happens whenever you make any change in the page, e.g. when you edit a cell, or you add a new row. This means that whenever you select the whole block and sort it, you'll shuffle the rows and have a new randomized list of words or sentences to translate.
So at each session you take, start again from point ③: select the whole block and sort it, open a new Notepad window, and in less than 30 seconds you are ready to translate.
Any time you wish to add new rows (i.e. new 'flashcards'), simply type them in the first free space at the end of the list. Take care to copy and paste also the randomized number, so that every row has its own.
I hope this method will prove useful to you!
I would recommend to import your spreadsheets into either anki or memrise. Then you will have a spaced repetition algorithm working for you. It will speed up the learning process.
Memrise can also work as an alternative Duolingo if you put enough time into it. It has features like:
• custom audio
• custom pictures
• can use sentences, test on separate words within sentences
• definitions included, columns, etc.
The only nasty thing is, that the design is awful and the site is less optimised for Duolingo-styled courses. If only ...
I like Memrise and have just created my first course there. I haven't thought about it's potential as a Duolingo replacement. You're right, you can probably make a decent language course there. Each level made up of sentences focusing on different aspects of grammar, just like on Duolingo. Explanations and tips could be added as mems or pictures.
Yeah. Explanations and tips can always be added through Multimedia levels (you do this by making 2 or more levels in a course, and then that option is enabled).
Basically, Multimedia serves as a non-learning card, an explanation. It won't appear on the app, though, so that's similar to the DL app.
If you want a better designed Memrise like I've discovered, and have Google Chrome, then use the
'Stylish' extension and go to the website. Download/add the following extensions :
• Memrise Remove Premium
• Memrise Cleaner Look
and whilst you're at it,
• Dark Memrise
They respectively remove the annoying questions for 'like on facebook' and such, and make buttons and such look more cleaner, like the pleasant Duolingo style that ought to be.
The Dark Memrise one is optional, but it makes your screen not burn your eyes during night; it just makes the background dark. :)
Have fun and welcome!
This is also good technique also for randomizing any list for various purposes. I will mention that if you build up a list like this you can import the word pairs into flash card websites like quizlet (or memrise) in about a second. Quizlet gives you more control (when to practice) and is fast at getting through cards whereas memrise is slower but has built in spaced repetition. Here's the link for quizlet if you want to try rapid import: https://quizlet.com/create-set I like in quizlet how you can just tap a key to move to the next card it's very fast, though I find myself using flash cards less as I develop further in the language.
By the way you could move this topic to "Duolingo" as it doesn't strictly regard Italian, more people would see it that way.
Yes, it would be a good idea to move the topic to a more general forum, ...but honestly I don't know how to do this! Could you give me any clue?
As for using other software, I had read that one of the best flashcard applications is Anki, so I downloaded it. But then I found it terribly complicated to make my own flashcards, so I simply dumped it, and switched to Excel.
I explained how to use the spreadsheet in the easiest possible way, but by adding further columns you can flag the words more easily mistaken, so to rehearse them more often, or specify whether you want to practice only nouns (or special categories of nouns, e.g. geographic names), or pronouns, or adjectives, or verbs (or verb stems), etc.
I'm quite sure this is possible also with other flashcard programs, but they would have to be configured for this purpose, and I would not even know where to start.
Moreover, in order to use Quizlet or Memrise I guess you have to be connected to the Internet, whereas working on your own spreadsheet you can rehearse offline, as well.
But then I found it terribly complicated to make my own flashcards, so I simply dumped it, and switched to Excel.
Ironically, when I read the details of your Excel system, my first thought was "Wow, that seems complicated, why not just use Anki?" :-).
(Incidentally, if you do ever want to try Anki again, you can just save your Excel sheet as CSV and use "Import file" in Anki to turn it into a flashcard deck.)
Thanks for the advice!
Now I'm quite comfortable with Excel, but someday I might try again.
If you click on "edit" on your main post here, then "Topic: Italian" will become a pull down menu and you can change the forum.
Definitely check out "Quizlet" though if you haven't already. I would still store all your vocab in excel as you do already (so you can access it anytime), but do a quick import just to have a go online (yes you need the Internet, but you can use Duolingo right?). I can get through a whole deck just typing the keys down,right. You can also test typed answers.
I will give it a try.
By the way, thanks for the instructions. The topic is now in Duolingo.
How is this better than using free flashcard apps liie Memrise, Tiny cards, Anki or any other free Flashcard app? With those apps you can make your own card Decks or use one of the many decks compiled by someone else.