July 18, 2006

Supermemo - The Revolution in Learning

I apologize that I have not updated my blog in quite some time. I've become consumed in study and "reporting" here took somewhat of a back-seat. I don't "hang out" in this blog, but I do visit the "Japan Today" message boards somewhat frequently (At least more frequently compared to this blog). Please go there (The "Language" section within the gigantic forum) for questions about other stuff relating to Japanese.

Now, onto the reason for this post; for quite some time I've been experimenting with a program called "Supermemo." You may have heard of it, basically it is a flashcard program for your computer. What makes Supermemo different from any other flashcard program or system is that it schedules your future repetitions at the most optimal time (Based on studies on the rate of human forgetting based on the theory of the "forgetting curve"). Each time you review a flashcard, you grade yourself on how well you remembered the desired information (For example, how accurately and quickly you recalled a vocabulary word). The grade-scale ranges from five to zero (Five being "Bright", you 'recalled it almost perfectly' and so on to zero which is "Null," meaning 'a total blackout as far as knowledge about that term goes'). Based on how you score yourself, Supermemo schedules the future repetitions at the most optimal time, therefore meaning the most efficient use of one's time. If you want to learn more about Supermemo, go to "www.supermemo.com", their official web site. There is an abundance of information in regards to human forgetting and how Supermemo combats that problem, I don't want to waste time telling you something you can find much easier to understand elsewhere. But be prepared, the web site is PACKED full of information, so don't expect light reading. Give yourself an hour to read some of the various articles on their site.

Now, what does this program mean for you and me? Seeing as you're reading this blog, I think it's safe to assume you're learning Japanese. So this program could be used to learn Japanese vocabulary. Not only this, but idioms, kanji (See the below paragraph), and just about anything that one can convert into a flashcard can be remembered using Supermemo. I didn't want to "report on it" here without trying it out for myself to ensure the effectiveness. Here is my "report": I currently have 8,255 flashcards in my Supermemo database. Most of them are Japanese vocabulary, others are kanji, others are kanji-town review, and others are non-Japanese knowledge that I want to remember. I have remembered almost everything that I've put into the program. Any flashcards I have problems remembering is mainly because of my own mistakes (Flashcards poorly structured, wrong wording, etc.). By my standards, this program works, and if applied diligently, it can be one of the most invaluable tools you will use (At least I foresee it being that way).

Now how does this have merit in connection with "Kanji-Town"? Quite simply, you forget what you don't review. Kanji-Town is effective in remembering the ON yomi of kanji as well as reinforcing the meanings of kanji onto the student, but if you don't review Kanji-Town, you'll forget the details slowly. So using Supermemo, you break Kanji-Town into a bunch of small flashcards and review them. As simple as that, Kanji-Town can be memorized.

The only gripe I have with Supermemo is how complicated it is to run. It takes quite some time to get used to the poor GUI, and Supermemo is littered with annoying bugs. It is not very user-friendly, but once you learn to tame this beast of a program, you can do some amazing things.