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A New MCD Card Format for Japanese (Even Lazier and More Effective Than Before)

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series MCD Revolution

As a general rule, I have tended to eschew tactical learning advice in favor of the strategic. Tactics are (superficially) quicker and easier to deal with, and we all need to experience the joy of rubber meeting the road, the beauty of that friction, the traction of reality, the simple pleasure of grinding…BUT…because they can be applied in the total absence of an understanding of the philosophy (i.e. strategy) behind them, context-free tactics also tend to lead to dogmatism, misunderstanding and self-harm.

Again, we all need tactics and I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t share some of mine with you (like I’m about to do now) but we also need to realize that tactics must needs be mutable where strategy is more permanent. Tactics are like the wind. Strategy is the (fist of the) north star.

So, yeah. Tactics. Here we go. Um…up until now, the general advice (from me) on how to make MCD cards was that you should remove any and all furigana (kanji readings) from the front of the card. So the front of your base card (before inserting the clozes) would look like this:

定価の半分。半分の値段。 「半値以下に値下げする」

After several months of experimentation, I am pleased to inform you that this is not necessary — and that you actually want to leave the furigana there, right on the front of the card, so:

定価の半分。半分の値段。 「半値以下に値下げする」

And include it as part of your base clozetexts, so: はんね 半値
Remember, these are base clozetexts, so combinatorial explosion applies, meaning that you actually end up with (in this case) nine clozetexts, like so: はん ね 半値 半 値 は んね 半値 ん
Surusu, the world’s sexiest SRS, handles the creation of extra clozetexts for you; just give it the base clozetexts and set “JPNZ (n00b) (Japanese newbie)” as your clozemode.

Why does this work? Short answer: it just does. Long answer: it gives extra context, which is always good, and makes the card easier without making it too easy; it’s especially valuable to leave the furigana on the front of the card when you’re trying to learn proper names (i.e. proper nouns), which tend to lack intrinsic 1 meaning. Obviously, proper nouns in Japanese transparently mean something because kanji mean something, but “豊臣秀吉” does not mean “ancient awesome samurai guy”; it’s just a certain ancient awesome samurai dude’s name.

Also, leaving furigana on the front turns your learning into a divide-and-conquer proposition, and this is a good thing. A very good thing. Specifically, we separate learning (testing) the readings of a new word from testing kanji knowledge of that same word. Ironically, while this makes each individual card easier, it actually sharpens your knowledge of both kanji and readings, and, going forward, prevents “native-like forgetfulness” where you can accurately produce a reading but not necessarily always a kanji from memory (the whole “I can read ‘Massachusetts’ but not spell it correctly” effect).

Note that this doesn’t make the old, “no-furigana-on-the-front” cards obsolete, it just adds a new dimension, another card style, to your toolbelt.

If none of the above made any sense to you, don’t worry about it. Just get the MCD Revolution Kit to learn more and get up to speed 😀 . It’s all in there.

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  1. not sure if this the right word, but oh well

  3 comments for “A New MCD Card Format for Japanese (Even Lazier and More Effective Than Before)

  1. August 26, 2017 at 00:41

    these are for ddcs right? and also two clozes?

    • khatzumoto
      August 26, 2017 at 00:42

      >these are for ddcs right?
      right — and in the broadest sense possible, because they would also be good if, say, you had a Wikipedia article as context and you were learning the name of a notable person.

      >and also two clozes?
      wrong 😀 . More than that. Combinatorial explosion applies, so:
      はん ね

      半 値
      which makes about nine in this case.

  2. Nataru Kurosaki
    August 26, 2017 at 20:38

    Thanks, legend. Also, thank for the update in the article. I was wondering why the kanji was being tested, when the furigana answer was next to it, but it’s for making your kanji recognition stronger.

    This is powerful. Glad I checked out your patreon and donated :3

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