Learning a Second Language and AnkiDroid

On Wednesdays I typically present an extract from classic English literature, but today I venture a different route and a meandering one at that, so I beg your forgiveness for its long-windedness.
I was once a freelance writer and wrote about various subjects – books, tourism, movies and even documented 1000 interesting facts about Quinoa! I presented an article here Colombia’s 5 Best Secrets which stemmed from my freelancing days.
Also, during this contract phase I was tasked to write an essay about the most effective learning strategies when studying a second language.

If I remember rightly the three principal components I highlighted as integral to learning a second language were as follows:

  • Establishing Key relationship connections in the second language
  • Receiving sufficient comprehensible input, and
  • Immersing oneself into the culture and creating a new identity in the process.

Apart from those generic areas, I presented technological assists aiding in one’s learning. One of these tools reigns supreme in my estimation because it’s the most effective learning strategy I have incorporated into my life regarding my learning of Spanish and most recently English during the Pandemic.
Drum-roll please … Ankidroid!

Let me ask you… How many times have you been out and conversing with someone or been snuggled-up on your sofa watching your favourite program or podcast and heard a neat new word, story or new fact and thought to yourself I should remember that?
But because your memory is a sieve like mine and had to study twice as hard at school because of it, that it was inevitable it would escape your mental grasp in a matter of seconds. Well that was my experience and always had been until I became adept at utilising the AnkiDroid application to retain it.

I’ll break this down with personal experience so you can ascertain why I am so beholden to it and how you might find some purpose with it as well. When I arrived in Colombia my Spanish was pitiful and I hardly understood anyone, nor could I be understood. It was a shit-show to put it mildly. We did the whole Spanglish thang in the very beginning, but I remained resolute after a few days that I had to learn these new words and expressions like I was a new born and not resort to Gringo egocentrism to get by.

So I maintained journals where I would write new words and expressions that I heard (and their translations in English). Below is the result:

There are some people who possess a high level of linguistic intelligence. I am not one of them. I found it excruciating at times not being able to express myself in the new native language. There are entire populations more accustomed to learning new languages. For instance, Europeans are more proficient than Australians in learning a new language because they are mostly bilingual learners from infancy. So tackling a new language is something they are familiar and have learnt the cues on how to innately understand and adapt.

Many years ago, I had the good fortune to stumble across AnkiDroid and I converted those words from my journal to it. This program tests me daily on my memorisation of vocabulary. AnkiDroid sits on my mobile phone and remains the most indispensable learning tool for retaining and expanding my vocabulary in Spanish.
I also remember hearing a Sam Harris podcast where he mentioned he had a penchant for looking up new words in a dictionary and remembering them to enhance his command of the English language. I thought I could do the same thing on my AnkiDroid. I have since created a list of new English words or ideas on my Anki that I want to always keep coming back to. Below is one card example from my current list of English:

It is so practical. When I am reading a WhatsApp message or communicating with someone or watch a great podcast and I feel I should always know a new word, expression or fact then I add it in an instant to my AnkiDroid. Then the application tests my memory of it daily until I know it well enough and the time expands to test my recall ability. I’d be lost without it, especially as Colombia suffers another surge in the Pandemic and our lives have basically been confined to our homes. We have been like this since March last year so the daily brain-train of AnkiDroid has been all the more vital.

For further information and in case you might want to use the AnkiDroid I encourage you to sign up to Ankiweb.com and register. This is important because you can synchronise the information from your mobile to the site on line and in effect safeguard everything you add. Thanks for reading.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Reading, Reflections
2 comments on “Learning a Second Language and AnkiDroid
  1. badfinger20 (Max) says:

    I just downloaded the program to check it out. I give you a lot of credit Matt…going to a country and you are doing it right…not just enough to get by. I wish everyone who moves to a country would do that. There are baseball players who NEVER learn or seem to even try.

  2. Well, I lost some contacts and distant family members of my children because of it. I didn’t want to share English with them since my priority was only to communicate in Spanish to survive. I didn’t want it safe because I respected the culture so much. Why should people of a certain culture have to learn English to understand me in a culture that communicates only in Spanish?

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