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What is it about these MCDs? Part 2: The Awesomeness

This entry is part 10 of 14 in the series Best of AJATT+ Forum
This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series MCD Revolution

Previously I wrote a brief introduction to MCDs, a card format popular at AJATT+.

Why use MCDs? Instead of answering that myself, I’ll just quote some forum sempais:


Individual MCD cards have a lot more character for me. …This seems to make it easier to remember the words linked to them. …I love how much easier it is to make them. Copy, paste, cloze, repeat several times for same material … It also pressures you towards choosing authentic content over example sentences provided by dictionaries.



It’s so much more fun to grab whole posts and paragraphs… Taking things whole preserves a lot of the material’s character and context, which makes reading the cards a lot more fun, which of course makes doing reps a lot more fun.



I’ve found MCDs are a LOT less painless (and seem to have a much better retention rate) than sentence cards where I was finding it pretty much impossible, or at least very little fun, to do I+1 given how many words and character readings I don’t know in Mandarin.



Having a part hidden that I have to guess seems to make things more fun. I guess because I can show off to myself by ‘winning’ the game.



 Having eliminated all barriers to 2ch, I’m finding that exploring different boards and making MCDs out of posts and conversations is probably the most fun I’ve had while sentence mining.



 Personally I think the cleverness of the MCD is in adding compelling context to sentence cards. Otherwise they get boring and boredom is the enemy…



The strange thing was MCDs made me feel less badder about failing them and more gooder about getting them right.



It’s just amazing how fast I can go from grabbing a news article on more or less anything … and in some cases go from under 50% understanding to 100%.  …  MCDs make this easy, fast, fun, and with an instant payoff in terms of understanding.


In summary: using sources you are interested in and combining lots of context with simple cloze deletions, MCDs help you learn more, make reading easier, and improve recall and output.

Series Navigation<< Improving Your Life Through JapaneseWhat is it about these MCDs? Part 3: The Format >>
Series Navigation<< 10,000 Sentences is Dead. Let the MCD Revolution Begin!What is it about these MCDs? Part 3: The Format >>

  18 comments for “What is it about these MCDs? Part 2: The Awesomeness

  1. Rose
    March 8, 2012 at 06:06

    Khatzumoto! I wouldn’t normally want to interrupt your immersion with my ugly English, but I think I have found something which could help other people out there. I have hit a bit of a motherload of japanese scripts, more specifically Studio Ghibli stuff. It is really clear, with furigana and clearly laid out, and loads of different ones. It is, however in spanish, but if you either translate the website or navigate using cognates it’s no problem. I don’t speak spanish, but I can use it. I hope this helps everyone! 

    • フレヂィー
      March 8, 2012 at 06:24


      • Rose
        March 10, 2012 at 06:32


  2. フレヂィー
    March 8, 2012 at 06:21

    Right, but isn’t a sentence still a sentence? BTW, I’m not knocking MCD’s, since they are new to me I’m just asking questions to see what others think. I’m excited to try them out actually.

    Back to my point…

    A sentence is a sentence, but with MCD’s what I am hearing is that you only need to focus on one aspect of that sentence. So, my question is, how do you determine what that aspect is — do you choose randomly; do you choose from what you don’t understand; do you choose from tense of sentence?

    Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    フレヂィー 〜

    • Matt
      March 8, 2012 at 10:58

      First off, because MCDs are about /one thing only/, it’s ok for them to be more than one sentence.  Regular sentence cards REQUIRED that you understand THE WHOLE SENTENCE.  Therefore, there was an imperative to trade context (which is fun, and helpful for hinting you in the right direction) for simplicity (which is easier to rep on).  

      MCDs pick on thing in a BIG STEW of fun context you like, so you have both simplicity (dont understand everything, just the one part that you are studying) AND context (oh but all the fun stuff is still around it that you can passively use to clue you on what the card is about, and where it came from, and later on maybe you’ll even read the whole card for fun when you get better!).

      But to answer your question directly:  make multiple cards from a single “sentence”.  That’s what MCDs are really about.  Pick whever aspects (any aspects) you want to study, and make distinct separate cards for them, but use the same source.  Sounds crazy, but it helps, alot. 

      • フレヂィー
        March 9, 2012 at 03:03

        Thank you so much for that reply. That makes a lot of sense. And I am definitely excited to try MCDs out.

        Thanks again! 

  3. Routine
    March 9, 2012 at 02:28

    I wonder if as a beginner I’m doomed to using textbooks and word lists like Core2k – I might try to read native material, but even if I know what every single word in the sentence means, I often still won’t really understand it (either because it’s slang or because a part of the sentence can be translated in various different ways). 

    So I’m rather unsure how to go about making my own cards – can I just take a random sentence, for example one from a blog of a jpop singer:


    Could I just go ahead and make a card out of it if I only vaguely understand it? And if not, then well, do resources that are both interesting and suitable for beginners even exist?  

    • フレヂィー
      March 9, 2012 at 03:14

      One thing I’ve learned from sites like this and other helpful resources is that there is no such thing as “suitable for beginners.” Don’t ever think that you need to “slowly” progress to the next level. That happens by taking chances and trying new things. What you’ll find is that when you come across something that peaks interest you’ll want to study that text/lyric/paragraph/etc. and before you know it you’re reading things that you might not have dared to before.

      There is something to be said about slang and other forms of colloquialism though that stuff should be learned separately IMO. Best to get a grasp on the language from a fundamental stand point before diving into slang terms and other forms of Japanese that have their own little niche.

    • ブライアン
      March 9, 2012 at 03:58

      Rough translation, if it’ll help:
      “For that reason, while [I/we] continued it [unnamed activity] at my house today, during breaks I drew pictures.”  (This would be an excellent time for an MCD, because this sentence doesn’t contain enough context on its own.)
      More generally:  yes, you need to understand the card before you stick it in your SRS.  SRS is a memory tool, nothing more; it will only help you retain things you have already learned.  MCDs let you learn text with more new material in it at one time, but does not remove the need to actually understand the gist of it.  Learn what the sentence means, or if you can’t figure it out yet, look for an easier sentence.  Don’t worry, you won’t run out of Japanese.  And while it sucks at first to only be able to pick out a few sentences, each one builds your ability to pick up others.  The benefit of MCDs, here, is that as long as you understand it, it doesn’t matter if *every* word in a sentence is new to you, you can still create cards with it.

      • Routine
        March 9, 2012 at 04:16

        That’s me being nitpicky here, I know, but what I’m wondering about, precisely, is how much you have to be able to understand for the bit of text to qualify – if we’re going to take the sentence above as an example, I figured out as much (and with the whole post to read I guess it makes even more sense), but I don’t know how this sentence is made, what’s the grammar behind it etc.

        I guess it’s the school way of language teaching rubbing off on me, heh – we’re always expected to explain the rules behind everything (there are even special exercises in our English book – “fill in the gaps in the sentence and then say which grammar rule you used for it”), I’m afraid that if I won’t know the rules behind a language, I won’t be able to understand it/speak it later on, that I’ll be just guessing. 

        • ブライアン
          March 9, 2012 at 05:33

          Stop asking “why?” right now.  (At least with regards to grammar.)  It’s not helpful.  If you understand what the sentence means, you’re good. 
          You will learn the “rules” of grammar by exposure to the language.  It’s not math, there is no textbook of rules that dictate grammar in *any* language.  (You didn’t learn English (no, not even “proper English”) in a grammar class, whatever your school wants to think.)  When you swamp yourself with thousands of hours of listening and millions of words of reading, your brain will figure it out.  That’s what it’s good at.  *Your* job is to stop fretting about it and feed your brain a lot of content to crunch on. 
          In the context of SRS cards, that means picking out sentences you can understand, parsing them (identifying where words begin and end is a critical skill in Japanese), defining the words that are new to you (bilingually at first, then going monolingual as soon as possible), and then reviewing it.  Your brain will do the rest.

          • Routine
            March 9, 2012 at 06:44

            Thanks. That’s all the confirmation I needed. I might’ve read all of AJATT and other language learning blogs, but I guess I still couldn’t fully wrap my mind around the idea of learning a language without memorizing countless grammar rules as the main focus. “What, you can just dive headfirst into native material without being 100% sure you understand what you’re reading? Why, that’s going to be a disaster for your language learning.”

            I s’ppose I gotta do some deschooling while I’m still at school.  

            • Matt
              March 9, 2012 at 11:19

              It’s actually fine to “study” grammar, but only from a passive “I need to understand what this means” point of view, not a “what are the rules for producing this grammar?”

              Think of grammar (especially particles and adverbial phrases) as just normal words.  If you want to learn them, I suggest looking them up like anything else.  But as Khatz says, glance over the example sentences, read the basic idea, but don’t make a point of memorizing or hinging on how to use it, just learn what you need to make sense of the sentences or phrases that use it.

              I mean, you could learn every word from “context” and never touch a dictionary, but why would you?  The point is not to -over emphasize- grammar, not to completely ignore all shortcuts because you’re an awesome anti-institutionalist. 

      • フレヂィー
        March 10, 2012 at 01:59

        Wait… I thought the point of MCDs were to have Massive-Context, not sure I understood your statement above “this would be an excellent time for an MCD…doesn’t contain enough context on it’s own.”

        Sorry, a bit confused there. 

        • ブライアン
          March 10, 2012 at 05:15

          The sentence on it’s own doesn’t contain enough context; you have no way of knowing what activity is being continued, for example.  (Or the reason for it.)  As a simple sentence card, it would be difficult to keep that in mind over the long term, so the card would lose effectiveness as the interval increased.
          Adding more of the previous sentences to the card would flesh out the context and make the card easier to understand and relevant to you longer.

          • Matt
            March 10, 2012 at 15:30

            Definitely, and it’s a problem that pops up later in your study when you’ve already got alot of plain sentence cards on your hands.  Suddenly, you literally /forget/ what the point of this 3 month old card was.  “Why am I learning this?  This looks so boring!”  But it’s because you’ve forgotten (and didn’t include) the larger, funner context that the sentence occurred in.

            MCDs reduce deletions not by forcing you to study what you thought you /had/ to study, but by helping to remind you why you wanted to study the word or phrase in the first place (because it’s in the context of this funny scene in a movie I like!  Oh yeah!) One sentence is rarely enough to encapsulate that.

      • Chris†
        March 13, 2012 at 05:11

        A man once said that trying to understand every sentences wasn’t necessary. With time and practice, your brain does the work and the sentence in which you did understand every words without grasping the meaning will become as clear as (pick up whatever word you want).
        Katzumoto (forgot how to write it) wrote this somewhere on AJATT. Learning grammar is wrong so, it’s expected that you don’t understand every little thing right away.
        … Well, those are not my words anyway. Just spreading.

  4. mark95427
    August 24, 2012 at 10:27

    Definitely fast and fun. You absorb vocabulary much better this way because you see the word in application. You actually analyze the way it’s used through the massive context.

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