Download Anki now at Anki's website.
This flashcard app, fittingly enough, get's it's name from the Japanese word 暗記 (anki) meaning memorization. It's an open source program, which means it's free for all to use and customize. Yes, on your desktop or laptop computer, the app with full functionality is 100% free!
The program runs based on the concept of spaced repetition. Spaced repetition is a method for memorization that states that the more familiar you are with a word, the less often you need to review it. The opposite goes for less familiar words: you review them frequently.
Taking the flashcard sets you create or import, the app automatically shows you the cards at longer intervals as you memorize them. Personally, I find that content I learn using Anki "sticks" better in my memory than any other method/app! Without a doubt, Anki is my favorite digital flashcard system.
But let's not jump to the conclusion that a free app is the best app for you. Because it is open source, its not the most user-friendly to those intimidated by technology. Unlike apps like Quizlet or Memrise, there is a learning curve to Anki. Your technical ability (and willingness to experiment with technology) makes the difference between a small learning curve and a steep one, not to mention what rewards you'll be able to reap from the app.
Pros of Anki:
Free on desktop, including the ability to access your cards online from anywhere.
Cards are completely customizable to fit your exact needs, if you have the ambition to find or code a plug-in there are literally unlimited ways to use the program.
App is available for mobile.
The absolute best integration of spaced repetition into an app (in Risu Gakusei's opinion).
Cons of Anki:
The learning curve could impede your ability to learn or leave you frustrated if you aren't tech-savvy.
If you choose to use the program on Apple mobile devices (iPad and iPhone) the app will cost money.
Some features are only available with free third-party plug-ins or must be programed by the user.
Because of the open-source status, this would be extremely difficult to integrate in K-12 classrooms and courses.
Price of Anki:
I recommend starting with just the desktop and Android versions. If you find that you like Anki
after using it for a period of time, then I would recommend purchasing Anki on the App Store.
The Learning Curve
I don't mean to scare you out of trying Anki by telling you that you might find the learning curve frustrating. In fact, I believe the software is so wonderful that everyone should try it once regardless of computer skill!
This screenshot comes from one of my own Anki cards.
Numerous video tutorials exist that go into great detail about how to customize your Anki cards and install plug-ins. The process of creating cards and customization is simple once you understand what you are doing. It's just intimidating at first. I will be making a blog post detailing how I create cards and use Anki soon. When I have written and published the post I'll put a link to it here.
I just want to be honest with you. If you think you will be easily frustrated by technical difficulties, especially if you believe frustration will lead to you quiting language learning all together, consider giving Anki a pass.
If you want to implement spaced repetition without software, watch this. The YouTube channel is aimed at German learners, but the Leitner Box can apply to Japanese.
So What's the Grade?
If I was only considering myself and my tech-savvy peers, I would give Anki an A+ without hesitation. But the learning curve makes the software a bit daunting to use at best (and even inaccessible at worst) for those without technical skill.
Nevertheless, I have never seen a better way to learn with spaced repetition! Not digitally or physically is there a greater way to use spaced repetition. With that fact and it's shortcomings in consideration, it's a B+ program for the average user.
Do you have any advice for using Anki? Share it with us in the comments!